Manure Couture

From my inbox.

From my inbox.

Dear Joules,

thank you for your April-Fools related promotional email today entitled ‘Manure Couture”. I hadn’t realised that the cookies embedded on your site actually enabled you to track what I’d been up to at the weekend in my own Joules boots, jeans, jacket etc etc…

Yes, I've had that look on my face at the allotment before.

Yes, I’ve had that look on my face at the allotment before.

But tracking the activity of all your loyal customers must be difficult, so why don’t you take next weekend off? There is no need to follow me really. I have even prepared some non-April-Foolish email promo titles for you to use next week that relate to what I’ll be up to:

  • New Threads for Tending Raised Beds.
  • Get Something New to Wear, for when There is Soil in Your Hair.
  • Just What Your Wardrobe Needs, For When You Are Sowing Some Seeds.
  • Giving Your Strawberry Patch a Weed? Consider some Tweed.
  • Erecting Canes for Beans? It’s Time to Think about New Jeans!
  • Skirts Above the Knee, For Thinning out your Sweet Pea(s).
  • Try Some Culottes, for Working on the Plot(s).

That’s you sorted! It’s another job well done by:

Plotholder 7a x

This girl looks like me at the allotment, only she is slightly more shabbily dressed than I am.

This girl looks like me at the allotment, only she is slightly more shabbily dressed than I am.

Message For Monty

Dear Monty,

Monty so lovely to see you again on Friday! It was lovely, as always, to see what you’ve been up to. Hate to flag up something negative, but the sound went on our TV halfway through Gardener’s World on Friday. It was the same for my mum too, so I’m not really sure what you set out as ‘jobs for the weekend’. Was it:

“If you have a children’s birthday party to go to this weekend — one where you will meet the REAL Aurora and the REAL Belle from Beauty and the Beast — send your husband to the allotment ahead of you to get going on some of the jobs. Get him to do a couple of the tasks you are afraid of, like turning the compost heap into the new bay (note to readers: I was a bit worried that might be where the mice are living). He can also make a head start on the allotment socialising: checking with the old hands that dividing the rhubarb has gone well, and gossiping with other relative newcomers about where to get things like good random bits of wood.

Then, when you are able to catch up with him later in the day, energised by the amount of cake you have eaten, get on with the following: sort out the nursery beds you have had in the planning for months; get the cloche hoops up and drape and attach the fleece; sew a few seeds; weed; dig and turn the soil; wear your sunglasses for a bit, then let them fall off when you are leaning over and just leave them on the ground, then make some dramatic leaps across the plot when you almost tread on them later, while carrying a rake or something. Repeat this. Have husband join in. Then have him sensibly put sunglasses somewhere safe. Say “isn’t the weather lovely” to everyone. Enjoy the sunshine.”

I will check on iPlayer later to see if we’ve got that right…

Great to have you back Fella. Yours,

Plotholder 7a

The Plot with the fleece tunnels up

The Scientific Allotment

n.b. – although the readership of this blog is quite staggeringly massive, this post is primarily written for my husband who works for an evidence-based medical collaboration and includes jargon specifically intended to make him smile. If you do not work in a scientific field, or are not geeky, please be warned that the following may make you want to quickly read some Romantic poetry. Or ‘Heat’ magazine. But for the brave…

Researchers at Allotment Plot 7a have returned the results of their latest trials.


In a triple-blind experiment (the subject did not know what they were being given; the allotment holder deploying the potatoes did not know which was which; the allotment holders did not even know there was an experiment being undertaken) the nibble-ability of chitting potatoes was investigated. A sample containing 24 potatoes -12 Pentland Javelin and 12 Duke of York – was left unattended in the allotment shed for a number of weeks to ‘chit’. A rodent, or several rodents, used this opportunity to boost their calorific intake.

Main Findings: 

The experiment found that the rodent/s displayed a strong preference for chitting Duke of York potatoes, nibbling of 67% of these potatoes but leaving 100% of the Pentland Javelins untouched.

In conclusion, the scientific community of plot 7a recommends against the chitting of Duke of York seed potatoes in this particular shed environment. 

The Great Seed Potato Experiment

The Great Seed Potato Experiment

Plain Language Summary: 

Mice ate some of our seed potatoes!!!

Scientifically yours,

Plotholder 7a

Letter to Raymond

Brussel Sprouts growing in the gardens of Le Manoir in January

Brussel Sprouts growing in the gardens of Le Manoir in January

Cher Monsieur Blanc,

thank you so much for having us over for lunch. It was quite a dream come true. You will have to come to see us in Bath next time. We could have lunch at Le Shed, next to our allotment – one moment: allotment!  Zut alors! What am I saying! Lunch next to The Kitchen Garden (anyone else out there watching the Great British Garden Revival?) would make you feel right at home. 

Here in these wet and fruitless days of winter, when I am free to dream that the things we plant will grow — and grow spectacularly well — I can so believe that you would love it at Plot 7a. 

Let me be your Adam. I will get the stove going for you and you will be free to work your magic with our produce. Oh Monsieur Blanc! Lunch made me giddy… The things you can do with a humble sprout! The dish with the cauliflower! Oh the wonders of the Purée de Pomme De Terre Fumée… just think of the possibilities of what you could create from a place with such a strong sense of terroir as our beloved plot. 

Well, look in your calendar and let me know, Raymond.

Votre ami dévoué


Part of the beautiful and very fruitful kitchen gardens at Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons in January

Part of the beautiful and very fruitful kitchen gardens at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in January

Letter to Stove

Dear Stove, _MG_6432

I’m starting to feel better after my Christmas chest infection (I think that this was the present that my two girls got for me. I should probably slip them the White Co. catalogue next year and circle a few things) and I am so excited you are here. 

Oh how delighted we were to find you under the Christmas tree! Sorry we don’t have you at the plot yet — I just can’t quite bring myself to limp up to the plot clutching my chest yet. 

Is it wrong that I want to try you out already? It is wrong isn’t it. I’m pretty certain the desk would catch light if I did. And, as I am always telling the girls, this is a rented house you know. And you can’t go about destroying a rented house in the same manner that a person could if they owned the place, can we? 

Oh, I can’t wait to do some allotment cooking on you. In my mind I can already see a pan of water boiling up some sweetcorn, or some onions frying off… but all that is so very far away. And dependent on some success growing things. I want to make something now. But what? There’s not much up there at the moment but mud. Mud… mud… 

What would Nigel Slater do? He’d have an idea up his sleeve. Mud mixed with a bit of buttermilk on toasted sourdough? Yes! That’s the kind of thing he’d go for I’m sure. Mmm. Am I still a bit ill and delirious? Or does that sound brilliant to you too Stove? 

If it doesn’t; there’s always coffee. 


Plotholder 7a

ps – thanks family-members for our allotment gifts. We will do you proud this year! x

Letter to Shed Mouse

Dear Mouse,

I’m not sure I agree with your methods (the little treats left in the pair of old trainers my husband leaves in the shed) but I do think you might have a point.

There is an issue at our plot more pressing than the digging over, the path installing and the fact that some of the bulbs we planted recently seem to think it is spring already: the issue of men’s attire. 

I suspect that I am to blame. You can only watch so much Gardener’s World, Monty’s Italian Gardens, Monty’s French Gardens and Monty Don’s 80 Gardens around the world before thinking it’s ok to turn up to do some gardening in any old rags. But even Monty dons a pair of braces here and there… and there’s something of a simmering old-world Oliver Mellors quality about Monty that seems to make it mostly ok. And the old pair of trainers will never quite match that. 

Percy Thrower harvests the parsnips in 'How to Grow Vegetables and Fruit' (Hamlyn 1977)

Percy Thrower harvests the parsnips in ‘How to Grow Vegetables and Fruit’ (Hamlyn 1977)


I was recently given a copy of Percy Thrower’s 1977 book How to Grow Fruit and Vegetables. And the sight of Percy at the vegetable garden with a smart pair of trousers and a tie on… well it is a joy to behold. And look at this shot of a man on the allotment during the Dig for Victory campaign: even the threat of Mr Hitler popping round isn’t holding him back from the tie and shirt look. 

A Bolton Slide promoting the Dig for Victory Campaign

A Bolton slide promoting the Dig for Victory Campaign


You may say, young mouse, that these photos are staged, images created not as a reflection of reality but as visual propaganda to convey a certain impression; but I say to you: it doesn’t matter. If I am to wear my best cashmere to plot 7a (see post re. Country Living Magazine somewhere below), then Mr Plotholder 7a must begin to reconsider his wardrobe. 

I’m sure his old school would have said something along the lines of “look smart; think smart” to him. And perhaps we should be following the same approach here. With a sharpened approach who knows what wonders our row-sown vegetables could achieve. We should probably put some more garlic in soon (I was watching a Monty Don video about this matter last week…) and together Mouse, we could spruce Mr Plotholder 7a up and he will plant a row of garlic unlike any he has ever planted before (that amounting to one row. We have only been here 6 months you know). 

Before I go, Mouse: between you, the spider and the frog, it’s getting a bit like the green-room before the filming of an episode of ‘The Animals of Farthing Wood’ in our shed. Can you keep things as neat as possible in there? And may I stress that if my posh wellies are in the shed, you are never, NEVER to commit another ‘dirty protest’.

Cheers ears. Yours, 

Plotholder 7a

Frog of The Shed

Frog of The Shed

Letter to Plot

Dear 100 litre bag of bark chippings purchased as a part of a 3-for-2 deal alongside a tayberry cane and a loganberry cane after a recent 4 hour trip to the garden centre that involved sightings of polar bears (anamatronic), reindeer (real) and penguins (plastic. And on an ice-rink),

you may find life here a little quiet for a time. Given the Christmassy splendour of what you have come from I would understand you feeling a little disgruntled about this. But look about you my friend, look!

You sit here as a long-talked-about heart of our allotment. Rest your cheek upon the mini raised beds Mr Plotholder 7a has created from some pallets. Steady your feet at the top of The Hexagon and gaze in wonder as the tayberry, the loganberry and the garlic and onion sets grow around you. Gasp in excitement at the news that you and the raised beds are here to give Little Miss Plotholder 7a, and Mini Miss Plotholder 7a, a place of their own to run to and a place of their own to grow in on the Lottie.

Make this land your own my friend: resist all those who are green and shooty and try to grow through you (especially at the edges where we didn’t quite to a perfect job of the weed membrane); thwart all those whose tiny feet try to scatter you; and cushion all of us who kneel upon you to coax life from this Great Brown Expanse.


Plotholder 7a

The Hexagon Has Arrived

The Hexagon Has Arrived