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, April 19, 2009

Raspberry Canes & Bean Frames

The good people of the Hill have been out in force this weekend – & why not when the sun has been shining & the thermometer bobbing about 15 degrees.

After nipping down in the week to plant out the SWISS CHARD (bright lights), & to have a potter, I got to thinking about the raspberries which are in need of support.

These canes have been popping up near the rhubarb at the back of the plot (I’m not actually sure where they have migrated from, as I don’t think that David-other-half or neighbour Ted have raspberries anywhere near) – & they are most welcome. Of course I have no idea what variety, or if they are a summer or autumn strain, just that they are flopping all over the place & want taking in hand.

Before I sorted them out on Saturday morning, I flicked the hoe over the beds to weed (‘is that it?’ said novice neighbour Jody, ‘you have weeded your entire plot in 10 minutes flat?’. Oh yes, indeed, I am Mrs Smug). Of course I had the smirk knocked off my face shortly afterwards when I made a misjudgement whilst whacking in a couple of posts with the mallet for the raspberry supports, & had to raid Jody’s first aid kit.

My war wound suitably dressed, I then braced the posts & put wires between to tie the canes to. I weeded all around the base, ripped out any raspberries which strayed too far from the framework, then gave them a big mulch of muck from the skip (on the advice of potager Chrissie, who came down to help empty the horse muck bags into the manure skip). I’m not sure that it’s the world’s best job – although a damn site better that it was – I’m carefully showing a photo in which the posts look upright, which is more an impressive feat of camera angles than reality, I’m afraid.

Today I went to see John Badger from the bottom, who has most kindly put together a couple of upside-down bean supports for me – each one a ‘T’ shape, so that rather than growing the beans on up converging wigwams, the beans are grown from a central line up diverging strings so that the beans hang down away from the bean growth, making picking much easier. They look brilliant – however I’m going to have to sweet-talk him into making me another couple in order to span the whole 20’ length of the bed.

With all the climbing beans planted in a central line along the bed, this will leave a free area at each side for the dwarf beans, so apart from the snag that the bed will have one side more shady than the other, as the bean frame will be running east-west rather than north-south, it all sounds rather natty.

I pondered on the bean frame as I weeded the strawberry patch, & then top-flower-man-Alan came down to say hello complete with a little geranium plant to give me which is for growing & entering into the Show this year. I must ask cheery Brian & Pauline what the devil to do with it – starting with ‘do you grow it inside or outside’ – I didn’t like to ask Alan as it seemed like rather a basic question.

On the strength the bean frame going up in due course, I came home & sowed FRENCH BEANS (emperor of Russia, pea bean, polish, hsl early warwick, black turtle & triomphe de farcy) along with some PEAS (pea bean & hsl Lancashire lad) & SWEETCORN (tender & sweet f1) & I now have no windowsills free again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What a Difference a Week Makes!

I have given some time over to tending the front of the plot this week – which is one of the joys of not battling the weeds on the rest of the plot all the while. A quick flick over the beds with the hoe & the job’s a good ‘un.

The front of the plot is looking superb with all the tulips & daffodils in flower. They've all come so far in the last few days, & the wallflowers just starting - these are the photos from the 4th April & yesterday. Thinking ahead for when these are over, I planted out some poached egg, marigold, nasturtium & cornflower seedlings, & gave the leftover seedlings to Paul & Gill (at the front by the gate) who are making steady progress getting to know the plot.

I pulled a whole load of rhubarb (gave Paul & Gill some of this too) and came home to start off a batch of rhubarb wine. I had a lovely surprise this week when I found a long lost bottle of last year's rhubarb wine in the garage - brilliant!

It's not all been flowers - tonight I've planted out half a dozen CAULIFLOWER (all the year round), CALABRESE (waltham) & BRUSSELS SPROUTS (bedford filbasket), & thinned out the PARSNIPS (guernsey) to one per station, & sowed a row of RADISH (white icicle).

And much as I love the KALE (sutherland), I do keep looking at the broad beans - which are likely to be the first of the new season veg - can't wait!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Storms, Spring Flowers & Setbacks

Having been so stormy last night that I had to run down in my nightie at 1am to move the broad beans pots from the wall as they were in danger of being blown off, today was sunny & warm.

A different disaster befell the achocha seedlings, however – they have been in the mini greenhouse & had seed leaves like two huge ears, but today I found that the slugs have taken a liking to them, & I was greeted with two sad green stalks. I re-sowed & will have to rethink my slug deterrents when they germinate.

Everything was looking good at the Hill this evening – I planted out half a dozen BRUSSELS SPROUTS (falstaff), then put some weed suppressant fabric down & went to the park for more bark chippings to lay on neighbour Ted’s side of the plot, & for the path between beds a2 & b1, so it’s all shaping up rather nicely.

Julie (2nd best plot) & son K arrived to do some watering in her greenhouse, & soon came down with a big bunch of tulips for me – how kind of her, & they are so beautiful! I’m only just thinking in terms of flowers for the front of the plot, so I’m a way away from growing cutting flowers for a while yet.

Maybe I’ll be able to cut some of our daffodils next year – they have somewhat short stems, but I guess that they are doing well to flower at all given they were bought in the ‘bargain bin’ at the end of autumn & then spent a couple of months knocking about in the back of the car as I forgot all about them.

Generally fairly resilient, nature, I suppose – except in the face of slugs, perhaps...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Plot Evolution...

…or one thing leads to another.

I cycled to the Hill last night with the intention of planting out half a dozen CABBAGE (red sprouting).

Although I rigged up a better system of transporting them than I did last week, by tying the seed tray containing the pots down in the bicycle basket, which improved the state that the seedlings arrived in after a bumpy journey, it certainly was not ideal. I really need to devise a better way – a work in progress, I think.

Once these were happily (or in the case of the one with the broken stem, not so happily) nestled in their new quarters in bed c2, I turned to the neighbour Ted’s side of the plot to continue with the preparation of levelling & firming the area ready for weed suppressant/bark chippings, & spent a vigorous half hour with the spade & rake.

It was only when I’d stepped from this area over the 3’ front-of-plot for the 50th time that I realised that a slab to use a stepping stone would be immensely useful. That means either finding another slab to match the existing (unlikely), or shuffling all the slabs up a bit. In order to do that, I need to wait until the wallflowers have finished flowering, & for the bulbs to die down so that they can be relocated.

Why is it that in order to do one thing, you nearly always have to wait for another thing to happen first?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tidying, Beds, Tea & Biscuits!

Having run out of gravel trays in which to sow any more pots of seeds, I was glad that the PEAS (stephens) were ready for planting out this weekend. That was the first job on the list on Saturday – in fact, besides a vague goal of beefing up the raised beds where necessary & to ‘do something’ about the side of the plot bordering neighbour Ted’s, that was the only job on the list.

Once I’d planted out the peas & slipped extra side pieces in on bed b2 (which has stopped the soil sneaking out underneath & onto the bark paths) I turned to the area between the end of the beds & the fruit bushes bordering neighbour Ted’s plot. Having battled with deep rooted dandelions & turned in some foot-cube tussocks in the week, I’ve realised that this sort of weeding is no fun at all, & I’d prefer not to have to do this again.

I’ve decided therefore to put weed fabric & bark chipping all up this side too – how neat! But first, the area needs to be fairly weed free (grass tussock free at the very least) & firm & level. The immediate problem here is that four of the KALE (Sutherland) plants are in the way, & still producing the most wonderful leaves for picking. This has been a really fabulous crop, & I’ll definitely grow this again it just keeps going & going, so my path plans are going to have to hold on until the plants are finished.

In fact, I picked a bagful of the kale, a couple of stray LEEKS (mrs d) & RED CABBAGE (sprouting) to take home for tea.

The lack of definition of beds a1 & a2 where ‘castle carrot’ is will get on my nerves before too long (never mind the weeds) and so I today I wanted to see if I could continue to peg out these two remaining beds without disturbing the planted onion sets. Not really, is the answer to that, however I did put in part of the side of bed a2, & fixed down the full other side, so at least I can get that path in next weekend.

I was just finishing off by sowing a row of RADISH (long white icicle) when Julie called down to ask if I wanted a cup of tea – at which point cheery Brian & Pauline arrived, as well as John Badger from the bottom. So we all had a sit down & a gossip – & even had chocolate digestives – fantastic!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Castle Carrot!

I love these lighter evenings! It means that I can get the ol’ bike out & have an hour communing with the plot. Of course there isn’t an awful lot to actually do, but I don’t let a trifle like that stop me.

One thing that I must do is work out a way of taking seedlings to the Hill in the bicycle basket without the carnage that I had this evening – let’s just say that when the four CABBAGE (kilaxy f1) seedlings were planted out they were rendered extremely bare rooted by the trauma of the journey.

Once I’d planted them out, & turfed out some dandelions from around the fruit bushes, I sowed a row of CARROT (hsl manchester table) & erected what I very much hope is a carrot-fly proof enclosure for them. Bit worried about the fact that I keep getting outsmarted by an insect, frankly.

Perhaps it will be third year lucky?
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