Sunday, 23 September 2007

Shorter & Colder Days 23.09.07

Welcome to my veg plot update:

It seems Autumn is finally upon us, with a drop in temperature, and those evenings where it's dark by 8 o'clock.
Plenty to do in the garden, but struggling now to find the time. There are ; however, a few snippets to update you on:
As you can see, my first row of Christmas spuds (v. Maris Piper ) are doing really well.
These were planted just 3 weeks ago.
I've yet to plant the rest out - maybe I will do that today ?
I've got 2 beds available for further planting, one of which was home to the outdoor tomato crop (v. Moneymaker ) which have all but finished cropping.
Yet again it looks like there'll be plenty of green tomato chutney this Christmas.

My Curly Leaf Kale (v. Frosty) is still growing at a tremendous rate, though I am concerned about the leaf damage. I'm hoping this will reduce in the coming weeks as the temperature drops off a bit, and combine that with cutting out the affected leaves, there may be a chance of getting good crop.

My Runner beans are still producing a good weekly crop of tasty beans, but as the temperatures drop off in the next couple of weeks, I will leave them to go to seed.
I've many enquiries about supplying seed to other growers, which i am more than happy to do.
As soon as they have dried sufficiently, I will wrap and post them out.
Let me know if you want any - I'm only going to charge for the postage and packing ( I'm not a Charity ! ) , and will send seeds in multiples of 25. If you want a larger amount let me know.

My trial crop of leeks are doing well, and will soon be ready for the table.
I'm really pleased with this crop and will be planting a lot more next year.
Can anyone recommend a good variety ?

Not sure whats gone on here ! I did have a couple of rows of Beetroot seedlings but they seem to have vanished !
Probably birds or mice or combination of both took a liking to the fresh salad type leaves!

Thats about it for this week ! Hope you have enjoyed the little update. I look forward to seeing you again next Sunday.


Monday, 17 September 2007

Finally - some rain. 16.09.07

Welcome once again to my veg plot diary. I hope you find it a useful and interesting resource.

Well we certainly waited long enough, but the reward was some rain. Not only replenishing the soil moisture, but much needed liquid in the water butts. We're not talking floods yet, but any rain after a prolonged dry spell was very welcome.
Its just as well that the water butts were cleaned out last week, with some hot water scrubbing and some fairy liquid.

I've had a busy week, but still managed to keep things going on the plot:
The Christmas spuds (v. Maris Piper) that were planted just 2 weeks ago, have put on tremendous growth, which is encouraging considering the time of year and the weather we have been getting.
At the first sign of frost, remember to water the leaves before the sun gets on them. This will prevent any damage occurring to the plants. Frost only becomes a problem when there is a sudden shift in temperature from cold to hot. Simply spraying the leaves makes this temperature transition much slower and nine times out of ten does the trick.
I'm still intending ( time permitting) to plant some more seeds. I have a spare part of the plot full of home made compost which will be home to the second planting.

As you can see, there's good and bad news with the Curly Leaf Kale ( v. Frosty), the plants have put on some good growth, but the plants seem to have been got at. I've not grown Brassica family veg before, but I'm guessing this is the work of cabbage white's and their larvae, and I would appreciate any advice on how to treat this.
It seems a shame that the whole crop is affected, especially as its a first attempt at growing.
Let me know if you have a cure in your back pocket !

As you can see in this pic, the runner beans continue to flourish.
In the last week or so, it's been a delight to give a few pounds of these away to leaving relatives, namely Ann & Mum. It's great to be able to give veg away - all part of the fun of growing your own.
A lot of the runners are now going to seed, and these are being harvested / stored ready for next years growing trials! Further, a few of you have requested some of my collected seeds for your own plots. Obviously I wont charge for the seeds, but would appreciate a pound or two to cover post and packing, using the paypal link on the blog. I'll send seeds out once thoroughly dried, in quantities of 25 each, as soon as available, and well in time for next years growing. Stocks are limited though, so its first come first served !

My first Rhubarb ( v. Timperley Early ) has been a great investment this year, filling a border space and providing some great fruit.
Unfortunately, it appears that whatever is munching the Kale is attacking this plant too.
Several large holes have appeared in the leaves, tho' the plant does seem largely unaffected.
I will be planting further crowns next year, as we have thoroughly enjoyed the crop this year. I was told not to harvest in the first year in fear of weakening the plant, but it looks presently like we have been ok.

This area of the garden / patio is now looking a bit tired. The yield from the toms in the foreground ( v. Moneymaker ) is finally in decline, and I can now start to clear these away.
In the past I have composted the old plants but won't be doing this anymore - due to the number of self seeded toms plants that have sprung up around the garden, in the borders etc..
Its been a better than expected crop, with some lovely tasting fruits. The climber on the fence ; by the way, appeared through the fence, and was simply draped along the fence panels!

A final glance back at the plot, reminding me of how much I've completed this year, as well how much there is still to do.
The main job I want to tackle in the autumn is to define a pathway between the fence and the beds, to enable easier access to the raised beds, as well as to define a border to plant up with shrubs etc.
Thanks to you all for coming back to see me and read my diary.
I look forward to your next visit.


Sunday, 9 September 2007

I could use some rain ! 9.09.07

The plot is getting drier by the hour, with no rain on the horizon at the moment. Life is busy here and often there's not enough time to water everything, but I struggle on !

We had 9 for dinner today, hence the late update. It was very nice to welcome A all the way from California, was great to see you - and what a smashing hairdo.

On a more growing related line, there is progress all around the plot:

The Curly Leaf Kale (v.Frosty) continues to grow on well. Most of the plants are now a good 8" tall and bushy too, and I think I have deterred the local slug population sufficiently to enable more growth. All the seedlings I transplanted last weekend into 3.5" pots are also looking healthy, so I am hopeful of a good continuing crop.

The Christmas spuds (v. Maris Piper) that were planted last Sunday have amazed me with their growth rate, as they are all now about 1.5" above ground. A bit too small to photograph, but i will put some pictures on the blog when they are a bit bigger. I had planned to plant some more today, but i just ran out of time.

The Beetroot (v. Boltardy) are all now about 2" tall, and although planted late in the season, I hope to be harvesting them in about a month. I water these every morning, and they are simply thriving in the raised beds.

The Runner Beans (v. Unknown) are going from strength to strength. I fed these last Sunday and now have a plethora of red buds buds from top to bottom. I guess If i continue with the watering regime then the bean growth will carry on for a good while yet. I hope so ! This has been my best cropper this year by a long stretch.

The outdoor Toms ( v. Moneymaker) are still yielding half a dozen good sized / well ripened fruits every couple of days. Sadly we cant eat them fast enough, and some are going to waste. I only used 6 seeds from the packet so have plenty more if I want them. I'm still debating whether on not to grow them again.

Other news:

Following the sad demise of Oddball, my step daughters Russian Hamster, we had a small burial ceremony today by the fence at the end of the plot. A nice resting place me thinks.

I picked up a copy of last Saturdays Telegraph magazine, and had a read of the Jamie Oliver bit plugging his new garden programme. I've not seen it yet. I've added a link to his site. I think his ideas for improving what kids eat is a great step forward, and as an avid cook, i like to try his recipes occasionally. If you have a site that you would like to link with mine - please get in touch!

Thats about it for this week. Sorry no pics for you all to drool over, but stop by next week for a more colourful update. Enjoy your week, whatever you do and wherever you do it.


Sunday, 2 September 2007

Christmas Day Spuds ! 2.09.07

Welcome to another weeks update of Growing your own Veg at Read's Retreat.

This week I spent a good few hours pottering in the garden, culminating in todays planting of my Christmas spuds.
The first job before planting involved hand weeding of the bed, after which i applied a liberal sprinkling of slug pellets. Slugs are not a problem to the spuds, its just that they tend to congregate and thrive under the mulch material. This sprinkling will hopefully deter them somewhat.

The mulch material for this bed is a couple of old wood chippings sacks, which are black on the inside.
The reasons I like to grow under plastic are 1) That it blocks out the light and therefore minimises weed growth, and 2) that being black, it absorbs the heat from the sun, which in turn promotes growth of the tubers during the shorter periods of daylight that will follow now, by gently warmimg the soil.
Plus the fact that I like to recycle wherever I can on the plot.

Using a selection of bricks from my store, I simply laid out the sheeting as required and weighed down at the edges.

So far so good, and not much outlay.

There's another bonus too when growing under a mulch material: There is no need to earth up the potatoes as they grow, as they are protected from sunlight and will not turn green.

Finally it comes to the planting.
I adopt a straightforward approach that has not yet let me down.
The first step is to work out how many seeds to plant. Previously this main crop bed was home to 10 seed pots, but with the decline in conditions, I'm now planting just 5 seeds in the same area. This will give them the best chance of growing larger spuds, with plenty of room for the roots to spread out.
Next I simply cut a cross in the plastic, about 4" each way, then plant the seed approx 8" deep. This is a bit deeper than normal depth of 6", but hopefully this deeper planting will encourage the plants to grow stronger, and therefore be more resistant to the bad weather we are bound to get. The seeds are then thoroughly watered in. Regular daily watering over the next 30 days will help prevent scab from forming, and help to set the root structure. The final task after watering is the best bit: Over each planting hole, make a 1" deep depression using your fist. "Why" you ask ? Well, this acts as a natural water trap during rain spells, so you know the rain water is being directed exactly where you need it. It works the same when watering during dry spells too!

The seed pots used this time are v. Maris Piper.
As you can see, they have been chitted in a warm area for about 4 weeks. This is especially good when planting for Christmas spuds, as strong growth is already on the go, even before they reach the soil. All shoots that are not on the crown of the seed, are simply cut away with a sweep of thumbnail, so all growth is concentrated upwards. They are then planted as described earlier.
I have estimated that approx growing time will be 100 days, give or take a bit, and that depends solely on the weather. 2 more plantings over the next fortnight should ensure a Christmas day harvest - I'll keep you posted.

Elsewhere on the plot, there's been plenty to do:

The last of the peas from my second sowing were harvested and eaten today. I left the roots in the soil, where they can continue to add nutrients while they break down.
This gave me the room to plant a further 3 Curly leaf Kale seedlings into the bed. The rest of the Kale plants are putting on good growth, some of them quite bushy and about 8" tall already.

Next, I transferred a further dozen seedlings of the Kale into 3.5" pots to grow on a bit. The idea of this is so that I can replace - if required - any plants that succumb to slug attack.

If not needed for that reason, I can simply plant them in the borders and / or give them away.

I know mum wants a couple!

As you can see, there's no shortage of Runner Beans at Reads Retreat!
Maybe I'm going mad, but today I added some general purpose plant food to the watering can. This will help the final lot of flowers to set, and in turn provide for a final flourish of beans later in the year.

Next picking will be tomorrow - just in time for tea ! Yummy.

Good things come to those who wait !
Only a few weeks ago I was devastated to find my tomato plants had been demolished in the gales and storms we had.
However, i let the plants be, and now I'm being rewarded with about a half dozen toms every couple of days.

Thats about it for this weeks update. I hope you've found it informative and useful, and I hope to see you back here next week. Till then, have a great gardening week.