Wednesday 29 February 2012

Plot 114

Well, I hope yesterday's post left you in suspense.

Well here's the story..

Early last year we applied to join the waiting list for an allotment on any of the local sites. At the time Amy filled out the form and we sent it off dreaming of a smooth process and hopefully in 2012 we would get the call and would be granted a lovely allotment.

Well that day came just under 2 weeks a go when we got the call whilst shopping in Solihull. The town council outlined that they had a plot for us but they had no idea which one! Fantastic. We couldn't wait to see where it was and really get going with it. They were going to let us know within a week and then it would be all spades go! Well on Monday Amy got a letter through the door. We were now the proud tenants of plot number 16! You can see plot number 16 here. We went up to visit with our noses streaming and we were really pleased with our new acquisition.

We got our pencils out and made plans on Monday night. We even popped in to Stratford Upon Avon on Tuesday despite feeling under the weather and bought some raspberry canes and some other essentials that we needed.

It was only when we got home on Tuesday evening that we got a huge shock. At my house was a letter from the town council. We were now the proud tenants of Plot 114. You may be wondering how we managed to be prescribed 2 allotments.

Well when we first applied to join the waiting list we listed Amy's Dad's address on the application form. However, seeing as he has a very long garden which just touches the Parish of Arrow. We were considered to be outsiders and therefore would not be preferred over other people within Alcester parish and would have to pay £5 a year more rent for our allotment.

Being the super scrimper and understanding how much of a demand for an alloment there is I filled in another application form with my address. We told them to withdraw Amy's application and proceed with mine.

Amy was 12th on the waiting list when she joined, and I got an email a few days after my own application saying I was now 12th on the waiting list, so I presumed Amy's application had been dropped as asked.

Well it turns out there was an oversight and both of our applications proceeded. We therefore had a choice of 2 allotments, however they are on completly different sites which meant different soil type, different facilites, structure etc.

We initially thought that Plot 16 was going to be perfect. We thought we were very loyal to it and we liked how I already knew the people either side of us. Well when we visited Plot 114 we didn't think much of it at first but we did quickly fall in love. We did think of having the two of them and then dedicating one to strawberries and pumpkins and doing the majority of our growing on the other. But we decided that this was too much and we wanted to have one 'really good' allotment rather than 2 average ones.

After consideration of the 'really important things' we plumped for Plot 114, our new home.

I will save pictures of Plot 114 tomorrow, so make sure you come back for a look! You won't be disapointed. But here is a small teaser...

Have a good day!!!


Don't forget to come back tomorrow!!!!

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Bye Bye Plot Number 16

It saddens me to say that we are no longer the tenants of plot number 16. There has been a bit of a mix up and basically it is no longer ours.

We were so excited to finally have plot number 16, and to have to give it up almost immediately is a real shame.

We really enjoyed the 1 day we were the tenants of plot number 16.

A more indepth post will follow tomorrow..


Monday 27 February 2012

Plot number 16

It's been 10 days since we last posted. We've been agonising during that period because of the wait for the town council to give us a ring and tell us which plot was ours. We had been drawing up fantasy plans in our head and on paper, and today the letter came telling us which plot was ours.

I could not believe it when I saw which plot we had. Plot number 16.

The reason why we could not believe it is because it is directly in fron of my old alloment. Plot number 17. During my 3 years of allotmenteering on the site plot number 16 had never, ever been touched. It was just a weedy patch with a big fruit tree on it.

It was strange going back to the site today, I expected to walk straight past plot number 16 and on to plot number 17. It looks like in the 2 years I have been away from the site, plot number 16 has remained deprived of the sight of a spade the whole time. Something will be changing over the next week or so when we both recover from our winter colds.

Let me introduce you to plot number 16...

The plot starts at where I am standing and goes all the way past the big tree and then back to the greenhouse that used to be mine. It is a good sized plot, very narrow, but a good size. You can see the two plots either side of me are tended to so mark the boundary. There is a very small path (one foot in front of the other) between the plots.

The huge tree, I think if I remember correctly is an apple tree. But which variety, I do not know. It will be interesting to see what fruit starts forming on there this summer. Here is the view of the plot from the tree down to the houses...

Despite feeling ill, we've been drawing up plans and shopping lists so we can get started quickly...

We want to have 6 beds on our allotment and we will rotate the crops grown  in each bed every year to ensure good crop rotation and ensure we care for the soil correctly and avoid diseases building up. The six beds will be for soft fruit (which will be permanently fixed), squash, potatoes, roots and beans, brassicas and alliums. The top 1/5 of the allotment will hopefully be slabbed with the shed and a table positioned there. There will also be a couple of compost bins and a raised bed for growing salad leaves and a few lettuces. The beds will be divided by maintained grass paths to enable easy access around the plot.

We really feel that a shed is an absolute essential for the plot, it is somewhere to store tools, shelter from rain and to do all of the small potting jobs in the summer. We are going to ask for permission to erect a shed from the town council tomorrow when we go to pay the rates for the year. For £25 per year you have to admit this really is a bargain. However, it has gone up £9 since I vacated plot 17 just over 2 years ago, which is quite an inflation!

I've written a comprehensive shopping list and a production target for each vegetable (You can tell I study operations management at university) and I am going to work out how much it will cost us to start up the allotment this year against how much the worth of our veg should be.

We are both completly excited about the project and can't wait to get our hands dirty as soon as we rid of this cold!

Thanks for stopping by and reading. With spring now in the air we hope to bring you lots of interesting updates over the coming weeks about the advances on the plot!


Friday 17 February 2012

We're going to need a few more seed potatoes...

We only bought 21 seed potatoes for our small little patch.

But today we had the news that we're getting our own very big patch. The town council called to say they had an allotment with our name on it. It will be ready for us from the end of next week which of course is very, very exciting.

We have a lot of plans running through our head already. We can't wait to put the spade in the ground for the first time very soon!


Saturday 11 February 2012

Bread of Heaven

Well that certainly tasted good.

The other day I thought I would teach Amy how to bake bread. It is something that I really enjoy doing and the taste and texture of a home made loaf is far grander than a shop bought one. I've really got the knack of it now and would never use a bread machine again.

I realised I give my bread quite a thorough seeing to in the kneading process, but Amy seemed to show a lot more gentle love and affection to the dough. She certainly has the right knack anyway because it tasted absolutely scrumptious and it looked good too...

I look forward to her baking many more loaves for me in the future.



Friday 10 February 2012


There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to do something, but not being able to do it.

We're at war with the elements at the moment and this is what we are having to fight against...

A soft sprinkling of 2cm of snow surprised most of us last night. However at least it wasn't the 10cm that we had been promised last night on the weather forecast. Amy and I watched the snow sprinkle over the road from our bedroom window until midnight and we envisaged waking up to a collossal level of the white stuff. However just the small sprinkling was all that was left at 8am but it did pick up again at 9am and it hasn't stopped lightly snowing ever since.

The reason why I am so frustrated is that I really want to get a move on with preparing the ground for the new growing season. I've already dug over half of the patch and covered it with organic material but because of the snow at the end of last week I have not been able to do the other half. The last thing I want to do is to lock the extremly cold ground temperatures in to the soil which could of course prohibit this years plants from growing as quickly as we would like.

In this situation the best thing to do is definately to wait. But I'm just so eager, so I'm going to have to find something to do inside instead. It's a good job I bought a mini propagator last week then isn't it?

Have a good day, and keep warm!


Tuesday 7 February 2012

Planning for perfect potatoes

We are now 4th on the waiting list for a plot at our local allotment site. I have always regretted giving up my allotment when I had one, I had given it up due to a split interest between my social life and work/educational life, and deeming that I didn't have enough time I gave it up, a big mistake indeed.

We are both keen to get a plot, but in the meanwhile we are having to re-evaluate our growing methods and most importantly, what we grow. Our growing space is very small to say the least. Last year we grew most of our vegetables in pots, but this year we are really keen to get things in the ground that we do have.

Potatoes were one of the things that I had considered not growing this year. Last year we had some poor luck with growing them in old compost sacks, which we had been assured was a great way of growing them. I am still enviable of people who get results when using this method, it obviously just didn't work for us. The reason that I am not giving up on potatoes is the fond memories I have of harvesting sacks full of large, delicious spuds on the allotment. Hopefully, come the summer our homegrown potatoes will be the staple of many delicious meals for us.

We really need potatoes to work for us, because they are going to take up a large portion of our growing space. About 1/3 to be precise. Therefore, it's key that our preperations start now.

There are always 4 steps when growing potatoes and we are now at the second step.

We have chosen which potatoes we are going to grow (step 1). There is always such a wide variety of seed potatoes around at this time of year. The garden centres are full of them! We decided that this year we are going to grow a maincrop variety only. (Although I have been tempted to give some earlies another go in the sack method.) After careful consideration, we plumped for the good, old, faithful Maris Piper. Such a versatile and traditional potato, it can be used for most things such as chipping, roasting, boiling and their good size means they are also great for jackets!

Step 2, is a rather funny step. It's time to get chit-chit-chit-chit-chitting. 'Chitting' is basically where you allow your seed potatoes to develop their 'eyes' ready for planting out in mid-March. It takes about 20-40 days for the eyes on the potatoes to develop. It is a very funny stage in the potato growing cycle, just seeing the kitchen table full of egg boxes holding rather funny looking eggs (potatoes) is quite novel!

Step number 3 is the planting. This will take place some time towards the middle/end of next month. It will take about 4 months for the potatoes to grow and reach a good size. We should be harvesting (Step 4) these beauties from mid July onwards until October.

Having written this blog post, I am now even more tempted to buy a few early seed potatoes and try the sack method again. I might invest in some proper potato growing bags though, rather than use old compost sacks.

Which variety/ies have you gone for this year? I've always loved the idea of a really good mix, but at the moment we do not have the space to do so.

I can't wait until I post about the results of these in several months time. I am hoping they give better results than last year, where in one of the bags full we only got 1 good sized potato. Never mind and fingers crossed!!


Sunday 5 February 2012

Time to start getting excited

Very, very, very cold right now. I was expecting a small sprinkling of snow last night but was informed by the wonderful BBC weather people that it would have melted by the morning due to a slosh of rain. However come 3pm yesterday afternoon the snow began to fall (pictured above), and when I went to bed at gone midnight this morning it still hadn't stopped. Anyhow, it was going to rain wasn't it?   Nope!

It looks like it snowed through the night, we have had a couple of inches which is a couple of inches more than I first imagined we would get. It was melting quite quickly though, but it was funny walking up to see the chickens this morning. Lesley and Geraldine have seen snow several times before, but the poor bantam girls looked very startled. Being born only last summer they have not seen a downpour of the white stuff before.

If I had have known we were going to get so much snow it might have been an idea to move them to a hard standing part of the garden rather than leave them on the grass. The front section of the eglu run looked like a big pooey mess as the snow starts to thaw. I just had to take a picture.

They were glad to see me and were given a nice handful of oats in addition to their normal layers pellets. It wasn't much fun breaking the ice in the water bowl either!

Hopefully this snow is an abrupt end to the winter. I see that we are due cold temperatures for a couple of weeks but hopefully after that we can start getting serious in the garden again. We visited a local garden centre on Friday, one of those which are more about 'status' and 'trendynous' with some of the older generations than the actual gardening stuff they sell, it is also one of the more pricey ones too. Anyhow we did come away with some bargains and also our seed potatoes. We are re-evaluating the way we grow potatoes this year. We had moderate luck with the grow in a sack method last year (small sized potatoes, small yield), so this year we are going back to traditional ways and putting them in the ground. They are currently in egg boxes as we await the 'chitting' process to begin!

I also found other items rather irresistible such as packets of seeds and some magazines. I have a massive problem. Every time I see a magazine involving vegetable growing, chicken keeping, smallholding etc. I just have to buy it.

It's almost time to sow the first seeds of the year so I hope you'll come back to read about what I'm doing over the next few days and weeks.

I can't wait to read your blog and see what you are doing too!!