Meet gardener Mick Poultney aka The Compost King

Mick Poultney caught the gardening bug more than 40 years ago and has never looked back.

The seeds of his passion for growing were first sown when he was looking for a way to occupy his spare time after leaving the Royal Navy.

Despite having very little interest in gardening then, Mick was persuaded to attend the first meeting of a new club being set up at the local British Legion.

Although he admits it was the promise of there being a bar at the venue that made up his mind to go along, he soon became hooked by the outdoor life.

And by the next meeting, Mick, who lives in Colley Gate, Halesowen, had even volunteered himself for the role of club chairman.That year, he entered produce in the novice vegetable classes and received plenty of praise from the judges for his beetroot, marking the start of a fruitful new hobby.

“I started growing and that was it, I had the bug. I liked the fresh air and being active,” says the 69-year-old.

Mick Poultney gets busy in his greenhouse

Today, Mick is chairman of both Abbey Road Allotments at Colley Gate, Halesowen, and Colley Gate Gardening Club. Over the years he has continued to enjoy the hard work of maintaining a plot and exhibiting vegetables as well as sampling the fruits of his labour.

After leaving West Midlands Fire Service after 23 years, the former firefighter has kept himself busy working on his allotment and garden and teaching others, including people with disabilities and school children, how to grow their own fruit and veg.

He is currently making plans for the gardening club’s annual show which is due to take place on Saturday, September 4 at Cradley Town Football Club.

After being forced to cancel last year’s event due to the pandemic, Mick says members are relishing the chance to exhibit their produce once again.

“Our show is one of the biggest garden club shows in the West Midlands and we have classes for all levels of gardener. We usually have 120 classes for vegetables, flowers like dahlias, chrysanthemums, gladioli, fruit, wine, preserves, baked goods, and children’s classes.

“We auction off all of the produce at the end and it’s always a good night.

“Quite a few of us have carried out growing throughout lockdown so everyone is looking forward to holding the show again,” says father of two Mick.

After last year’s show was called off, Mick, who had also been due to attend The Malvern Autumn Show, donated a whole host of vegetables and flowers to his local care home – Two Gates House in Halesowen. They included red cabbage, carrots, beetroot, parsnips, onions, sweet and chilli peppers and rhubarb as well as gladioli.

Mick says he takes a 'common sense' approach to gardening

During lockdown Mick has also been busy perfecting his compost recipe and recently published a book to share his tips with other gardeners.

Compost Ready to Use Within A Month covers the entire process, ingredients, mind-set and method of producing compost from scratch. “It contains everything I have learned through trial and error. There’s nothing complicated about it and I use only natural products. It’s something anybody can do,” says Mick, who has become known as The Compost King.

He is hoping to publish a second book based on raised beds and no-dig cultivation before the end of this year.

Mick says he takes a ‘common sense’ approach to gardening and enjoys trying out different methods that may not follow conventional gardening ‘rules’.

“I’ve been planting out sweetcorn and they are supposed to be planted in a box formation so you get pollination,” says Mick. He explains that for this to occur, pollen from the male flowers, called the tassels, needs to fall on to the female flowers known as the silks.

“What I do is I just give them the occasional tap to shake out the pollen. I find this works very well. I’m just doing what nature does by giving it a tap,” says Mick, whose current crops include onions, leeks and gladioli. He is now hoping for some warmer weather to help his produce to thrive.

“Everything should start to pick up as it warms up. It should be time to plant everything out but we’ve had a frost in June before so we can never predict what the weather is going to do."

Mick with his book Compost Ready to Use Within A Month

Mick is usually kept busy doing two talks a week on various garden-related topics for clubs and organisations up and down the country and plans to restart his public speaking in July.

With events on hold during lockdown, he has, instead, been sharing his tips and giving an insight into activities in his greenhouse through sessions on Zoom, which he says have been well-received.

“Whatever I’ve been doing during the week, I show on Zoom on a Sunday night. It is supposed to be for an hour, but it usually goes on for two. I brought in extra speakers and people have been getting involved. It’s gone down well. We have good banter and I’m enjoying it,” he adds.

For Mick there is nothing better than working in his garden or allotment. “Gardening keeps my brain and body active. I never sit down unless I’m doing paperwork. I’m always on the go. I like the fresh air and being outside.

“Everything I grow on the plot is used. If I can’t eat it then I will give it to someone who can. I like being able to get something fresh from the plot and then cooking it. I picked some spinach the other day and it was in the pan within an hour."

*Anyone interested in entering the Colley Gate Gardening Club show can contact Mick on 07815630811or email mickypoultney@hotmail.com for more information.

Compost Ready to Use Within A Month is available priced for £11.99 from Amazon. For more advice see Mick’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/user/mickpoultney/videos.

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