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, 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.

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Season's Pickings!

Isn't June lovely?  I've been able to nip to the Hill any evening that I fancy a run, do a little light weeding, have a quick beer at the clubhouse and home in time for supper.

Mind you, it's been a season for slugs and snails - my beans have only just shrugged off the attacks, and it's the same with the tender crops - the courgettes and squash, and some lettuce.  But they all just about live to grow another day - which is more than can be said for my bed of spring onions, carrots and parsnips!

The tomatoes at home are romping away - a weekly feed and regular watering (every other day) seem to be paying off, so I have high hopes for them.

I don't grow tomatoes at the Hill any longer - a couple of dispiriting years when the plants were cut down by blight means that I am happier with them here, where they are at less risk.

And this week has been a week of first crops - later than other years, simply as I seem to have been a bit behind, for no particular reason.  All the sweeter, then, were these red berries, broad beans and the very first potatoes.

Magic.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Seed Sowing, Seedlings Growing

I do seem to be terribly behind this year (and no, not just with the blog, you wags at the back) - it's just that the time rushes by so quickly!

Since I last blogged, I went on holiday, I came back and we had the dahlia talk in the club house and the seed swap; I planted my seed potatoes; and sowed the beans, peas and tender crops in pots at home.

And a month on, all but the tender squash, cucumber and sweetcorn are now in their beds.

In my never-ending quest to grow some bloody carrots, I've made a tunnel, covered with netting. Now, I would be really pleased with this, as it was so easy to put together (once I'd scrounged some blue pipe from Chris at the bottom - thank you m'dear), except that the sharp-eyed will note from the photo that the tunnel is open ended,

This is not deliberate, but a miscalculation of how much debris netting that I had to buy from the store-shed.  It is not so much a protected bed as a windtunnel, or shelter for pigeons.  So a bit of a fail on that one at the mo, then, but I have extra netting now, and will be wielding a needle and shirring elastic at the weekend in order to complete the job.

I can see me doing more of these tunnels if it means that I can protect the beds from pests whilst the plants are young.  It looks like I'll have to resort to slugs pellets for the asparagus bed in future if I want to eat any of the spears myself - but I'm not keen on pellets without excluding birds or other wildlife with some sort of cover.

As ever at this time of year, I can't wait for the first veg to be ready.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dalek Emptying and Filling

Another fine week, but with increasing chilly winds, so I wrapped up warm when I went to the Hill today.

I had the place to myself until Fuchsia Allen came by with his unfeasibly large dog, and stopped to say hello. We chatted about the talk on dahlias that is taking place in the club house next month, and I suggested a seed swap at the same time.  We'll see if the committee think it's a good idea.

I jigged about with the second of the four dalek composters until I could release the contents in a controlled fashion on the bed.  Only about half the contents were ready to use, and it was quite dry in the bin - perhaps I should empty a watering can into the bins each visit in future.  It's a shame that the lids aren't porous.

I put the uncomposted stuff back in the bin once it was newly positioned in the next bed up, and also half a dozen bags of manure that a kind soul had put on one side for me on the plot when the muck was last delivered.  It tends to arrive in the week, and there is often none left by the time I get to it - I think my fairy godmother was Woodchippings Paul - I must thank him when I next see him.

I forked over this bed and the adjacent one before digging some parsnips to take home - and spent the journey back pondering how to use the rest of these along with half a dozen or so fat celeriac which will all need lifting soon in time for the new season's planting.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dancing with Daleks

Spring weather continues to be as it should, with warm sunshine and a brisk chilly breeze. The spring bulbs are all flowering, and that means that the weeds will not be far behind.

It'll soon be time to get the potatoes in, but first I must do some bed preparation which means emptying and moving the compost daleks.  I made a start this weekend by digging most of the last of the leeks up in the bed nearest the front, then undertook a vigourous and ungainly jig with the first dalek to get all the lovely compost out of the bottom.

There's a small amount un-composted which I put back in the bin once it was in it's new position of other-end-of-the-next-bed-up (mostly paper shreddings and the stalks from the sweetcorn) , but in the main I spread about some quite reasonable stuff.  Not quite what you might call seed compost - a bit 'robust' - but I'm sure it'll be fine in due course.

I made sure that I left enough room by the new dalek position to plant a couple of dozen shallots - these were such a success last year having kept far better that any onions I have ever grown.  I'm still using them in the kitchen now.

I picked kale to go along with the leeks I'd dug - all of a sudden under the cage I have some fabulous new leaves - and also dug a couple of parsnip and celeriac.

And by that time it was so dark I couldn't take any pictures, so it was time to come home.
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