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 31, 2010

The Last Turn Of The Screw!

A very productive weekend, I must say - not least for the local plumber who will have to be called out to replace my basin this week as it is now in a million pieces, but more of that later.

It's been cold again, with the heavy frosts meaning that top inch or two of soil at the Hill is still frozen solid. I wasn't planning on digging much, though - my aim was to (finally!) finish the fruit beds.

I was knocking in the stakes of the final bed when Rhubarb Brian came along. "This is looking really good," he said.

"Thank you," I beamed, "I'm not sure what I'll do with myself next winter when this lot is all finished! Mind you, I've nearly run out of screws to finish fixing this bed, then there's the weed supressent & bark chippings for the paths before I can say it's done."

"Don't you go buying nails or screws when I'm around!" he said, "what do you need? I've got a shedful - I'll go & get some for you, " & off he trotted round the corner home to fetch some.

Whilst he was gone, I dug up some PARSNIPS (hollow crown) - I need 7lb for this year's batch of wine - & also some for Brian when he got back with the screws as a thank you. They are the ones from the seed tape that I put in at the end of May, & they are straight as a die - fantastic!

I went back to the fruit bed & just about managed to finish the fixing the levelled boards to the stakes before the cordless screwdriver ran out of power.

I filled the bed with manure from the skip - wrestling with Reg-next-plot's wheelbarrow - then brushed up the manure that I'd dropped all over the path, & emptied the new batch of manure from the bags into the skip, folding & packing the bags away.

And the crazy-paving basin at home? Well that's to do with the wine - more of which in due course...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bed Matters...

Another extremely satisfying day today - in fact so much so that I am completely whacked out, & I suspect that I will ache like mad tomorrow.

I set off to the Hill with the aim of fixing the penultimate fruit bed & setting out and fixing the final one.

I was delighted when I arrived to find a couple of demijohns left for me at the side of the shed - I have John Badger (from the bottom) to thank for these, which I did when he came by later.

He said I should help myself to some Autumn fruiting raspberry canes that he is thinning out from his plot to go with the summer fruiting canes that I had from Jason (behind retired Maureen) last week - how brilliant is that?

Returning-allotmenteer-Christine came by & we chatted about blogs & this & that, & she asked if I'd pop over at some point & go though one or two queries that she has with her blog set up - I'm up for that, not least so I can see her shady garden with snowdrops which will be at their best very shortly.

I carried on with the beds, although I only got the point of setting out the final one before I got bored & moved on to a different job - picking KALE (curly) for tea. JB had given me food for thought - apparently, my raised beds have been the subject of some discussion, with Reg-next-plot wondering aloud what I'm going to fill them with.

Standing back & having a look at the fruit beds, they did seem to have a certain wooden-frame-pegged-on-flat-earth quality, so I borrowed Lionel (by the gate)'s wheelbarrow, turned to the manure skip & set about filling 'em up.

Learn a little every day, I say, & today I learned that
  • I cannot propel a full wheelbarrow with any degree of competence - it is like wrestling a bear
  • Manure from the bottom of the heap is hot & crumbly & far better than using manure straight from the bags it arrives in as I have done before
  • I cannot shovel manure into a wheelbarrow with any degree of competence
  • Manure is jolly slippery if trodden underfoot
A zillion trips back & forth later, & the fruit beds look fabulous with their thick layer of muck - although all that playing in the manure skip meant that today was another day for stripping at the back door to get straight into the bath...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fruit On The Move!

A wonderful day at the Hill today - at last! Hurrah! A fabulous sunny weather & not too cold - although very wet underfoot.

As I arrived, it was good to see novice neighbour Jody working on his plot.

We chatted about the snow & Reg-next-plot & Teacher Barry & brussel sprouts, whilst he dug up some parsnips, & I set about with the spade digging up & lugging the other three currant bushes from the side of the plot into one of the fruit beds.

Warm work, but once it was finished I walked round & round it in self-congratulation, immensely pleased with how it looks.

I said cheerio to Jody & got the tools out the car in order to set out and fix the middle small fruit bed into place. Jason (behind retired Maureen) came by. "I'm moving some of my fruit bushes and getting rid of some of my summer raspberries - would you like some?"

"I'll say! Thank you very much!" And he came back half an hour later with five hugely tall bare rooted raspberry plants, which I lost no time in planting in the first of the fruit beds near the front of the plot. Brilliant!

I dug up a PARSNIP (hsl guernsey), a couple of LEEKS (mrs d) & a CABBAGE (kilaxy) then finished off by setting out the second-to-last of the fruit beds - but running out of screws stopped play. No matter, a good day!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

And After The Snow...

...comes the thaw. With the temperatures at a balmy 6 degrees for the last couple of days, the snow has admitted defeat & retreated to all but the most inaccessible of verges, & it is now very soggy underfoot indeed.

I didn't go to the Hill today - as it happens, I was otherwise occupied anyway, but reading returning allotmenteer Christine's blog entry I am very glad that I didn't rush to find the time to go.

Whilst I was out & about, though, I spent a very enjoyable half hour browsing round the garden centre & treated myself - at long last - to some roottrainers (which are posh sowing modules), & a packet of sweet peas.

I then spent a very enjoyable half hour in the kitchen sowing the sweet peas, a pot with a few LETTUCE (dazzle & hsl stoke) & a larger pot with a few good pinches of LEEK saved from last year, which are hopefully viable.

Roll on Spring!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just When The Cold Spell Was Ending...

...the snow starting to melt, & I thought that I might stand a chance of at least going to the Hill for some veg at the weekend (absolutely NO chance of getting up there last weekend), we've had another covering of snow today - a couple of inches of light stuff starting overnight & continuing for much of the day.

The difference, though, between today's snow & last week's is that then after it snowed huge fairytale flakes, it went so cold (it didn't rise about zero day or night for over a week) so that there was a week of solid ice.

But today the temperature is about zero & the snow has been small flakes but sticky - non-slippery to walk on - & great to make snowballs with.

Actually, analysing snow types like some sort of eskimo - who have 32 words for snow apparently - probably means I'm going a bit stir-crazy being mostly confined to quarters, so the forecast higher temperatures in the next couple of days will be most welcome...

Thursday, January 07, 2010


We had about 4” of snow on Monday & Tuesday, & very, very pretty it was too. And it still is very pretty, although rather crunchy underfoot given the low temperatures that persist – for example the forecast for tonight is -8 degrees, which is startlingly low for round here.

It’s not all Christmas card loveliness, of course – predictably, the country has ground to a complete halt, & with the very cold weather, the pavements are icy, & the roads treacherous – I daren’t take the car out the garage.

It’s also bloody freezing, & I am getting fed up with wearing fifteen layers, & having to dress as if for Everest base camp even when just nipping up the road for a paper.

This properly cold winter spell is excellent though, as it should kill off the whitefly if nothing else, so that’s good news, & although I’ve eaten all the parsnip, swede & leek which I had from the Hill at the weekend with further supplies frozen in situ, I still have the freezer at home to raid for peas, broad & runner beans...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Probably Not The Best Idea...

Despite a heavy frost, I was determined to do a bit more at the Hill today - although when I got there & realised it really was icy going, I abandoned the idea of installing the next bed & decided to move the first of the red & blackcurrant bushes into its new location instead.

On reflection I really should have turned round & gone home again as soon as I realised just how frozen the ground is (the first strike of the spade threw up ice shards, one of which caught me on the cheek), but I had my green wax jacket & woolly hat on, & a flask of coffee, so I ploughed on anyway.

Julie (2nd best plot) & husband Phil had also braved the cold & came down to say 'happy New Year'. Phil said "I see you're changing the bed layout - it looks different." So I explained the shortened beds & new fruit beds.

"I'm moving the currant bushes from the edge of the plot into this new bed - would you do that or take cuttings and start again?" I asked Julie - who has some wonderful redcurrant bushes on her plot.

She looked at the frozen ground, "I'd give it a go moving them, I think - if you can! I've just been harvesting some parsnips from the tyre towers - I had to lift off a solid layer of soil before I could get to them!"

Working the spade all the way round the currant bush to loosen it certainly kept me warm, as did a strategic pause for coffee from the flask. A great deal of huffing & puffing & heaving got it into its new home, although it was not so easy bedding the roots it - the earth didn't take well to being dug and even though I heeled it in, I think that there are quite likely to be air pockets around the roots.

I took a bag of strawy horse manure from the pile by the manure skip (just the same size pile, incidentally, as before I emptied the bags into the skip a few days ago) & tucked it in all the way round the bush, & hopefully it will be OK.

On that less than satisfactory note, I dug a few JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES & a SWEDE (virtue) & came home to warm up.
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