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
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Property search
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform