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...........

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Danger ... apprentice Domestic Goddess at work!

It has been such a grey week – not really cold, but really rather wet, & just so dull & dark. Mind you, it is January, I suppose.

With the plot tucked up for the winter, the only jobs that are on my mind are pruning the gooseberry bushes (a vile job as they are FULL of thorns!) & ‘doing something’ with the raspberry canes that have popped up by the compost bin.

The weather not being conducive to these outdoor jobs, I turned to more ‘homely pursuits’, the first being to bottle the wine. After it had finished doing it’s fermenting, I added the sachet of ‘wine stopper’ to stabilise it, then 3 different grades of finings in order to settle all the bits out of it.

Then came bottling which was reasonably successful in that I only lost perhaps a glass – or maybe two – in the siphoning, but spillages were easily mopped up leaving me with a fruity smelling kitchen & a mental note to buy a siphon with a tap on the end for next time.

Five bottles are now upstairs out of the way to mature for a month or two, with a part bottle being left to drink – & very acceptable it is too. I'm sure it would have been fine without that extra slosh of sugar – but it tastes ok, it’s clear & is most definitely alcoholic, so I’ve won overall there, I think!

Buoyed up with this success, I bought 3 Seville oranges, a lemon & some sugar & devoted a great deal of Saturday to making orange marmalade. I soon found a system for slicing the peel, & though quite a long job, it was very satisfying. The simmering the peel bit was easy peasy, but the getting a set point not so.

I used the jam thermometer & when it got to the right temperature I started testing for a set – it took about 20 minutes to look about right, & even so, having potted it (jam funnel – best investment EVER!) it is what could charitably be called ‘soft’, so I’ve not cracked that bit yet. Mind you it is THE orangeiest orange marmalade that I’ve ever tasted!

That excitement over, between the almost constant rain I did find a drier spell to go to the Hill to dig another huge PARSNIP (white gem) & to pull a couple of LEEKS (mrs D). I think that I’ve finally given up on the CARROTS (autumn king) – a dug a dozen up & have had one useable portion to eat for dinner tonight. I dug over half of the carrot patch before the rain started down again & I called it a day.

That was not the only produce of my own in the cook pot this week – I bought a pound of venison from the farmer’s market on Friday, & thinking that it might be rather a strong taste, I thought I’d make it go further with some of my own BEANS – so I included a handful each of black turtle, barlotti & blue lake) which resulted in a very tasty casserole - and it went into seven portions too - there's economy!

….and finally, in preparation for all that lovely seed sowing, I saw this little bargain in Woolworths – a half price mini greenhouse! And armed with the knowledge that so many people have been disappointed with them blowing over, I’ve strapped it to the garage wall, & weighed down the bottom with a big bag of compost. That is staying exactly where it’s put!


  1. i got a large version of these (the walk in kind), and left it up over the winter. Siting these is really important - mine went as close to the house as possible, and the door was facing the house so as to minimise the amount of wind that could blow in. I also dug a hole that the greenhouse sits in, put wooden sides around the hole, and weighted the frame down with a pallet. It means that if i stand on the pallet i have to crouch a bit (as the pallet brings the "floor" up to ground level and that makes the greenhouse height shorter) but most of the time i stand on the actual ground (the pallet only covers half the greenhouse). the guylines thread through the plastic, attached to the frame, and as a result of all these things, its stayed there all winter. The biggest problem has been the plastic - its become ripped in several places, although its being held together with duct tape. I'm getting a new cover for the spring, once the spring gales are over, but before then i can also use it as a very large cold frame to grow seedlings on in (which is needed cos i don't have that much window space!).

    hope all that offers some thoughts for yours and how to get the best out of it..


  2. It certainly gives me some food for thought, Keth - thank you for taking the trouble to post.

    The courtyard garden faces north, so this time of the year it doesn't get any sun at all. Siting by the garage, it being that bit further away means that it faces SE and gets a bit of sun (if we ever get any!)

    I've drilled eyelets into the garage wall and tied it with a cord strap - more robust than just using threading through the rings on the plastic cover. Even though at the moment it's weighed down with a bag of compo, I thought that if I put in another couple of eyelets at the bottom, I could put another strap round as real 'belt and braces'!

    The greenhouse itself is a Spear and Jackson one, but looking at the Gardman replacement covers (Wilko, £3.99) they are MUCH more robust with proper hemmed seams and thicker polythene, so I've bought that to use instead of the one supplied.

    It will be interesting to see how it holds up - I'd hate to have it full of seedlings then for it to keel over - but I'm short of window space too, and we'll just have to see how it goes!

  3. Hazel - i think from the sound of things your actual frame will stay up (lets put it this way: if it comes down, then you got bigger problems than the seedlings!). the problem is going to be the plastic. Invest in some duct tape and inspect it every day. any rips or tears, even little ones, repair them straight away with the duct tape, because if they're left they just get worse and worse.

    good luck, anyway, i'm looking forward to seeing how you're doing!


  4. Hello

    I am not sure if this is of any help, but my local garden centre (Frosts of Willington) were selling covers for your mobile greenhouse that was made with (what looks like) a very fine mesh between layers of plastic. They were quite expensive, but it was "rip stop". Not sure of the sizes, but if you have a Frosts near you, perhaps you could check it out if you need to.


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