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, January 25, 2009

Raised Beds & Ryton

I don’t mind telling you that I am feeling pretty damn smug at the moment – with my most magnificent raised beds!

So after transporting the wood back from Wickes last weekend, I cut the 2” by 1” lengths with the saw into 2’ long battens (with a point on one end to make it easier to drive them into the ground) & a couple of the gravel boards in half, so I had my ‘raised bed kit’ ready for this weekend…

It was bright & cold yesterday, perfect raised-bed making weather, so I went to the Hill with my ‘raised bed kit’ of wood, a jar of screws, cordless screwdriver, lump-hammer, saw & tape measure.

Three hours later – which included chatting to returning-allotmenteer-Chris, & Potager Chrissie (up by cheery Brian & Pauline) – & here is the result.

Fanfare, please!

I am immensely pleased with how this has turned out – so much so, that I went back to Wickes this afternoon & bought another pack of wood & started on bed number 2 (or plot d1, as it should be called). This one is slightly trickier, as I’m working round the brassicas which are already in situ here.

It’s been rather a good day all round, actually. I went to Ryton this morning for their potato day – I had done some homework on which varieties to grow this year, & they were all available there with the exception of one, & I even managed to get some dunluce which John Badger at the bottom recommended, so I’ve picked some up for him too.

There was also a seed swap, & I took some small packs of various beans & peas to contribute. I managed not to come away with too many in return – although I couldn’t resist some squash seeds, lettuce, a climbing bean & some pea beans…

I had a lovely time looking round the gardens too – it was perishing cold last year, so I didn’t hang around – but I did enjoy myself today, & it’ll be worth going back for another look when things are growing later in the year.

Then I got my fingers dirty by popping a few LETTUCE (HSL stoke) & SHALLOT (PW banana) seeds into a couple of pots too, just to make me feel like a gardener again & not a carpenter...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bulbs, Brassicas & Smart New Beds?

The forecast for today was ‘fine in the morning, turning squally later’, which has turned out to be exactly right – the gusts of wind tonight have been strong enough to blow a sheet off the roof of next door’s carport, & yet it could have passed for a spring day earlier.

I made the most of the day by going to the Hill & planting out a couple of dozen daffodil bulbs at the front of the plot – they were being sold off at the garden centre for 50p a bag before Christmas, & this has been the first chance that I have had to put them in.

I was delighted to spot that the garlic has FINALLY put in an appearance – hurrah! I really thought that they weren’t going to grow, as they’ve been in so long with nothing apparently happening. Heartened by this, I then set about tidying up the brassica bed – I took the netting off & gave it a good weeding, & took off any yellowing leaves too.

Whilst I was putting the netting back, I started to give some more serious consideration to the paths & bed edges – I know that this has been a subject that has seen a lot in the way of pondering & very little in the way of action over the last two years, but I’m spurred into action by the prevalence of free bark chippings in the park (seen when I took the Christmas tree over to be shredded), & all the gardening magazines with features showing ‘jobs for January’ making construction of raised beds look pretty simple.

Having noticed smoke rising from a bonfire at John Badger’s plot at the bottom, I wandered down to discuss the matter with him. I saw that he still has celeriac & swede growing, & made a mental note to include those for this year, to add a bit of variety to the fresh produce available at this time of year. He bemoaned the state of his leeks too, so it’s not just ours which are poor – which is something, I suppose.

So with my path/bed plans a little firmer in my mind I set off to Wickes & bought appropriate wooden gravel boards & timber for posts, then spent a Krypton Factor-esque half hour working out how to fit 8’ wood lengths (A) into small hatchback car (B) such that I could get the tailgate closed.

Satisfied with the success of my mental & physical exertions, I went home to cook a tasty chicken & bean casserole made with purple giant & climbing barlotti beans – yum!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fame at last...?!

Isn’t it a funny old world?

Out of all the wines that I’ve made over the past year, there has only been one which has been frankly, pretty awful – & that is the celery wine. It’s just about ok to cook with, but only really drinkable with a quick dash of lemonade – yet it is this wine that has caught the eye of a researcher for the television programme Market Kitchen which is shown on UKTV and whose homepage is to be found here: http://uktv.co.uk/food/homepage/sid/6136

The researcher asked if I might possibly have a spare bottle to send them for inclusion in their feature on celery, which I have been delighted to parcel up & send to them – though I did warn her roundly that it really isn’t too palatable. Apparently this is no problem, & she said that the presenters will open the bottle & sample it as part of the feature – hahaha! I told her that I wouldn’t be in the least offended if they turned their noses up!

So the programme is being recorded tomorrow, & broadcast at 7pm on 5th February. I don’t have satellite so will be watching on next door’s television – should I take a bottle round with me to share whilst we watch, do you think…?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Happy New Year ...

…to all our readers!

The start of 2009 has been cold, cold, cold. Down to minus 5ÂșC or less at night for over a week now – so there will be no excuse for an abundance of whitefly or other pests to be around this coming year! No wonder I slipped off for week or so in the sun…

The weather being as it is, I’m glad that we put the plot to bed at the end of November with our compost spread from the bin, & forthcoming potato bed liberally covered in manure.

Although there is not much happening at the Hill – apart from digging up the odd PARSNIP (white gem) – now is the time for planning & seed sorting, so I spent a happy hour playing with seed packets, & making our choice of six from the HSL catalogue. With so many peas & beans saved from last year, I’ve gone for leek, parsnip & celeriac, although I couldn’t resist a couple of mange tout pea varieties & just one climbing bean…

Having run out of seed compost at the end of last year, I went to the garden centre today for a bag. All the compost had frozen solid & I made my way home with a bag the consistency & weight of a paving slab. It’s been thawing out against a radiator, & I’ve made the first sowings of the year of a few CAULIFLOWER (all the year round) & ONION (red long Florence) which is about all I can put in at this time of the year.

I’m going to try harder with successional sowing this year, however I must remember that not everything benefits from the ‘little & often’ principal. It’s ok to sow half a dozen lettuces or cauliflower, as these don’t stand for a long time when they all come ready at the same time, however, things like leek, onion & parsnip can be sown with just an ‘early’ & a ‘late’ sowing & they will be fine as they will either sit in the ground until we’re ready for them, or they’ll all be harvested together anyway.

Must remember that.

It might be quiet on the plot with just parsnip, kale & Jerusalem artichokes for eating now, but I’m still eating broad and runner beans out the freezer, squash are stored in the mini green house, along with the garlic & there are loads of potatoes still in the garage. Before we have anything ready for this new season, there will be the leeks, red cabbage & Brussels sprouts fresh from the plot too, so plenty there to feel rather pleased about!
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