Welcome to our plot!

I'm Hazel, and in Nov 2006 my friend Jane and I took on a half plot at Hill Allotments, Sutton Coldfield - we want the satisfaction of growing and eating our own fruit and veg, and to improve our diet (and fitness!).

This is the story of what happened next...........

Sunday, January 25, 2015

More Winter Work

It's still quite wintery here - as it should be in January - with cold winds, temperatures in the low single figures, and the odd flurry of snow and sleet showers.  So when I made my trip to the Hill at the weekend, I made sure that I had a definite plan in mind to busy myself with.

My first job was to work out how to take a photo of the plot from a good vantage point.  I'm a member of a gardening forum, and am taking part in an interesting topic where members take a photo of their plot or garden from the same point each month so we can all see the changes that occur through the seasons.

The obvious vantage point for my plot is the top of the manure skip, however the handy set of steps that used to be lashed to one side are no longer in situ, so I had to clamber up the other end and make my way over the manure and leaf mould mountain to my chosen spot.

Great - although I'm not sure what I'll do later in the year when the skip gets less full as the manure is used up.   I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

The photo is as I arrived at the plot, so the first job was to mend the brassica tunnel (not for the last time, I fear) - I need to have a look at why other people's seem more robust than mine.  More canes lashed to the hoops, perhaps.

I took the canes down from the bean frames, collected the black turtle bean pods for drying and shelling, then forked over the bed.  I moved the big T-shaped frame ends to their new bed for this year, securing them as usual by digging them in deeply, thumping them home and screwing them to the bed ends.

My last job was to empty the third dalek composter, spread around the good compost and put back the uncomposted stuff with a couple of sacks of leaves to get it going for the next round.

Irritatingly, I've planted garlic where the fourth composter should be moved to, so that will have to wait till midsummer before that one gets moved.  No matter.

Chris from down the bottom stopped for a chat as she was on her way home - it was getting dusk by then and so I headed off before I chilled down.  Not before forgetting to pick kale and leaving my lumphammer out, though - both of which I remembered as I wallowed in a very welcome, very hot bath.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Winter Work

I went to the plot over Christmas to pick some kale, but that's about it.  The older I get, the less keen I am to get cold and wet for the sake of a jobs which can just as easily be done when it is not freezing or raining.

I went to the Hill yesterday, though - despite cold and sleet - because I was making an Irish Stew for tea and that called for a parsnip.

It's a good job that the recipe only called for one parsnip, because - disappointingly - that was the entire extent of the parsnip harvest this year.  Boo.  I picked some kale too - the nero cavelo has been good this winter, and robust enough to stand a light scrub with a brush in the sink to dislodge the whitefly.

Unsurprisingly, given the weather, I had the Hill to myself.  I made some running repairs to the netting tunnel which the weather has blown about a bit before considering one of the winter jobs - and not a fun one - which will need doing before the new growing season begins.  To empty and move the dalek composters up a bed.

I was already on site, cold and miserable, so thought that I might as well get one with it; so I did the dalek dance and jiggled two of the composters to empty them; spread the useable stuff over the beds, moved them up a bed apiece and refilled them with the uncomposted portion aong with a couple of bags each of horse manure. Because if you are going to be cold and tired and rained on, you might as well be dirty and smelly too.

My fingers were numb by this time, so I went home with my single ood-like parsnip in a cloud of whitefly for a warming cup of tea and a bath.

The stew was really good. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cuckoo in the Nest

I haven't been to the Hill today as I was busy getting muddy elsewhere - ha! - but this evening I thought that I would pod some of the beans that have been drying in the attic room.

They are a bit of a mystery as they are all from one plant that was supposed to be a dwarf bean ('triomphe de farcy'); but it climbed and set a multitude of pods.

These are definitely not 'triomphe de farcy' which are slender brown speckled beans - in my hand in the pic on the left - these are more of a borlotti type, but relatively small.

No idea what happened there, but given how prolific that a single plant has been, assuming they taste nice, I might just plant a row of them next year.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unexpected Goodies

Whilst we are waiting for Jason to send me the photos that he took at the AGM on Tuesday evening - in particular of the assorted silverware that was presented at the end of the meeting - we can have a look at this delightful courgette loaf that Woodchippings Paul has baked for me.

He had baked a loaf for the buffet after the AGM, and it was so delicious that I asked him for the recipe.

'Oh - do you really like it?' he beamed, 'Jackie P has just said the same thing - I'm going to bake her one.  Do you want one too?'  Well, you can't say no to that offer, and on my way to the Hill today, I collected it.  Delicious - great with butter and cheese.

It's the season for tidying and clearing, so besides wanting to dig up the final potatoes (picasso - fabulous bakers), I also wanted to get the pea wigwams down.

The Autumn has been so wet that the soil is heavy and difficult to work, so it was hard going on the potato bed; but the upside is that when it came to taking the pea plants down from the wigwams, the string supports easily broke and the dead plants could pulled up and composted in no time.

But before I took the sweet pea wigwam down, I spotted plenty of sweet pea pods ripe and ready to pick on the plants.  Brilliant - they will come in for next year, and there are plenty of them  So I picked them all the plants and took them home to dry and pod; and came home for tea and courgette bread.

Marvellous.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Making a List

A terrific amount of rain fell yesterday but today was fine and dry, so I set of to the Hill this afternoon to see if I could do a few jobs.

I didn't have much planned, but wanted to dig some potatoes and have a look at what maintenance jobs will need looking at this winter.

There is some general tidying up to do, of course, but no great rush - and I don't want to trim the lavender at the front of the plot yet, as it still has some flowers

I got the fork out the toolshed - noting that it is getting increasing rickety, and the wood is so rotten that if I replace all the timbers that need renewing, and the roof, and the felt; I will, in fact, have a new shed.

I dug up the golden wonder maincrop potatoes.  Not the heaviest crop this year, I must say, but I still have the picasso to dig, and I have high hopes of these based on last year's successful crop.

I was careful around the one side of the bed where the side timber is loose.  The raised beds have been in situ for just about 5 years, and some of the stakes that I used as pegs have rotted and snapped, so they need replacing.

With that bed now empty, I turned the wood-chippings from the path onto the bed.  The chippings rot down every couple of years, so I'll need to put new ones down this winter.

Before picking some kale to bring home to eat this week, I had a look at the compost bins.  I'd declared these redundant when I got the dalek composters, but with the prunings of the currant bushes and the raspberry canes they are more heaped than ever

Need to do something about that too, I think.

But not today - I had more than enough food for thought, and came home for a well deserved cup of tea.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Rain - and lots of it

It's been mild all week again; but from today, it looks like temperatures are dropping to single figures.  The change in the weather was heralded by a band of heavy rain this afternoon, coinciding almost exactly with my visit to the Hill.

I can take or leave most jobs at the moment - the clearing up doesn't have to be done all at once - but I did want to get the garlic planted.  I keep a few bulbs back to replant each year, but this year has not been a good year for it for me, and the bulbs have been noticeably smaller that usual.

I don't know whether that is because we had a dry May and June when the bulbs are meant to be swelling, or perhaps because I didn't plant them until last December, a few weeks later than I usually do.  Or maybe it was just a rubbish year for garlic.

So after a bit of weeding in the pouring rain, cutting the asparagus down, and filling the raspberry bed with a deep layer of leaves, I took the biggest of the garlic that I had from this summer, and after forking over half a bed (where the courgettes had been) I split them and planted the cloves.

Besides getting very wet, once I'd finished it did strike me that I probably should have mixed in some sort of feed before planting - I'll have to do it afterwards now.

Hopefully when it is not raining.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Autumn Catch Up

What an inconsistent blogger I have become!  I've missed telling you about the summer crops, the annual show, and showing you this year's scarecrow - shocking!

I'll maybe save those for another day, though, as if I try to catch up, I'll be in danger of chasing my tail for ever.  So we'll 'draw a line' as they say in Knobsville, and set off from now.

The weather has been mild to date, with some storms blowing in, just to keep us on our toes.  I went to the Hill today - the clocks went back last night, so the first weekend of Autumn - to see what's been going on whilst I've been away on holiday, and everything is looking like it wants a good tidy up.

I pruned the currant bushes before I went away - for better or worse, and today I wanted to do the same with the raspberry canes which have got rather unruly.  My secateurs are not really up to the job of dealing with the forest of intermingled summer and autumn plants, so in frustration I put my head down and gaining sore hands and blister, blundered on and chopped down the whole lot.

The autumn ones will be fine next year, growing and fruiting on new shoots which will come up in the Spring - I may have sacrificed a crop from the summer ones, though, as they fruit on the older canes, which are no more. On the plus side, with the canes out the way, I can replace the rotten wooden posts at the one end of the bed which hold the support wires, and can put down a thick mulch of either manure or wood chippings.

I turfed out the courgette plants, taking the last giants home where they will be grated and frozen in batches - I can use them for chocolate courgette cake (delicious) and to bulk out stews and mince.

I started to pick some of the bean pods - hunter - which are dry and rattle, and they can have a final dry out on newspaper in the attic room before I pod them.

The weeds have continued to grow, particularly under the netting tunnel.  I was pleased when I cleared them to find that about half of the cabbage and cauliflower seedlings have survived - they were too little when I planted them out, I think, and was worried that the slugs/snails would have had the lot.

The final job before coming home was to pick a few carrots (which look ok, but I haven't washed them yet); and the first of the tuscan kale. Then the challenge was to get home with my booty without being accompanied by a blizzard of whitefly from the kale - failed on that one!

And as I was packing away, satisfied that I'd at least made a start on the end of season tidy-up, Richard-three-plots-down arrived.  Until then I'd had no company at all - it was surprising not to see a few plotters on what really was a fine Autumn morning.
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