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...........

Thursday, March 31, 2011

First Planting Out of the Year

Given that it had been such gorgeous weather for most of last week, it was a considerable disappointment how chilly it was on Saturday morning. No matter, I knew that if I dug the rest of the compost bin (bin 2) out onto the pea bed, I'd soon warm up.

It didn't take long to do that, so I went for broke & turned the adjacent newer bin (bin 1) into the now empty one (carefully moving Mr Toad to his new quarters) - a horrible, hard job - but at least it is full & ready to 'cook' now. Then I shuffled round the pallets to make a fresh bin (bin 3).

I've moved it along one from it's original spot - I had a brainwave & thought that the site of bin 1 would make a fabulous spot for the competition pumpkin - the ground will be rich, & it should stop the plant from getting quite so bloody triffid like in the 'misc.' bed.

The last 'heavy' job was to dig over the pea bed, & get out the leeks - these have not been a resounding success - planted too late, I suspect, but I did get a couple of dozen 'baby leeks' which have tasked very nice indeed.

To let my back recuperate a bit, I planted out the main crop POTATOES (maris piper & king edwards - easy peasy, make hole with fat stick, drop spud in, cover over. I realised that I have room for just one more row between the second earlies & the main crops, so I bought a small pack of 'pink fir apple' from Wilko this week, which are now chitting on the windowsill.

With the pea bed all ready, I put the four wigwams up - there was a certain amount of trial & error with putting six 8' canes in the ground fixed together at the top end with a plastic saucer with six holes in. Carl, next door but one, kindly helped with the first one, but I worked out that if I attached the saucer to the canes first, then put the canes in the soil, that works quite well, although it wasn't easy any way round.

I planted out the BROAD BEANS (violetta) along the edge of the bed, then wrapped string round and round the first wigwam and planted out the first batch of PEAS (robinson).

I would have put the string round the other three wigwams, ready, but I was now cold & achy after nearly four hours at the Hill & no lunch, so I pulled a few rhubarb stalks, & went home for a welcome cup of tea & a hot bath.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Plot Prep & a Friendly Resident

When Saturday proved to be a lovely day, I went to the Hill with the idea of moving the two ends of the climbing bean frame along to this year's bed, prepping the soil by adding the 'cooked' compost heap, & maybe putting up the pea wigwams too.

It's high time that I got the legume beds for this year sorted out, looking at the broad bean seedlings in the mini greenhouse at home, as well at the first batch of peas & the sweetpeas, which are pretty much ready to go out.

It was an ambitious list (as my back told me later), but I got stuck in. Actually first up was the nice job of planting the second early POTATOES (charlotte & kestrel), but then I got the cordless screwdriver & the spade out and 'planted' the bean frame ends at each end of the new bed then screwed each frame to the bed ends.

The bean frame has been a fabulous success over the past couple of seasons - especially now I know to use the 'fence grade' wire for the cross pieces to tie the canes to, which is robust enough to withstand any autumn storms.

I still haven't perfected a system for the peas, but this year it will be four traditional wigwams with a spiral of string wrapped round for the peas to grab onto.

Whilst the spade was handy, I roughly dug a trench down the centre of the bed, and started to fill it in with the contents of the oldest compost bin.

Although this is only the bed next door but one to the bin, it was Very Heavy Going & I threw the towel in with the bed fairly well full, and the compost heap about 3/4 empty - the rest of the compost will go onto the other legume bed next weekend before I put the pea wigwams up.

I wasn't alone which my compost heap - I'm afraid that I evicted this toad. Actually, he was lucky that he didn't come to a grizzly end chopped in half with the spade - he's incredibly camouflaged.

I popped him by the bottom of the other bin - he can take temporary residence until that bin is turned into the newly emptied one, and then I will leave him in peace.

The thought of turning the compost heap finished me off, so I tottered up to the club house for light refreshment before heading home for a hot bath.

NB: When applying Tiger Balm, which has a warming effect when applied to aching muscles, do remember that it does take quite a while for the heat to develop, so care should be taken not to keep slathering it on over-liberally, especially after a hot bath has opened all the pores...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Skip Painting & Parsnip Harvest

It was a lovely Spring-like day on Saturday, so I composed my List Of Things To Do, packed the car - including my overalls - & got myself to the Hill.

I parked my car at the top end & said hello & waved to to plenty of people as I walked down to my plot to find returning-allotmenteer-Chris from 2a by the manure skip, busy readying equipment for the main event for the day - skip painting.

At the AGM in November, when a list of jobs was circulated that need doing for the upkeep of the site, we ticked the manure-skip painting job as being - frankly - not overly arduous, & now the better weather is with us, we had no excuse not to get on with it.

So, on with the overalls (and woolly hat - it wasn't that warm), we rubbed the loose paint off with some vigour, then got the paint brushes out.

It looked a lot smarter when we'd finished. Mind you, I didn't look smarter when we'd finished - I looked like someone with green paint on their hat. And here we do look a bit as though we've escaped from somewhere, but it does show us doing a Job of Work.

We chatted as we painted - not least to about three quarters of the Hill plotholders who passed by, every one a comic - & we agreed that some painted flowers on the side of the skip would look good.

Well - blow me down - Chris has been on the case and demonstrated an excellent artistic talent - just look at those sunflowers! I'm tickled pink - it looks fantastic!

With skip painting finished, I put the overalls back in the car, & on the way by spotted Teacher Barry's son, three plots up from mine. I was glad to see him, as the last time that I saw his father before he sadly passed away last Spring, he gave me some parsnips for making wine, & I promised him a bottle when it was ready to drink.

I'm glad that Mike has carried on with his father's plot, & very happy that I've managed to keep my promise - maybe he'll drink a toast to Barry. I know that I will when I open the first bottle in a couple of weeks.

I got busy with the fork & dug up all the remaining parsnips - I'll need this bed for the potatoes, & I wanted to get it cleared & add some manure. There is rather a mountain of them, actually, even after I discarded any ropey ones.

I put them to one side, then made holes to plant the POTATOES (red duke of york & pentland javelin) in, heaved 3 tubs of manure from the skip, then sowed a row of CARROTS (early nantes 5) in yet another misguided gesture of hope over experience, I suspect.

That was my list all ticked off, so all I had to do was work out what to do with a couple of hundred weight of perfect parsnips.

So I filled the big bucket & walked down to the bottom & back up again foisting them off on anyone who would have them, including JB; his gardening buddy Catherine; Chris; woodchippings Paul (who produced a jar of damson jam in exchange to my utter delight); neighbour Jody's mate Shaun & young family who are helping Jody out; Carl & Wendy and potager Chrissie.

I still bought this lot back home - enough to feed me, the neighbours, mum AND to make a couple of batches of wine. And soup. And to blanch and freeze...
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