Gardening: Piglets are a good idea, but wire bread baskets are better: Magnus Miles tries out an odd gardening technique

MY brother-in-law has a good way of getting his vegetable plot dug. He sections it off with an electric fence, puts two or three small pigs in there and leaves them to it. A couple of months later he kills and eats the pigs, and takes down the fence. What he has left is a piece of pristine ground, freshly manured and ready to rake and sow.

Now if I were to try this trick up at the allotment I'm sure I would get evicted. So last winter it was spadework as usual. My digging took several successive Sundays, but when I finally finished it I was well pleased with the result. It looked as if someone had been through it with a plough. I had dug the entire plot from end to end, clearing weeds and working in compost. I now had a great untrodden wodge of chopped- up soil, all ready for the winter frosts to make nice and crumbly.

I had done the same thing the previous year with good results (I practically lived on potatoes last year, I had so many). But when I'd finished digging this time, my back told me that enough was enough. My impatience to get the task done had led me to dig during the wettest part of last year, when every spadeful seemed to weigh a ton.

It was nice to have a ready-dug and weed-free plot at the start of spring, but I'd had enough of digging. I was determined never to dig my plot again. I could only do that, however, if I never walked on it again either, because it is when you walk about on soil that it gets compacted, which reduces the air supply and restricts drainage.

In the past I have always been guilty of walking around on my plot. Maybe not at the beginning of the year, when I would carefully keep to little pathways between the crops. But at the height of summer, when the digging season was still several months away, I would tend to wander all over the place, carelessly treading all the soil underfoot.

This lax behaviour was going to have to stop. From now on there would be a self-imposed imperative: KEEP OFF MY LAND]

The other allotment-holders were doubtful. 'Wait a minute', said one, when I was in the middle of telling him my plan, 'you'll have to have some paths, or how are you going to get on to your plot?'

How indeed? The edges would be all right; I could work around them. This would be an advantage because it is at the edges that weeds tend to accumulate. Clever, eh? But getting to the middle of the plot posed a problem.

It covers 121sq yds, so there's a large part I couldn't get at. There were a few options. I could put down stepping stones or planks, but these would again reduce the space for planting. And wielding planks is no better for your back than digging. How about an overhead gantry? Or stilts? Hmm.

I was on the point of abandoning the plan altogether when I came across the ideal solution: a pair of large wire bread baskets. I found them lying around in the street where a market had been, and whisked them away.

So now I could put my plan into operation: I would use them as portable stepping stones, standing on one while I moved the other, and so on. (No, I did not strap one to each of my feet and use them as snow shoes.)

So far the idea is working fine. The two upside-down baskets spread my weight perfectly, they hardly leave a mark on the soil, and I can move among seedlings without disturbing them. Mind you, it is a slow process.

Making my way across the plot takes ages, especially if I am carrying tools. And working with a rake or hoe can be a bit of a balancing act. Worse is when I get halfway across only to find that I've left something behind. But, in return for the slight inconvenience, I have a beautifully aerated piece of land which should yield great things this year.

I have not yet figured out how I'm going to lift my potatoes, but I'm sure I'll think of something.

Anna Pavord is on holiday.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

Special Needs Teaching Assistant

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Special Educational Needs Teach...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London