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allotmentor – knowledgeable allotment neighbour

May 22, 2013 Tools Comments Off

A couple of years ago, two friends, Damion Young  and Simon Haynes, were talking about their allotments and their passion for grow your own. In their day jobs, the web is a key part of their work – Damion in web development for technology enhanced learning at Oxford University and Simon on the more creative side in web design.


Looking around the web, they were surprised and frustrated by the lack of effective tools to help them plan and keep track of their growing online, so they decided to set about developing what they needed themselves.

Allotmentor was born.


Allotmentor is your friendly and knowledgeable virtual ‘allotment neighbour’, offering advice on when and where to grow and is configured precisely to your plot and growing preferences and preferred planting layout.

The application is quite straightforward to use, you recreate your plot using the software application, using google maps if required, mark out your paths, sheds, waterbutts etc and create your preferred bed layouts. It’s then a simple task to add crops; there’s more than 50 of the most common fruit and veg pre-installed on the system with more than 900 varieties to choose from and if that’s not enough – then it’s a simple task to add your own. The planner application notes when each crop was added and plans your layout in subsequent years, so that adequate crop rotation is adhered to.

zooming in on the allotment planner

One of Allotmentor’s dedicated users – Mike Dighton of Greater Manchester – has allowed us access to his plot plan to demonstrate the power of the planner application. Please feel free to view this by clicking here

Other features

The notebook allows you to add notes to your plan, helping you to keep track of what you have done this year so that you can recall this information next year.

The calendar provides you with information and reminders on what needs to be done on your plot during this week or month and even allows you to create a personal crop calendar from your plot plan.

The crop guides provide access to everything you need to know about sowing, planting, caring for and harvesting your crops including: different approaches to growing; common problems; likes and dislikes

running the app on a mobile


There’s a very useful pest and disease troubleshooter helping you to identify the cause of problems and how to deal with them.



If all of this wasn’t enough, there’s also an online community, to share your plot ideas and top tips with the rest of the green-fingered community.


Allotmentor is available via an app currently developed for the Android platform, giving you access to many of the online tools while on your plot via your mobile phone. Damion and Simon are planning to extend this to the iPhone during the coming months.


If you fancy trying the Allotmentor plot planner, visit their website and register, we understand that the application is completely free of charge – you really can’t get any better than that.





I saw ‘Cutworm’ mentioned on the pest and disease section, I’m off to have a look. 


a rake, a fork, a sifter and a lifter

November 24, 2012 Gotalottie, Tools Comments Off

Three weeks ago, a parcel arrived – a cardboard box printed with the words ’Golden Gark’.

On opening, all was revealed: a couple of pieces of plastic, a small bag of bolts, washers, etc and a leaflet, printed in several languages which described the assembly instructions..  and a long sleek and rather sexy red handle.

Our Gark had arrived. The instructions were tossed to one side as I hurriedly assembled the components; I could read that later – if there were any bits left over.

What’s a Gark?

To describe the Gark in its simplest form, its a rake, for gathering fallen leaves, twigs, grass clippings etc. In one deft flick of the wrist however, the rake is immediately transformed into a long multi-tined fork which makes short work of lifting those raked-up leaves or grass clippings. The tines are angled slightly upwards, allowing them to glide over the top of a lawn surface for example. On each side of the head, there are 2 thicker tines which are slightly raised and these allow it to gather up large quantities in one lift.


The close-tined, polycarbonate head of the Gark

The close-tined, polycarbonate head of the Gark


The Gark can also be described as a sifter for sifting through soil or compost and removing small stones, debris and even for lifting potatoes, there are photos on their website of it even lifting bricks – never grown them though..


The Gark can lift and sift a lot of material

The Gark can lift and sift a lot of material


I was interested in its ability to lift grass clippings and even seaweed off the beach and it would clearly make light work of this task. My immediate concern was the head, the business end and a vision that this might break against some obstacle; our previous rake – a stainless steel ’62 registered model – had lasted exactly 6 weeks while clearing our allotment. I’m a bit heavy-handed with tools, a lot of bish, bash and bosh.

The literature shows the head to be made, not from plastic, but from polycarbonate, that’s the stuff that motorbike helmets are made of. There’s a photo of the tines being bent back by 180 degrees without snapping, but like I said - I’m a bit tough on tools and not easily swayed by sales blurb.

I had some real work for it, not just lifting a few leaves on a lawn. The work that I had in mind, included some serious raking of beds on an allotment and some horse manure to lift and move about.

The first stop was at the horse riding stables, we’ve got access to the fields and the chance to collect horse manure in the ‘raw’. That requires it to be lifted from the grass – not such a simple task for a spade or a fork. The Gark was, it is fair to say, in its element here; the girls at the stables were impressed too, it’s not a fun part of their daily tasks.


The tines glide easily under even quite heavy material

The tines glide easily under even quite heavy material


On arriving back at the allotment, the Gark and I had more manure to move, this has been piled in large heaps in order to heat up rapidly and needs regularly turning. It would be unfair on the Gark to expect it to perform well here, the manure becomes quite compacted after just a week and the head is possibly too flexible to penetrate the pile. I was however, very surprised; after just a little loosening with a normal garden fork, it was quite simple to lift quite large amounts with the Gark. As the size of the heap reduced, it made easy work of the loose material and it performed well as a rake and shovel, where I would have struggled with a traditional fork or spade. I’ll be honest, I was hard on the Gark at this point and it performed very well, together we have moved a lot of manure already.


A tough task? No

A tough task? No


The Gark responds very well as a rake, even spreading quite large amounts of compost or loose soil. By increasing the downward pressure and the rake angle, significant volumes of material can be moved at ease, a traditional rake would simply not be up to the job.

I wouldn’t want to keep the Gark at the allotment all of the time, it’s too useful in the garden also. It would be superb at scarifying a lawn and removing moss, thatch, etc or for clearing light weeds from a gravel drive or path.

So, the verdict is a resounding ‘Yes’. It’s a rake, a fork, a sifter and a lifter and it also has a long, sleek and rather sexy, red handle.

under the moon of love

November 6, 2012 Tips, Tools Comments Off

A great tip came in from Ian Hazlehurst yesterday, thanks Ian for letting us share it..

If you’re having problems with a mole amongst your beds this simple method seems to do the job says Ian on his blog:

‘A Bamboo cane, split at the top, a CD pushed into the split & tied to the cane, then another disc loosely tied to the string loop made from attaching the fixed disk.

‘Hopefully in the wind the fixed disk will vibrate the cane and the loose disk will fly about also shaking the cane, moles don’t like vibrations in the soil.’

double CD anti-mole device

double CD anti-mole device

Seems to be a winner, we looked on the net for further information and sure enough - these frustrating nocturnal creatures, really don’t like vibration

It probably works even better with a Showaddywaddy CD

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