Allotment essentials: the best spades, seeds and forks - everything you need to help your allotment flourish
Whether you’ve just taken on an allotment for the first time or are a horny-handed veteran of the soil, having an array of gardening tools at your disposal is one of the keys to success.
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A decent tool that is fit for the job in hand will make tending your veg plot a whole lot easier and afford you more time to concentrate on the trickier aspects of allotment upkeep – namely encouraging vegetables to grow and then subsequently trying to keeping them alive long enough to reap the rewards.
As the old adage goes, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ and this rings especially true with garden tools. You’ll find that implements lurking in lower price brackets will tend to bend and break more readily so it always pays to spend a bit more on something that will last a good few seasons.
For this reason, some of the items listed below may look a bit pricey, but these are quality-made tools built for purpose and you really do get what you pay for.
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Finally, a word of caution before you go out and splash your hard earned cash.
Maintenance is key
Posh tools left in lonely sheds can provide rich pickings for unscrupulous types, so best practice is to store your prized implements at home and reserve your allotment shed for potting up plants and sheltering from the rain.
Here’s a list of ten, top tier tools to cover all your allotment-ing needs...
Bulldog Digging Spade
A spade is arguably the most important tool in your allotment tool arsenal so it’s worth spending a bit of cash on something that will give you many years of loyal service.
Wigan-based tool company Bulldog have been bashing out quality gardening implements since 1780 and we really dig their spades.
This sturdy, soil-shifting tool sports a smooth, extra long ash handle to help minimise bending and associated back strain, and its large steel digging head bears welded treads on top of the blade to help prevent welly slippage in muddy conditions.
Spear & Jackson Professional Neverbend Fork
Giving the spade a run for its money in the allotment usefulness stakes is the garden fork.
There are various types of fork available, from ones that have extra fat tines to help lift root veg through to narrow, nippy ones designed for close border work and weeding.
For general, every day allotment use, this four-pronged fellow will see you right. It’s super-strong, light in use and the carbon steel head and handle are covered with a powder-coated paint job to help prevent rust and scratches.
We’ve been using ours for years without trouble, but should yours fail to live up to its ‘Neverbend’ moniker, Spear & Jackson have you covered with a 10 year guarantee.
Sneeboer Transplanting Trowel
We could quite happily populate this tool list with tools made by ace Dutch toolmakers Sneeboer but one of our absolute favorites and most often used is this wide-bladed transplanting trowel.
It’s built specifically for extracting and replanting plants (hence the name) but the sharp shield-shaped blade and large soil-holding capacity of this sturdy steel tool make it a great allotment all-rounder.
It’s also worth keeping an eye out for the special edition version of this trowel which comes with a handy bottle opening notch cut into the blade, perfect for opening a post-graft brew.
Dewit Hand Fork
We’re going Dutch again for our choice of hand fork – this one hails from De Wit, a family run business specialising in hand-forged garden gear.
It’s a beautiful looking tool, constructed from black patina boron steel with an ergonomic ash handle - it’s almost a shame to plunge it in soil.
The sharp, wide prongs of this nimble implement make it the perfect choice for weeding tasks and for transplanting plants.
Niwaki Hori Hori
The Japanese hori hori is a kind of knife/trowel hybrid, designed for poking, prodding and delving duties.
There are quite a few hori horis on the market, but we think that Niwakis super-sharp soil shifter is the pick of the bunch.
Featuring a 17cm stainless steel blade encased in a maple handle, it’s a lovely, well-balanced tool to wield and comes complete with a canvas holster for dangling off your belt, ready for action.
You’ll find that the hori hori is an indispensable allotment tool that you never knew you needed.
Burgon & Ball Razor Hoe
Allotment upkeep can often feel like one long interminable battle with weeds rather than the bucolic ‘good-life’ buzz played out through many folks’ Instagram accounts, but fortunately help is at hand for the overwhelmed gardener in the form of this handy hoe.
It’s beak-like blade is great for extracting stubborn weeds from delicate crops, and by drawing the tool through the earth you can clear large areas of weeds in a flash.
A long handle razor hoe is also available, but we prefer getting up close and personal when waging war on weeds.
Sneeboer Royal Dutch Hoe
If you find that close combat weeding puts too much strain on your back and knees, grab yourself a hoe.
One of our favorites to use is Sneerboers Royal Dutch Hoe which features a fearsome row of zig-zag teeth that slice on the push stroke, with a hook blade on the reverse to cut on the pull stroke.
It also sports a unique pistol-style grip at the end of its handle to help reduce blisters and helps facilitate vigorous hoeing sessions for the rapid clearing of weedy ground.
For strenuous allotment jobs such as clearing rocky ground prior to planting or for stubborn root removal, a mattock is the tool to wield.
Similar to a pickaxe, a mattock sports a double-bladed head: a vertical blade for slicing and a wide horizontal blade (called an adze) for grubbing and digging.
This rugged version from Roughneck weighs in at a boulder-busting 5kg and sports a 36 inch fibreglass handle with rubber grip.
It comes with a years guarantee but you have to really go some to damage this formidable tool.
RHS Stainless Soil Rake
Wearing an RHS endorsement like a badge of honour, this trusty rake will help you prep soil for maximum plant growing potential.
Featuring 14 sharp tines and a bow shaped support, it feels well balanced in use, with a light, springy action that helps the rake bite into the soil. We also love the polished handle which helps build up a smooth raking rhythm for speedy soil prep.
Felco No.2 Bypass Pruners
For a top quality pair of snippers, look no further than Felco, the go-to pruner brand for many professional gardeners.
Their range of secateurs is quite extensive, but for allotment upkeep purposes we’d recommend the Felco No.2.
These are bypass pruners, meaning the blades pass by each other like scissors to produce clean, sharp cuts and you’ll find that this particular pair will glide effortlessly through twigs and branches.
Careless gardeners will also be glad of the Felco red, non-slip handles that make these pruners easy to spot if inadvertently dropped into fallen foliage.