Dusting on the allotment

Clearing up the allotment after winter, it takes time and effort. I need to take it gently, my shoulder is still on the mend, but to get in there and start clearing the weeds, tidying up, organising and sorting the plot is a good feeling.

garlic bed weeded and dusted

The earth is cold and damp, but workable. I need to be careful not to tread heavily on the damp clay soil and compact it, I work off a scaffold board, shuffling along, trying to reach the weeds and pull them without disturbing the garlic, I need to get in and clear the weeds before they settle in and get too comfy.

the garlic bed with a background of mess !

And what’s the dusty grey/brown stuff around the garlic? I’ve cleared the shed at home, we keep a metal bucket in there for the ashes from the fire – it’s a case of not wasting a thing. I read somewhere, years ago, about using wood ash on plants in the garden – fruit and garlic like it. I’ve no idea as to the science behind it all, but it feels good to use a waste product. So the garlic has had a dusting, a dusting of ash.

Freshly dug and washed leeks

Feeling the warmth of the sun on my back as I tidied bags of leaf mold, sorted out the mulches and weed suppressant, standing back surveying and working out what is to go where. It felt good. Clearing plants that haven’t made it through the winter – the cabbages and cauliflowers failed again! Noticing what is filling out, showing signs of fresh new growth – the spinach, chards and kales are all looking brighter for some warmth and rain. They will be pulled up in a month or so, but I will have had some fresh pickings in the meantime.

Allotment Quiche

Homegrown food has been on the menu with an Allotment Winter Quiche of leeks, kale, spinach and feta; bowls of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, gratins of leeks and kales feature. A new discovery for me this year has been a variety of Kale – Ragged Jack. It has striking purple/red veins and frilled leaves, it’s a provides me with an earthy tasty treat at this time of year.

Ragged Jack Kale

The surprise this Spring has been the Mustard Greens, they have also survived the winter, I left them in the ground as I’d run out of time to clear the plot before we went away, my poor time management has had a silver lining. The leaves of the Mustard Greens are strong purple and deep green, they pack a real peppery punch, perfect shredded into winter salads or quickly stir fried in with other veggies. And I’m still picking and eating the winter radishes like Daikon and Hilds Blauer Herbst Und Winter – as their names suggest they stand all winter, their outer leaves are now looking the worse for wear, but underneath the soil all is well and tasty.

Ragged Jack – plenty of fresh pickings

It’s been a good few days at home, getting out and about, making plans, sowing a few seeds, sharing some meals. The start on clearing is good, but there’s plenty more to do before I can start any planting; there’s manure to shift, compost to turn, fixing and sorting the greenhouse. Will there be enough hours in the day to accomplish these tasks?!


  • I too use the wood on my veggies and fruit. Apparently it has a small amount of potash. Now that you’ve discovered Ragged Jack you’ll never be without it. It’s one of our faves!

    • That’s it, potash! I think you are right about Ragged jack, I’ve tried Vates Blue Curled this year but it is nowhere near as healthy looking!

  • Everything looks great Claire.
    We are having a rainy spring start, which is good for the garden, but not so good for my “exterior tidying up”.
    Have a nice day (and don’t overwork that shoulder 🙂 )

    • Our Spring is dry so far, like last year and could be a big problem for us later in the summer when the ground is too dry. I know its lovely to sit out in the sun but us gardeners need that rain too!!

  • It is so alien a concept to see greens and the like survive Winter. I’ve never lived anywhere that was warm enough. I do enjoy seeing your garden, though, and hearing of the dishes you’ve created with things you/ve already harvested. We may be behind you but it’s not so very long to wait — I hope! 🙂

    • isn’t it funny what s alien and what isn’t! I look at some of my fellow bloggers and think that i sbeyond my imagination – people in Florida and Texas wearing sandals in February, my brain doesn’t compute 🙂

  • First of all I want to say how much I have come to enjoy your blog. I am so happy I found it or it found me or whatever happened. The “allotment” concept is somewhat foreign here in America, but is a growing idea whose time has come. I have always envied that Europeans had garden “allotments” which is a very nice idea of both community and gardening.
    I have my own little backyard garden here in Nashville, Tennessee and cleaned it out a few weeks ago to find that my arugula, leeks, chard and herbs have been growing all through the short winter we had and are now ready to pick. Leeks are on the menu this week and I think I will make a quiche like you did. Spring is here!

    • Hi Teresa, your kind words touch me, thank you. I’m planning on writing a bit more about allotments and what they are very soon, I want to take you all on a walk about with my decent camera and lens! Gardening with others, and not in isolation in your garden haas pluses and minuses. I’ve picked up all sorts of information (and seeds and plants!), I’ve made friends, got to know a heap of people in my area. The negatives – they do exist, it’s not my garden, only rented, it’s a walk away so not as convenient, sometimes we suffer vandalism and thefts. But ultmately the allotment is a wonderful aspect of my life, and I’m richer for it.
      And what a fantastic find in your garden, it’s amazing how tough some plants can be, the thing that is the most likely to kill my plants off is water logging – plants don’t like wet and cold (a bit like me really!)
      Spring has sprung and hurrah for leeks 🙂

  • I discovered Ragged Jack kale last summer and I love it! I’m planning on growing lots of it this year!

    • Thank you, there is so much to do at this time of year, lots of prep work (that I didn’t get done over winter), but April is the maddest month with sowing and planting. I can’t wait 😉

  • Gorgeous is the ONLY description for your Ragged Jack! Wow!!!
    It sounds as if your recent winter was overall quite mild? Most of your stuff weathered really well!

    • I’m glad you like it, it really is a pretty leaf. And you know I think our winter was fairly mild, it doesn’t seemed to have been very wet, and the resevoirs are really low which is a big concern. I lost pretty much all the salads though, so nowhere near as good as last year, another case of “must do better next year” 🙂

  • Fantastic – you´ve been very busy too! That kale is amazing…never seen it before. Hope you are not straining the arm/shoulder too much? We too put ash on our garlic and asked people what the science behind it was. Most people here seem to agree that once you have dug the soil then put ash on that it forms a crust on the top of the soil, but leaving the underneath nicely aerated, just loose and moist enough to create perfect garlic growing soil…but who knows?!

    • It’s a lovely Kale, so pretty, tasty and hardy.
      And thank you for sharing your experience with ash on garlic. And now you have mentioned the capping I see exactly what you mean, as that has happened in previous years, especially when it’s been a dry spring. It makes sense, it seems to work, and what else would I do with the ash other than put it directly into the compost bins?

  • What a great time of the year! It’s nice to see that so many of your plants have survived the winter. Your Allotment Quiche also looks delicious.

    I also grew Ragged Jack last year and loved it. So sweet tasting after it has gone through a spell of frost.

    Unfortunately my carrots did not survive the winter under straw, but my garlic should be starting to sprout in the next month or so.

    I look forward to more pictures of your garden and mouthwatering pictures of your allotment cooking 🙂

    • There seem to be a few fans of Ragged Jack on here so I’m obviously in good company 🙂
      and I’ve just been over to read about your carrots – ho wfrustrating, I hope you get some good suggestions! Claire

  • Your garlic is amazing! Strong and healthy. I must admit you have influenced me on growing greens .. think I’ll try that this year! (and your garden looks just like a “gardeners” garden should look like! mine looks the same, ha ha ha)

    • Thank you! I seem to do better with some greens than others, cauliflowers totally fail me, swedes ignore me, but kales seem to like me!
      The allotment is looking pretty ragged at the moment, lots of bags of this and that, tarpaulins over manure, canes propped up. It really needs a good tidy. There are days I long for a nice smart tidy garden, but I don’t think I will ever achive it!!

  • I keep telling my husband that we need to get a house with a garden. I know it is a lot of work but the concept of planting your own food and working so intimately with the earth is calling to me

    • Oh I hope you do get a house with a garden (and soon 😉 ), I find it a wonderful place to be, to wander around and watch things literally grow. And once you have tasted your own homegrown food you won’t want to eat anything else! My only problem is that I struggle to grow certain vegetables – like aubergines so do end up buying them, but I gues you can’t have everything 🙂 Claire

  • You’ve definitely got a green thumb and a fertile imagination to use the produce. I wish my back yard had someone to utilize it properly as I can’t, unfortunately. Oh well, container herbs are good too. 🙂

    • I love the “fertile imagination”, you know we’ve often said that when I get back home from the allotment we are never bored, and it’s a bit like that TV programme Ready Steady Cook, it’s when you find me reaching for cookbooks or going online!
      It’s a shame you are unabl eto garden as much, but container gardening can be very productive and what better to eat than fresh herbs, thye always make a real impact on our food!

  • Your photos are so inspiring! You’ve managed to do so well, and with injury! That’s dedication. Your leeks look beautiful, and I love the “Alottment Quiche”–what a great name. You really do inspire me to do a lot better with winter/early spring planting. I have a great summer garden, but I let it go after that. I feel wasteful not doing more with our wonderfully easy climate. Next year I’ll follow your lead closely 🙂 Debra

    • Debra thank you for your encouragement! And now I’m looking forward to seeing what you grow and what works well for you, espeically given your mild climate (I’m trying not be jealous here!) 🙂 Claire

  • I am just green with envy.. and purple and.. all of those colors of your veggies! Your leeks look spectacular, you truly are a master gardner! I can only wish:)

    • Ha ha, green, purple, orange, blue – sounds like a good description of a bruise! I’m honestly no master gardener, it’s all self taught, and there are many things which fail me!!

    • Hi there, I’m not sure what’s in briquettes, I might be a bit more cautious, I wonder if any readers of my blog could help with some suggestions or thoughts? Maybe straight into the compost, or try a small patch and see?
      I know this is a bit different, but when we get our chimney cleaned every year, we get the residue – they call it clinker here, and we put it in a black bin bag, tie a knot, and then leave it for over a year. When the year is up we can dig it in, or spread it onto the soil.

      • The briquettes are made from shredded peat. I have two beds of garlic, so I may try the ash on one of them. Love the word ‘clinker’! Soots is the word I would have used.

        • I think the combination of briquettes and ash would be fine, but as you say you could try it on one bed and see if there is any benefit. I guess it’s all about trying to use what we have and making the best of it.
          I hadn’t heard the word clinker either before moving to Sussex (it’s the really brittle stuff that comes out of the chimney), maybe it has different names in differnt counties and countries

  • I’m thinking I should make some of your allotment quiche — I have feta and pie crust and the leeks are still coming in here. Do you make anything that calls for leeks and cauliflower?

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