Tuesday, 26 June 2007

STOP PRESS 25.06.07

Ruby Ann has arrived! Yippee

9 Pounds 6 Ounces, at 10 to midnight,

She's beautiful.

Mummy & Daddy & Ruby all ok.


Sunday, 24 June 2007

Buried Treasures 24.06.07

Welcome to another weeks update, especially my new visitors from France and Australia, and all you Brits too!
This week I have set up a Link Exchange with "The Saunders Allotment". It's a fantastic read with bucketfuls of information. Please take a look. Thanks to B for setting this up. If you want a link with my blog, let me know and I'll see what we can do!

What a mixed week we've had.
The weather has been just about as changeable as it gets, and as I write this today, its on the back of a 4 hour downpour. We've had some gloriously hot days ( no fun when you are working) but sadly loads of rain too. The good point is that as fast as I empty the water butts, they are then refilled by the elements!
As the title suggests, we have been harvesting our First and Second Early Spuds all week, and we are enjoying the treasures nearly every day. Gently boiled and covered in butter - mmmmm very tasty.In fact as soon as I'm finished here, I'm off to dig up some more for sunday lunch. I can already smell the beef , which is slowly cooking in murphy's irish stout !
I'm also planning to harvest some Peas (v.Kelvedon Wonder) to add to the dinner, some Runner Beans and maybe a few carrots !How fresh is that !

As you can see, the B&Q buckets are proving useful !
This week I potted on my next lot of Toms ( v. Gardeners Delight), two plants to a bucket.
I've drilled plenty of holes in the bases for drainage.
Already the plants are putting on good growth, and the buckets themselves add a bit of much needed colour.

Not bad for less than a quid each, and much cheaper than an actual pot of comparable size.

Outside, the Moneymaker toms are growing at quite a rate.

Already I am pinching out the tops, as well as the side shoots.
The plants are slightly exposed to the winds here, and I am trying to keep the plants bushy. Flower buds continue to form well, and closer inspections reveal the first signs of crops - little toms not much bigger than peas !

Further garden maintenance was necessary this week.

Between the end of the raised beds and the Shed, there stood a Mock Orange which was a great home for many many blackfly. I tried various measures to rid them from the plant, but I got knowhere. Considering the close proximity to the veg, I decided it had to go. Maybe space for a new raised bed?

My hanging baskets are coming on in leaps and bounds.
They need watering at least once a day, usually in the morning before setting off for work.
The effort though, is duly rewarded with an abundance of blooms.
It's nice I think when you start to lose sight of the actual container.

3 out of 4 ain't bad ! And plenty of growing time to go.

The plot as a whole, is doing really well.

Everywhere you look, there is plenty of new growth.

The Rhubarb amazes me every time I look at it, it has simply got massive, and I plan to take some to the kitchen soon.

Rhubarb Crumble - yummy!

Final pic for today, is of this lovely Iris.

I purchased some bulbs earlier in the year from Aldi, various bags for about a quid each.

I planted them up and just forgot they were there, until I was greeted by the lovely shows that we are seeing now.

Gardening - Isn't it great.

Finally, still no news on the impending family addition. As soon as there is news, I'll let you all know.

Thanks again for your continued generous comments. It's always nice to get feedback. Talk to you all soon.


Sunday, 17 June 2007

Food Miles ? 17.06.07

Hi and welcome to this weeks update. Before I go too far, may I extend a warm welcome to my regular visitors from overseas, specifically from California, British Columbia, Israel, and Poland. Its nice to know I'm reaching an audience far afield, and I hope you will keep returning.

We've had a mixed bag of weather this week; some heavy rain and some glorious sunshine, all of which have been good to the plot. So where do I start ? Food miles seem to be a favourite topic at the moment, i.e. How far did your food travel to reach your dining plate ?
Well you'll have to bear with me as my maths is not that good. I'm guessing then that these new potatoes (v. Rocket & Nicola), have travelled the monumental distance of 0.003Km ! Straight from the plot on Friday afternoon and served up for tea. They were absolutely delicious, and well worth the wait.
I'm going to be harvesting more of these from the plot over the next couple of weeks, which will make space for the next sowing of crops for Autumn / Winter. Watch this space to see what is going where!

Fresh dug Beetroot (v. Boltardy) were a great accompaniment to the spuds, and although only golf ball size they too were delicious.

Pulling a few at this size gives the rest of the row a bit more room to increase in size.

They went down a treat too, so much tastier than the shop brought version that has probably traveled half way round the world to reach us.

So go on, get growing. You won't believe the taste !

You wouldn't have to go far back in the blog to see how much my maincrop (v. King Edward) spuds have grown. They're easily 2'6" tall now and seem to visibly grow as you watch them.

I'm again a tad concerned as I don't think I've left them enough room to flourish. Time will tell. Even if they turn out a bit small, they will not be wasted.

Elsewhere on the plot, it's a bit quiet at the moment, concentrating mainly of maintenance rather than any planting.

Looking back toward the patio area, its nice to see the Runner Beans growing so well. Maybe losing the broad beans a couple of weeks ago was a blessing in disguise? It turns out that no-one in the house apart from me likes them anyway - so I guess I would have had a lot to eat if they had survived.
The dwindling blackfly population is good news too. I've been watching "Springwatch" this week on the BBC, and have discovered you can buy "Ladybird Boxes" to give the sweet creatures a place called home. As soon as I find one, I'll be buying and will hang it nearby. Hopefully it will be a good investment.
You'll notice too that I've added some links to my "Favourite Places" section, just some of the wonderful sites I've found this week.

My mixed plot is going great guns too! As I mentioned earler, I've thinned the Betroot out a bit, still plenty to come yet.
The carrot's are putting on great growth, as are the parsnips.
The leaves on the Garlic are just starting to yellow, as are the shallot's. Both will be monitored over the coming weeks so that they are harvested when at their best. I'm pleased to note too that the raised beds are retaining the moisture better than i expected.

The toms are going great too, and I've taken this pic to show not only the toms, but also the companion planting which I've used to attract the bee's.
I've also added the Basil plant, which hopefully will deter the Whitefly from the area, and keep the toms trouble free,seems to be working so far.
Please don't look too closely at the terrible patio! I inherited it like this and over the winter I plan to completely re lay it, and hope I can do a better job than this!

Rather than 4 separate images of my hanging baskets, I tried a collage on my imaging software. What do you think ? Always keen to try new ideas. The Baskets are all growing well, and the bee's love them. I read in the week that Bumblebee's are especially attracted to Trailing Lobelia, as the nectar is so easy to get at ? Don't know if thats the case or not. Either way, they are lovely to look at.
A nice little pic of my Clematis! This plant previously belonged to my Nana Read, and adorned the porch of my grandparents house in Coventry. Can anyone please tell me the name of it ? I would love to know. When I see this plant I always remember Nana & Grandad, and their love for the garden.

Keen as I am to grow the veg, it's also a very rewarding thing to grow some colour! This little bed was started by "Top-up", and bearing in mind the amount of gnat bites she got when it was done, I'm extremely grateful. The Gladioli are growing well, as are the Dahlia and Cineraria that I've added. The mulch is also holding in the moisture. Thanks mum.

And finally for today, a pic of "Reads Retreat".
The shed was looking a bit drab and dreary recently, but a fresh coat of wood preserver has sprung it back to life.
I'm thinking of getting a name board for it, so if anyone makes signs, please get in touch !That's about it for this week. I hope you've enjoyed my news, and I hope to see you all again soon.
Please leave me your comments. I hope to add an email link soon to handle all your enquiries !


Sunday, 10 June 2007

Goodbye Blackfly ! 10.06.07

For the past few months the dreaded blackfly have been dwelling undisturbed in my veg plot, beating each and every attempt of mine to get rid of them. I tried all the organic options but to no avail.
On Monday this week, things changed: Ladybird's started to appear all over my plot, and began to chomp on the blackfly population - Yippee! Not only are they great to look at, but they are doing a great job where I have stumbled.

Key milestones this week included the harvest of our first carrot ! Don't laugh. Impatience took over and we had to try one ( just to check they are doing ok etc ) and we can confirm the result - Delicious ! We had further good news when the heavens opened - not only watering the garden, but filling my water butts too. It's the middle of June now, and I've only resorted to the hosepipe once. Amazing how much water you can save if you put your mind to it.

So, off to the plot we trot :-

Well as you can see, my early planting of Runner / Climbing French Beans is starting to pay off.
Despite the aforementioned Blackfly population, as well as the removal last month of the failed Broad Bean plants, this area of the plot is doing extremely well. There's plenty of flowers and fruit starting to form, and the "White Tailed Bumblebees" are working overtime, flitting around amongst the red flowers and the adjacent hanging baskets - obviously doing a great job.
Largest runner bean so far is 15mm long, so a way to go yet !

Dainty Yellow and White flowers are starting to form on my second earlies (v. Nicola ) , adding a burst of colour to an otherwise plain green background. The foliage is nearly all recovered from the battering it has taken from the recent heavy rains, but some has had additional support provided in the form of canes.One of the big learning curves for me this year, is how much room plants need, which is actually a tad more than i have allowed this year!

Talking of which, here's my maincrop spuds(v.King Edward) that have just been earthed up with some fresh general purpose compost. Growth rate has been quite astounding. I might have to add some boards to the front as I will need to add more earth as the season continues!

My Peas (v.Kelvedon Wonder) are doing fab. There's many a 3" pod now, but no sign of peas within just yet. I'm sure Tigger will let me know when they are ready for picking, and hopefully that will be before she eats the crop! I'm hoping to plant a few more this year for a later crop, and will allow more space for them, as well as some netting to climb up / over.

Now that all the Radish have been harvested from this raised bed, the remaining plants are flourishing. The second row of carrot's (v. Early Nantes) are putting on growth - although they are still quite shaded by the adjacent shallott's. The Beetroot (v.Boltardy) have continued to grow well, and have been thinned out further to give them room to swell, and the Parsnips (v. Hollow Crown) are producing good top growth too. I'm looking forward to harvesting the parsnips later in the year , to see how different they taste, as I'm not a fan of shop brought varieties! Out of the 2 varieties of Radish I grew, I would recommend the v. French Breakfast to try , as they grow at a uniform rate and have a great taste. Go on, try some ?

And here's the best of the bunch. In this tightly packed space I have 3 crops growing at great speed.
The Shallots (v. Red Sun) are doing great. The base of the stems are little clusters of 1cm diameter stalks and they all look really healthy. I need to check on my harvesting dates as I must admit I've somewhat lost track.
Planted alongside these 2 rows are 2 rows of Garlic (v. Fokyhama) which also seem to be flourishing, and between the garlic i have my first sowing of carrot's (v. Early Nantes) . We pulled a carrot on Friday, and although it was only a couple of inches long, it was pest free and tasted delicious. Companion planting seems to have helped avoid any issue with root fly. Just need to allow them to put on some further growth before they grace the dining table!

I'm afraid that I'm running out of superlatives to describe my veg growing progress! The toms (v. Moneymaker) are growing on lovely, with flower buds beginning to set on all the plants. There seems to be no difference in growth between the bed and the buckets which is also pleasing. We purchased a supermarket grown Basil plant, which I intend to split into a few or more single plants, and these will be planted later today in the brick bed to keep pests away from the toms. I don't like planting these companions too early, as they do grow quickly.

In the conservatory, the next batch of toms (v. Gardeners Delight) are growing strong and tall. These will be hardened off over the next week or so, before being planted out in more Bright Orange B&Q buckets ! I'm also going to keep a few plants in the conservatory to compare growth rates. The trouble with our conservatory is that it gets baking hot in there, so I may have to consider some shading material for the plexiglass roof ? Ideas welcome - leave me a comment !

Look at the size of this ! This Rhubarb (v. Timperley Early ) that was planted recently, is truly triffid like in terms of growth.
I think we can rely on a small crop this year.
There's a hanging basket nearly overhead and the leaves on the plant seem to have grown sideways to catch the drips from the basket !
Nature is a wonderful thing !!

Thats about it on the veg front. I hope you find it informative - and keep those comments coming. No matter how you have stumbled across this blog, please do leave comments!

Elsewhere in the garden, it's getting quite colourful:-
This beautiful Rose has been left largely to it's own devices, with only occasional pruning attention from me!
It continues to amaze me with its rich Pink buds, and provides a lovely burst of colour.

Here's my "Patriotic" hanging basket in glorious Red, White and Blue!

It's nice now the trailing Lobelia is starting to trail!

Number 2 looking good too, I'm especially keen on the Blood Red trailing Petunia .

I'll get some better pictures as it develops.

Number 3 looking great, trailing Petunia really growing well.

And number 4!

Recently added a Morning Glory, which will be trained up and over the top, and hopefully somewhat hide the brackets etc.

Bit of an experiment !

Ok, final pic of the day !
This is the bed my mum planted the Gladioli in. Since then I've added Cineraria (grown from seed) as well as a couple of Dahlia's.
I've also mulched the top surface with bark chippings to conserve moisture. Looks attractive too !

That really is it for this week. Hope you enjoyed your read of "Reads Retreat", and I hope to see you here again soon.


Friday, 8 June 2007

It's pouring down ! 08.06.07

Isn't it amazing - this "British Weather" !
Yesterday morning I decanted the last of the rainwater from my water butts to water the garden, and thought to myself..... "tomorrow, I'll have to get the hosepipe out" !

I got woken this morning my heavy rain and thunder at 3.00am! Water butts are full and overflowing again - wonderfull!

It can rain all day - suits me - I'll be at work anyway !

See you all on Sunday.


Sunday, 3 June 2007

Roses grow on you ...... 3.06.07

Or so "they" say!
I've never really liked roses that much, until now that is. Last summer I found this rose ( in a far worse condition than this ) in the shade of a tree in our garden.
Following a bit of light reading and a little research, I left it till February this year, then pruned it hard - leaving about 2' of stem. I poured liquid fertilizer around the base and left it to it's own devices.
Now I am blessed with these beautiful flowers every time I step through the conservatory doors. I've been told it is v. Ruby Wedding (?), which is kind of spooky, as way before it bloomed we decided to call our daughter ( Due any day now ) Ruby !
Anyway, I guess you want to know whats happening on the plot :-

As you probably had, we had shed loads of rain at the start of this week, and only in the last few days we got the sun.
My small row of maincrop spuds (v. King Edward) have put on tremendous growth during this week. My earlies; however, took a severe battering from the constant heavy rain. Now with a few days of sunshine they too are recovering well, standing proud with their first show of blossom.
I had to cut a good few stems of foliage out as the dreaded blackfly had returned with a vengeance! Last Sunday evening I had a bonfire to burn away a Mock Orange near the raised beds, that was also plastered in Blackfly. Touch wood I've been okay since. I'm now constantly checking for these pests, and spray occasionally with a solution of Fairy Liquid, to keep the blighters at bay.

My raised beds continue to amaze me!
I've pulled the Radish now which were great, although some had spoiled by not being picked soon enough ( there's a lesson there ),
and the remaining Carrot's, Garlic, Shallots, Parsnips, and Beet are coming on well. I'm planning to plant more carrots this week, and I've also thinned out the Betroot (v. Boltardy) giving it room to grow.

The rest of the crops are all doing well, putting on new growth.
The runner beans / climbing french beans are just fine, with minuscule pods starting to form.
As you'll see later the hanging baskets plants are growing rapidly, and there's a steady stream of bee's around the plants and crops alike.
I'm at the stage now when I'm pinching the tips out of the runner beans - that's how tall they are !

Away from the raised beds, the tom's are doing really well.
There seems to be no difference in growth rates to the one ones in buckets vs. the one in the brick trough.
There's a few small flowers on each of the plants, so the fruits will be starting to set soon!
I've also got a Fuschia growing in a pot nearby to attract more bee's as well as a lovely Lavender in the background. I'm hopeful of a good crop this year.

As if I've not got enough tom's growing already !
Today I potted on some seedlings (v. Gardeners Delight) as they are growing at quite a rate.
At this rate I'll be giving some away ! Don't think I can eat that many, although I know a certain tigger who can much toms for england !
Elsewhere in the garden, there is plenty of colour arriving :

My hanging baskets are doing really well.
I know you can buy them "ready-made" but that just takes the fun out of it .

Over the coming weeks, I hope to bring you a bit more info of whats being planted and what's been harvested.

Thanks again for all your kind comments. Please leave comments here as my email inbox is filling up at quite a rate!

Hope to see you here again soon !

T T F N.