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...........

Thursday, December 28, 2006

First pickings! Hurrah!

Yes! We had home grown Brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner! And they would have been utterly perfect had I not given them just a teeny touch too long in the pan, but no one’s perfect.

I picked from the bottom of each plant (big sprouts) up to the top (little sprouts) and the best ones are definitely the little ones because they are tighter (and therefore don’t all fall apart when you try to put that little cross in the bottom, like the larger ones do).

Most satisfying, I must say.

With regard to flower growing, big sister Helen says that growing flowers is not a wet idea because every time you cut a big bunch of flowers, you save £2.99 on the Tesco shopping bill which makes the idea a great deal more attractive.

For Christmas I have had some wonderful allotment related presents – including some packets of veg seeds – all well received with the exception of the beetroot seeds. I think we’ve decided that beetroot are not exactly top priority for the spring planting.

I’m looking forward to Saturday when it will be time to manure the front of the plot – and to work off some of the Christmas chocolates!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Will they or won't they...?

I’m full of anticipation today as although I’ve not been over to the Hill today – Christmas mince pies and sherry to good to miss – I plan to wander over tomorrow morning with one aim – to pick BRUSSELS SPROUTS for the Christmas dinner!

It will, of course, be a bit of a swizz, because we’ve inherited the plants, but I’m claiming them as Our Produce, nonetheless.

The last time I had a good look at the sprouts, the leaves had been nibbled, they probably could have done with staking, had a dose of whitefly and the sprouts themselves looked more like Birds Eye petit pois, but I do have high hopes of them making it to the Christmas table.

And if – despite my enthusiasm – they are a disappointment, there’s still time to nip to Tesco…

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Achievement...and a setback?

The good weather fairy has waved her magic want again, & considering how much rain there was on Friday night it was wonderful to see the sun shining on Saturday morning & I went with a spring in my step to the allotment. Again – oddly – I had the whole of the allotments to myself, with the exception of the teacher’s sister who seems to be fighting for every inch on her half plot.

The Big News is that I finished the initial dig of the plot by forking over the last metre by the roadway at the front of the plot – hurrah! I do wonder exactly how we are going to grow things here as it is SO built up that I think that we will have to terrace it so that all the rain doesn’t run right off.

Big sister Helen suggests that we have flowers across the front which sounds completely wet & a waste of good growing area, but on reflection, we are hardly short of space, & looking at all the other plots it does seem to be the thing to do. Aren’t marigolds supposed to be good companion plants? They are foolproof to grow, & do look pretty too.

The incentive to finish the Big Dig was to actually get planting! We have the row of garlic sprouting at the front of the plot, & the plan was to dig up & replant further up (in plot B).

I prepared this area first carefully & with a sense of satisfaction took a clump of garlic, split it & planted it into three rows. As I separated tiny sprouting clove from tiny sprouting clove, & carefully popped them into the little trenches 9” apart & covered them over my spirit faltered – surely the garlic cloves that you plant should be bigger than these? My little cloves are going to have to have a great deal of ambition to get to the size that you can actually eat!

I faltered further when I looked at how many I’d planted compared to how many are left. I bet there are 1000 of these little cloves & I wish that I’d planted my three rows with the biggest of those available rather than just going for first come first served.

In fact, I am so concerned of impending disaster that I’m going to get a proper garlic bulb to split into cloves & plant in a forth row to supplement what I’ve done. We’ll at least have some garlic plants that way.

Mind you, if the teeny garlic does come up trumps, we’ll have to invent new uses for it – as eating it all won’t be an option.

Garlic shampoo, anyone?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A fruitful morning (or possibly not...)

It must be some sort of record that the weather for the last few weeks on Saturday mornings has been utterly glorious – and yesterday was no exception. It was a bit nippy – but then it is December, after all.

Given this most equitable state of things, it surprised me that I had the site almost to myself for a couple of hours – with the exception of Roger who came and chatted as I forked.

Jane also dropped by on her way home with E and I left the last of the forking over in case they wanted to come down to do a bit which just leaves the last metre from the row of garlic to the front edge of the plot untouched, but that’s it.

The composter has disappeared from the slabs at the top end of the plot but given that the weather has been somewhat blowy, I suppose that it should not have been a surprise - Jane will have to identify the right one to retrieve (I think that it's ended up on it's side next door but about three) as lots of people seem to have these and I don't want to be had up for composter rustling!

I then had a BIG FIGHT with the gooseberry bushes – and I learn that gooseberries have huge thorns and propagate by rooting from any branches that touch the ground, meaning that they were getting completely out of hand and turning into a bit of a thicket.

With the aid of the secateurs and a fork, however, we now have a proper row of bushes lined up along the edge of the plot each with a neat short back and sides.

It did occur to me – after I had finished - that if gooseberry bushes only fruit on the recent growth, we will have no gooseberries this year.

No loss to me – I’m not keen on gooseberries as I find them sour, and I’m even less keen now I know how damn prickly the bushes are, but it would be a shame if my rash action buggers our first crop.

I’ve used some of the canes to roughly mark the plot into the four areas, and now next weeks jobs are to get the lime bought from the hut and put onto the first of the four areas, to dig up and replant the garlic, and fork over the last bit.

I wonder if Fosters will be having a January sale on their fruit bushes…….?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

And it was all going so well....

Our Plan for world domination (and everyone eating lots of nice home grown fruit and veg) has hit the tiniest of hurdles, with Jane down with a nasty chest infection. This has meant that our man power has been severely curtailed this weekend - i.e. it's just me.

On a brighter note, when I got to the allotment on Saturday morning, it was another beautiful sunny day (in spite of the wet and windy forecast) and I soon set about forking over another portion of the plot.

In fact it is going so well that we nearly have 1200 sq ft of dirt, as opposed to 1200 sq ft of chickweed.

I learn more interesting things about our new world – I meet Mike who is the allotments treasurer and another plotholder called Roger who has his plot a thankfully decent distance away down the hill away from Reg’s dark muttering.

Two hours later, I’d had enough, and realising I’d left my camera at home, whizzed back an hour later with camera and mum in tow (she’s incredibly impressed – has possibly not realised that I haven’t actually done all the digging myself....?).

We met a very chatty lady who is the sister of another newbie – she’s called Jackie and has taken early retirement from Coppice school – don’t think that Jane knows her, though.

This afternoon I tootled down to Fosters garden centre to look at the various fruit bushes. There are lots of varieties of blueberry and raspberries much in evidence.

So next weekend, assuming that we are back up to strength it's:
  • the last of the digging
  • liming
  • moving the garlic
  • pruning the vast number of gooseberry bushes down the side of the plot - perhaps some of these can be replaced with blueberries or currant bushes?

I can see that we're going to have to make some decisions soon and planning will be the order of the days ahead!

PS: Brian our predecessor is not, in fact, dead - he has had to give up the allotment because his aged parent now needs help in his garden and he couldn't do both garden and allotment. I wonder what the aged parent will now do for beetroot, garlic, rhubarb and gooseberries?

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