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, April 29, 2007

Hoeing and Sowing!

A really satisfying day at the Hill today – it felt like I got a lot done…but then again with over 4 hours down there, it should do! Lovely in the sunshine - but the wind was cool enough to make you want to get on with it!

I thought I’d start with the ‘heavy’ stuff, so donned my gloves, hefted my spade & put in the final rows of POTATO (maris piper).

I had to do a bit of a fudge on the last row – each time I’ve put a row, I’ve covered the row over with the diggings for the next row, but when I got to the end, there wasn’t a ‘next row’ to dig & use to cover the previous so I had to just jig it all around a bit. Nett result is that the height of the potato patch decreases towards the one end, but no doubt it’ll sort itself out when I come to earth up.

On a nose-blowing break – have a cold at the moment – I turned round and saw a cheeky robin sat on the spade handle! The photo doesn’t do him justice – & I must say it was lovely to see him!

Once the potatoes were in, I got onto hoeing the weeds – mostly chickweed, some convolvulus (I didn’t see any of that last autumn…) & some nettles coming back up. Every time I started to flag, I thought of how much BIGGER the weeds would be next week, and how many more of them there would be and just plodded on.

I hoed over the allocated ‘seed bed’ – I think that anything that wants the nursery treatment can be sown in pots/trays/jiffys at home & then be planted out at the Hill later on. The two very early rows of lettuce did nothing, & any edible radishes that came up were eaten last week on our ‘taste test’. This area will be used for the ‘three sisters’ bed.

While I hoed, I thinned out the rows of turnip, radish & the spinach. My rule of thumb here is to pull up seedlings to the point where adjacent plants are just about touching, then repeat as they grow & I can then use the bigger thinnings to eat. I’ve actually got no idea at all if this is the right way to go about it.

The prize once I had finished the hoeing was to get a heap of sowing underway, & to this end I had a wonderful surprise packet through the post this week – I’m one of ten lucky winners of a seed giveaway from the lovely people at GoGrow seed suppliers via the Kitchen Garden magazine. I received five different seed ‘collections’ including their summer salad, herb garden, traditional allotment, childrens seeds & patio vegetable collections – 9 packets of seeds in each, worth £6.99 per collection. How neat is that!

I put a short row of TURNIP (snowball) in Plot A. Then I put a row each of NASTURTIUMS (trailing mixed) & MARIGOLD (crackerjack) in plot B between the garlic rows, & a short row of RADISH (cherrybelle) & LETTUCE (mixed). In plot C I sowed a ‘catch up’ short row of PARSNIP (f1 gladiator) to make up for the gaps in the long row already in, along with a row of BEETROOT (woden f1), CARROT (early nantes), and SPRING ONION (white lisbon).

I picked the rest of the first radish row, chatted to retired Maureen, dropped some of the radish off at Jane’s & agreed that we’ll all go en masse to the Malvern Spring Show in a couple of weeks, then home for a well needed cup of tea & a bath!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

4 months and 30 days later...

Well, how exciting! Last night I met Jane & tribe at the Hill, we ‘walked the crops’ as they say in the Archers (haha!), did some watering as it is still VERY dry, & PICKED SOME RADISH!

There were some perfect deep red globes of Marabelle sown 3 February, sprouted 24 February - also there were some white-tipped Mirabeau ready which were sown on 10 March sprouting on the 29 March. So the first lot were 11 weeks to harvest, & the second only 6 weeks.

We had a proper scientific ‘taste test’ after giving them all a quick wash, & although Paul declared himself not keen on radish & E found them too hot, S broke out into a grin (‘you’ve not had to pay for that – cool!’ when shown the radishes) & Jane & I tucked in with gusto. We had a unanimous verdict that the Marabelle ‘blows your gob off’, with the Mirabeau a much milder flavour.

We all did a little dance at this historic moment – our first proper home grown produce! However, in my excitement, I forgot to take a photo of us as ‘proud parents’ – possibly just as well – radish aren’t the most impressive of veg to have a photo with – bit like the whole of the England cricket team last year crowded round & proudly holding aloft the titchy Ashes trophy.

The PARSNIP (white gem) have put on a real spurt with their ‘proper’ leaves growing – it’s nice not mistake them as weeds anymore – & the POTATOES (rocket) are living up to their name.

At home, the SWEETCORN (conquerer f1) & the BARLOTTI BEANS have all started to come up – an impressive full house of 14 out of 14 for the sweetcorn.

The weeds keep a growin’ too, so we must keep on top of the hoeing, & there’ll be some serious watering to be done if this most beautiful weather continues! Fabulous!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hoe, hoe, hoe!

It has been the most fabulous week – just like summer! Temperatures yesterday up to 25 degrees – of course the downside to this is that the ground is really drying out, & I’ve been up to the Hill watering in the evenings.

The broad beans are coming on – albeit with nibble marks all around the leaves, the culprits being pea & bean weevils which are the size of big ants & are earth coloured so that when you spot one & go to squish it, it drops on the ground & just disappears.

The way to beat the weevil seems to be to sow the broad beans in pots & plant them outside about now – in fact, just like Reg-next-plot & everybody else at the Hill. Well, you live & learn, as they say.

I’m really pleased that the seeds sowed at the Hill are now starting to come up apace – new arrivals ‘topside’ this week include the PEAS (kelvedon wonder) that S put in a couple of weeks ago, the SPRING ONION (white Lisbon) that Jane put in 3 weeks ago (no sign of the row I put in at the beginning of March, however), the TURNIP (snowball) & RADISH (Mirabeau) sowed in the week – boy, those brassicas sure know how to sprout!

Star of the week, however, must go to the two long rows of CARROT (Adelaide) that I sowed way back at the end of January & the middle of February, some of which are now definitely on display!

I hoed & weeded the whole plot, & put the last row of POTATO (cara) in – Reg-next-plot let me have 4 spare tubers of the same, so that’s made a full row. At Homebase in the week, I bought a half price bag of Maris Pipers so that’s the potatoes sorted.

To give the plot a treat I whizzed a dressing of chicken pellets over the whole lot – the box says to ‘apply 2 weeks before sowing, & monthly as a general fertiliser’, but this will no doubt boil down to ‘when I remember’.

I put a short row of LETTUCE (mixed), BEET (woden f1), CARROT (early nantes) in, & also – with an eye to putting the tomato plants in once the garlic are lifted – a row of marigold seeds. I was rather pleased with myself that I managed to think ahead in this way – as it has crossed my mind that once the early crops are out of the way, we wont be organised enough to have anything ready to follow on!

At home, the trough of PEA (kelvedon wonder), the CELERY (golden self blanching 3), & the CUCUMBER (marketmore) have come through, so it’s all go!

Looking at the sowing plan, the disappointments have to include any number of rows of LETTUCE (little gem) which have not come up anywhere at all (but it was old seed so probably serves me right!) & the BEET (woden F1) which is NEW seed, but hasn’t done anything yet. I suppose that into each life a little rain must fall – mind you, it would be good if that little rain could make it’s way to the Hill…

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter weekend already!

I’m having a lovely Easter weekend – & the sun has been shining too!

Mindful both of how neat neighbour John’s neat plot is, and that there is something call Plot Inspection at the Hill, I set out yesterday with the hoe to deal with all the little chickweed seedlings which haven’t go the message yet!

Once the plot looked spruce & tidy, I put in another row of POTATOES (cara) & sowed a short row of TURNIP (snowball).

My Project of the Week was to build something with netting for the peas to climb up – and a couple of inherited metal angle lengths, string & netting later I had a really unsatisfactory Heath Robinson affair. I rejigged the structure, added an extra middle ‘prop’ & with the aid of some netting pegs (Wilko, 99p) it all looks…..well, better.

When I came back I sowed a pot of runner beans for Mum, & today I’ve sowed a couple of tomato seeds of each of four varieties for her too. I’ve sowed up a trough with FRENCH BEANS (safari) & CUCUMBER (marketmore) to plant out at the Hill in due course.

When I went back to the Hill this evening, I sowed a short row of RADISH (Mirabeau) & LETTUCE (little gem) & watered everything in sight – including me, actually.

The seeds at home are all coming on - just the CELERY (golden self-blanching) yet to sprout, & at the Hill, the SPINACH (hector F1) is definitely coming through, & I was delighted to see some of the CARROTS (early nantes) sown four weeks ago, & the RADISH (Mirabeau) which E put in 2 weeks ago are showing their little seed leaves!

What a great day!

Friday, April 06, 2007

April is blossoming out all over!

It’s been a thoroughly gorgeous sunny week – I’ve been looking though the window here & enjoying watching the blossom come out on the plum tree.

I’ve been up to the Hill a couple of times for a bit of ‘communing with nature’ (& seeing possibly parsnips seeds coming up, & possibly spinach seeds come up – but then again they could be weeds), I’ve also been busy at home with seeds & seedlings. The TOMATO (balconi yellow) are all coming through along with the BRUSSELS SPROUTS (bedford fillbasket), & at the Hill there’s a significant showing of green sprouts on the ONION SETS (sturon).

I took Mum over to the Hill today – I thought that I was showing her the marvels of Mother Nature in action, & she thought she was scrumping some rhubarb. I wouldn’t let her get to the rhubarb before she’d make the correct ‘I’m so impressed’ noises at the rows where we’ve seeds sown – although to be fair, it would be rather more impressive if there were a few more seedlings on display.

Neighbour John was being neat about his neat plot …& – knock me over with a feather – he was FRYING A PAN OF BACON!! How cool is that! Mental note to put primus stove on shopping list – he was lucky it wasn’t wrestled from his grip, it smelled so good!

I’m due to plant another row of potatoes tomorrow, & I have a list of other seeds that can go in – my difficulties at the beginning of the year with getting to grips with Planning are gradually resolving themselves – as long as I have some time at the beginning of each month surrounded by plan of plot, sowing calendar, this months ‘jobs’ from the magazine & Seymour’s Self Sufficiency open at the pertinent page, I can just about juggle it all.

Mind you, I still haven’t got quite to grips with sow indoors/outdoors under cloches/outdoor/successional sowings, but it’ll be easier next year, I guess. Possibly!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Moon planting!

A beautiful Spring morning yesterday at the Hill – it’s been lovely this week especially out of the chilly wind – a perfect day for sowing!

There weren’t many about – perhaps as I was a bit later down than normal – and Jane, S & E arrived just as I had prepared the PEA (early onward) row for re-sowing. E & I had a lovely time also putting short rows of LETTUCE (little gem) & RADISH (mirabeau) in Plot B along with short rows of CARROT (early nantes) & BEETROOT (woden f1) in Plot C.

Meanwhile, Jane & S put up and tied the bean poles in Plot A – with the aid of a string line, but thinking about it, although the string line will have eliminated the pronounced kink from the row, there’s nothing to say that it is perpendicular at all!

Jane’s agreed that a double 20’ row of runner beans might be overkill, so we’ll put half to climbing French beans – good heavy croppers, store well in the freezer & MUCH LESS preparation in the kitchen than runners!

I hoed the garlic & E picked up all the weeds, then S & I emptied all the bags of horse manure into the skip, thus doing our good deed for the day, before retiring to the Club for well deserved lunch of cheese rolls and orange juice.

At home later on I sowed some BRUSSELS SPROUTS (bedford fillbasket) in jiffys, & can report that both the LEEKS (mrs d) & the COURGETTE (black beauty) are showing their heads!

I took big sister Helen to the Hill today – & she pointed out that the PARSNIP (white gem) is sprouting – although they just looked like any other weed seedling to me so I’ll reserve judgement for now. If she's right, I'll be delighted as these are supposed to be a bit tricksy!

Later on I went back to plant a row of POTATOES (cara) as it is the full moon. I told Jane about the idea of lunar planting, & for one fleeting moment she thought that I was proposing to plant BY moonlight! She also made some mock of the idea, with a number of choice comments which I won’t go into here, but we shall see – anything that works is my motto. I’ll plant another row next weekend, & one at the new moon, & then at least we’ll know if it’s all a load of old tosh or not!
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