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, June 29, 2010

The Good Life!

Another hot week - summer days, eh? Obviously I don't want to quibble, but a bit of rain would be good - although established plants are doing well, there's no chance of those seeds sown last weekend germinating in the dust.

But it would be churlish to moan, with long light evenings, glorious sunshine & new crops to pick at every step at the Hill.

I hadn't been at the Hill long on Saturday, picking a whole heap of flat peas to eat as mangetout, when rhubarb Brian drove up in his loaded truck and stopped to ask how things were going.

After giving me a tray of cabbage seedlings & 'I think that these are lettuce, but I'm not sure' seedlings (they look like brassicas to me), pointed to some scavenged corrugated plastic on the back and said, 'Guess what that is?'

'Er - corrugated plastic?'

'Aha, yes, but do you know what it's for?', he asked, beaming. 'It's for my CHICKEN RUN!'

I established that he wasn't going to keep chickens on plot 4A, but follow JB's example & have some ex battery chickens at home, & once he'd gone whistling off to his plot, I pondered on what the going rate is for barter of homemade wine v's the supply of eggs.

I planted out the cabbage & 'lettuce' seedlings in a spare bit of fruit bed. The red & blackcurrants both are looking fabulous - dripping with fruit - and I'd better get stripping the fruit this weekend.

Covering the bushes has meant that the birds haven't got there before me (with the grizzly exception of a fat pigeon who met his sad demise tangled in the netting - I felt terrible about this until I saw how the pigeons had treated any pea plants that had dared to stray from inside the pea frame) & I must check on how to prune the bushes which can easily be done at the same time as fruit picking, as I recall.

I dug up the last three POTATOES (international kidney), a bag full of BROAD BEANS (saved), and I was thrilled to cut the first baby COURGETTE (defender & jemmer) & also came home with a huge bunch of heavenly scented sweet peas - wonderful!

And strawberries & strawberries & strawberries, but that's another story...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Days!

The weather is very dry at the moment. We had a week forecast to be full of rain a couple of weeks ago, but with the exception of one day of very wet weather indeed, that was it, & it has been warm & sunny since. Sunday was a lovely day – it was a pleasure to be at the Hill.

I love the raised beds – despite the rain & not having been in weeding mode for a couple of weeks, it only took an hour to whip round the whole plot (the messy edge at the back by David-other-half excepted) & get the whole lot – including the flower border at the front – looking spic & span.

Sunday lunchtimes are surprisingly quiet at the site, & I had the birdsong almost to myself – just Richard three plots doing some weeding. He wandered up for a chat & said that he’d harvested his garlic, & he was very pleased with it – which made me immediately fork up one of mine to see how it is getting on.

I must stop listening to him – it took forever to find a few potatoes last week when he said he’d had the first of his, & the garlic I dug up was not particularly impressive yet either (although tasty when I cooked it with some lamb later).

I planted out all five of the germinated sweetcorn plants, making a very modest block in one of the not-yet-used fruit beds, & half a dozen dwarf French beans (talisman) on the basis that any plants are better off being planted out at the Hill rather than being stuck in pots on the bench at home, however poor the plants look.

It was rather dry to be sowing seed (something that I didn’t think about until after I had the seeds thinly sown in drills) but nonetheless I sowed a row of LETTUCE (arctic king), RADISH 9fresh breakfast), BEETROOT (bolthardy) & CARROT (early nantes 5)

I suspect that I’m going to get caught out with successional owing (again!) this year – I haven’t got any winter brassica sown yet, so I must sort that out very soon – although later at home I did at least, pot the peppers on to their final pots in the mini greenhouse at home.

Lastly (but bestly), on to the booty! I picked a bag of BROAD BEAN (saved) pods – no longer than 6”, filled with sweet baby broad beans (you don’t get those in the shops!), a big handful of immature peas to eat as mange tout, a LETTUCE (dazzle), POTATOES (international kidney & mona lisa) & a huge bunch of sweetpeas – magnificent!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Didn't Expect THAT!

I wasn't free to go to the Hill over the weekend, so last night I was keen to see what ten days of warm & wet weather has done to the plot.

I was delighted that all the crops are growing apace, but not too much in the way of weeds - brilliant!

I hadn't planned to stop to do anything bar harvesting whatever was ready, but ended up thinning the annuals (OK - the odd thistle too) out of the flower border at the front, just to give it a tidy up.

I dug up a couple of POTATO plants (int kidney & mona lisa) for a couple of handfuls of new spuds, then whipped over the BROAD BEANS (saved) where I found plenty of 6" pods, perfect for shelling for fingernail sized beans.

The sweet peas are in full bloom & so a good handful of those came home with me too, one of the LETTUCE (dazzle) & a small armful of rhubarb sticks.

Star of the show, however, were these magnificent cauliflowers, hiding in their leaves - they have been growing since the autumn in with the curly kale, and have been no trouble at all, & are a good 10" across each head.

Not having anything planned for them, kitchen wise, but reluctant to risk them going over, I picked them both & have broken them into florets and frozen them - I'm planning a cauliflower cheese bonanza at the weekend!

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Toast To Teacher Barry!

It was sad going to the Hill on Sunday - teacher Barry, three plots up, died suddenly last week & so I spent a while having a wander round his plot, remembering him fondly.

His kindness to us as new plotholders, giving advice, seedlings & surplus crops freely - most recently a huge batch of 'gone over' parsnips for me to make wine with - was always appreciated. The wine is upstairs clearing in the demijohn - I've not got the chance to let him have a bottle now, but I will have to settle for having a drink on his behalf in due course.

The weekend has been very hot, & increasingly humid - in fact I got caught by the first raindrops of a storm as I was coming away, just in time!

I started by planting out the 10 various tomato plants - I was going to grow these on in buckets at home, in an attempt to dodge the inevitable blight that comes arollin' down the Hill every August, but for one reason or another I've decided to give this lot a go at the Hill anyway, and see how we get on. Optimism triumphing over experience!

Then I set to with the trowel, planting out the second sowing of RUNNER BEANS (self saved) & FRENCH BEANS (barlotti jody, hunter & cherokee trail of tears) to replace all of the direct sown seeds which have been decimated by the local slug population.

The red flowers on the peas are a delight - & whilst encouraging the peas up the netting, I also noticed that the sweet peas have just started to flower. I cut just three there & then - the scent is so generous, it fills the room even with those few blooms. I love them.

Richard three plots down wandered up for a chat & casually mentioned that he had just dug his first new potatoes, & (not being jealous at all) I immediately went & spent ten minutes furiously poking around under the first earlies trying to (a) not disturb the plants & (b) find any potatoes which were larger than marbles.

I was rewarded with half a score of potatoes just about big enough for the pot which I had with a handful of baby broad beans for dinner - and very very tasty they were too!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

First Veg!

I went to the Hill tonight for no other reason than I wanted to.

I had it all to myself & had a lovely half hour appreciating how things are growing.

I picked a good handful of baby broad bean pods - no bigger than 3" long - the first vegetables of the new season!

I brought them straight home to eat with quiche, in a salad, lightly cooked & tossed with balsamic vinegar & extra virgin olive oil.

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