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...........

Monday, November 19, 2018

Clearing Up!

As the Autumn has been fairly mild, the weeds continue to grow, so today's job was to weed the leek bed. 

Quite a few of the leeks are troubled with leek moth - again - but I think that with a whole bed planted, I should be able to be eating at least a few meals this winter.

The summer crops still need clearing, and the garlic planting - never a dull time on the plot.

Monday, November 12, 2018

And now for the Winter Crops!

Now that the beans and courgettes have well and truly finished, it's time to clear them from the plot, along with the sweetcorn.

I finished doing that this afternoon, after having a couple of weekends working on the side of the plot with the aim replacing the weed suppressant and re-laying the bark chippings.  Still only half way through that one. 

As one crop finishes, another is ready to harvest, assuming that you are a bit organised (bit hit and miss with me) - so I came home this afternoon with a carrier bag full of kale, and the first of about a dozen cabbages, which is the size of my head.  Leeks look good too, but they can wait for another day.

I'm not eating parsnips this year as I was less organised with sowing those back in the early Spring, and unless I get the garlic planted out soon, I won't be eating that next Summer either....

Monday, September 10, 2018


Well, I've done really well this summer keeping on top of allotment produce by picking everything really small, giving stuff to everyone I know, freezing the runner beans, and - let's face it - eating an awful lot of french beans and courgettes.

But I am now just a bit overwhelmed!  This haul is from today's visit to the Hill, and one picking session last week, and doesn't include the three baby courgette I had for tea tonight.

In other news, I am gradually working my way down the side beds - re-staking and digging them over.  Three of these down, two tricky ones to go.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Autumn Round the Corner

After the  excitement of the Annual Show, I happened to have a few days away, so on my first visit back to the Hill this evening I find half a dozen huge courgettes - which I ditched (have had enough years of varying success with courgette soup/shredded courgette in the freezer/free for all courgettes for the neighbours) - and picked five baby ones to use.

I had a 'cuckoo in the nest' bean which has turned out to be a purple climber - and how prolific is this one plant!  Can also see the beans against the green foliage, which makes them easier to pick; and they are utterly stringless when cooked, even if a bit big. Fortuitous sowing error.

I picked a carrier bag of runners and french beans - some of the runners too big to use, but most OK. I find that runners freeze brilliantly (french beans not so much), so when I got back tonight I've had a string/slice/chop session.

I had a good weeding session, and note the brassicas all looking fab.  It's still warm enough in the evenings for a t shirt, although it is noticeable how the nights are drawing in.

Retired to the club house at 8.30pm at dusk for the customary quick beer - and I caught the start of tonight's entertainment - a performer doing 'songs from the movies' - ah, those Summer Nights.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Annual Show 2018

Plenty of fun at the Annual Show, as ever. 

Great quality in all the veg classes, despite difficult growing conditions this year, and it is always good to celebrate the season with the other growers.

This year, the only veg prize for me was in the odd shaped veg category for a little french bean, but I was very happy with a first prize for my fruit cake - it was worth having a second attempt after all!

Nothing for my biscuits, but a third for my Plum and Apple chutney. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Annual Show Prep

It's Annual Show time again, so went to the Hill yesterday to pick everything in sight, then spent last night sorting through French and runner beans, rhubarb and courgettes. 

Biscuits and cake are made, the chutney is potted up, and I have a funny little bean to enter in the 'odd veg' category. 

The sun is shining, and it promises to be a lovely day.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Great Job and an Inadequate Job

After some much needed rain this weekend, I went to the Hill this evening to keep on top of picking the courgettes, have an eye out for possible entries in next week's Annual Show; and to make a start on re-staking the asparagus bed, and reclaiming it from the dandelions which seem to have taken up residence.

But the first job was to sort out the netting cage over the first brassica bed - the whole caboodle has slid sideways - shown here.  I knew at the time that I build it that it lacked integrity, and my temporary 'mast' has worked for a week or two to keep it upright, it needs a more permanent solution. 

I knocked in a vertical stake at each end, and screwed each of these through into the cross piece, and instantly it is more robust.  Brilliant.

Getting the asparagus bed cleared required some caution - I can't just fork all the dandelions out as I'd be digging up the asparagus crowns too, so it was a case of wriggling the fork about to loosen the soil, and try to pull the dandelions out. 

With inch thick, foot long roots, many of which I snapped - most of the dandelions will be back, so I've won the battle but not the war. I hope that I haven't done the asparagus too much damage - as it is, I can see about 4 gaps where the crowns are not active/dead, so maybe I should be looking at replacing those.  Annoying not to be able to clear the bed properly.

Whilst clearing the weeds, I got absolutely bitten to bits - and ended up with a forearm swollen to the size of Popeye's - so I called it a day and retreated to the club house for restorative beer before home time.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

In - collect veg - out

A lightning visit to the Hill tonight before a gym class to make sure that I am on top of courgette production.  I cut five lovely small ones; then picked a handful of runners, and the same of climbing french beans.

It's like shoplifting in the greengrocers.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

A Bit of a Bodge

When we had that small amount of rain a couple of weekends ago, it was accompanied by some blustery winds, and both of my hooped netting cages suffered. The first one - a bit of a makeshift affair anyway - didn't surprise me, but the more robust of the two also lurched to one side.

After having a look at how others constructed their hoop cages, I see that I am missing a vertical from each end, so it was an easy fix on the second cage - a couple of long stakes hammered in and a couple of screws into the bracing bar. Brilliant.

The more rickety of the two may need further thought - it certainly looks a bit squashed at the mo.

I also wanted to finish staking the first of the fruit beds tonight - I think this is my third go at it.  A new lump hammer should have made light work of the stakes, but I got them in to the ground by about a foot when they seem to hit a solid layer.

I poured water into the holes to soften the ground to no real avail, and then cheated by cutting a couple of the stakes down a few inches.  Screwed them to the bed sides, and that was that.

Pick half a dozen courgettes - getting a tiny bit big for comfort - a punnet of runners and the same again of climbing french beans. Picked some tomatoes when I got home too, and had about the freshest tea ever.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Some Progress

I went to the Hill yesterday with a view to finish re-staking and digging over the first of the fruit beds at the side. 

First step was to fork over the bed - firstly to get the weeds out the bed, as the comfrey in this bed has grown rampant and spread to the paths round, and beyond; second, the ground is rock hard as it is so dry, and this area has not been worked, and I hope to loosen the soil to make it a bit easier to knock the stakes in.

The comfrey needs replanting in a tub to contain it - a brilliant idea which unfortunately, I only came up with this morning, but I suspect that even after my efforts with the fork, it will grow back, and I'll do the replanting job then.

The second step was to knock the stakes in - but they were still almost impossible to drive home - I made progress for a while before the lump hammer broke with the top flying off the handle.  Don't know my own strength - ha ha.

Picked a few baby courgettes, a portion of runner beans, and retired to the club house for a quick beer before home time.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Hard Going

I couldn't get to the Hill until nearly 8.30pm last night and was limited to how much I could get done - it is noticeable that there is not quite so much day length now. 

I'd aimed to restake and dig over the first of the fruit beds down the side of the plot ('before' pic here), but it was clear from trying to knock the first of the stakes in that this would not be as easy as for the main beds - these side beds are more permanent in terms of planting and so the soil is pretty solid as they haven't been turned over much.

I switched tack and made a start on forking over and clearing the bed of an offspring of the Bramble Intent on World Domination, a sickly blueberry bush which has yielded about 3 blueberries in 8 years, and some unruly comfrey. 

This was also hard going, and I ran out of light before finishing the job, so that's where to start next time round.

Picked half a dozen small courgette - keeping on top of these so far this year - and few runner beans before heading home.

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Day of Light Rain

If you listened very closely yesterday, when we had the first rain for maybe two months, you could hear the ground making the fainted of noises, like a million straws sucking the last of the milkshake from the glass.

It wasn't enough to water much more than the most superficially rooted of crops - although enough to germinate the weed seeds, I'm sure - but what there was was much appreciated.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Reward for a Job Well Done

Didn't get to the Hill until later on this evening, but still reckoned I could finish laying the weed suppressant on the final three paths between the main beds, and cover them with chippings.

I did have time to do this, along with some watering, and dug three first early potato plants which have died off - an unsurprisingly low yield, given the weather.

It was still 28ÂșC, even at dusk, and I could hear the sound of the band playing through the open windows of the clubhouse, so Eric - who had been watering his plot at the bottom of the Hill - and I dodged the entrance fee and the well dressed ladies and gents, and sneaked in for a quick beer.   

Still humming Run Around Sue as I left to come home for late tea and indignant and hungry cats. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Another Step Forward

Had to do a bit of emergency watering as soon as I got to the Hill tonight - those brassicas that I planted out two days ago under the new netting frame were flat and limp on the soil. Uh-oh!  I caught them in time, though, as after a good drenching, by the time I left, they had perked up.

So, still no rain - but it does mean that the pile of wood chippings I'm using to cover the weed suppressant I'm laying on the paths is desiccated and light as a feather, and I can easily fill and carry dustbins full. 

Tonight's job was to do another three paths - which one roll of suppressant covers - and I have three more to do, so a trip to Wilko for supplies tomorrow.  It's looking good, I must say.

Picked a few baby courgettes, and a handful of runner beans for tea tonight - delicious.

Monday, July 23, 2018

That Went Well!

After nipping to the Hill in the morning to catch a committee member to sell me some netting from the storeshed, I returned to the Hill last night to get to grips with the brassica bed construction. 

It turned out to be quite an easy job to measure the spacings for the blue pipe, and attach the wooden top brace.

I planted out the poor pot-bound, aphid-infested cabbage and cauli, watered them in, then threw the netting over.

It looks fabulous, if I say so myself.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Better - but more to be done

I finished digging over bed8 this evening, but wasn't in the mood for the fiddly drilling of the cross beams in order to secure the blue piping for this brassica bed.  No rush to get this done this evening, as I need to buy scaffold netting from the shed before planting out.  A job nearly done nonetheless. 

Just in case I was feeling smug, I still need to lay weed suppressant and chippings on the paths, and I haven't made a start on the wild side of the 'fruit' beds running up the side of the plot. 

Issues to be dealt with there include working out how to weed big rooted weeds out of the asparagus bed without screwing the asparagus; removing Offspring of Bramble Intent on World Domination which still lurks; beating the red and blackcurrant bushes into some sort of shape; and getting shot of the couch grass which troubles the raspberry bed.

And all of this whilst wondering how to deal with the inevitable courgette glut that three plants are about to yield.  Never mind - motown tribute act Mel Day just starting his set at the club house whilst I had a quick beer - left me humming 'my girl' all the way home. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Final Main Bed Refurb

I had a plan tonight - to re-stake bed8 and dig it over; harvest beans/ courgette/ rasps as applicable.  My plan was scuppered a bit as I only had enough stakes at the plot to beef up one side of the bed, and I forgot to take punnets with me for the bounty.

So I made do with what I had, and will finish the the bed at the weekend, and dig over the other half; and will also be able to buy some netting from the shed to cover the blue hoops, and plant out the pot-bound, aphid infested cauli and cabbage which are languishing at home.

Quite a social one tonight - a couple of nearby plotholders where about watering, I saw Alan from the committee who came down for a chat, as well as Margie from the club house walking her lovely dog down the plots.  Especially nice to see Zoe-next-plot - I'm surprised we don't bump into each other more often - we had a catch up as I forked out couch grass, and she ripped out raspberry suckers.  I have her to thank for these pics - my phone battery was flat.

Even more social was popping into the club house for a quick beer afterwards - the ballroom dancers were in tonight, so I was treated to entertainment too. Marvellous.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Always Have 'a Plan'

Despite a full evening at the Hill, because I have a number of current goals in mind (clear, re-stake and dig over bed8; weed, lay weed suppressant and woodchip the paths; water; pick stuff), I ended up tonight not finishing any of them, really.

It's still very dry indeed - although on my way back from running last night, I did get caught in a shower - enough to wet tarmac, not to water the crops - but enough to bring the weeds on.

I weeded two of the paths ready for laying weed suppressant, then bit the bullet and cleared bed8 of the 7' tall gone-to-seed parsnips and leeks. At least I can see where the bed edges should lie now, and the re-staking and final forking over is now an easier job for later in the week.

Those lavender bushes at the front of the plot - straggly and woody as they are - have been brilliant for bees, and although I have half a dozen new neat plants at home ready to replace these two, I'll wait until the bees are done.

I picked raspberries (going off now), french beans (in full production), the first of the runners, a few courgettes, and even a few first early potatoes.  Five nice sized spuds from four plants is hardly a great yield, but maybe better than expected given the weather.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Just for Posterity

I nipped up to the Hill tonight to water those sad parched plants.  A rare hot sunny Summer has been a delight for so many reasons, but for anything needing a bit of moisture (e.g. anything green, or anyone who runs), it's been a bit of a challenge.

Another rarity is the England footy team doing a bit well in - well - anything, so I was keen to go mad along with the rest of the country and get back in time to see how they got on the world cup semi-final (spoiler alert: er - not well). 

But I was at the Hill long enough to take this 'before' pic of the next path for de-weeding, fabric suppressing and chipping.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Paths Next

I am putting off tackling bed8 in terms of re-staking and getting it ready for planing, by using the excuse that the bees love the parsnip flowers.  Well, they did, but they are setting seed now (which I don't need) so there is no excuse not to crack on.

That aside, I decided to spend my time at the Hill last night on re-weeding the path between bed1 and bed2, putting down weed suppressant then chippings.  Weeding paths is - again - like repainting the Forth road bridge, so an evening spent on solving the problem if not for good, then for the next two or three years is a good thing to do.

Hardly a great amount achieved given the time there, but I did chat to Paul J and Eric as they came by, which is part of the fun.

Finished off by picking rasps, french beans and the first of the courgettes.

PS wonder why I never remember to take 'before' pics - it would be very impressive!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Forward Thinking

After tea round at mum's for half an hour - which somehow turned into nearly three - I didn't get to the Hill to finish off laying my weed suppressant and bark chippings until 9pm when it was nearly dusk. 

Still, five dustbin-fuls of chippings from the plentiful pile just a couple of plots down and I finished the job.  I think that the plan will be to do the same weed suppressant/ chippings exercise on all the paths - the weeds are rampant, again.

Once I've working down to bed8, I can then re-stake, and dig over, evicting the flowering leeks and parsnip.  I have brassica to plant out, and new supplies of blue pipe to make a netting enclosure.

Thinking slightly further ahead, I will be digging up my poor dried up first early spuds shortly, and have nothing ready to go in the bed; although a rifle through the seed stocks the other day revealed plenty of those seed tapes. 

I have had what you might call limited success with these (i.e. none), but if I have a bed doing nothing, they might as well go in (despite suitability or otherwise of time of year or crop 'family'). 

Picked a punnet of raspberries in the gloom, then had a celebratory beer at the club house - gotta love Summer.

A New Space

At the top end of the plot, the 20' by 10' area (where I spent a lot of time and effort earlier in the year getting shot of the bramble Intent On World Domination) is what you might call 'fallow'.  i.e. cleared, mostly.

I've spend some time keeping the area weed free, but it is a bit like painting the Forth Road Bridge - a never ending task.

So today, I gave the area a final fork/weed; then a good hoeing to level, then started to lay weed suppressant and chippings on the area.  It will afford a great view from the bench, and leave the area for future considered use.

Fruit trees perhaps?

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Distraction Therapy

After a lighting trip to the Hill last night to pick french beans and raspberries; and to make a rushed and inadequate job of the watering, I got home in time to watch the England match on TV.

Whilst waiting for the boys to come up with the goods and beat Columbia (on penalties), I potted on the late sown tomatoes.

I don't mind if the plants don't have enough of the growing season left for the tomatoes to ripen - on the contrary, green tomatoes are just the thing for making chutney.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Thinking On Your Feet

I went to the Hill yesterday to plant out some brassicas.  Nice easy job - the bed is prepared and the plants are in individual pots, ready to go.

Of course, if you just plant out brassicas and leave it like that, they will last about 3 minutes before the combination of butterflies and pigeons do for them, so they need some sort of frame and netting.

I'd thought ahead, and had a blue pipe/wooden brace combo mapped out in my head.  This was nearly the world's best idea, but turns out to have an inherent weakness of design; and will thus need adjustment - or possibly total rebuild.  In the meantime, the whole caboodle is propped up with an impromptu - and somewhat oversized - upright. 

Fortunately, the netting is big enough to still fit over, and my brassicas - barring structure collapse - are snug and safe.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Dry June

We've had virtually no rain at all in June, and it has been hot and sunny.  Not that I mean to be disparaging about Summer, but it does mean that the beds need watering for the veg to flourish.

It's only a couple of miles or so the the Hill, so with no plans to do any planting out until tomorrow, I made the most of the cool of the evening and ran a roundabout route through Sutton Park to Jane's for refreshing tea and chat; then onwards, round the corner to the plot.

I ate about 2lb of raspberries in between filling watering cans; then romped a more direct route home, downhill all the way.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bringing home the goods!

I managed get to the Hill for an hour this evening before the England match.

I finished digging over bed7 then did the dalek dance with the compost dalek on bed8, emptying it, and moving it to it's new home at the far end of bed7.   Another bed finished and ready for planting - and I have brassicas in pots ready to plant out; a job for the weekend.

I now have a stock of punnets in the car, so it was easy to harvest some of the Japanese leaves from the plants in the courgette bed - a cloud of whitefly flew up from each small plant - some tiny french beans (the vegetable equivalent of veal), and also some raspberries and a few redcurrant.

I blanched the Japanese leaves for a minute to take the bitterness out of them, and also the French beans; then made them into a salad for tea with some lettuce seedlings growing at home.

I offset the healthy salad with a piece of key lime pie I made the other day - but at least got another of my five a day when I topped it with the soft fruit.

I'd call that a win.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Bit More Done

I nipped to the Hill on the way home from an after-work meeting today to carry on with repairing the beds.

I finished staking bed7, and forked over half of it before it was time to come home.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Pause in Bed Repairs

The climbing beans are looking a bit pale and peaky, so I went to the store shed and bought some fish blood and bone to hoe in.  I bought enough for all the other beds too, but for today, I just applied it to the bean bed, and the courgette bed too. 

That's all I had time for before the England match; so I came home to watch the footie - and took the opportunity to pot on the brassicas and some late sown tomatoes whilst it was on.

I should have paid a bit more attention to what I was doing as although the kale is quite distinctive, I cannot tell the cabbage and the cauliflower apart - so the planting out is going to be a bit random!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Shaping up

Today's hour or so at the plot was a bit aimless in that I didn't fancy the slog of bed restaking; which leaves me with weeding as an activity - along with watering as it has been so dry.

However, I did bring down some 'catch up' climbing French beans to plant out, some runner bean seeds to bodge in by the stakes with the existing plants, so I did that too.

I also remembered some punnets for raspberries and picked a heap of those to bring home, for once.

I also forked and re-weeded half of the area in front of the bench where the Bramble Intent On World Domination was - although a better use of my time would be to put down weed suppressant (which I have to hand) at least until I decide what I will do with that area.  It's on the list to do after this second fork-over.

Then, because it's good to stand back every now and again and look at what you've Mother Nature has achieved at the plot, I noted that the main crop potatoes are going mad; there will be French beans very soon, and the parsnip flowers are magnificent.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Little by Little

A snatched hour at the plot this evening and I started on straightening bed7.  I wasn't much in the mood for banging in stakes though, so once I had the line I left it at that for next time.

The photo also shows how much there is to do with bed8 - by the time I get to it, the parsnips will have finished flowering and I can hoick them out with a clear conscience over the bees, which love them.  I won't muck about waiting for the seed head to mature to save the seed with parsnip seeds about 19p a ton, so I'll use the space for something else instead.

I weeded some of the frontage - a waste of time really just taking the tops off, but it keeps things in check until I get round to doing it properly.  I ended up at the raspberries, and ate more straight off the plants - still have no punnets in the car in which to bring them home!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Continuing Bed Repair

I've re-staked, dug over and planted up six of the main beds - this latest one now planted out with leeks - and I have just two to go before the plot is in reasonable order. 

I say that, but then the side beds (rasps, currants, asparagus and nursery beds) will need the same treatment, then the front of the plot; and finally, the paths need re-laying with weed suppressant, and covering with wood chippings.

So just as well that I've had reward this year already from plenty of rhubarb; and tonight, the first of the raspberries.  No pics of the rasps as they were carried home via my mouth.

Note to self: put containers for rasps in car - there is a limit to the amount of soft fruit that one can gorge on the spot.

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