Power Down Celebrates the Jalo

I have abandoned my project and left my precious seedlings home alone.  I’m hoping  The Man from Salford will at least water them for me occasionally. 

I am visiting Granny Goo.  In order to earn my keep here I have to put some hours in at her allotment – this week she is particularly keen to get all her potatoes in.  Quite excitingly, she has a new toy.  Well actually it is very, very old.  In fact had she bought it brand new it would have cost her the grand sum of five pounds, twelve shillings and sixpence.  As it is she paid rather more for it on Ebay.  Oh yes,  Granny Goo has a jalo – pronounced à la Lopez apparently.  

The Jalo is a wheeled soil cultivator, with various attachments – such as plough, rake, hoes and ridgers – which, you guessed it, is powered by human effort.  Brought into production shortly after the second world war, its manufacturers claimed it was ’12 times faster than by hand’ and ‘costs nothing for fuel or repairs and can be safely used by the youngest member of the family… in conditions where a powered machine would be unusable.’  Right up our allotment then.   

One thing that Granny Goo regrets doing when she first got her allotment was using a rotavator to turn the soil.  It chopped all the weeds up back into the soil and led to lots of vigorous regrowth in the beds.  Rotovators (and indeed most petrol powered garden tools) are heavy to use and difficult to manipulate and you can bet you’ll waste frustrating time, better spent digging, trying to get the things started.  

I couldn’t wait to try the Jalo out on the intended potato patch which was unbroken and infested with couch grass.  We used the plough attachment to turn the soil.  I guess if we were sowing seeds we would have also used the rake attachments to create a fine tilth, but for tatties the plough is fine.  I loved that the attachments can be easily added and removed, it really is just like playing with Meccano.  That’s the sort of simple engineering that makes tools like this easy enough for anyone (yep even simpletons like me!) to use.  In order to get the engine going all Granny Goo had to do was give me a decent breakfast! 


There is we discovered, as with all these things I suppose, a bit of a knack to using a Jalo.  You have to start off just teasing the surface of the soil to start with and then work your way deeper with each successive ploughing.  Starting too deep will just lead to the plough getting stuck.  On about the third plough, the job became easy and it really was pleasurable to watch the soil turning over the blade.  The added bonus was that the plough, instead of chopping up roots, actually dragged them to the surface and made removal much easier.  The Jalo is only about a foot wide, so once the potatoes start coming up it should be possible to use the hoe attachment and work between the rows.   This simple, well-thought out, lightweight but low-maintenance technology is perfect for the sustainable gardener.  Big thumbs up for the Jalo from me and Granny Goo!  (See also Hand Mower)

'Mind your garlic, did you say Granny Goo?'

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8 comments to Power Down Celebrates the Jalo

  • Hi Goo
    I have been looking at “lasagna gardening” which is a no-dig, layer mulching method, publicised by Patricia Lanza. Spuds are a very good first year crop for a lasagna bed and peas make a good companion. It sounds like you had fun
    :-) .

  • goo

    Lasagna gardening sounds intriguing though I think my daughter would be disappointed if I couldn’t actually grow her a lasagna! Granny Goo’s Jalo is safe from my thieving hands as we are using no-dig methods in our raised beds at home. Thanks for great ideas as usual.

  • Norfolk Tim

    I have used the Jalo on my allotment for many years together with the Wolf Terra automatic spade and find it makes it so much easier than the normal tools.I expect them to make a comeback as gardeners become aware of them again.Ebay is a good starting place to look for those interested.

  • goo

    We’re sure they will make a comeback, they are just so easy to use. All our jalo finds have come from Ebay too! :-)

  • john kerry

    iv’e owned a jalo for a few years now and it’s a great piece of kit.paid £10.50 for it on ebay.the last one on there sold for £185.now thats inflation.everyone should have one of these.if you can find one.

  • goo

    £10.50! What a find, John! I don’t think people are just buying them for their utilitarian value anymore (which as you say is fantastic) but weirdly they have become ‘collectables’.

  • barry higgott

    I have two Jalo hoes with plough, scufflers, and disc harrows.So easy to use

  • goo

    Two! Lucky you. I think if more people realised how easy and versatile these tools are they would be using them. Thanks for stopping by!

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