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, June 27, 2007

No crying, now!

I went to the Hill yesterday for a couple of hours of weeding, & to pull up the smaller onions which will hopefully give the rest a bit more room to grow! I'm not expecting the ones that I've pulled up to keep (even if the others do, eelworm not withstanding) so I'll be having a merry chop-and-freeze session later!

Given that it's still pretty wet, and the temperatures are on the low side for June, everything seems to be looking reasonably good. The weeds don't seem to mind, anyway!

In fact the weeding is very much like the painting the Forth Road Bridge - a never ending task - & I wonder if at least part of our extensive weed problem is from the plot having gone to seed last year? We seem to have far more weeds than anyone else - but perhaps all the other plotholders are all fiendishly hoeing during the day....I'll have to sneak down to check!

Along with the onions, I picked some LETTUCE (mixed), RADISH (cherrybelle), PEAS (kelvedon wonder), POTATOES (rocket) & BROAD BEANS (aguadulce). The broad beans are definitely on the way out - perhaps a last picking at the weekend - & although they have been great (they've been cropping for nearly 6 weeks) I shan't be sorry to chop them all down & return to some sort of order!

It's lovely in the evenings at the Hill - I generally have the place to myself, and this time of year the swallows are zooming round & the blackbirds singing their hearts out, & with a bit of late sunshine it's just about perfect!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

All Change!

And it’s still raining! Actually it’s been more showers than continuous rain, except for Friday when we had floods & all sorts!

It was dry enough yesterday for most of the day, & when I arrived at the Hill, Jane was already picking broad beans & chatting with Reg-next-plot. Actually, there were a lot of plotholders there – & all came to exchange condolences with regard to neat neighbour John.

The Committee has decided that a group of plotholders headed by Barry will keep the plot weed free & take the produce to neat neighbour John’s wife, & then the plot will be handed to the next on the list at the end of October which seems like a satisfactory conclusion in the circumstances.

Jane went off with some BROAD BEANS (aguadulce), LETTUCE (mixed), RADISH (cherrybelle & white icicle) & SPRING ONIONS (white Lisbon) & returned with seven tomato plants well in need of planting out & three butternut squash seedlings.

Whilst Jane lifted some of the GARLIC bulbs – very impressive, if we say so ourselves! – & weeded prior to planting out the tomatoes & squash, I fought with a big piece of netting which I nailed round the ex-rabbit run frame in order to make a brassica cage & once completed I planted out eighteen CABBAGE (primo II).

I also set about pruning the broad beans back into order – we will definitely have to give serious thought to better support for both the broad beans & for the peas for next year.

Another lesson learnt is with regard to lettuce. We’re growing a mixed leaf cut-and-come-again type, but rather than cutting the leaves and leaving them to grow back, we’ve been eating the thinnings & the ones that are left are still growing & appreciating the extra elbow room. We’ve been cropping a 4’ row for about six weeks now, & there are still 3 or 4 big plants left…and that’s just the first row – there are another 4 rows of lettuce sown at two or three week intervals that we’ve not touched yet…

I think that it’s about time we came back to the ONIONS (sturon) – which have undergone a miraculous recovery (along with everyone else’s at the Hill – endorsing the ‘when in doubt, do nothing’ strategy!). They do need a jolly good weed, & I think that if we lift the ‘less recovered’ bulbs that will leave room for the rest of them – hopefully – to bulk up a bit. I took three home, but can’t say that they look great.

We both took some POTATOES (rocket) home, & I also had some SPINACH (hector f1) – of which I must sow another row – a few CARROTS (early nantes) & three BEETROOT (woden f1).

Just to finish off a productive day, Reg-next-plot casually asked if I wanted to pick a few strawberries – er, yes – he’d only left about a dozen ripe, but the utterly heavenly taste has underlined just why we need to have grow a few plants! I'm not sure where we'll put them, but as we're not able to expand our horizons just at the moment, we'll just have to find room on our plot somehow!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Remember the Vision On Gallery.....?

...well here is my version!

Whilst weeding at the Hill over the last few days, I've been pondering on neat neighbour John, and what will become of his immaculate plot. Not having a crystal ball, I decided to stop trying to see into the future, and to do some thing rather more practical - so I got the camera out.

Neat neighbour John may sadly no longer be with us, but here are some photos of his beautiful plot ... may it serve as an inspiration to us for a long time to come.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

You just don't know, do you.....?

And so the rain came…an awful lot of it! It’s been warm & wet all week – on Thursday we had 3” rainfall! No moaning about watering for a while then from me!

It was just about dry on Saturday morning, so I went off to the Hill knowing that the weeds would be in full force! I decided on a slightly different tack from last week, though – instead of spending 3 hours doing ALL the weeding, leaving the ‘nice’ bits till the end when I’m whacked & just want to go home, I thought I’d ‘finish’ with each plot as I went.

I was just getting stuck into plot D (potatoes) with some preparation for sowing leeks, when Barry came up & told me the dreadful news that neat neighbour John had passed away suddenly in the week. What a shock for his wife & son – I didn’t know him well, just a few ‘veggie’ conversations, but he wasn’t very old, & we will miss him at the Hill.

So I turned thoughtfully back to the leeks, & put a string line in & measuring board to set out them out neatly – seemed right, somehow.

The spare leek seedlings I offered to Barry & he let me have a heap of spinach & three globe artichoke heads in return.

The roots in plot C didn’t need too much attention after their ‘proper’ weeding last week, so a quick whiz over with the hoe & I sowed a row of CARROT (mixed). Without liking to speak too soon, the onions are perking up & although by no means perfect, they don’t look as disastrously deformed as they did a couple of weeks ago – perhaps there is hope yet!

On to the miscellaneous plot B & I hoed between the rows & thinned out some lettuce & radish (picked some to take home too), but it is still looking a bit crowded with seedlings & weeds in each row. Lesson to be learnt on thin seed sowing, here!

The weeds have gone bananas around the garlic, including nettles, so I spent some time improving matters there – sowing the marigold & nasturtium seed between the rows has not been a great move – now I can’t get the hoe in between properly. The smaller garlic have started to keel over, so I thought I’d better lift them. The bulbs are small, but have divided, & the bigger plants will have bigger bulbs, I’m sure. I now have 19 of them drying on the bench at home for plaiting & storing.

The Prize Pumpkin is looking good, & the Tallest Sunflower is racing up – over 2’ high now, I would think. The beans in plot A both on the run of poles & the wigwam look fine – again I did some weeding, but for both plot A & B I can only say that they look better than they did. One of the sweetcorn has not made the grade but the others clearly like being in the ground & have settled in well.

I picked loads of BROAD BEANS (aguadulce) which I have blanched & frozen, a couple of TURNIP (snowball) & some PEAS (kelvedon wonder) which did not get as far as the pan! Also POTATOES (rocket), CARROT (early nantes) & LETTUCE (mixed) for mum

I gave a lot of thought to neat neighbour John whilst at the Hill – all that work he put in & all his neat growing crops. His runner beans are halfway up the poles, the brassica are all planted out, the peas are nearly ready for picking & the iceberg lettuce are hearting up nicely.

Whoever takes over the plot will have fallen on their feet & no mistake…should it be us, I wonder…?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Feeding the 5000....

Another HOT day on Saturday – getting worried about the lack of rain again … I know, there’s no pleasing some folk!

At the Hill there was a great deal of weeding to be done, & when Jane & E joined me for an hour we made light work of the Root bed (plot C) which look smashing when done. Our plot always looks like it has masses more weeds than everyone else…or am I just comparing our plot with neat neighbour John’s immaculate plot?

As it was getting hotter, I weeded the miscellaneous bed (plot B) with decreasing enthusiasm, & tottered off to the Club for a couple of cold drinks & a sandwich. I couldn’t help overhearing a table of half a dozen plotholders discussing the Onion Problem, so invited myself in … the conclusion was that none of us were really sure whether it is the eelworm, & if it is, how long can you not grow onions. So no further forward there, then. I will dig ours up, though – the bulbs have not grown very much, & if they don’t store either I can see me just scrapping them, which is a shame.

I met Chrissie, a new half plot holder about half way up towards the club. Her allotment has a real kitchen garden rather than allotment feel – with stepping stone paths, raised beds & a big shed & a bench – lovely.

Jane brought her dad down to the plot in the week to see what we were up to – he’s our resident expert on runner beans & tomatoes – & we heeded his advice with regard to feeding the runner beans as they looked a bit out of sorts. Actually, what he said was that if they didn’t perk up, he would be inclined to rip them up & put in some shop bought plants, which I felt was a bit harsh on the poor little things!

I duly hoed in some blood, fish & bone – then later in the evening Jane went down to ‘miracle gro’ them too – lack of communication, there – but when we were both there this evening we had to agree that the beans looked ten times better than they had done.

I didn’t feel like doing an awful lot more in the sun, but planted out the surviving eight sweetcorn plants in a block, & put up a wigwam & planted out the barlotti climbing beans. I’ll have to go back in the week to do the sowing that I’d planned on.

I came away with the Smug Trug filled with POTATOES (Nadine), BROAD BEANS (aguadulce), SPINACH (hector f1), LETTUCE (mixed), RADISH (cherrybelle) & the last of the early row of CARROT (Adelaide). Astonishingly, Jane confessed the she doesn’t like broad beans……hurrah! more for me – I had some for tea tonight & they just melt in your mouth. More fool her!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What's for TEA tonight...!

Having been away for the weekend – which was warm & sunny – I’ve been to the Hill only to lament at the weeds, wonder at everything ‘coming on’ & to pick my TEA every couple of days!

Jane’s put in four tomato plants around the Prize Pumpkin, and she’s eight more at home ready to put in once the garlic are out of the way. They could do with plumping up a bit – each bulb about the same as about 4 cloves on ‘proper’ garlic from the shop….

I would be good to think that I am now in the position not to have to buy any more vegetables – but this may prove a bit ambitious – although I don’t think that I’d die of scurvy if I never bought another vegetable ever again.

I saw Reg-next-plot briefly last night – he was dressed up to the nines for ‘music night’ at the club & was collecting a magnificent hanging basket from his shed which was the raffle prize. He said that he’d scrapped all of his onions – ‘no good, the lot of them – it’s the whole site’ – but I didn’t have a chance to ask about a more positive course of action.

It’s far from all doom & gloom, though – this week I’ve been eating POTATOES (rocket), a few CARROTS (adeline & early nantes), SPINACH (hector f1). The BROAD BEANS (aguadulce) are beginning to taste a bit ‘furry’ so I’ve left them for a while to grow, but have brought some 6-7” pods home tonight in the hope of podding them for the beans.

I’ve also had more LETTUCE (mixed) & RADISH (cherrybelle) and took a load of these and potatoes to Jane’s yesterday. I also had three minute SPRING ONIONS (white lisbon) to add to a salad – but I must sow more, probably at home as they do not seem to thrive at the Hill. Blessed eelworm, I expect.

One job I have managed early this week was to earth up the later sown rows of potatoes – those which were planted with a bit of a breathing space between them, so that’s looking much better – & I need to give some thought to the next crop, which will be the leeks that have been sitting in a foil tray here at home for the last few weeks. Coo – successional sowing, eh?

Of course there’s a heap of sowing to be done at the weekend, after fighting off the weeds, & it MAY BE that the peas which are laden might actually have some pods big enough to pick!
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