One man & his organic plot

Our Head of Organic Horticulture, Chris Collins takes us on his allotment journey...
Chris Collins holding young seedlings

It's the ultimate battle, man v plant - a vegetative fight club! Having recently acquired a new allotment I am going down that long road of making it friendly for food growing once more. The old adversaries are always there and in this case it’s mostly Couch grass. Although the black thick roots I am encountering toward the bottom of the plot lead me to think Horse tail is soon to show its foliage, my tennis elbow momentarily aches at the thought.

Truth is, to garden organically and to get up and running as quickly as possible it is sheer graft that is required. However, once you get going I find it highly exhilarating. People pay £70 to go to a gym, cycle or run on the spot to keep fit. I dig and work the soil, whilst listening to the birds. Being up close and personal with spring is no contest.

I am now on my third dig and I am chuffed to say I’m winning! When I say winning I mean I’m on top of it but can no way afford to take my eye off the ball. The Couch for the moment is in retreat but will re-group given half a chance. What has been removed so far has met a rather violent end having been burnt in an old water tank and its ashes returned to the soil. As I’m raking it in I can’t help feeling a great admiration for this plant, having made me work so hard to gain what would be, if I let it, a small victory.

Of course what keeps me going through all this battle is the prospect of all that fresh organic produce that I’m determined to grow, throughout the season. Currently I get to undertake my favourite part of Horticulture and that's raising plants, particularly from seed and this year has extra excitement as I am growing heritage varieties on a big scale for the first time. Consequently and somewhat to the vexation of Mrs Collins, my flat is full of mini heritage plants, with such great names as ‘Ol German pink’ and ‘Johns best long bean’. I’ve also put a lot of potatoes in the allotment in a bid to shade out some weeds, not sure what I’ll do with them all when it’s time to crop but it’s all good fun!

I look forward to sharing my Garden Organic experiences with you, both personal and out and about. I have been working on a range of talks lately to try out at Ryton if there’s an appetite for them.

Happy gardening, Chris Collins