Archives // Allotment

A journal of successes and failures on our allotment in South Birmingham which we started in October 2022.

How to Grow Madder From Seed


Freshly germinated madder seedlings

This year I am growing dye plants for the first time. I have fallen in love with making hand dyed, machine pieced, hand quilted quilts with natural fibres and natural dyes. My first natural dye quilt was made with cotton calico and I created colours for it with plants I foraged around the city, including in my favourite woods. You can read more about that quilt here.

This year I am growing several different plants on my allotment with the goal of being able to make my own dyes. I am trying madder, weld, and woad, as well as indigo (indigofera tinctoria), safflower, coreopsis, marigolds, calendula, sulphur cosmos, and black hollyhocks. I’ll share how I get on with each of these as the season progresses.

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Allotment Crafts |

Recent Cosmos Posies From the Allotment


One of the best decisions I made for our allotment was to grow lots of flowers alongside our edible crops. I sowed seeds with both pollinators and cut flowers in mind. We’ve struggled with slugs, badgers, foxes, squirrels, sandy soil, too little rain and then too much rain, but one thing we haven’t struggled with is pollination, and I put that down to our plot having large stands of cerinthe, chamomile, buckwheat, phacelia, calendula and cosmos to attract pollinating insects who then stick around to pollinate our vegetables. I’m growing dahlias too, but most of my dahlias are decorative varieties with closed centres, which are just grown as cut flowers. I don’t feel bad about the inaccessible centres of my dahlias because there are plenty of open centred flowers that the bees and wasps can enjoy. They don’t go without.

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Late Summer Surprises


Cosmos ‘white cupcakes’

The larger varieties of cosmos I am growing this year have started to open. This one is called cosmos ‘white cupcakes’ because the petals are fused together so that it looks like a paper cupcake (or fairy cake) case. They’re so pretty.

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