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, November 30, 2008

Indoor Allotmenteering too...

It’s been pretty darn cold the last couple of weeks, & even a sprinkling of snow one evening last week. I know that it’s supposed to be winter, but there’s not an awful lot that I want to be doing at the Hill if it’s only a few degrees over freezing, hat or no hat.

However, last Saturday I wanted to go & lift the beetroot in order to make chutney. The recipe calls for apple along with the beetroot, & onion, but I read that you can use Jerusalem artichokes in their stead, & as we have oodles of them, & no bramleys, that’s what I thought that I’d use.

Whilst I was lifting the beetroot, Jane & E arrived, & I stood around being cold & grumpy whilst they did some weeding. Actually, we did lift a row of the CARROTS (flyaway) which I optimistically took home, but once washed found them to be more carrot fly than carrot. We also took a portion of KALE (Sutherland) home each which I am enjoying very much indeed.

Back home, once thawed out, I made the chutney. There is rather a lot of it, actually – all these jars from two 4’ rows of beetroot!

Sorting out the seed box is another indoor activity – I had a merry time labelling up the jars for the pea & bean seeds, & making up some seed packages to send out in the post to other gardeners from the GYO grapevine forum. Eyeing the seed box (or rather ‘boxes’!) it looks like I will need a very good sort out before the temptation of more seed overwhelms me – at the very least, the Heritage Seed Library catalogue will be dropping on the mat before too long…

Sunday, November 23, 2008


On Tuesday night it was the Hill AGM!

I couldn’t make the meeting last year, so I was very much looking forward to going along & seeing what went on, as well as meeting up with a whole host of allotment holders all at the same time. I remembered to take a bottle of the redcurrant wine along for Julie, who’d kindly let me help myself to her redcurrants earlier in the year – it really needs another couple of months to mature before drinking, but it’s a fantastic colour, & I have high hopes of it!

Chairman Ken opened the meeting with a silence to remember those who are no longer with us, & then the ‘apologies’ from those who couldn’t attend. Actually, it was a very good job indeed that not everyone did attend – the meeting was not held in the social club big bar, but in the little back-meeting room, & it really was rather snug in there, as well as increasingly warm as the evening progressed.

I must say that secretary Haydn kept the meeting trotting along in a tidy fashion – & we covered matters including a report on the Show back in August by Scottish George (in which he unexpectedly & very kindly gave me a flattering mention), the accounts, maintenance of the site as a whole, & fund-raising donations of honey by Dr Bob, & dahlia bulbs by Reg-next-plot.

Astonishingly, I totally forgot to offer up any of the millions of bean seeds that I have saved for this very purpose, but have since put that right, taking the first batch of seeds up to put in the communal seed swap box at the weekend.

It’s nice to ‘give a bit back’ – & I also have plenty of seeds all ready to package up to send out to online gardeners too…

Saturday, November 15, 2008

There's gold in them thar ... compost bins!

We’ve had fabulous fun at the Hill today – it’s been really mild today, although drizzly a bit later on, but surely that is why hats were invented.

I arrived at the Hill at much the same time as novice neighbour Jody – & I chatted to him whilst I barrowed some good strawy horse manure onto the other half of next year’s potato patch. He was only there for an hour or so, yet seemed to get more done that I do if I’ve been there for the whole day – how does that happen?

Reg-next-plot arrived soon after as I was pulling up some errant raspberry suckers – I was trying to work my way through to the first of the compost bins, curious as to how it was faring. This first bin has been full & covered for about 4 months, & I can see that it has reduced in volume by about a half.

Jane arrived & we tackled the bin together – removing one pallet side by cutting the wires attaching one to another, & having a poke around with a fork. I think that I was expecting the contents to look similar to when we put them in, but what a fabulous surprise!

The contents had become transformed from a whole heap of weeds, cuttings & green waste into the gardening equivalent of gold! I know that you read all the books & that is actually supposed to happen, but when you see it in action it really is quite amazing. Honestly, I could have wallowed in it, it was so fine!

I’m not altogether sure that Jane & E (who joined us for a spot of compost moving a spreading) shared my enthusiasm – which I found a bit odd, frankly – but I didn’t care! Proper allotment holders make compost, & we have made compost! Actually, as Jane did point out, all we had done was ignore it for four months, but I’m still taking some credit.

After all the excitement of spreading our very own compost around, we put the bin back together, & started the whole thing off all over again with a little off the top of the second overfull bin, which we covered up & waved our magic wand over, ready to uncover the booty in another few months.

We took a big bag of veg home each too – JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES, KALE (Sutherland), a portion of CALABRESE (waltham) & even a PARSNIP (tender & true) which had started to bolt.

All of these were fab – as I hope the Jerusalem artichoke wine will be which I’ve started off this evening…

Monday, November 03, 2008

Carrot Catastrophe!

In the shops, one of the cheapest veg is carrots, which would imply that Mr Farmer has no difficulty whatsoever in growing fields & fields of them. For some reason, Mr Farmer – who has fields & fields of carrots – does not have any carrot fly.

Why not?

Because he has damn well sent all them all round to me to ruin any hopes that I may have of a decent crop. I sowed a whole packet of ‘Flyaway’ in August – which should have avoided carrot fly anyway – & after I planted out the wallflowers yesterday, I thought that I would dig some up for my tea.

No chance – finger sized only, & still eaten by the bloody carrot fly.

I love carrots – they are one of the nicest veg. Boo.

So it's back to the drawing board for next year...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

What wallflowers?

Wrapping up warm was certainly the order of the day when I went to the Hill yesterday – it might have been bright, but it was very cold indeed. No matter – all that I’d got planned was planting out the wallflowers.

Besides Alison the teacher’s sister working hard further up on her half plot, there were few people around – although cheery Brian & Pauline made a flying visit to drop off some geraniums to over winter, & David-other-half stopped by too – cutting some of his gorgeous dark red chrysanthemums before the frost gets them, & he kindly cut me an enormous bunch too.

There’s nothing like a spot of digging to get the blood flowing, so I set too on plot d (beans as was) where Jane had taken down all the bean poles (tidied away in the back of the car to put in the garage over winter). There is something very therapeutic about digging – & the plot looked much better when I finished.

I found that weeding the front of the plot wasn’t so easy – I couldn’t just go whacking in with the fork to get all the summer bedding & weeds out or I’d dig up the bulbs planted there already for the Spring display, but I eventually got it all prepared for the wallflowers. By this time, however, I was feeling bloody cold again – feet & hands in particular, so I decided to call it a day.

I cleared up & cut half a dozen CAULIFLOWER (all the year round) to take home to make a big batch of cauli cheese, & picked enough CALABRESE (Waltham) sprouts for a couple of meals – all that was missing from day was planting out the wallflowers – which was the one job I actually went to the Hill to do…
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