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 28, 2013

Hmm. Flower Growing.

Although I did not go to the Hill on Sunday - ye gods it's cold out there - I do have the seeds on the windowsill stirring, which means that I need to get the little greenhouse in order so that they can be hoofed out when they are up.  Something for me to sort out over this Easter weekend, I think.

I'm not twiddling my thumbs, though - the Hill committee arranged for one of the plotholders, John H (who I don't know), to give a talk on Tuesday evening about chrysanthemum growing.  Now I've never given any thought to chrysanthemums before, but as the chap has been bothered to put a presentation together, and it was held in the clubhouse which we are all encouraged to support, I could see no good reason not to get along there to drink the excellent beer learn something new.

The talk was 7.30 for 8pm, so about 20 of us assembled beforehand in the bar for a drink to grumble about the weather and to out-compete each other with a sort of inverse brag on how little we had managed to get done.  Think of the Python's Four Yorkshiremen sketch, and you're somewhere near the sentiment.

The hour-long talk was well structured and informative - and from a position of going along to 'make up the numbers', I was soon in there with note taking, questions, a commitment to put aside room to grow chrysanths this year and the fervent hope that I would be lucky enough to have my name come out the hat for some of John H's left over cuttings.

Marvellous - I'm really glad I went!  Thanks to John H and to the committee for organising, and now looking forward to the next 'flowery' talk in a couple of weeks...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Adapting to the Circumstance

I could have a right good rant about the weather.  I could do, but I won't.

Not because it isn't terrible, because it is - bloody cold and with snow is forecast from tonight through to Sunday, BUT because despite it being cold and miserable, I can remember snow at Easter before, and cold weather, and rain, so although it is miserable, it is not unknown.

It's just that when you look at the seed packet and it says 'sow March - May', you want to sow in March, and I have got away with that for the past five years.  Parsnips sown every February; potatoes in late Feb/early March; broad beans planted out in March; and so it goes on.

This year, not a hope.

I do have all my March indoor sowings completed (BROAD BEAN (crimson flowered & self saved); PEA (sugar snap ceresa & harold idle); TOMATO; PEPPER; CELERIAC; LEEK (st vincent), LETTUCE, SPRING ONIONS (apache) and BANANA SHALLOTS all sitting on the window sills.

I also have a tray of sweet peas in - I had to buy a packet from Wilko as I couldn't find my saved ones from last year.  I knew they'd turn up eventually, which they did - after the event (obviously) - I just would have preferred not to have found them through that well-tested method of inadvertently upending the paper bag, thus scattering them far and wide...

The chances of getting my outdoor sowings due to be done in March (beetroot, parsnip, radish and carrot), are slim to none.  I can't fight the weather, so I'll wait until the ground is right, not the seed packet.

Oh - and it's just started to snow.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Slow Start to Spring

Despite it being mid March, the weather has not realised that it should be thinking about being Spring, so I have been pretty much sitting on my hands rather than sowing seeds, with the exception of the tomatoes and bits & bobs that I put in last weekend (which the cats promptly upended on the floor).  After all, there's no point in having pots of seedlings ready to be planted out but being too cold and miserable to do so.

But surely we should be seeing something of an improvement soon, so this week I re-sowed the  TOMATOES and also some CELERIAC, BROAD BEANS (crimson flowered) and sweet peas - the trays are on window sills more inaccessible to cats, but less convenient for me.  Hey-ho - life is a compromise.

This morning, the extra two compost daleks arrived, so I headed off to the Hill with these along with and a big tub of  green shed preservative and a paint brush.  Yes, after having the toolshed in situ for five years, I am going to treat it to what is only it's second spruce up in that time.  Here is the 'before' pic.

I know why it doesn't get a coat every year now - painting sheds is not only a messy job, it is also no fun at all.  Boooooring.  No matter, bored or not, I got it out the way and it looks a damn site better than it did. And here is the 'after' pic.

Actually, today's weather was nicer than of late, with even an attempt at sunshine - although according to Richard (three plots down) and his trusty soil thermometer, the soil is only at 2 degrees.  Blimey - no wonder I am not planting out my potatoes yet!

I did take a bag of shallots down to plant out, though - I figured that they are pretty hardy, and even if they sit there and don't do much until it warms up further, they shouldn't actually die.  The garlic in the same bed is now coming through, which is always a cheery sign. 

I wouldn't let myself come home before doing a bit more with the messy compost bins - although the photo seems to show them getting more out of hand, rather than less.  

It is an improvement, though, as I've turned the top of the bigger left hand heap into the right hand bin which I (mostly) emptied the other week, so I can pretty much get straight in and dig out/distribute what's left in that bin next week (and put the unrotted stuff in the right hand bin in the new daleks) - just in time to plant potatoes out over the Easter break at the end of the month - weather permitting!  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Despite Everything, Happiness

The weather has been ghastly for the past week or so - perishingly cold with snow flurries and gale strength winds cutting right though you, the only thing I would have done at the Hill this weekend was be cold and miserable - so I didn't bother.

Instead, I've ordered two more dalek composters (and because I didn't order these at the same time as the other two, that's five quid postage and packaging down the nicker), and I had a look on line to see what gardeners around the country are up to.

The answer to that is that they are getting a move on sowing their seeds undercover ready for Spring when it finally gets here, leaving me behind; so I spent a merry evening shuffling seed packets into envelopes corresponding to the month they are to be next sown, and then hoicked a bag of compost out of the garage and spent another merry evening popping tomato, spring onion, leek and lettuce seeds into pots.

The pots went into a gravel tray in the spare bedroom, away from the cold windowsill - but not, it transpires, away from the cats, who managed to upend most of the pots onto the carpet this morning.

No-one's holding their paw up for this one, and despite forensic examination of the crime scene where the tomato pots have crashed to the floor, but not the tray that they were in, or the lettuce or leeks; and interrogation of the two suspects, nothing gives.

On the plus side, the seeds hadn't germinated and all I've lost is a few days, so the compost has been scooped up and will be used for the pots of broad beans, and I'll start again with the tomatoes.

On an even more cheery note, I had a card out of the blue from Clare in France, who I've known online for ages, who read about my lack of parsnips and has sent me saved seed from her garden last year. Totally unexpected, and wonderfully kind - thank you, Clare!

And speaking of the vagaries of the British weather - bear in mind that it is the middle of March, before now, I have planted out the potatoes in the third week of February and they cropped in late May.  With a wind chill of about minus a zillion this week, they wouldn't have had a cat's chance in my house this morning hell.

Onward and upwards!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Bed Preparation

The last few days have been getting gradually warmer, and this morning we even had a glimpse of sunshine - hurrah!  It was cloudy and cooler by the time I got to the Hill early afternoon, but nonetheless, it has been the nicest day to be out so far this year.

I had two aims for today - the first was to get my membership renewal form up to the Clubhouse, the second to continue the clearing and eventual dismantling of the horrible compost bins.

The first was a cinch - although it took a little longer than strictly necessary to drop the form off, as it would have been very rude not to stop for a swift half whilst I was there.

Down to the plot, and I immediately got sidetracked by one of the yet-to-be-dug-over beds - I got the fork out, and worked my way down pulling out all the weeds accompanied closely by Mr Blackbird.  Normally I'd rough dig and turn in all the weeds (except the dandelions), but although weeding thoroughly took longer, I wanted to feed those shiny new dalek composters!

That job out the way, I couldn't avoid the horrible compost bins any longer.  I tackled the smaller right hand bin which has been working away longer, so it should be more composted than the other.

Once I'd pushed the top 6" or so of twiggy uncomposted stuff out the way, I was pleased with the state of what was there - ok, so you wouldn't want to sow your seeds straight in it, but it was great for topping up one of the beds which will be potatoes this year.

A heavy going job, but satisfying - there's about half that bin still left to empty, but my back told me that that'll be a job for another day.
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