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, June 19, 2011

Weeding, Planting, Harvesting

I had quite a long List to take with me to the Hill today - and I marked off all but one of the items. Mind you, I was there for the best part of five hours, so I should hope that I did make good progress.

When I arrived, I was alone apart from Woodchippings Paul a few plots down who was mending his new polytunnel - yes, that's right we had vandals on the site on Wednesday evening. I'm not sure that there was anything else damaged (it can be a bit tricky on your average allotment site to ascertain what is damage and what is normal), but there's no getting away from a slashed polytunnel cover, or a path trampled through the foliage on a potato bed.

With the warm but showery weather that we have had this week, everything is growing like mad - including the weeds - so before I could do anything else, the beds needed bringing into order.

Carl & Wendy by the gate arrived. 'Would you like some sweetcorn plants?' asked Carl, 'we've run out of room'.

Well of course, they would be most welcome - was I only saying last week that I had just half of one of the miscellaneous beds to plant? I did smile to myself - when Lionel gave up the back half of the plot and Carl & Wendy upgraded their half at the front to the whole plot, they were a bit worried about the size, and what on earth they were going to fill it all with.

With the weeding out of the way, it was time to do what I'd set out to do - I ticked each job off the List as I went:

- I tickled over the area which used to house a pallet compost bin behind the shed with a fork, made a dip in the soil and planted out the prize pumpkin plant - it's tiny now, but just wait!

- I found the stiff green mesh which I used last year to support the cucumbers, supported it with canes and planted out three cucumber plants

- I planted out the brassicas bought at Focus into the nursery bed - their final resting place will be where the peas & beans are at the moment

- I wrestled with some netting to cover the brassicas - I may have rescued a pigeon from where it had got itself trapped under some netting on teacher Barry's son's plot last week, but I don't think that my act of kindness will cut any ice with the rest of the pigeon population

- I planted a pot of leeks out into the nursery bed - they will be put in after the first early potatoes are dug out. By growing them on from the pot into the nursery bed, I'm hoping that they will be a better size when I plant them out - they were far too small last year, and not a success

- I planted out a pot of red lettuce, and one of green lettuce - I've oversown in each pot and have about 30 of each. My patience was running out by then so I split the seedlings up into 8 smaller bunches and plonked them in, four or so to a station.

- I planted out a pot of swede - no idea why I sowed these in a pot rather than direct, and I don't know how well they will transplant - especially as I was getting really fed up by this point, so did the lettuce trick and split the pot into four and planted each bunch out as one.

- I planted out the final batch of broad bean seedlings

- I gave everything that I'd planted out a good water.

And then for the fun bit of collecting the booty - forking up a pentland javelin first early plant which yielded a dozen egg size potatoes; a bowl of strawberries; a couple of small lettuce; a great bunch of sweet peas; and half a carrier bag full of broad beans, mangetout and peas.

Dinner this evening really was excellent!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Eight Reasons to Love June

I think that June is my favourite month of the whole year - here's why:

Sweet peas - first picking of these this evening at the Hill. The scent is divine, & I hope to be picking these over the next couple of months.

They are from saved seed from last year's packet - which incidently cost 35p in the Wilko sale at the end of the previous season.

Light nights - these are fab, fab, fab. I love them.

Peas - probably my favourite veg. And (fingers crossed) I seem to have got the supports right for the first time this year - previous attempts at pea growing include a two foot high netting (the peas grew to twice that, despite what it said on the packet); harps with a different variety on each side (the strings rotted where they touched the soil & snapped); and netting on a V of bamboo canes (too flimsy, peas intertwined, pigeons sat on bamboo supports & ate peas). Wigwams seem to be the way to go here.

Broad beans - heros of the veg plot being first out the traps in terms of harvest, & freeze brilliantly without any faffing about.

Potatoes - although even the most ardent potato fan will concede that a jacket spud is pretty much a jacket spud, those first potatoes of the year out of the warm soil, with the skin wiped off and cooked with a spring of mint, salt and butter really cannot be beaten.

Strawberries - what is there not to love here? Must try strawbs with balsamic vinegar as Nic suggests - a bit counter-intuitive, but something chimes with me enough to have a go.

Weather - despite moaning about the variable weather (and yesterday was no exception - it rained ALL DAY LONG), June is a fantastic month to sit outside in the courtyard in the evening with a glass of something tasty, being shouted at by the blackbird - sorry Mr Blackbird, but it is my garden.

Cherries - I think that this must be a good year for them. The little tree in the courtyard is weighed down with ripening cherries, with no blackfly at all (or on the broad beans at the Hill, come to think of it). If the birds come near them, I will be eating pigeon pie - have taken to posting a cat-sentry on the bench.

Come to think of it, that's probably why I get a bollocking from the Mr B when I sit out in the evening.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Weather - And Lots Of It!

Between bouts of moaning about the weather being too dry (most of May); too wet (all of Spring Bank Holiday weekend); too hot (two days last week); too windy (as shown by the angle of the stems here of the poor ol' garlic) or too cold (virtually every other sodding day for the last month), I have been getting things done at the Hill.

My progress is aided by drawing up Lists which are concise & manageable, & by going to the Hill in the evenings when I am less likely to end up chatting for far too long & bumbling around doing half-jobs which just fill the time available - thus managing to avoid thinking 'I've been there five hours, I'm knackered, & what have I actually done?' on the way home.

An exception to the do-and-go was yesterday evening, which was sunny & tranquil & an utter delight, & when I'd finished the List - which read...

- Plant out petunias (bargain! 2 trays of 6 well grown plants for £3 from Morrisons Supermarket on Friday last)
- Pick broadies for tea (picked two dozen perfect pods with fingernail sized beans)
- Furtle under early potatoes (grubbed about to find two sizeable 'charlotte' potatoes)
- Pick any ripe strawberries (ate half a dozen on the spot)

...I hung around to watch the blackbird digging around the beds, watched by the robin; listened to the woodpecker thumping away, & strolled down to the bottom to see what everyone else was up to. Lovely.

The first batch of peas are overwhelming the wigwam & I've had to run an outer string around the plants to keep them in check (the pods are long, but still thin); & there are buds on the sweetpeas.

The running Plan that I keep of what's-planted-where shows that having planted out the climbing & the rest of the dwarf beans, the squash, cougettes & sweetcorn, there's only two thirds of a Miscellaneous bed unplanted on the whole plot - which gives me a headache as to where to plant out a bargain bag of shallots bought from the Focus DIY closing down sale.

I bought a tray of brussels sprouts & one of purple sprouting at the same time - they should be planted out after the peans & beans, but according to my guru John Seymour, they will come to no harm being grown on in a nursery bed until the ground is clear. We'll see - I've not had the knack of winter brassicas to date.

Weeding is ongoing, of course, but let's hear it for raised beds which make the job (almost!) a pleasure.

And absolutely nothing can compare to the first of the new potatoes!
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