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, 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.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Missing: Winter Weather

I've got bored of waiting for Winter to arrive.   Wet is most certainly has been - the floods have been devastating for many in Somerset and along the Thames - but cold, no.

Of course we may well have a cold snap ahead, and frosts and maybe even snow; but the nights are lighter, the birds are singing the snowdrops have been fabulous and the crocus' and daffodills are now bursting out all over.  I even heard a woodpecker in one of our local parks the other day.

What does that mean for the plot?  It means that until it dries out a bit, there's not much happening, bar digging up parsnips, leek and celariac to use in the kitchen.

But it is the first week of March, and I've had enough of looking at chitting potatoes, so last week I spent a merry evening with all the seed packets out to see what I can get underway.  I rescued last year's compost from the mini greenhouse and some pots and trays from the garage, and off we go.

I've chosen six varieties of tomatoes to grow in buckets again at home in the courtyard garden, sown a trough of miscellaneous salad leaves to cut and come again and some sweet peas, saved from last year.

I've also finally podded out all the broad beans from their dry and blackened pods.  Broad beans don't come true year on year, which is a shame as the crimson flowered variety is the absolute best in the world in appearance and taste.

I can't stop them cross pollinating, but I can take a good guess which out of all these saved beans are likely to be the most similar to the crimson flowered/green beaned parents.

The season starts here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Seeds, Potatoes and a Nice Day Out

This winter has not been particularly cold this year (as yet) - just very wet - and now that the evenings are perceptibly lighter, it means that the gardener's thoughts turn to Spring.

Not enough to actually get down to the Hill - the ground is far too wet, and it would be far too miserable, but to think about what I want to sow this year.

It's pretty easy on the seed front - I have so many seed packets that I would never use them all in my entire lifetime (despite never seemingly actually buying any) so it's just a case of what to leave out.

I've made a start by shelling out last year's bean seeds which have been drying on newspaper in the attic room.

Choosing potatoes are slightly different, and in years gone by I have spent many happy hours poring over lists of varieties with their various merits, then trotting off to Ryton to the potato day and seed swap at the end of January.

But this year, Ryton have not held a potato day because, according to a chap who was on one of their courses, they recently got rid of their commercial interests to focus on the education side.  And there's me thinking that the potato day is not only a money-spinner for them in it's own right, but a perfect membership recruitment opportunity and showcase for the entire operation, educational facilitates and all, but I guess I'm wrong.

The nearest alternative potato day was hosted by Nottingham Organic Gardening Society, and so this Saturday I headed off there with mum, who found the idea of a little trip out with the offer of tea and cake and possibly a garden centre outweighed the potential boredom of watching me spending ages discussing the merits of about a hundred trays of seemingly identical seed potatoes.

In the event, I had a rough idea of what I wanted, so spun round the well-organised event (entry: £1) in double quick time, and we splashed out £1.50 each for coffee and delicious homemade cakes afterwards in the church hall.

And we even found a garden centre on the way home where mum bought me a jasmine houseplant because - and I quote - 'that wasn't nearly as boring as I thought it would be'. Marvellous.
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