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, June 13, 2017

More progress than setbacks. Just about.

Despite some difficult weather (v wet and windy), and a shortage of available hours in any particular day, I have nipped back and forth the the Hill over the past couple of weeks, got my head down, and made some progress.

That is to say, I have made progress in bed prep, and much overdue planting out; not so much on weeding, especially with the bramble-intent-on-world-domination.

So, the bean frames are now up, and since this photo, the climbing beans planted out.  They look a bit sad as I thought they were big enough to fend off slug attack, but in fact, I was wrong.  I planted out the dwarf French beans too, ditto, and ditto.

I went a bit mad and direct sowed a load more runner bean seeds against each pole, so when everything does take off, it'll be a bit mixed, but hey, what the heck,

At least the planted out brassicas are looking stalwart - and hopefully the butterfly/pigeon protective netting will keep them that way!

I did make a little headway with the bramble, I think, by taking a couple of foot of any of its hydra-like tentacles that my waving secateurs could find a hold on.

If effort equaled achievement, of course, I'd be sitting pretty on my bench admiring the view down the Hill, rather than with a face full of bramble, which is actually the case.  Onwards and upwards!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Step Forward - but an Invisible One

There is a big list of jobs to to be done at the Hill - all clamoring for attention!  The main jobs are to plant out both the brassicas and the dwarf and climbing beans.

Of course in order to plant out the brassicas, I need to scythe down the weeds on the end beds, and these will have to be bagged and taken to the green recycling at the tip as my compost bins are full full full.

In order to plant out the beans, I need to erect the bean frame; which - in turn - requires the cordless screwdriver, which is no longer working (won't hold it's charge - can't moan, had it for years, but the mind-boggling array of replacements available in Argos mean I have to do some research not just plunge in).

I think that Jayne has a phrase for this phenomenon - 'dependencies'.

So today I tackled some Extreme Weeding, and now the back of the car is stuffed full of bags to take to the tip in the morning. The brassica beds are 'better', as opposed to 'good'.

I then spent half an hour with the lumphammer and vampire-slaying stakes beefing up the sides of some of the beds - another task which is overdue.  I would have screwed the posts to the planks, of course, but the cordless is no longer working etc etc etc.

Progress of sorts.

A Step Back, a Step Forward

A couple of hot days, then some rain mean that my tomatoes in their pots in the courtyard are looking fabulous!  Also the brassicas, which really need planting out at the Hill.

Unfortunately the weather has brought everything green on, not just the tomatoes and brassicas.

This is the bed in which they are to be planted; a concerted effort needed this bank holiday weekend to knock the area into shape. The small bean plants in pots are in the same situation, so the bean frame needs fixing so I can get those planted out too.

I did reclaim the maincrop potato bed, though, and finally all the spuds are in, and I planted out the courgettes too - and the bed is ready for the squash to be planted out when they are big enough too.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Potting On

A weekend away playing on the trains in North Yorkshire........

...... but got back home in time to plant out the tomatoes and a cucumber into their final spots in the courtyard - although it was in the dark by the time I'd finished, hence this particularly poor pic.

I used a mix of tomato grow bag and MPC - after some years of peat free growing, I'm afraid I've succumbed to the dark side as my results last year (despite feeding well) in particular were very disappointing.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Busy, busy....

The trouble with this time of the year is that I tend to go on holiday, and also have my work cut out with training for our town's flagship fundraising event, both of which coincides with the weather being ideal for everything green going bonkers and growing at a triffid-like rate.

That means that some parts of the plot at the Hill look like this:

However, after today's hard work, at least some of looks like this, with the potatoes popping up....

.....and this, with newly laid chippings on the paths (seedlings are a mix of carrot, leek, parsnip and weed - I hoed the weeds, but am anxious not to disturb the other stuff) - which is more like it.

I have the bean beds to knock into shape before I can plant out the runners and French beans which are growing nicely at home, ditto a bed for the brassica seedlings.

Talking of seedlings, the new tomato seed packets that I bought from Wilko and sowed on 21st April showed no sign of life after three weeks - so I gave up and bought some small plants from the Farmers Market on Friday.

As you might guess, the following day, the seeds popped up. Ain't nature great?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sowing in pots #2

Due to the fact that I used rather aged seed when I sowed tomatoes, sweet peas, lettuce, brassicas and peppers last month, the success rate has not been what you might call phenomenal. In fact, although the lettuce and brassicas have all come good, only one batch of three lots of sweetpeas are up, and none of the tomatoes or peppers.

So I had a seed clearout (most were dated about 2010), and bought some fresh from Wilko.  The varieties might be a bit 'everyday', but at least they should actually grow.

Last night I sowed the new tomato seeds, climbing and dwarf beans, runner beans, squash and courgette.  Then I had a grand sweep up - amazing how far round a kitchen a bag of compost can get!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Potatoes in at last!

No photos as I left my phone at home when I went to the Hill today where I spent a couple of hours weeding and digging over a bed; hoed it level and poked the first earlies (sharpes express) and second earlies (charlotte) in the ground.

Dug out the remaining leeks from the next bed, where the maincrop will go, and ran out of enthusiasm and came home.

A job done, though.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bit by bit

You'd think that a couple of days off for the Easter break would mean I'd have plenty of time at the Hill, but not so - where does the time go?

I went down late afternoon with the intention of planting the potatoes (still!) but got side tracked with the front border.  Invasive grass is creeping in from the raspberry bed; and the three lavender bushes are leggy and straggly.

The plan is to replace the lavender, and I have half a dozen sturdy little plants at home ready to plant out - and to clear out the grass and its spaghetti roots once and for all.  I got to work with the fork and spent a satisfying hour or so loosening the soil and chasing the roots and picking out these and any  other weeds.  Plenty more to do, but the result looks good.

I rough dug the miscellaneous bed, so that's another one ticket off - and dug a few potatoes, a few leeks and pulled some rhubarb.

The pink stalks to the back of the pic for mum, the thicker ones to the front will form the basis of the first batch of rhubarb wine of the year.  Marvelous.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Planting Potatoes? Nope

At the Hill this week, the one job of most pressing importance was to plant the potatoes that I'd intended to do last weekend, but hadn't.

But instead of banging straight on in with that when I arrived in the afternoon sunshine yesterday, I got the spade and fork out and had another crack at getting the wild area by the bench into better order.

To this end, I dug out some of the blackberry-intent-on-world-domination roots, and clods of grass, raspberry suckers and dandelions.  I slogged away at this for about an hour and made a rough job of about 3 square feet.  Oh well, no one said it would be either quick or easy.

Then I got sidetracked with the easy option of raking the front bed that I'd prepped last week and filling it with a row of parsnip, a row of leek and a row of carrot seed.

And I dug some potatoes, and pulled a few leeks, and decided that was enough for the session and came home.  Another day, and all that....

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Half a Job

The clocks went forward last weekend (which gives us more daylight in the evenings), so with that and the better weather, it does feel like Spring is well and truly upon us.
I wish someone would tell the tomato seeds I sowed a couple of weeks ago - not a hint of them coming up, so I'll have to have another go with different seed.  They were pretty elderly, so it's not a complete surprise.  The brassicas all up and running, and lettuce and sweet peas too.

I went to the Hill today with the intention of at least getting the spuds planted.  I got sidetracked, however, and made a thorough and comprehensive job of weeding the front bed, ready for carrots on parsnips.

Then I took the bean frame down and moved it to it's new position (that is, chucked the two end supports onto the bed that they need to be fixed to).

I dug up some leeks - we could be charitable and call them trendy 'baby leeks' to make them feel better about themselves.  Then I dug a couple of the picasso potatoes - they haven't fared quite as well as the carolus, and have some slug damage, but not too bad.

Finally, I pulled the first few stalks of rhubarb, and came home.  Never did get those potatoes planted....

Saturday, March 18, 2017


Had a morning out having a look round the 'posh' garden centre with mum and was treated to coffee and cake - hurrah! - then we buzzed off the the garden centre which actually has plants, and I bought my seed potatoes.

This evening, I've done my first sowing session. Every year I say I'll sow successionally, but never do - so it's this one, and the bean/pea/tender crops in about a month and that's it.

I now have pots of brassicas (cauli, cabbage, kale, broccoli) and tomatoes and peppers, and lettuce.

 I'm rather surprised that my little helpers didn't join in - they must be slipping, an 'interesting thing' generally brings them from rooms, if not floors away; even if the 'interesting thing' is being done silently or when they are flat-out asleep.

Friday, March 17, 2017

With Apologies to Tennyson.....

.....'In the Spring a gardener's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of seed sowing' - or somesuch.

So tomorrow I'm going to the garden centre for seed potatoes and compost; and this evening I have had a sort of the seed box.

It all was going very well until help arrived.

If things turn out anything like the jigsaw I have just completed which has seven pieces missing (presumed hidden under the fridge, in my handbag, down the settee, behind the stationery cabinet in the office etc etc), I will be finding seed tapes in odd places for some while yet.

Probably just as well that I haven't got the pea and bean stocks out just yet - such fun.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Tidying up

It's been a very Spring-like day today, so it was a pleasure to be at the Hill this afternoon.

I did quite a bit of 'housekeeping' - I gathered lots of stray bits of 'I'm sure this will come in useful' wood which have now gone rotten and put them in the car ready for the tip.

Then I had a bout of sumo with one of the dalek composters.  I wrestled it to the ground and emptied it, and re-sited it.  I forked quite a bit of uncomposted stuff back in, then recommenced battle with the bramble intent on World Domination.

I spent half an hour or so adding pulled up dead grass, over-zealous comfrey and snipped up bits of bramble into the dalek, and added a couple of bags of horse muck too. This 'wildlife area' probably need another session of clearing before I can tackle it with a fork - and I need to decide what to do with this area.

Chris from down the bottom came by - I haven't seen her for ages, so we sat on the new bench and chatted for a while.  I note that the view is spoiled somewhat by the pallet (left over from forming a pallet compost bin) - it'll have to go.

She went off to her plot, and I dug the last of the Carolus potatoes.  It was time to go home - though still plenty light enough at 5.45pm - so I lifted about half of the leeks too (freeing the end of the bed ready for the next dalek re-location) and headed off


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Changing Storage mk II

Started off in the drizzle this afternoon at the Hill which didn't bother me - I have a hat, and those with a hat laugh in the face of rain.

Today's job was to dismantle the shed and transport it to the tip.  Full marks for the first job, but a fail on the second as the tip closed before I got there.

I gave the slabs a brush (more of a rinse down as the rain had become rather more substantial by this time), then moved the storage bench to it's new spot, which boasts a lovely view down the site and across the field.

I spent a determined half hour doing battle with the bramble which aspires to world domination and made some headway clearing the space euphemistically know as the 'wildlife area'.  I dug some more potatoes (which I now note are completely rubbish as boilers), and a couple of leeks.

By this time, despite my hat laughing at the rain, my coat and feet were soaked through, so I took my car full of rotten wood home, and hope that no permanent harm will come to the interior before I get to the tip in the morning.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Changing Storage

Today was a day to rearrange furniture.  The garden storage bench which I was kindly given in the Autumn has been assembled and been in the kitchen for the past couple of months or so where it has been a surprisingly useful addition - if a bit odd looking in the setting.

So I ordered a proper kitchen dining bench yesterday; and today I took the garden storage bench to the Hill.  The idea is that the few things that have been kept in the shed (rather on its last legs)....

.....will now be kept in the bench, which will have the added advantage of providing a handy place to sit.  Turned to be a bit of a fail on the first point, as both of my hoes are too long to fit in *sigh

No matter, the overall plan is a good one - and the shed will take it's final journey to the tip next weekend now that I have emptied it and evicted all the spiders, snails, woodlice, a few worms, and a sleepy wasp.  At least dismantling is unlikely to cause any great difficulties.

I dug some potatoes to take home -  they are magnificently preserved, and have none of the slug damage that the first and second earlies had last year. Hurrah!  The variety is Carolous, and although waxy, so didn't make the best roasties this evening, are certainly worth growing again.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Making a Start

It's been a reasonable Winter so far - some frosty nights, and chilly days, but nothing to moan about.  In fact if I can brave this January's weather in shorts and tee to go running, then there are really no excuses not to have been doing some 'Winter work' at the Hill.   Even so, today has been my first visit to the Hill since before Christmas.

I spent a couple of hours cutting down the raspberry canes; upending, moving and refilling one of the dalek composters (one down, three to go); and rough forking the front two beds.

An unexpected plus were a few of last year's potatoes which are still in the ground - I dug a few and found them surprisingly un-slugged (variety Carolus).

Less impressive were the leeks - small, and leek moth damaged - but I still managed to get enough good bits of leek for tea with the potatoes.

I think that counts as a win.

What goes round, and round again. And again.

So the problem with a gardening blog that goes on for some years is that you get a sense of deja vu after a while; and I feel that I am typing the same old, same old - boring to write, boring to read.

Except that perhaps that doesn't matter, and perhaps there is a comfort of familiarity of the seasons turning and the actions that accompany them.

Or perhaps that is a heap of pretentious nonsense, and I should just knuckle down and make a point of using the blog as intended - to make a note of doing what, when.

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