AAA newsletter Archive

APRIL/ MAY  2011


Hello Fellow Allotmenteers & Friends,

I did warn you that it might be late - assuming it arrived at all! I'm talking about this latest AAA newsletter of course .

April is a wickedly busy month for us allotmenteers, there's hardly time to spit down on the plot - much less time to write, however I've just about got April in by the skin of my teeth! This edition will have to see us through until June I'm afraid.


There's just a few bits & pieces that I can report on.

  1. Some of you may already know, but others may not be aware, that Owain Davies (Plot 16) suffered a sad loss recently, when his father passed away. Our thoughts are with you Owain, and I'm sure I speak for all our allotment members when I say how sad we all are at the news of your loss. Having lost my first wife when she was in her early forties I can fully empathise with you at your time of grief. However the saying that time heals, (although you never forget) is so very true - things will get a lot better as time passes for you and your family.

  2. As many of you already know - from the memos I recently circulated to our plot-holders - that the water system that Phil & I laboured so hard to install last season (with only some help from Tig & Gail) is now working properly. We had a little hitch - from using cheap and inferior connectors - but everything is now resolved. If you need to know how to use the water system, we've even got an on-line guide for you  (click HERE to view it).

  3.  Two plots have become vacant on the site. I think Phil our secretary has already sent a memo out to all our plot-holders asking for volunteers to help clear the two plots because they had been left in a shambolic state. However, one has been taken up before we could start the clearing up process (which is good news of course). The other is being viewed again this weekend or Monday. Surprisingly, a few on our waiting list have actually turned down offers of a plot after visiting the site. We assume it's because they have been put off by the potential work involved in bringing the plots back to a state of decent cultivation, a few have also been taken aback by the initial cost in the first year. However any experienced gardener with a true love of the hobby is not really put off by things like that, but instead sees the future potential of his/ her allocated allotment plot - regardless of it's initial state. So perhaps it has been a filtering process but not of our making. However, we will from now on be paying more attention to who is offered a plot on our site. With the experience of hindsight, we now realise that some of the original plot-holders who took up a tenancy from the AAA were not keen gardeners and  did not take their responsibility seriously - hence the reason some plots have become vacant after only 12 months of occupancy. Also, it's extremely sad to report, that we get a constant stream of comments from the passing public about the state of some of the plots that are currently in use - with many drawing the conclusion that some of the plot-holders didn't deserve a plot unless they were prepared to put the time and effort into it's upkeep. This is a great pity, I personally get quite embarrassed when I hear these things - not wanting to join in the condemnation of a fellow member, (although at the same time I fully agree with many of the sentiments expressed), I don't comment as a rule. ALL plot-holders should be aware that one of the stipulations laid down in our Land Lease Licence from the Council demands that we keep the site properly maintained and in an acceptable state of weed-free cultivation. Our own tenancy agreement also reflects that clause. A word to the wise perhaps?

  4. The site's parking and delivery tipping area has been tidied up a little. It's not completed yet, however we are waiting for my friend Ian Edwards (he's the guy who got the contract from the council to fence/ ditch our Phase 2 site and prepare it for cultivation back in 2009/ 2010) to pop in with a JCB. Dafydd Phillips a local contractor who was working on the building site across the road to us, had promised to do the job some months back, but he either forgot or got too busy. Whichever it was, we can't wait indefinitely for him. So I've called in yet another friend's favour from Ian. He's promised to pop in the next time he has one of his machines in Aberaeron. Marc Davies who farms Pencarreg and who also supplies me with favours (such as manure etc. for IT work I do for him) came down to generally level the site's parking area for me, but he was limited in what he could do because he only had a tractor & front loader, however he did clear the parking area. What is now required is the excavation of a shelf, (or a step - if you like) from the parking area down to the site level, so that deliveries - for the individual members - of manure, top-soil or compost etc. , can be tipped over the edge into bays - so as not to interfere with our parking area, and to allow clean and easy access to the materials by the plot-holders. It's still a work in progress so please be patient.

  5. I'm sure some of you will have noticed the horrible smell of carrion down on the site lately. When I first smelt it one warm evening this week I remember thinking that I'd smelt the same thing last year. At the time I thought that an animal - possibly a fox or a sheep had died in the woods near the allotments site, and that by sheer coincidence the same thing had happened two years on the trot. True coincidences are rare things. After a more thorough investigation I've discovered that the source of the stench of rotting flesh is actually a Stinkhorn in the woods by the path!

    The stinkhorn fungus (Phallus impudicus) lives up to its name and smells of rotting flesh. This odour of putrefied meat attracts flies to it which in turn help to spread its spores (the fungal equivalent to plant seeds). You could smell the one by our allotments site for over a 100 yards down wind when the breeze was in the right direction.

    Young stinkhorns however do not smell, and look almost like a white egg in the woodland leaf litter - and at that stage (according to my Collins Fungi Field Guide)  they are apparently edible! Not for me thank you very much - the thought of it makes my stomach churn! I've had an aversion to stinking corpses since I once put poison down to kill a rat - it died - under a floorboard, where I couldn't find it. For about six weeks we suffered and that sweet sickly stench makes me wretch every time I smell it ever since that experience years ago!

    You DON'T need a fantastic imagination to understand why the Romans gave stinkhorns the Latin name "Phallus impudicus"! A mature specimen leaves very little to the imagination when it comes to comparisons. The Romans after all were  renowned for linking almost anything to phallic symbols. With the Common Stinkhorn - finding an appropriate name would not have been a very difficult task for their scholars!

    If there are any volunteers amongst you (unlikely from experience) who would like to get rid of it CLICK HERE for some instructions. COUNT ME OUT FOR THIS ONE!


Wales first to pin down plant genes

19 April 2011

Wales has become the first country in the world to map the DNA of all its native plants, using groundbreaking technology known as bar-coding.

The team of scientists led by the National Botanic Garden of Wales have spent three years collecting samples of all 1,143 species of native flowering plant, both fresh from the wild and from dried herbarium specimens.

They then sequenced a section of DNA code from each plant. The 'barcodes' generated create a catalogue of unique gene sequences, precisely identifying each species and allowing unknown genetic material to be compared for possible matches. This means plants native to Wales can now be identified from the tiniest fragments, down to a single grain of pollen.

'It's a new take on identifying and classifying plants,' said project leader Dr Natasha de Vere. 'We're creating a database in which the information is exact; the beauty is the range of applications you can use the information for.'

Plant barcodes are immensely useful in a wide number of fields. As well as telling scientists much more about rare plant communities and the effects of factors such as climate change, it allows them to track pollen grains to find out more about why populations of honeybees and other pollinators are falling. The profile of landscapes centuries ago can emerge from identifying plant fragments within the soil profile; and forensic scientists can definitively trace the tiniest speck of plant material at crime scenes.

Wales is one of over 25 countries taking part in the Barcode of Life, a huge worldwide exercise with the eventual aim of DNA bar-coding all living things and making them available as a global online resource. The Welsh team's next step is to join forces with other botanic gardens to barcode the remaining 364 native species in the UK, and then start work on thousands of non-native plants introduced within the last 500 years.


Seeds from 1,500 types of South American potato, including white, black, red and yellow strains, are on their way from Peru to the  Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle as a safeguard against losing them in cultivation.

The selections are being gathered together by a potato conservation park in the Peruvian Andes founded in 2005 as a 'living library' of potato genetic diversity, conserving many traditional varieties some of which have unique nutritional or disease-resistant qualities.

Most commercial varieties of potato have their origins in one of Peru's 4,000 cultivars, and potatoes have been grown in the country for 10,000 years: they include bright red 'moro boli', high in antioxidants, and the long banana-shaped 'talaco', used in distilleries.

However changes in climate and rising disease levels are threatening traditional methods of cultivation, and the park felt they had to act quickly to prevent these highly vulnerable varieties from dying out.

'Climate change means that traditional methods of maintaining this collection can no longer provide absolute guarantees,' said Lino Mamani, a farmer at the park. 'Sending seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will help us to provide a valuable back-up collection.'

Svalbard, an unmanned cold storage facility buried deep inside a Norwegian mountain, can only accept seed, so using the tubers for propagation, as is more usual with potatoes, has not been possible. The first stage of the three-year project is therefore to train farmers in pollination techniques to ensure seed is true to type. Three sets of seed will be collected: one set for the Potato Park, to be used for developing more climate-resilient varieties of native potatoes, a second to be stored in Lima, and a third to go to the Seed Vault.

Whilst we're talking about things from South America - take a look at this:



Puya chiloensis A giant Puya chilensis flower bud, standing 2.4m (8ft) tall, is poised to open at any moment at the National Botanic Garden of Wales at Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire - an RHS recommended garden (it's only an hour away from Aberaeron for you to pop down to see it). It's the first time staff at the garden have persuaded the plant to flower since it was planted in the Great Glasshouse 10 years ago.

The puya, a bromeliad whose leaves are edged with curved thorns vicious enough to trap a sheep, is native to the Chilean Andes. Specimens have been known to flower in the UK before; a plant grown in the subtropical Tresco Abbey Garden on the Isles of Scilly produced a flower in 1987, and a plant grown from its seed also flowered a decade later at Portmeirion in north Wales.

Once open, puya blossoms are enormous, producing massive spikes of greenish-yellow flowers with individual blooms measuring around 5cm across and containing enough nectar for a person to drink.

It's the second time staff at the Garden have persuaded a member of the Puya family to blossom: four years ago a Puya berteroniana, thought to be the only specimen in Britain, produced a spectacular 2.1m (7ft) bloom in jade green and orange.


Beans have been a part of our diet since man began to cultivate plants. They are high in protein and are less costly to produce than high protein animal products. Many different varieties are grown all over the world, in gardens and commercially for food; both for human consumption and for livestock.

Kidney Beans

Now - here's a teaser. What does the term "Kidney Bean" convey to you? It seems the answer can be as varied as the people you ask.

When I was a little boy - helping my Dadcu (Grandfather) on his allotment on the old allotments site at Plasgrug in Aberystwyth, "Kidney Beans" meant what we now all call "Runner Beans". In fact the two terms were interchangeable around here. Apparently - from conversations I've had with old gardeners from the Ammanford area - they also referred to runner beans as kidney beans. In fact Brython Stenner (from Cefn Cribwr in Glamorgan South Wales) - the famous developer of the prize-winning Stenner Bean variety  would often refer to them as kidney beans.

’Kidney’ is the old-fashioned word for French beans, referring to any variety of haricot or runner beans. Older allotment holders still refer to any runner beans as 'Kidney' - so you never know quite what you're going to get! You can grow a wide range of ‘kidney’ beans in our climate, from stippled ‘Borlotti’ to creamy ‘White Lady’ beans and red ‘Canadian Wonder’. Almost all are suitable for drying, which is a major benefit for plot-holders who are short on space.

Apparently the term "kidney bean" is most relevant when it refers to those r reddish-brown kidney-shaped pulses with a soft, creamy flesh that are available dried or canned. Dried kidney beans need soaking and should be cooked carefully because they contain toxins on the outer skin when raw, which are rendered harmless by boiling; canned beans need just draining, rinsing and reheating. They're great in mixed bean salads and stews such as chilli con carne. it makes sense because although other beans resemble a human kidney the red variety actually have the same colour as well!

Growing Beans

There are some golden rules, some rules of thumb and one warning!

Kidney (or runner, haricot or French) beans like plenty of nutrients at their roots. If you can, improve the bed by digging in homemade compost or well-rotted manure well before spring. If you’ve left it too late, you can still improve the ground in spring. Dig a 1-foot trench right the way along your bean bed. Cover the bottom of the trench with grass cuttings or shredded newspaper, to improve moisture retention. Cover this with a layer of kitchen scraps – vegetable peelings, coffee grinds and apple cores – then replace the topsoil. It’s a good idea to put in the climbing poles at this point too (it can be difficult to put them in after sowing). Choose tall poles and secure them firmly, pushing them well into the bed and tying them together to create the traditional wigwam or tunnel shape. I'm actually trying the "V" or inverted "A" frame design this year. I'll keep you posted on how it goes and provide some photos later - no time for this edition I'm sorry!

Finally, you’re ready to put in the seeds. You can buy dozens of different types of bean. Borlotti is a favourite for its beautiful pods and beans – and you can try black, blue, or even purple beans too. Look for types that are specified as being good for drying. Push them in, 2 or 3 to a pole, and water well. When the seedlings come up, thin them out to one strong plant per pole. Keep them watered and check the supports after high winds. You’ll be picking the beans fresh in July-August. Drying is best done on the plant; wait until the beans rattle inside the pods. If heavy rain or frost is forecast before they’re ready, bring the pods indoors and spread out in a cool place to finish drying. Store in an airtight jar, in a cool place, until ready to cook.

What is a Bean?

All beans are members of the Leguminosae family of plants, commonly known as legumes, which includes both beans and peas. It is the third largest family of flowering plants after orchids and daisies. They are natives of four continents:

  1. Europe,

  2. Africa,

  3. Asia and of course, our old friend -

  4. South America!

A bean is composed of a seed coat containing an embryonic plant and a pair of cotyledons The bean that we eat may not simply be a seed. Some of the vegetables that we call beans include the seed pod, as well as the seed itself. Runner beans are one example.

Common Legumes

From Europe and Southwest Asia

  • Fava, or broad bean

  • Chickpea, or garbanzo bean

  • Lentil

  • Pea

From India and East Asia

  • Soybean

  • Mungbean

  • Azuki bean

  • Rice bean

  • Winged bean

From Africa

  • Black eyed pea

  • Groundnut

From South America

  • Haricot bean

  • Butter bean

  • Runner bean

  • Peanut

As well as being useful crops, beans come in a variety of colours; pods and seeds can be yellow, green, red, white, blue or a mixture of colours.

The Nutritional Value of Beans

Beans are a good source of several nutrients, including iron, protein, B vitamins, folic acid and oil or starch. Beans with coloured shells contain antioxidants. They are a rich source of fibre, which helps to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol in blood. Fibre is also known as 'roughage' and is important because it absorbs water, adds bulk and ensures that wastes pass out of the body efficiently. If this does not happen several problems can occur including constipation and diverticular disease.

Soya beans are the stars of the bean world. They are the only beans to contain all eight amino acids necessary to make a 'complete' protein. They also contain photoestrogens, which are thought to slow bone loss, reduce the chances of prostate cancer and heart disease.

Growing Beans at Home

It is simple and satisfying to grow your own beans. They are warm climate crops, which will nonetheless grow in a temperate climate summer. They can be grown as pod or snap beans, where one eats seed and pod alike, shell beans, where the immature bean is eaten, and as dry beans, where the mature seed is consumed.

In the Garden

The four key requirements to grow any bean crop are:

  1. sunshine,

  2. warmth,

  3. water and

  4. soil packed with compost or manure.

The sunnier the summer, the bigger your bean crop. The warmer the summer, the bigger your bean crop. The more compost that you put into, or on top of, your soil the bigger your bean crop. The high compost content of the soil results in good water retention and the soil needs to be moist at all times.

Bean seeds can be bought from seed suppliers, bought from the shops and sown, or easily collected from your previous season's crop. In areas where frosts last into the late spring, beans should be sown indoors in small pots or trays in a warm atmosphere. The seedlings can be planted out once the frosts are over and when the soil has begun to warm up. In areas without spring frosts, seeds can be planted directly into the ground where you want them to grow. The soil should be above 50°F (10°C) as a rule of thumb to avoid rot or poor germination. The plants should be about six inches apart, but check the instructions on the seed packet for specifics. Keep the bean patch weeded throughout the growing season, or keep it well-mulched with something like grass cuttings. Supports for climbing beans should be put into the ground before the seeds are sown, or seedlings planted out. Beans do not like to have their roots disturbed.


Many warm or hot climate varieties of bean can be grown successfully in temperate climates if you use a greenhouse, sunroom or polytunnel. Plant them into large, deep and well-composted tubs in the full sun. The tubs will need to be well-drained and placed onto a tray, so that you can monitor water uptake. There should always be standing water in the tray. Indoor beans may well require ventilation on very hot or sunny days, to prevent leaf-scorch.

Another method of growing beans indoors is to sprout beans. Just about all bean varieties can be sprouted. For one volume of beans, add four volumes of warm water to soak overnight. Drain the beans and place them in a large jar, covered with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth and secured with a rubber band. They should be kept in a warm place and rinsed thoroughly with water once or twice a day. Beans are ready to eat once the sprouts are an inch long.

Types of Bean

Different types of bean are harvested at different stages of their growth. Shell beans are picked once the pods are firm and crisp, showing the shape of the bean inside. Pod beans are picked when the seeds in the pod appear plump and firm. Dry beans are picked once the pod is dried and looks dead.

Pod or Snap Beans

These include runner beans, French beans and winged beans; all of which are sometimes referred to as string beans because of the stringy fibre that develops along the seam of the pod if they are overripe. They are also called pole beans in some countries, due to their climbing nature. Pick pod beans and eat or preserve immediately. The flesh of the pod deteriorates quickly once they are harvested and will go limp even in the fridge.

Shell Beans

Broad and butter beans are harvested when the seeds are fully formed but still immature inside the pod. They should be eaten or preserved immediately after picking.

Dry Beans

These include kidney beans, pinto beans, borlotti beans and many others. They need a longer growing season than either pod or shell beans to provide time for the beans to reach full maturity. Once harvested they can be used in the kitchen straight away, or dried in a warm dry place for storage.

Many bean varieties can be grown as pod or dry beans. For example, soya beans can be harvested when the pods are just two inches long and eaten whole4, or left to mature and dried. Borlotti beans, winged beans, runner beans and French beans are also similarly versatile.

Storing Beans

Pod and shell beans should be preserved as soon as possible after they are picked. Freezing is the most successful method of storage. Blanch the beans in boiling unsalted water for 30 seconds, plunge them into cold water, drain and pack into plastic bags and put into the fast freeze compartment of the freezer. Pod and shell beans can also be salted, pickled, used in chutneys and relishes, or cooked in soups and casseroles which can then be frozen.

Dry beans should be removed from their pods and placed in a warm, dry place until they are completely dry. Put them into an airtight container and they will keep for months until they are required in the kitchen. Be warned that the longer you keep dry beans, the longer they take to rehydrate later on.

Cooking Beans

Fresh pod and shell beans are delicious cooked simply, so that their sweetness can be tasted unadulterated. Steaming preserves more of the taste and texture. They can be eaten hot, with butter and seasoning, or in a salad. The first dish of the summer of steamed Broad beans served with a knob of butter, salt and pepper, is arguably one of the highlights of the kitchen gardener's year, not least because broad beans are the first variety to reach maturity.

Beans that are past their best and are a little tough or starchy can be used in soups, casseroles and savoury bakes, where they can be cooked longer to soften them up. Broad beans that are not quite as fresh and sweet as that first dish can make a wonderful vegetable dish when steamed and served with a parsley sauce.

Cooking pod and shell beans that have been frozen is easy. Simply defrost them at room temperature and put them into a pan with a knob of butter, salt and pepper. Cover the pan and put over a medium heat for five to ten minutes until the beans are tender. Eat immediately. They do not taste quite as good as fresh picks, but they will be a lot better than beans that are sold in the vegetable sections in the supermarket.

Dry beans should be cooked quite differently, even if they have just been harvested. Fresh dry beans will require at least 30 minutes simmering in unsalted water or stock before they are edible. Dried dry beans should be soaked overnight in water to help to rehydrate and soften them. Most will triple in size, so make sure there is plenty of room in your bowl.

Cook them in a large pan using three times as much water as beans. Boil them hard for 15 minutes initially, and then simmer gently until they are soft. This can be between one and two hours, depending upon the variety. Keep the beans covered with water throughout cooking. Spices, seasoning and stocks can all be added to the cooking liquid. However, salt should only be added once the beans are soft, because it can harden the skin of the beans and prevent the insides from cooking.

An alternative to pan boiling is to use a pressure cooker. Dry beans will still need to be soaked overnight, but the actual cooking time can be cut to five to ten minutes, depending upon the type of bean.

Microwave ovens are not suitable for cooking dry beans, because rehydration and cooking requires long slow simmering. Slow cookers or crock-pots are not suitable either, because the cooking does not reach a sufficient temperature to soften the beans properly.

A warning: All dry beans should be soaked overnight, boiled hard for 15 minutes and then simmered until soft. If these simple rules are not followed, your run the risk of food poisoning, particularly prevalent from poorly cooked red kidney beans. The beans contain a toxic agent called phytohaemagglutinin, or lectin. It causes red blood cells to clump together, resulting in nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Recovery is usually spontaneous, although hospitalisation is sometimes necessary. You have been warned!

Cooked dry beans can be used in a variety of ways; whole, mashed or pureed, in soups, patties, as a filling for tortillas or as served over or pasta.

Baked beans are probably the most popular form of cooked beans, ubiquitous to the canned vegetable aisles of supermarkets and possibly the favourite 'vegetable' in Britain. Baked beans are haricot beans coated in tomato sauce and sometimes supplemented with sausages, bacon or spices. They are a good source of protein and fibre and also contain potassium, iron, magnesium and manganese. The tomato sauce is also beneficial, being a source of lycopene, an anti-cancer agent

Beans and Flatulence

Many people are put off eating beans - particularly dry beans - because of their reputation for causing intestinal gas. The reason for flatulence is that most beans cause a sudden increase in bacterial activity in the intestine, because they contain large quantities of carbohydrates that human digestive enzymes cannot convert into absorbable sugars. As a result gas is produced a few hours after bean consumption.

The solution, or at least a partial solution, is to cook dry beans for a long time. This breaks down much of the unabsorbable carbohydrates into digestible sugars. Sprouted beans tend to be less gaseous because the carbohydrates are converted to digestible sugars during germination of the bean.

Beans Means....?

Beans are a great source of protein. They are a versatile kitchen ingredient. They are easy to grow. They are cheaper to produce or buy than meat protein products. They taste great. They look great. Become a bean fan!


Pythagoreans  wouldn't eat beans . . . .


The ancient brotherhood of Pythagoras, who flourished in the Ancient Greek city of Alexandria, believed in reincarnation. They wouldn't eat meat because it might contain the soul of a person. But they also believed that dead spirits might return to this world as beans, so beans were also proscribed from their diet. A pity, because in the absence of meat, they were missing out on a valuable source of protein!


It is interesting to note that each of the four major legumes known to the Romans lent their name to a prominent family: Fabius from the fava (or broad) bean; Lentulus from the lentil; Piso from the pea; and Cicero from the chickpea.

"Not a lot of people know that - OLD BEAN" !


The dead giveaway when you first encounter a novice or a beginner on an allotment plot is his/ her distinct lack of tools for the job. Their complete tool collection can sometimes just consist of one borrowed spade and/or a borrowed fork and possibly a hand trowel from Poundland. Old experienced gardeners - like tradesmen - have a love affair with their tools. They become an extension of them. They have a collection of tools for every job they may encounter on the plot. Often a favourite tool will stay with someone for a lifetime, and will often be passed on for quite a few generations. I actually have one or two tools that my GREAT Grandfather used. They have character, and because of the way they have been used, but cared for, they are worn until polished. They still carry something forward to the present from their previous master. It does not cost a fortune to acquire tools - auctions and car boot sales are a rich vein source with 99% of what's needed costing less than £10.00.

It is this "character" that makes people attracted to old tools, many even collect them. In any car boot sale there will always be a magnetic attraction towards hand tools - especially the ones used for gardening. This is not just the nostalgia displayed by old men for the tools they remember when they were young - many young people who have the correct attitude towards their work and respect for tools are just as attracted. If we did not have this fascination for tools we would all still be using crude flint knives and other tools made of bone!

An individual's attitude towards tools and their ability to use them properly and care for them really divides the men from the boys when it comes to allotment gardening.

Any job can be made significantly easy if the correct tool is used, and equally importantly the user knows HOW to use the correct tool in question. I often cringe when I watch someone trying to shovel soil with a digging spade - sure it CAN be done - eventually, but because a digging spade is made for digging, using it as a shovel is both awkward and inefficient. By contrast an even worse scenario is someone trying to dig virgin ground with a shovel! Another favourite cringe is watching someone trying to load manure into a barrow - or worse trying to spread it - with a digging fork - instead of a muck fork.

Then we come to caring for tools. A good and efficient gardener will always clean his tools after use, and put them away hung up in a tool shed or perhaps a tool chest. At least they will be collected up and put away neatly together somewhere. Someone who just drops his tools in the undergrowth and disappears - as a child drops his toys in a sandpit when called in for his supper speaks volumes about the person concerned.

There is a fascinating history to garden tools and the way they have evolved differently in various parts of the world. There are even great differences in the way tools have evolved in the UK.

On the Celtic fringes of Britain tools used for gardening and soil work in agriculture are considerably different from the tools traditionally used in the Anglicised areas of the UK. One big distinction is the length of handles, design of the metal heads and also the tools chosen for tasks.

In my childhood, the standard (most used) tools in a garden was:

  • The Mattock (or sometimes an azada)

  • The long handled fork

  • An Aberaeron Shovel - with a bowed handle (also called various other names like The Pembrokeshire "Lazy-back" shovel, the Cornish shovel, the Irish potato spade, the Lurgan shovel and the Celtic shovel. Large firms such as Elwell and Nash also made shovels of this type. There is currently a similar shovel made by Draper & Bulldog Tools called the West Country shovel - but it has a straight long handle)

  • A digging spade (sometimes called a peat spade because it was also used to dig peat)

  • A rake with round "nail" teeth.

Apart from a wooden barrow that was about it. The ease with which they used these tools was a joy to behold.

I will in future newsletters go through these various tools and provide a little bit of history to go with them as well as pictures - if I can find any.

Out of interest the azada or mattock is currently the most used gardening tool in the world, but in the UK generally, their use is quite limited. Many younger gardeners have never actually seen one. However, it is well worth getting your hands on one.

A web-site that I have introduced to many to obtain tools similar to these is

At least one of my allotment neighbours is a convert and has already been shopping with "Get Digging" together we are now building up his collection of other second hand tools - it's a very pleasing and satisfying little side-line looking for second hand tools.


As we are slap-bang in the middle of the sowing and planting season here is a button link to some useful information on our web-site:


If you have any contributions you would like to make to our newsletters then feel free to contact me by clicking on this e-mail address:


Until the next time - keep busy and have fun!

Be happy, healthy & friendly doing so!

Kind Regards,




Aberaeron Allotment Association Chair

AAA and Gardeners Chat-Shed Webmaster


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