Regular readers may have detected a sombre note in my last post.  The Reluctant Gardener had begun to wonder whether the ongoing battle with bugs, grubs and slugs was All Worth It.

newbie allotment holders on a welcome holiday

A fortnight away

But it’s amazing what a fortnight away can do.  The benefit isn’t just in my mind: when I visited the allotment this morning, it looked like the allotment of a Proper Gardener.

Various veg (written off as bloody washouts) have shot up. The courgettes have come out of suspended animation and produced impossibly yellow flowers, the broccoli and kale have stopped drooping half-heartedly about the place and are standing up straight like proper men and even the carrots, their tops almost invisible before, have a definite, if feathery, presence.

A Watched Crop Never Grows may have to become my new gardening maxim.

Of course, the sudden growth spurt may also have been helped by my home made nettle fertiliser, applied the day before we went away. And if so, the nightmare of making it may have been worthwhile.

allotment blog horror


I don’t know if you’ve ever soaked nettles in a bucket for 3 weeks? But tripping gaily about the allotment in gardening gloves and floppy hat, humming as I filled a basket with delicately heart shaped nettle leaves, I had no idea of the disgusting stages of filth and putrefaction I was going to be forced to witness.

The education wasn’t just visual. As the nettles began to decay, the water turn black, and then grow sinister white blooms and become a feeding ground, breeding-ground and general seething-ground for a thousand blue bottles, I had never smelt anything so foul.

It was unfortunate that I’d stood the buckets in front of the shed, next to the bench. Even that filth meister Mr MS was unable to drink his coffee in the vicinity. And we were all scared to move the buckets.

But the day of reckoning had to come. Armed with a Tupperware container, I approached the buckets and plunged the plastic box into the vile brew, ready to dilute it ten parts to one in the watering can.  I was holding my breath, but couldn’t resist a little sniff to see if the stuff was really that bad. It was.  The watering took an hour and a half. I had to keep running away.

But job (eventually) done. The buckets got a thorough rinseby way of thanks, the gunk went on the compost heap and the flies reassembled around the plants that had been watered with the filth. I gave those plants a mercy watering with clean water. I made a mental note not to use the Tupperware box for Mr MS’s sandwiches in future. Well, not unless he really annoys me.

Even after five washes, my fingers still stank.

Mr MS, who had not been present (he used that old chestnut of an excuse ‘I have to go to work’) blanched when I waved the fingers under his nose later.

allotment humour: comfrey stinks

Even worse than nettles

‘God. I see what you mean,’ he said. He had been accusing me of exaggeration. But now, was it admiration I saw in his eyes? Or just wind from eating a home grown onion?

Who knows. One thing I did know at the time, though: however beneficial the nettle fertiliser was to our veggies, I was never going to put myself through all that again.

But I notice now that my new comfrey patch is coming on really well. And soaked comfrey leaves make even better fertiliser than nettles. Apparently they smell even worse, too.  But just as it’s impossible to remember feeling hungry, it’s impossible to remember bad smells. Especially after a fortnight’s holiday.