Rooti-toot-toot, it’s spring at the allotment: up close and vegetal


Well the old shed has made it through another year. A couple of bits have fallen off, but last year’s application of internal bracing by the Team Leader, aka Graham, has kept its tendency to list in an easterly direction in check. Would that we all had such a bracing. Over the winter it housed a poor mummified mouse, and snails still go to roost in there. I’m not showing you the inside, though. You definitely do  not want to see in there.

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Instead, here is the ancient greengage tree with its delicate blossom. Already I’m wondering if it will give us some fruit this year. Greengages are notoriously temperamental, and after the magnificent crop in my first year of allotmenting that had us, and all our friends and relations, dribbling with delight over bucket loads of luscious harvest, it has borne very little. That was seven years ago. Maybe this year is the year then.


There are loads of jobs to do, not least digging. The endlessly wet autumn and winter meant that winter digging was impossible, so there has been much to catch up on. Meanwhile the weeds are literally having a field day, which makes this the the season of dandelion beheading. (Sorry, dandelions). They are sprouting up all along the paths between everyone’s plots, and I’m afraid I find great satisfaction in slicing off these cheery faces with my strimmer. Their replacements are anyway there the next day, beaming vigorously.


Then there is the comfrey forest to manage. This plant I crop and cherish. You cannot have too much of it, and it obligingly grows  itself in a huge clump beside the shed. If you cut it down after flowering, it will grow again and again during the summer.

Comfrey, as I have mentioned before, is the organic gardener’s dream plant. It comes in other shades, pink to purple through blue. Its ability to mine otherwise inaccessible  nutrients from the soil (dynamic accumulation I believe this is called) and repurpose them in its foliage make it an endless source of cost-free fertilizer. It is one of the reasons why you can’t look in my shed. I do my brewing in there. And no. It’s not what you think.


For those who missed an earlier post on this, I stuff old compost bags with the comfrey’s  top growth, seal them with clothes pegs, cut a hole in the corner of each bag, and prop it over a bucket and wait. In the warmth of the shed the vegetation soon rots down, giving out a dark and evil looking liquid that collects in the buckets.  This stuff is pretty smelly, although nowhere near as pungent as the slimy residue left in the bag, which then ends up on the compost heap. The liquid I  decant  into old plastic bottles, and use as a feed through the growing season. It is 3 times richer in potassium that farmyard manure, but it must be diluted 1 part comfrey essence to 15 parts water.

The blurry bee above would not stay still for the shot, but that’s another good thing about comfrey. Bees like it. As I took this, I spotted at least 4 different kinds: a honey bee and three bumbles of varying liveries and sizes. Having written of the dire things that are happening to bees, it’s heartening to see so many at the allotment doing their work. Thank you, bees.


The mild winter has meant that many crops simply kept going without dying back. Yesterday I noticed that my globe artichokes have already made globes almost big enough to eat. In May? What is going on?  But thank  you, artichokes.


The Swiss Chard has been magnificent too and kept us going through the winter with fresh new leaves. It is only now going to seed. Nor did I sow it in the first place. It seeded itself around my plot from my neighbours’ plot. Thank you,  Pete and Kate.


And now you can look at my Red Duke of York spuds, their foliage just pushing through the soil. I love the purple flush on the new growth.


And next are my over-wintered field beans (rather like broad beans I am told, but smaller and tastier). This is the first year I have tried them. The metre tall stems are covered in blossom from tip to root, and the scent is glorious. The bees are busy here too.




And last but not least, the strawberries are flowering like crazy…


And the Welsh Onions are bursting into bloom beside the Lemon Balm, although I’m not sure whether I should be stopping them from doing this. On the other hand they will look rather splendid as the flowers open, and of course make lots more seed.


And finally, the brightest face of all at the allotment, other than mine after too much digging. This is yet another lovely plant that grows itself up there with no help from me, and flowers into the winter. Its petals are lovely in salads, and it makes a good herbal tea that is said to improve pretty much any condition. I can believe it. Simply looking at this flower does you good: the orange goes right through your eyes and into your immune system. A big hand then, for the marigold. TARRAAAAH!


© 2014 Tish Farrell

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29 thoughts on “Rooti-toot-toot, it’s spring at the allotment: up close and vegetal

  1. These are fabulous photos! I’m slightly envious of you having an allotment. I have lots of space for a garden, but love the communal nature of allotments (and would definitely appreciate advice and help from experienced gardeners). My little brother and his mother in law share an allotment, and I can see the pleasure it gives him – even more so when they won an award for “best newcomers.”

    1. What a brilliant award, sort of embracing. And yes, that’s what so good about an allotment. You do of course get other people’s weeds and pests, but it all adds to the learning process. Thanks for coming to my allotment, Su.

      1. You’re welcome.

        I think I could live with others’ weeds for the things I’d learn. Having a degree of food self-sufficiency is my dream (actually I think it’s becoming more of a plan). Meantime, I can look at your photos and drool.

      2. Now you mention it, I did mean to make people drool. So thank you for that response!!! Not sure whether I should admit this, but I do find vegetables VERY exciting.

  2. Lovely photos! So far only the daffodils have made a show in the garden. I did discover a grove of unexpected wild violets and will attempt to transplant them to a safer harbor before the are mowed over. Love the bee shot.

    1. Thank you. And what a lovely thing to find – wild violets. Definitely to be treasured, though they’re good at self-seeding when in a place they like. Wishing you some more spring-like weather to go with. Actually, it seems pretty chilly in the UK, so I’m surprised things are growing so vigorously here.

  3. I am so envious of your glorious allotment Tish. It brings back memories of my Dad and his allotment, at home we had a bucket standing at the front gate and it was a race between all the gardening fanatics down the street to be the first one out to collect the precious droppings left by the horse and cart delivery vendors (1940’s). Then in my teens (1950’s) I helped at some stables and we delivered cart loads of horse manure to the local allotments. Community gardens are now starting to make an appearance around Australia, if I ever stop travelling I would like to put my name down for a plot, I believe there is quite a waiting list.

    1. That’s a lovely image of people vying for the pony poo. We’re lucky at the allotment. A nice man who keeps horses delivers it to our gate. And yes, there is a waiting list for allotments here. Also, the present government has apparently allowed Local Authorities to sell theirs off despite being in full use and much loved by their community. Induces a GRRR moment.

  4. Fascinating Tish – there is a small corner of Northumberland that could be forever yours – we need your skills 🙂 In the meantime I am off to plant some Comfrey 🙂

    1. Well done you. It makes a good herbal tea as well. But once you’ve got it in the garden, you’ve got it. The good news is, all excess plants can be dug straight in. Also in hot, dry weather, you can rip it up and use it to shade seedlings. And you can use it as a mulch. It apparently likes to fed with a bit of manure now and then. Happy gardening.

  5. We grow a few things at the Ark’s spot and bury all decomposable vegetation. pips, cuttings, vegetables and things that have passed their ”sell by date”, all sorts of peel etc.
    From these all number of things sprout without the least bit of encouragement or management besides water.
    We regularly have small crops of potatoes, gems, pumpkin, squash and various types of tomato make an appearance now and then. The Missus does plant beans every year and other stuff like chillies, chives and of course, herbs.
    The veggie turnout is nowhere near as ‘posh’ or magnificently managed as your super allotment, but I’m not much of a gardener so I pretty much let Mother N. do her thing and say a hearty thanks for what ever turns up!
    We also have some lemon trees ( all grown from seed and are full this year!) some avo trees, an apple and walnut tree that have yet to fruit, a wild peach and wild plum that the birds seem to have exclusive dibs on no matter what we do to reserve a few for us. (LOL)

    Nothing like stuff from one’s own garden.

      1. It is a treat. We’ve been battling of late with some sort of fungal disease on the leaves * fruit is fine) and we’re working through remedies.
        At the moment we are using a home brewed chilli concoction( it has to be natural because of possible blow off into the koi pond)
        that almost destroyed my sinuses when the missus was boiling it up in the kitchen, Sheesh!
        I forgot, we also grow lemon verbena that we use for tea. I occasionally use it in our pillowcases. It makes the bedroom smell wonderful.

      2. This is funny on several levels, not least the
        ( obscure) reference to Tennyson whose ghost I featured in my first book. 🙂

        But trust me…when the wife makes chilli everyone runs for cover!

  6. Just popping by for a re-read … don’t mind me, Tish.:)
    Your marigolds look different to ours. I wonder if there are different species?
    I must post a few pics

    1. Oh please re-read me any time, Ark. Am most grateful. The marigolds are a puzzle to me too. They are not like the pot marigolds that I grow from seed. They make quite a shrubby structure, and are almost perennial. They were flowering a bit even into December which admittedly was mild. They also seed themselves as well. Perhaps they have bred themselves. They were on the plot when I took it over 8 years ago.

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