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, December 30, 2007

The New Year starts...NOW!

The weather’s pretty grey at the moment – & has been quite gusty at times – and is still rather damp up underfoot Even so, I went to the Hill yesterday with the aim of getting some of the green manure in plot D dug in. It’s about 6” tall & I’m hoping that by digging it in now, it will have rotted down ready for me to sow broad beans & peas by the end of January – or the middle of February at the latest.

I have to say that sowing the green manure in rows has been a fabulous success – not only can you get your spade easily between the rows, but the rows also form a guide for digging so that it minimises (but does not actually eliminate!) the number of times that you turn the same bit over twice, thus bringing the clod BACK up to the surface again…

I dug a couple of PARSNIP (gladiator) – which are just as big as the earlier sown white gem – & a CABBAGE (primo II) & when I got home I made some spiced parsnip soup to a Sarah Raven’s recipe from her Garden Cookbook which is excellent.

Just as I was leaving the Hill, I saw Teacher Barry driving up who told me that Novice Neighbour Jody’s wife has had a little boy (7lb 6oz) & mother & baby are well & are now home, so my best wishes to the whole family – I wonder how long it will be until we see Junior Jody being introduced to the delights of the allotment!

With the shortest day having been & gone, it’s technically getting lighter in the evenings now (not that you’d know it yet) but it does mean that I feel justified in starting this growing season off by getting one or two things sown. Hurrah!

When we went to the Malvern Autumn Show we met David & Kazzi (from Evington, Leicestershire) who kindly let us have some SHALLOTS (hative de niort & banana), so although one or two have gone soft (lesson in storage learnt there…) I still managed to pot up 9 hative de Niort & 3 banana shallots which are now outside in the courtyard & will all be transplanted to the Hill once the green manure in plot B is dug in & rotted down & then will be left to go to seed for next year.

Inside, in my new 20 pot seed-&-cutting tray I’ve sown some ONION (ailsa craig), CAULIFLOWER (all the year round) & SPRING ONION (ishikura), all of which taught me that a 20 pot seed-&-cutting tray is nowhere near adequate in size...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

A second Christmas at the Hill, & although due to a planning cock up earlier in the year we have had no Brussels sprouts from the plot, we did have LEEK (mrs D) & PARSNIP (white gem). I cheated with shop bought CARROTS – although I did have a half a dozen of ours (which made precisely one carrot fly free portion) earlier in the week along with some KALE (alice).

The weather has warmed up – with rain – in the last few days, which made me want to get started on digging-in some of the green manure, but in all honesty it really is rather wet underfoot, & I needn’t get started until much later in January.

Of course plans for the year ahead are afoot – I have managed to track down some seeds for the crimson flowered broad beans which I’ve been hankering after ever since seeing them at the Malvern Spring Show, so I think that I can get those in pots soon, as well as some onion seed & the banana shallots which I’m growing for seed this year.

I’ve chosen my seed varieties from the HSL catalogue, & once those arrive I must have a sort out of the seed box – with various cover-mounts & tempting mail order offers, I have many more seeds than I can ever hope to grow. I’m sure that a good home can be found for them with the members of the GYO Grapevine – it’ll be good to ‘give something’ back to the on-line community there.

I’ve had some wonderful Christmas presents from friends & family – books on preserving & winemaking, seeds & a garden radio. I know that January is the season for Seville oranges, so I’ll have a go at marmalade to start with, & with the acres of parsnips still in the ground, I think I will use them to try my hand at the winemaking.

At least I know that help is only a phone call away if I get in a mess – Shelley in the Forest of Dean for the preserves, & Clare in France for the wine – & I’ve any amount of good advice only a mouse click away on the GYO Grapevine forum.

Shelley & Paul called to see me at the weekend & I showed off the plot – it was lovely to see them, & they were suitably impressed with Belinda Scarecrow, giving her a festive hat to wear for the occasion. I really do need to sort her out with hair – I’ve given the matter some thought, & I may have come up with just the thing…

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happiness is a seed catalogue!

Well, winter draws on, as they say! We’ve had four really good frosts in a row this week, & today has been really cold & damp through the day too.

All terribly good for the plot in the scheme of things, but I don’t feel overly inclined to spend a great deal of time at the Hill in this weather, so on Saturday morning I rebuilt Belinda Scarecrow. I was very satisfied with the outcome – skirt & all – that is, apart from her head.

I’m not entirely sure about what’s gone wrong here – she looks like she is wearing a pillowcase over her head. Now, I know that she IS wearing a pillowcase over her head, but I was hoping that it would look more head-like & less pillowcase-like, somehow. Perhaps I should look into giving her hair/a hat/a headscarf, or something. Hmm.

Once at the Hill, apart from knocking Belinda over the head with a brick a few times to stand her up, I pulled PARSNIP (white gem), a few LEEKS (Mrs D), a couple of PAK CHOI & picked some KALE (alice).

I actually had a few CARROTS too – well, me & the carrot fly, that is. Out of the eight that I pulled, there was only enough actual unmolested carrot left for one portion. Note for next year: must try harder!

I can always rely on the GYO grapevine forum to cheer me up – such a wonderful group of veg growers – & this week they did me proud. As I was ‘member of the month’ in October, the prize was a ‘goodie box’ which the postman delivered this week! Of course it’s always a treat to get presents, but to be rewarded for doing something so enjoyable is fabulous!

More good news with the arrival of the Heritage Seed Library catalogue through the post – I’m looking forward to selecting my six varieties of seed for growing next year. Homework for this week is to work out a plan whereby I can leave some of each crop for seed collection too…
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