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, July 24, 2012

Falling In Love Again

Anyone from Mars who happened across a whole bunch of gardeners' blogs this Spring will have wondered why on earth any of us in the UK continue with a so-called pleasure giving hobby, due to the fact that there is not one amongst us, I don't think, who hasn't found the weather this Spring extremely trying.

Even the hardy hobbit who pretty much lives outside in the elements has sounded less than enthusiastic - and who can blame her with well over a foot of rain falling on her Cumbrian idyll this year so far?

Any trips that I have had to the Hill over the past three months have been either in the rain; or not in the rain until I've been there for two minutes when it has started.  The enthusiasm is dented because the days have not been warm, the nights less so.  Anything that I have planted out has been eaten by slugs or snails (I'm on my fifth try at carrots, the third of french beans); the only things to thrive have been the weeds (and teh peas, oddly).

And yet.

It has been dry since Friday, sunny over the weekend - and glorious today.  The tomatoes in the courtyard have put on three inches in as many days; and at the Hill, the courgettes are finally big enough to withstand slug attack, the re-sown french beans are up, and the peas are going wild.

Last week I'd heard that there was a lovely pile of chippings up by the store shed.  I'd love to thank the unknown donor as these are exactly what I want to refresh the paths (although I might argue that I would have been saved a great deal of effort and a number of hours yesterday pushing the damn wheelbarrow up and down the Hill if they had been dropped off somewhat nearer the plot).

So the paths look fabulous, the beds are weeded, a start has been made on the 'messy corner', and I ate a punnet full of raspberries tonight (after some rudimentary carpentry to mend the collapsing frame); and came home the first of the peas; some wonderful broad beans and new potatoes, warm from the soil.

That's why I do it.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

With the weather continuing to be very wet - heavy showers several times a day - but warm, there is no getting away from the fact that this is not shaping up to be a great veg growing year, but I'm trying to look on the sunny side, and there are a number of plus points to bring home with me from the Hill today

Broad beans - although the plants are still sorely tried by blackfly, they are also swarming with ladybirds, and  these tiny first pickings have come home with me to be steamed to go with dinner.

Raspberries- wild growth of the summer raspberries has broken the support, so I've had to perform a temporary fix, meanwhile the fruit is ripening, and tasting delicious.   Must take a box to collect them in next visit, or I will just scoff the lot there and then, like I did today.

Courgettes & Cucumbers - both doubled in size since last weekend, and surrounded by snail graveyard.  Yuk.  At least the pellets are doing their job.

Peas -  these are astonishingly good.  A great jungle of foliage and more tiny pods than you can shake a stick at.  I've deliberately grown more tried and tested 'eating' peas (as opposed to mange tout or marrowfat) so that I will have plenty to freeze.  Just as well given that the poor old beans are not going to be great this year, I fear.

Mind you, it is tricky to see what on earth I'm going to be able to enter for the Show this year - just five weeks away, with the Schedule & entry form was published this week....

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Losing The Battle But Not The War

Yes, I know that all gardeners grumble about the weather and we always qualify each success or failure with 'well, it really has been a bit of a funny year, hasn't it?' - well this year I do think that we might have a point.  It's been a warm and dry March followed but a cold and very, very wet second quarter, and there is a distinct lack of 'Summer' going on, even though it is July.

I was very gloomy after arriving at the Hill today as I went round counting up the casualties - looking at the beans losing the battle against the damn slugs, and seeing that the carrots have still not done anything at all, and - worst of all, and despite the slug pellets - seeing the SNAIL GRAVEYARD where my planted out uchiki kuri (red onion) squash plant was.

Past tense.


The broad beans have got blackfly, the calabrese seedlings under their netting are looking skeletal (no idea what's causing that particular one).

However, the courgettes have made it through, as have two out of three of the cucumbers; the peas are looking terrific; and I did bring home rhubarb, the first of the new potatoes and dug up a row of garlic - smaller than I would have hoped, but ok nonetheless.

I weeded like fury and left a sea of blue slug pellets in my wake.  I know, I don't like it either - but I do want to eat beans.  And squash.  And cucumbers.  And calabrese. And carrots - although I am not entirely sure that the slugs are the culprits in this instance.

On the plus side too, underneath the incredible mass of growth on the red and black currant bushes there are jewel like strings of currants very nearly ready to pick.

I was just about to come away when the muck delivery arrived, so I pitched in to help unload, and then did my community bit by emptying about a third of the bags in to the manure skip.  I took half a dozen bags to put on the squash bed - it's far too fresh and hot, really, but I'll clear a space to plant out a new squash and it should have calmed down a bit by the time the squash grows over it.

Then home to sow a couple of replacement squash, a second batch of leek seeds, and some kale for some winter fresh veg.

And then a much needed bath.
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