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, July 24, 2011


... and the picking is eaaaaaaaasy.

What is really good about Summer is not just that there are zillions of yummy things growing and ready for picking, but that aren't many horrible jobs that you should be doing.

Apart from some weeding (easy peasy in the raised beds), it's courgettes, lettuce, dwarf beans, broad beans, and carrots all the way. Hurrah!

And when I'm taking a breather from that lot I can stuff my face with raspberries - the summer ones have come to an end now, just as the Autumn ones are kicking in.

Mind you, what will be a horrible job (as it involves netting) to be done soon will be to clear the pea wigwams and broad beans so that I can get the brassicas planted out from where they are in the nursery bed.

I'm having a bit of a dither about that as I'm not sure how soon I can take the pods from the (dead) pea plants that I am saving for seed for next year. Advice welcomed on that one.

The french beans win the prize for the most generous croppers at the moment - even above the courgettes - I picked half a carrier bag full again this evening. And where they win over the courgettes is that they freeze wonderfully too - with a quick snip to top & tail and then they are lined up like soldiers in small bags to freeze.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Courgette Season Starts ... NOW!

It is, of course, a very busy time of the year at the Hill - although a lot of the busyness comprises the same ol' job. Namely, weeding. And then some.

Squashing asparagus beetles is the other ongoing job - but there are fewer each time I go to the Hill, so perhaps I am winning the battle there.

We're enjoying a spell of mostly warm, mostly dry weather (I think that it is called 'Summer') which is bringing the crops on a treat (and the weeds) and everything is looking very good.

In between weeding is the best bit - picking gorgeous fruit and vegetables to eat.

Tonight alone I have dug up or picked:

- the garlic crop (and planted an extremely late bag of shallots in a spirit of optimism)
- the last of the first early potatoes (red duke of york*)
- the first of the dwarf french beans (emp of russia)
- carrots
- the first of the courgettes. Delicious! The real first sign of summer!
- broad beans
- raspberries, eaten on the spot

Yum, yum, yum!

*red duke of york potatoes. Not a good one for me, as it turns out - a total of just 17 potatoes dug up from six plants; then when gently simmered for 12 minutes, they turn into potato soup. One which I will NOT be growing again. Live and learn.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Just When It Was Going So Well...

Going to the Hill at this time of year consists of a great deal of picking peas, broad beans, sweet peas, mange tout, strawberries, raspberries, garlic, onion & potatoes.

Of course there are also great swathes of annual weed seeds germinating which need whipping out at the first opportunity, & although the raised beds make this a much easier job, it does have to be said that warm weather & showers bring the weeds on like mad.

But otherwise, all is very well with the world, thank you very much.

Except it is not, as I discovered on Wednesday lunchtime when I nipped over to the Hill to pick lunch.

"Tra la la", I sang in the sunshine, with a trug filling with plump, ripe produce, and the bees humming in the flowers, "tra la la".

Then Julie came down to see how I was getting on and to offer me gooseberries.

"Would you like to help yourself?" she asked, "we have done everything that we possibly can with gooseberries and there is still a full bush that we haven't touched yet! I have gooseberries in the freezer, as gooseberry fool, gooseberry chutney, jam - here, have a pot - we've given them to the neighbours & Phil is even making gooseberry wine." Well I don't need asking twice - brilliant!

We were having a look round my plot & comparing notes, when we came to the asparagus bed. Rather than looking suitably impressed with the bed, Julie said, "er, you do know that you have asparagus beetle, don't you...?"


And sure enough, closer inspection revealed plenty of the little beggars - beetles & grubs.

"At least I offered you the gooseberries first," comiserated Julie, "I didn't just come down here as a merchant of doom!".

Well, I guess that I'm grateful that she spotted them for me, & I am now on frequent bug-squashing raids. If I have to wait three years to eat the damn stuff, I'm damned if someone else is going to beat me to it.

I went back to the Hill later in the evening with long sleeves & gloves & picked a carrier bag of Julie's gooseberries - about half the bush - and I've topped and tailed them and frozen enough for a batch of wine (Phil has the best idea there) and a couple of pounds are left over which have just gone next door to my neighbours.

Elizabeth asked a good question in a previous comment when she said, "I planted my leek plants out about 4-5 weeks ago, and thought that was late. I may be wrong, but may be that's the reason your leeks weren't great last year?"

I checked in my copy of J Seymour, who says, "The trick of planting leeks after the spuds have been lifted can only be done if the spuds are early ones. Earlies are being eaten by June so leeks can be transplanted into the ground when it is clear."

So, the theory is ok, but I think that in previous years the pot-sown leeks that I have transplanted have been too small - this year I have planted pots of leeks out (right to left in the pic sown in January, April and May) into the nursery bed, and the earlier sown ones in particular look to be nicely 'pencil thickness' which all the books say is the right size to transplant.

I love leeks in the winter, so I do hope that I've got this one right.
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