Top tips from gardening school... lessons in poo, gin and slow death


So this week I have been hanging out with GOOD gardeners on a grow-your-own course. Learning stuff about weird plants, angry ants, booze and poos.

I was definitely the class dunce... but then again I was 30 years younger than most of the people there. The old boys, my fellow students, were proper allotment heads but were still wise enough to admit they didn’t know anything. And I think they enjoyed sharing their tips and stories and having a general gossip with this bad gardener.

Things I learned at garden school:

  • Rabbit poo is fast food for plants. You can chuck it straight on your beds and don’t need to wait for it to rot down to make manure. But the stuff that comes out of a cow’s bum is best (something to do with the four stomachs). And woah there with horse manure. Seeds often get caught in their hooves and trodden in the stuff, which can lead to weeds after you put it on your veg
  • Grow Kohlrabi, aka German cabbage. The teacher, Chrissy, does on her allotment and she says it’s dead easy, rather tasty and a bit sci-fi looking
  • Wearing rubber gloves under your garden gloves stops your nails getting dirty
  • Roses can give you brain damage. Romantic, right? If you’re doing gardening, make sure your tetanus shot is up to date as you could get hurt on anything (like thorns or by gently sticking a fork through your foot or something). The bloke sitting next to me said his friend got blood poisoning after scratching her arm on a rose bush
  • Marigolds are awesome flowers. They sure look purrrtee and they keep blackfly off your tomatoes and bring in bees to pollinate stuff
  • I need to make my own rhubarb gin. All the allotment folk are at it and saving themselves a fortune
  • Buy your compost from Poundstretcher. It does not cost the earth 
  • Ants hate cinnamon
  • One day a year, my council dishes out all the compost it’s made from our brown bins. For free. I had no idea
  • Allotments can be great places to meet new mates but there’s dodgy folk everywhere... fellow allotmenteers nicking gear and sabotaging veg. Sounds like a Radio 4 drama in the making

Goole adult learning centre is piloting garden courses. They cost £44 for four two-hour sessions and are going to involve a lot of outdoor practical stuff, taking your work home to grow and hopefully more gossip about the seedy underbelly of allotments.