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...........

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Marshall's Trial Seeds and Potting On

I now have too many tomato plants - or I will have in a couple of weeks when all these seedlings have grown up a bit.

I have room for six buckets in the courtyard garden - i.e. six tomato plants - and I already have the baker's half dozen plants that my friend kindly gave me the other day when I thought that my germination was zero.  Now my germination is rate is 17 out of 18.

Two of these varieties are from the Marshall's seed trial, and I will pay particular attention to how these do.

I've had good germination from their courgette, and two varieties of squash too; and the cabbage - however, I've only had two of the 'brokali' come up out of six modules with a couple of seeds in each module.

I had a grand potting on session last night - the courgettes need a bit more room each for a couple of weeks before planting out, and I won't have room for the brassicas for a while yet, so they all moved up a pot size for the time being.

Back to the plot at the weekend* for more bean planting out, and bed prep for the tender crops - and then Domino cat can have his bench back!

*But not on Sunday, when the streets of our town are closed off and I join 6,999 others belting round the borough and the adjoining largest urban park in Europe.  'We're fundraisers - everyone gets a finishers medal - it's not a race!' goes the official line. Not a race? Yeah, right.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bean Planting and Slow Coach Germination

When I went to the Hill on Saturday, it was good to see that all the peas and broad beans that I planted out last weekend are all looking hale and hearty - planting the peas out when a good 6" tall seems to be the way to go.

The day's task was to erect the bean 'V' with cross wires and canes and to plant out the french beans and runners.   The only hitch here is that the runner beans that I sowed for me have comprehensively failed - those I've sown for mum, all up and raring to go, so I don't know what has gone on there.

Talking of failed seeds, I complained about the complete no-show of my tomato seeds a couple of  weeks ago, and a friend kindly gave me half a dozen of his spare plants,  As I am sure that you can guess, the very day after I picked the tomato plants up last week, every single tomato seed popped up in the compost - 4 weeks after sowing.

Back to the beans, once the frame was up and the canes in place and tied to the cross wires, I got planting.

I've left planting out the dwarf french beans on the one side of the bed so I can access the canes with the runner beans later on.

A quick drink in the clubhouse rounded off a very satisfying session - instant allotment!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Plant Sale, Poor Service and Planting Out

The weekend was very busy with activity at the Hill - we had our Spring plant sale on Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes (the clubhouse open for beer and sandwiches both days too - hurrah!).  The idea was that if you sow a few more that you usually do, the extras could be sold with the proceeds going to allotment funds.

With this in mind, when I did my big sow-fest in April, I also went through all of the outrageously out-of-date seed packets from the seed swap, and sowed 12 types of brassicas thickly in strips of modules (8 of these germinated, 4 types were duds), and half a dozen trays of 'everything else' including herb seeds to make up mixed 'living salad' tubs.

I took those along the the sale which was well attended on both days, and couldn't resist a cherry tomato, cucumber (I must have overlooked these and haven't sown any this year) and a tray of dianthus which I plan to plant out at the front of the plot.

With so many people around I didn't get as much done as I had hoped to on the plot on Saturday just pulling this armful of rhubarb, and a meal of asparagus - not least because on a return visit to the Hill at tea time the car broke down.

Vantage Toyota World had the car in for a recall in the week and managed to release it back to me with the alternator unplugged.  The car was jump-started easily enough (thank you, nice man in Sainsbury's car park), but of course the battery was not recharging as I drove and indeed became more and more flat until an excitement-filled few minutes when the battery was so out of juice that the power steering failed as I was driving.

Ten points to the RAC who had the world's easiest car fix by plugging the alternator back in; minus several hundred points to Vantage Toyota whose slapdash actions could easily have been far more catastrophic than the cross customer with a wasted evening.

I went back on Sunday to put up the pea wigwams, plant out peas, sweetpeas and broad beans, which look fantastic - instant allotment!  However, I couldn't take photos as my phone ran out of juice.

Not a good weekend for batteries, all in all!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Normal Service Has Resumed

Yes, I was so organised.  Yes, I was so on top of everything.  Yes, I went away on holiday.  And yes, I now harbour the National Collection of dandelions on my plot at the Hill. Boo.

However, apart from the weeds, the rhubarb is also flourishing; the strawberries have flowers and I have cut half a dozen asparagus spears. Hurrah!

I set about whacking it all back into shape on Saturday late afternoon, and made some headway with weeding dandelions and the willowherb out of the paths, and trying to end up with all the cleavers in the compost bin and not wearing it home.  Not for nothing is is called the Velcro plant.

I saw Reg-next-plot at the clubhouse when I nipped in for a beer afterwards, and he offered me some onion seedlings, if I would like to go round and pick them up.

Once I'd collected the 30 seedlings in little pots on Sunday morning, I went straight to the Hill to plant them out.  They look robust and fizzing with life whilst standing proud in the pots; and like weedy slips of grass when planted out.  I do hope that they survive!

The good news is that all the seeds that I put in during my sow-fest before I went away are all up and raring to go - apart from a complete absence of tomatoes. Not sure why that is, and given that two of the varieties are from my trail of Marshall's seeds, I am a bit concerned as I have no spare seed.

I'll get the broad beans and peas of the bench at home and planted out at the weekend, something that will please Domino cat no end.

He says that it's a bit of a squash at the far right of the bench - look closely - and he would prefer not to have to share!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Marshalls Trial Seeds and Other Seed Sowing

To tell the truth, I'm a little unnerved about being organised this year.  I went to the Hill last weekend and had a wander around, spotting what might be parsnips germinating, and weeded out a few dandelions in the asparagus bed, but that was all.

Perhaps it has all kicked off now though - I had an email through from Marshalls asking me if I would like to trial some of their new seed varieties and blog about my experiences, and last week the seeds came through the post.

I only sow carrots and parsnips direct at the Hill - if the seeds do germinate down there, they have to contend with weeds as slugs, so it always seems to be a better bet to get everything sown here at home in the courtyard garden.

So I have a giant mid-April seed sowing-fest, and at the weekend I turned the kitchen into a potting shed.

The Marshalls seed varieties are interesting - a couple of squash, a pumpkin, a courgette; a couple of tomato varieties, and a couple of brassicas.

The packets are colour co-ordinated by family, with a description and sowing instructions on the front.............

........... and no. of seeds (not many!) and best before date on the back.

I'll see how I get on with them.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Job Well Done

For once, this year I don't feel like I am on the back foot - the beds are all prepared, the first seeds are sown, the potatoes are in; and today, I have turned my attention to the strawberry bed.

The strawberry plants are ancient - I've not got the knack of replacing the plants with new, grown from runners every three or four years and consequently, the yield is practically non existent.  What strawberries do grow are promptly scoffed by slugs and the whole bed is full of weeds.

So time for a revamp with some new plants.  I bought a tray of six Elsanta plants for £2.99 from Aldi a couple of weeks ago, and if I find this is too few, I can grow on some of the inevitable runners for new plants.

I dug over the bed, ditching all plants and weeds, then gave it a good layer of horse muck, and another good layer of compost from the old pallet composters; covered with weed suppressant and planted through holes cut in the suppressant. Fab!  I'm rather sorry that I forgot to take a 'before' pic - because this is a real improvement.

I turned my attention to getting the maincrop spuds planted.  The kale is in the way, really, but they are still throwing extremely tasty side shoots, so I'm reluctant to pull them up just yet - and even when I'm done with them, brassica flowers are very popular with bees, so I'm inclined to leave them as long as possible.

I compromised by pulling up two and leaving two, and making holes for the potatoes with a stick - the potatoes will just have to grow around them.

Once I'd finished that and tidied up, I just had time to nip up to the clubhouse for a swift half.  I do love these lighter evenings when my trips to the Hill coincide with opening hours!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Transformation of a Compost Heap

Today's forecast was for heavy rain for most of the day, so I went to the Hill yesterday with the aim of planting the potatoes.

I parked at the top of the site, and walking down past the plots with seed potatoes clutched to me in their egg boxes where they have been chitting on the windowsill for the past few weeks; and saw that I was not alone in this plan, with a number of plots sporting the tell tale ridge-and-grove of earth with (presumably) spuds tucked up underneath.

Although I see the theory of planting the spuds in the groves; filling in as the plants grow, then earthing up the growing plants, it strikes me like a lot of hard work, so my spuds get dropped into planting holes made with a handy broom handle about 8" deep, with earthing up later in the season if I can be bothered. 

First, I had to move the netting tunnel to a different bed where I will sow carrots in a week or two - and now that
I have the knack of it, the cage didn't take long to put up in a sturdy fashion in it's new situation.

The three cabbages that it had been protecting though, did make me scratch my head - they are too small to harvest, but in the way of the spuds, and now open to pigeon attack.  I managed to work around them and rig up a temporary netting and hope to be eating them before they inconvenience the potato plants. 

Then I spent some more time digging over and weeding the plot front - the lavender plants that have been there for some years are now leggy (baaaaaaaad pruning!) and since Gardener Zoe showed me last week how easy peasy it is to take cuttings, I will be growing more on and replacing the existing. 

Talking of Gardener Zoe, I offered her all the dry woody contents of my horrible out-of-control pallet composters for kindling if she wanted to have a bonfire in the week, and rather than the compost bins looking like this:

They now look like this.  

Magic!  Now all I have to do is decide what to do with the extra space this gives me. Maybe a pumpkin to ramble over, then dig and create a fruit bed at the end of the growing season, perhaps?

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