Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Jack's back ! 30.12.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat.
Old Jack Frost has once again graced the plot with a covering of crisp white coldness, that just makes you want to nip outside and walk across the grass. However, it's still nice and snug inside, so I'll stick to my cup of coffee and central heating.
Hope all my readers have enjoyed a good christmas, and like me I'm guessing you're looking forward to next season's plantings and growing etc. Most of my efforts of late have centered around the Allotment , as there is a monumental amount of work to do there to get the site readied, not least a good few weeks of digging! Thanks then to SS / WTB for buying me a new Spade this Christmas. Other gardening presents were the RHS Encylopeadia of Gardening, and a Note book style garden planner - both from B & E. I'm looking forward to using the latter here at RR, to supplement this blog, and will keep you posted.

That's all for now. Wishing you all the best for the year ahead.


Thursday, 25 December 2008

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Brrrr Winter on it's way! 07.12.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

Not a lot has happened out on the plot in the last week. There's still a fair bit growing: Leeks, Beetroot, Chard, Carrots to name a few, but the garden at this time of year is very low maintenance.

One job that needs daily attention though, is to break the ice every morning in the bird bath. Also keep an eye on bird feeders - keep them topped up or your feathered friends will steer well clear of your garden. More info can be found on the RSPB website.

One thing that really does bug me though; as the growing comes to a close and beds are cleared, is the amount of Cat poo all over the place! Many is the day I've taken great delight in launching it over the garden fences! I think that's ok, as the neighbours have cats and we don't!

I've made a couple of visits to the allotment this week, read the updates at Reads Allotment Retreat.

I've a couple of jobs to do on the plot this week, and hope you will find time to come back next weekend for the next update.

Till then


Sunday, 30 November 2008

Rich Pickings 30.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

The last day of a chilly and damp November is not normally the time you expect to be pulling carrots to grace the sunday lunch, but what a blessing these little beauties were. As fellow growers will know, they taste amazing. Although not a great size, they were a real treat. I think they're stunted in size for a couple of reasons; mainly their late sowing , and the fact that I neglected to thin them out! There's still a few more to come yet - who knows, that might even make it to the yule dinner plate. Whatever happens, the taste is a constant reminder of why we grow our own. Next year we will be growing some different varieties, namely to get some different colours on the plate, I must say I'm looking forward to white carrots!

Also today, managed to dig up a few Betroot for SS to bung in her sarnies. This little gems - each about the size of a golf ball, should be enough for at least 2 sarnies !
Again, these will be grown on the lottie next year, and it would be grand to emulate fellow plotholders who have this year harvested some truly huge roots. The key to this developing gardening / allotmenteering, is that we now have much more space to grow that much more.

As for the "Rich Pickings" title, I am still amazed at the amount of Chili's we've been able to harvest this year. This may be the final harvest, but they went straight into the freezer ready to be used at a later date. We're getting a bit more daring in terms of how many seeds get left in the pot for cooking, and find the heat from them is a much more rounded flavour than those you can buy in the shops. Looking forward to growing many more of these next year.

Managed to get a few jobs finished today, which included the final clearing of the beds that were home to the runner and french beans. The larger of the 2 beds was filled with green kitchen waste last year, and covered with general purpose compost prior to planting the climbing french beans this spring. The size of the crop from these beds lends weight to the use of home made compost, and we will continue on this vein in the future.

Not a lot else to tell you about from the plot, but hope you will join us again soon.

Till then,


Monday, 24 November 2008

Planning Ahead ! 24.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

Whilst there's not much happening on our garden plot at the mo, I always find great interest in the many reference books that i have acquired over the years. It doesn't matter how many new books i buy, i still go back to the older tomes !
One thing that constantly annoys me in the newer books though, is their conversion to metric. Why do they do it ? I sit there and read "23cm apart in rows" whilst mentally converting it to inches! Do you do that ? Do you really have an idea of what 23cm actually relates to ! Has the whole world gone mad!
Sorry - rant over. If however you are a publisher reading this then please please please take note.

Elsewhere at home the seed collection is growing at quite a pace. Next year we will grow the sturdier / hardier veg at the allotment, so we can make space for the more attention seeking veg plants at home. We had, for example , limited successes with Sweet Pepper, Aubergine, Turnip etc. and want to take these crops to the next level.

There's still a great deal of tidying to do on the raised beds, getting them ready to lie fallow over the winter months. A little and often is the best way forward.

I'll be back soon with further updates from Reads Retreat, and hope that you will join us again soon.

Till then,


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Heavy Snow - Not ! 23.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, the home of growing your own veg in Raised Beds. We awoke this morning to a light dusting of snow, not the arctic condition blizzards that were forecast! It lasted a couple of hours and was then washed away with torrential downpours, and then the sun came out! Dont you just love the British weather!
I didn't make it to the allotment today, but guess it was the same there too. Judging by the news reports throughout the day, we escaped the worse of it. Not much has happened here or at the plot this week, but i have started yet another blog. If you've been invited to our upcoming wedding, check it out for details of local accommodation. That's about it for now, except to wish D&K a Happy Anniversary - 7 Short Years ! Cheers!!!!


Sunday, 16 November 2008

NTR Nothing to report ! 16.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat. As the title states, there's no news from here today. However, check out :


to see where I've been hiding.

See you all soon,


Saturday, 15 November 2008

Sweet Pepper Progress 15.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat for our latest plot update.
As I have been promising for some time now, here's a snapshot of our first attempt at growing sweet peppers. This plant is bearing 3 fine fruits (look closely) , one has already turned red and the other 2 are just starting to turn. Cant wait now to slice one up and chuck it in a cheese sarnie! The plant has been brought indoors now, to protect it from the fast dropping temperatures, and it seems to be enjoying it's new home. Now that we have the allotment, there will be more room available next year to grow a good few more of the delish fruits!
Also today, I managed to string up the remaining climbing French Beans for drying out. I did not realise just how many were left on the plant. This snap is only about half of what i picked today, so i'm guessing we won't be short of seed for next year. These were a top cropper this year, outperforming the runners by a golden mile, and will def find them a place at the allotment. Secret squirrel wants to know if the dried beans can be used in stews ? I cant see why not, but maybe if you know you could let us know for sure. Ta.

I also managed a quick "catch up visit" to Plot 81 today, ahead of tomorrows planned time planting some cabbages etc. Click the link for more news from there.

Hope to see you soon back at Reads Retreat, till then,


Friday, 14 November 2008

Bowl of Beans (Version 2 ) 14.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat , Our guide to growing veg in Raised Beds.

I only managed to find half an hour spare today, but in that time i did manage to harvest the remainder of the Climbing French Beans (v. Blue Lake) which are now ready for stringing up to dry. Hope to get this done in the morning! Piccy to follow!

Sorry about the picture quality here ! This is my crop ( hahaha) of Raspberries, grown on the cane i brought from Wilkinson's earlier in the year. I would have taken a better photo, but my enthusiasm got the better of me and i ate them!
Hey ho, I'll be transplanting these to the lottie soon, and hope for better results next year! For the officianados amongst you, the variety on the pack read: Rasberry!!!!! Thats nearly as good as the other fruit cane i got from there: Blackcurrent !

Thats about it for now. Hoping to spend some time on Plot 81 over the next couple of days, and will share some more pics with you all. Till then,


Thursday, 13 November 2008

String of Beans 13.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat - our guide to Growing your own veg in Raised Beds.
With so many jobs to get done on the plot, it's often a case of "Where shall i start " . Yesterday I managed to clear the runner bean wigwam away. Before this however, i harvested these bean pods for seeds to use next year. In the past I have usually dried them out by laying on some old newspaper (the pods, not me! ) , but read recently this idea of stringing them up. This method should ensure good air circulation around the pods, and help to prevent any mould from forming. Also, as the pods dry out ( and you can shake the beans in the pods ) they can simply be removed from the pods and placed in an airtight container, ready for use next spring. I thought this was a great idea, and thought I'd share the idea with you all too. I will do the same over the next couple of days as I complete the same task on the climbing french beans. All we now need is a modicum of dry weather, and of course some time!

I'll be in touch again soon!


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

90 Years of Rememberance 11.11.2008

Armistice Day is upon us again. Save a prayer for those who died, those who remember, and those that will never forget.


Monday, 10 November 2008

Time to start tidying up! 10.11.08

Welcome back once again to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.
The home plot beds are in a bit of a mixed state right now, with some veg slowly but surely going to seed, whilst others are still yearning the warmth of the sun to reach their full potential.
I must admit that it has been a bit hectic here for the last few weeks, and the veg growing side of life has taken a bit of a back seat! We had a couple of weeks of being rather ill - sadly missing mum's 21st birthday bash, but luckily managed to spend a few days with her last week. Now we find ourselves in monsoon season ( how long will it last ? ) and are eagerly awaiting a break in the weather. First job on the list will be to take down the runner and french bean wigwams. We have had some great crops of beans this year, and managed also to give plenty away to friends and work colleagues. To me, this is all part of the fun of growing your own. The runner beans now left on the plants will be picked and put inside to dry out, providing seed for next years sowing, whilst the climbing french beans will just be removed to the compost pile. I save the former as the seeds originate from my late Grandad's garden - whom this blog is dedicated to, whilst the latter are so cheap to buy it makes less sense to save. Mind you, when it comes down to it, I'll probably end up saving some anyway!!!
With the canes removed, the plants will be cut down at ground level, leaving the nitrogen rich roots in the ground to rot down over the winter. These can then be dug in next spring, providing valuable nutrients for the next crop in the rotation.

Pop back tomorrow to see what else is going on !


Sunday, 9 November 2008

Basket of Fire ! 09.11.08

Finally....... Welcome back to Reads Retreat - "Our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds", for what i hope will now be regular updates! You don't know how much we've missed having the internet connected at home. Lucky for me I have these blogs, otherwise would have lost all my garden pics from the last couple of years.
We have installed a brand new copy of windows, and an awful lot of data has been lost forever, but thankfully a lot of it is also safe and sound on flash drives!
I've been wanting to show some pics from the plot, and thought I'd start you all off on this basket of fire. It's my first year of growing Chili's, but this basket of Cayenne peppers have grown and still are growing beyond what I expected. This pic was taken yesterday afternoon, just after I harvested half a dozen fruits to send to D&K. As you can see, there's still a good few more to harvest, and they taste delish.

Dotted around the garden and the raised beds, there's a good few Chard plants. I grew 2 varieties this year: Zilver and Rainbow. Both are performing well, and at this time of year are providing some welcome colour. It's a strange ish taste at first, but we now find it a lovely addition to many dishes.
In the foreground are some lettuce ( v. unknown ) that I bought on my recent visit to the Victoriana nursery in Challock, Kent. They seem to be beating the slugs and putting on great growth. Cant wait to eat them !

Elsewhere on the plot:

My late sowing of Beetroot (v.Boltardy) are still putting on good growth, and are still swelling up. Not quite big enough to harvest just yet, but in the absence of any severe frost / cold snaps, they are still growing on well.
It was a bit of an experimental sowing, simply to use up some spare ground. Ok, it was Matron's idea / advice - so thanks for that. I must admit though, that the sight of empty soil ( after lifting the onions ) was a good time to try something like this.

There's still a fair bit to update you all on, but I'm a tad tired now - I've been up since 0430 this morning, so I'm gonna sign off for now. Don't worry though, there will be plenty more updates this week!

By the way, Secret Squirrel and I are tying the knot: 24th January 2009 at 2.00pm! Cant wait.

Take care all - see you soon.


Friday, 7 November 2008

Internet - At last ! 07.11.08

Greeting's from Reads Retreat, Our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

Finally we have home internet again, and cant wait to get going again with the blog.

The absence from the blog has been arduous, with our only access available at the local library.

Watch this space as we get you all up to date on whats happening on and around the plot.

Take care all, we'll see you soon.


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Ghostrider - at long last! 22.10.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

We still have no home internet, and this update comes to you from the local library access!

Regular readers will know that secret squirrel bought me some mail order plug plants way back in the spring. One of these was a Pumpkin (v. Ghostrider) which was duly planted up with the other plugs. It was given a favourable position in one of the raised beds, one that contained plenty of well rotted household waste, and a good proportion of compost. It should have done remarkably well. Initial growth was beyond expectations, as it easily sent out its stems all over the bed. Throughout the summer there has been a profusion of yellow flowerheads to greet me on the plot, but sadly that was it. Having resigned my self to failure with this vegetable, I had stopped looking. It's a shame then that this week we have discovered the making of a pumpkin. It's only small at the moment ( slightly larger than a golf ball ) and still green. I'm tempted now to wait a while before uprooting the plant. For the life of me I'm not expecting much here, but it would be nice to get a small reward for all the care and attention that has been lavished. Fellow bloggers have put me to shame here with pics of their glorious bounties! Must try harder next year !

Elsewhere on the plot, the growth is slowing up as weeds take over, light availabilty declines, and the nights get darker earlier. A brisk walk around the plot this morning revealed :
  • The runner beans have finally finished their growth for cropping. The pods left will now be saved for seed collection ( when the pods have dried out ), before the plants are cut at soil level and cleared away for the winter.
  • The Climbing French beans have mostly finished now, maybe a final harvest awaits for the table ? Any further bean pods will be left on the plant to dry out, and the seeds contained will be stored for use in winter soups and casseroles.
  • The Turnips (v. Golden Ball) had the greens removed a couple of days ago, and are already sprouting fresh leaves. They will be left in the ground a while longer, or until we get a prolonged cold snap.
  • The late sowed Kohl Rabi, well - not doing too much. I may get a few "golf ball" sized crops but that will probably be it ?
  • The late sowed Beetroot (v. Boltardy) are still doing well, and if we're lucky will provide a dozen or so more fruits for the table .
  • The chili's ( v. Cayenne ) in the hanging basket continue to thrive. Just wish I could upload a pic to show you. There must be about 30 or so in this one basket, and I must add - they taste delish.
  • Our dying courgette plant has all but given up the ghost, albeit having just produced a rather late yellow flower - might get one more here?
  • What we do have an abundance of though ( thanks to my over planting ) is loads and loads of swiss chard all around the plot. This tasty spinach like plant, should be gracing our plates right through the winter. Yum!

Thats about it for now. Please bookmark us and come back soon. We hope to be online in the very near future.


Friday, 10 October 2008

Still no computer!

Welcome back to Reads Retreat.

Apologies to Matron and all, still no pictures I'm afraid!

If anyone has a spare 120Gb Hard drive they don't need anymore - please let me know !

Will be back soon !


Monday, 6 October 2008

Chilli's Galore 06.10.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

We still have no Internet access at home, so am continuing to use the facilities at the library! With that in mind, all updates will be in text format for a few weeks, but we hope to get things sorted soon.

I took a stroll around the plot yesterday - amid the howling wind and rain! Normally at this time of year you don't expect to see a lot of colour from the crops, but I was delighted to see plenty of bright red Chilli's in the hanging basket. I can thoroughly recommend that you grow some of these in this manner. I've lost count of how many we've harvested from this single plant, and there is still loads more to come. The variety we chose are Cayenne. They were very easy to propogate, grow very quickly and very spicy without being too hot - if you know what i mean!

Elsewhere the crops are starting to finish. The runner beans have not really produced much this year, but plenty of pods will once again be saved for next years plantings. The Climbing French Beans (v. Blue Lake) have exceeded expectations, and surprisingly are still cropping!

Thats about it for now. Watch this space for more update. Till then,


Thursday, 2 October 2008

What no internet ! 2.10.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat.

Please bear with us as we currently do not have Home Internet access.

Many thanks to Kent County Council for providing access in the interim.

More updates to follow very soon - hopefully!


Saturday, 20 September 2008

Cor ! 21.09.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat. Our guide and diary blog, aimed at all those who want to grow veg in Raised Beds.
There's been a lot happening here at Reads Retreat of late, including a recent visit from mum, who stopped for a few days, before leaving laden with goodies - including a Bay Tree Plant, and some lovely fresh Garlic from the plot. We've recently been giving produce away - lucky that we did really as it prompted a conversation that led to the discovery of a chest freezer going begging in Mick & Carols garage. That's just what we need right now, not withstanding our bumper haul of apples from Arthur's garden next door. We must have collected a good 20lb's or so - both fallers and from the tree, and secret squirrel is now contemplating jams and chutneys like they're going out of fashion. Of course, Arthur will get his fair share of fresh baked pies too, as our way of saying thanks. There's still more fruit on the tree, but mostly out of reach and thoroughly pecked by the birds. Oh well, we'll leave them to it. A nice tasty snack for them!

Is it just me that's having a real nightmare uploading pictures to the blog ?? Its taken me half an hour to load this! (Rant over). Our tom's in the raised beds have nearly all been harvested. We've not had a brilliant crop, but we now have plenty of red and (mostly) green toms to go into our chutney recipe's. We decided to harvest what we could see this morning, and clear away / compost what's left of the plants. This is due to the recent drop in temperature and the ever diminishing hours of daylight. I think the lesson learned this year is not to plant the toms too close to the fence, where there may be more trapped cold air.

My little plot of Turnip (v.Golden Ball) are growing at quite a rate. Sweeping the tops aside reveals the globes beneath, and I eagerly await the first harvest to see how good they taste. I'm a great fan of winter stews, and hope these will mature enough to join the list of regular inclusions. It's the first time we've grown these on our home plot, and fully expect to grow them on our allotment in the coming year. I'd also like to try growing Swede, and will be opting for a variety called "Ruby" ! Sorry - can't resist! I'll let you know how this lot progress.

Our hanging basket of heat is going from strength to strength. In more ways than one! The Chili's (v.Cayenne) have started to turn red, and there's plenty more still growing. This lot has to be this year's success story, as we continue to harvest these fiery fruits. A couple of these have already spiced up our chili con carne's, and we're looking forward to many more being used - maybe in our chutneys etc. I think growing beetroot in the same basket may have been a tad optimistic, but there's still plenty of time for these to grow too. Just need to remember to water them!

There's still a load to update you on, but I'm having loads of issues uploading pics so i will call it quits for now. Let's hope that "Blogger" get it sorted soon!

Join me again soon from Reads Retreat.


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Shine on you crazy diamond.... 16.09.08

Richard Wright - one of Pink Floyd's founding members, passed away yesterday.

Rest in Peace.

You will be missed.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Competition time ! 14.09.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds. If you are a returning site visitor, you will remember this pic of the remaining seed grown "Bedfordshire Champion" onion on my plot. Just for a bit of fun, I though I would have a "Guess the weight" competition. Its open to anyone - fellow bloggers or not ! As for the prize ? I recently bought some Dill Herb seeds in error ( I have an unopened pack already ) so will gladly post these to the winner ! We are talking pounds and ounces here folks! A clue to its size ? Well the board around the raised bed is 1 1/2" thick ! I will pick the onion next sunday, and pop it straight on the scales. The person who guesses the closest wins the herbs. My decision; by the way, is final! Good luck.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Non stop harvests - yummy ! 10.09.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds. It's been a while since the last update, and there's so much to tell you about. Our main news - regular readers will know - is that on 17th August we took over a 10 Rod Allotment, and joined the local Sheppey Horticultural Society. This has taken a large chunk of our time, but progress is slowly being made. Check out the link (see right) to our new blog, and follow our progress as we start from scratch. It's a really exciting time - lots of planning and lots of hard work to follow! 10 Rods - to you and me that's 300 sq/yd's. That's a lot of digging. Continuing with our home plot theme, we are going to use raised beds to raise our crops. The current good news is that all our crops at home are coming to fruition. This pic shows the towering growth of the 2 French Bean (v.Blue Lake ) wigwams. We are harvesting now on a daily basis, being creative with their culinary uses, as well as giving them away to friends and work colleagues. The crop has been great so far, and there's still bucket loads to come! These will be making an appearance on our new venture next year.
On a slight downer, the Runner Bean crop's this year have not been so successful. This may be due to late planting, after my first plantings were ruined by frost, but it may also be due to the absence of Bee's in the garden until about mid August. There's been plenty of flowers - both Red and White, and even now there's also plenty of tiny beans forming, and I hope we will still get some good beans to harvest. Next year I will grow these on the allotment, but will not use a wigwam for them again. Unlike the French Beans that are easy to spot / harvest on wigwams, it's been really hard so far to find the runners. Mind you, access is restricted on my garden plot, despite the raised beds layout and all the pathways I've put in this year. Someone said "you learn by doing" - they were right!

You have to look hard, but amongst the dense green foliage of these tomato plants (v. Money Maker & Gardeners Delight) there are some nice red toms getting ready for picking. Indeed, on an almost daily basis we get about half a dozen. All good news as I'm not a great fan of Green Tom Chutney ! The pot of picked toms therefore, is now filling up. Hopefully we'll get enough to make some Jamie Oliver esque ketchup, as well as all the other delights that secret squirrel is planning to make !

Amidst all the harvesting, there's still lots of new growth around! To the far left, there are 2 rows of Beetroot (v. Boltardy) which were planted out early August. These are a staple dietary addition for SS's Peanut Butter sandwiches, and these 2 little rows should provide enough for a good few sarnies. Between the rows of Leeks, there are 2 more small rows of Kohl Rabi. Still a bit of an experiment as they were planted so late, but they are growing on well. Hopefully they will mature before the really cold weather sets in. The Leeks themselves are doing ok too, although a good few did start to bolt. Those affected had their flower stems removed, and have seemingly recovered. The trailing leaves that were touching the ground have been cut away, to avoid slugs getting onto them. I plan to leave these in the ground till well into the winter months, though we couldn't resist harvesting one for last sundays lunch. It tasted good, but the core was very tough - maybe due to the bolting ?
Our hanging basket of Chili Peppers (v.Cayenne) are growing unbelievably well, and today we harvested our first Red one, savouring it's taste in a bowl of chili con carne at tea time. Not as hot as we thought it might be, so next time we'll leave the seeds in the pot too!
The sunflower on the right was Ruby's first gardening exploit - didn't she do well. The seed was planted in a plastic cup on one of her visits to playgroup, and grew into this fine specimen. Chip off the old block !

Here at Reads Retreat, we're collectively proud of these 2 little Aubergine's. Its gonna be a wee while before they are big enough to use, but having lost so many flowers from the plant, we were overjoyed when not only did these 2 flowers stay put, but they also turned into the fine specimens you see here. Having been reliably informed by the FIL that they would not grow in our climate, it was nice to prove him wrong!
Not sure we'll get many more, but with all the extra space we'll have next year, we will definitely try and grow some more of the delicious veg next year. Now, where did we put all those seed catalogues !!

My crowning glory for todays update is my small plot of Turnips (v.Golden Ball). These plants really are growing well, and now stand between 6" and 8" tall. Approx 30 seeds have survived the snail and slug attack and continue to put on some good growth. The edge of the bed was planted up with Chard (v.Zilver) and this too is growing well, although it has been somewhat shadowed by the Turnip's growth. I read in a book recently that you can harvest the turnip tops whilst leaving the root in the ground, where it will send up new shoots. Can anyoe give me any advice on this ? There's also 1 last bucket of spuds to be harvested - maybe this weekend ?

Thats about it for now. I'm trying to build up a blog record of the allotment, so please take a look when you get a chance. Hope you are all still enjoying the fruits of your labours. Enjoy your gardens while the weather lasts.
Take care all and see you again soon.


Saturday, 23 August 2008

Its a bit chilly ! 23.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

Just popped out to look over the plot - and there's a definite chill in the air. The good news though was the sound of the Bee's in the garden. They are everywhere, all over the French Beans(v.Blue Lake) as well as on the Nasturtiums. It seems they arrived late and are now on overtime!

At long last we have a couple of Aubergines forming. All previous flower buds have died back and dropped from the stems. Perseverance with regular watering / feeding seems to be having the desired effect!
Slightly off topic ( I know! ) but wanted to share this pic of one of the many "Bonsai's" in the garden. This Acer is now on its second growth of the year. I let it dry out at the middle of June, die back, then re commence watering and feeding. This gives a second show of the leaves, and I'm told that it helps keep the tree healthy. We have several other trees in pots, including Ash, Walnut, Elm, and are all growing well this year.

I'm having trouble uploading further pictures today, so will have a go again later .

Pop back soon for more updates from the plot.


Monday, 18 August 2008

Bricking it ...... 18.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide blog to Growing your own Veg in Raised beds.Continuing on from yesterdays theme, here's a before and after photo of our latest brick path. These bricks were left over after yesterdays creation and needed using up - we kept tripping over the pile of bricks! Again, I must stress that these are not yet cemented in place, merely laid out in a nice "pattern" ready for cementing at a later date. I cant promise that "Plot 81" will be this ornate, but you never know. We're still excited about getting on with the plot, and secret squirrel is already waxing lyrical about crop rotation, planting plans and the like. There's no stopping her !

Elsewhere on the plot, the Beetroot(v.Boltardy) are starting to show, and the Turnips(v.Golden Ball) seem to have survived their thinning out. I'll give the latter a couple more weeks to grow on before finally thinning them out.

I saw my 1st Meadow Blue Butterfly today. Apparently they've been in the garden all summer ( Brown's too) but I had not seen them until today. There's also loads and loads of Dragonflies flitting about - I'll try and get some pictures to post on the blog. Thats about it for now. Join us again a bit later in the week for a further update before I get back to work.


Sunday, 17 August 2008

Looking good on the plot 17.08.08

Welcome back to our plot update here at Reads Retreat - our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds. We're both still on cloud 9 on the back of acquiring our own allotment. There's a lot of work in preparation terms, as the site is currently overgrown, but we now have a great opportunity to expand on what we grow. As you can see in this picture, our garden plot is now in full swing, we're still planting as well as tackling the hard landscaping ( laying bricks etc. ) but we'll get to that later. The French Beans(v.Blue Lake) are racing up their canes, and have already provided a few good harvests, with the prospect of providing many more yet. The traditional "family" runner beans are now also starting to put on good growth. Alongside the reads runners we planted a few "new seed" , some different varieties with both Pink & White flowers. These were given to me by my FIL and it seemed a waste not to use them. As stated in an earlier post, there's also a lot of Bee's in the garden now, a great and encouraging sight.
The toms (v.Tomazing) right outside the patio door were looking a bit sad a couple of weeks ago, having been stripped of most foliage by an enthusiastic but somewhat inexperienced Ruby. The plant was left bare except for 2 trusses of green toms. With no way of getting these to redden up foreseeable, we used the method of hanging an over-ripe banana on the plant. This gives off a gas which helps to redden up the toms, and as you can see it's working a treat. The added advantage, is that the banana is attracting some great looking Butterflies, which I tried to capture in this photograph. However, the adage of never working with children / animals has come true as every time I took a pic, the butterfly closed it's wings. I took about 8 shots but this is the best of the lot!

Here we have the first of our Sweet Peppers(v.Moneymaker) that we raised from seed. Pictures don't lie, but this pot of 3 plants is only about 10" tall, and the biggest pepper is still very small - but in our eyes still a success. It's always nice to grow something new at Reads Retreat, and in our eyes, if the plant bears fruit then its a success. We've got about a dozen or so of these plants dotted around, and although a lot of the plants are bearing flowers / buds, this is the first to bear fruit. We'll keep on nurturing this and see how we get on. The Chili peppers we're growing (v. Cayenne) in the hanging baskets and various pots around the plot, are also doing very well. Cant wait to taste them in a few more dishes.

Our newly "dressed" Rhubarb crown (v.Timperly Early) is already sending up new shoots after only a week. This is a good sign of a healthy crown, and we've enjoyed many a harvest from this throughout the summer. I must say it's tempting to grab a few more sticks, but we'll have to wait till next spring. Now that we have acquired our own allotment, we plan to include a few new crowns in our planting plan, to give us more of this tasty dessert throughout the following years.

Regular visitors to Reads Retreat, will know that I keep my eyes and ears open for bricks, as they are always useful on the plot. This area that I've now bricked over, was previously covered in wood chippings laid on top of a weed control membrane. That was a satisfactory path area, but as the material continually rotted down, I found we had to keep adding chipped bark to keep the path at a decent height. Now we have bricks laid out over the top, it looks a bit better and matches the other access area. All I need to do now is get some mortar to bed these down onto, and to fill in the gaps. Still got loads of bricks left so expect to see more paths being laid!

The Turnips (v.Golden Ball) have had their first thinning, with the gap between each seedling now approx 2". They will be thinned to a 4" gap a bit later on in their growth, so we can select the stronger plants.
Some of the "far too many" seedlings thinned out today, have been replanted in the various gaps that are starting to spring up in the raised beds. Obviously, the seedlings don't like to be distirbed, but they have 2 chances, and we might as well let them choose for themselves!

Elsewhere on the plot, there's still loads going on. Our toms in the raised beds are very slowly starting to redden up, the recently sown Betroot (v.Boltardy) seeds have germinated and are poking their leaves up to the sky, my "Giant" onion is still growing well, and my Carrots (v Autumn King 3)and Chard (v. Bright Lights & Zilver) are coming on a treat. Oh, did I mention ? We now have an allotment too!!

It's all very exciting, so much to think about and plan! We're gonna be busy! Hope you are all still enjoying the fruits of your toil. Come back and see us again soon. Till then,


Friday, 15 August 2008

Busy Bee's 15.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

A welcome sight in the garden this morning, a plethora of Bee's all over the Runner beans / French beans. They have been somewhat absent from the plot over the recent weeks, but are now here in abundance. Great news!

I had a comment from "Matron" (see previous post) enquiring about how our Rhubarb tasted that we pulled a few days ago. I have to say, it was gorgeous, and cant understand why people stop picking it so early in the year. This crown (v.Timperley Early) is only in its second year, and has provided plentiful crops this year which again is against what most people say. As previously posted, we will not harvest any more this year, rather letting the crown build up energy for next spring's forcing. I tried to leave a comment on your blog (Matron) but cannot get it to work ? You can always contact me directly via :

Thats about it for now, but will be back over the weekend with further updates from the plot.
Till then,


Tuesday, 12 August 2008

GOLD for Bedfordshire Champions ! 12.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, the home of how to "Grow your own veg in Raised Beds".

Today saw the harvest start of the Bedfordshire Champion Onions. In my mind, they're all Gold medal winners, considering that I grew these all from seed, and they easily out grew the onion sets that were planted out in the raised beds about 2 weeks earlier. Next year I'll be planting more of these little ( er - not so little ! ) gems, and staggering the planting to get a longer lasting harvest.

As you can see, young Ruby was happy to help, as she willingly posed with her first onion. To be totally honest , I'm surprised that any of them grew at all, considering that Ruby's favourite pastime of late has been to pull the outer leaves off as soon as they were within reach.
I noticed that the seed grown onions all grew beneath the soil; as opposed to the sets that grew virtually on the surface of the soil, with the former producing much larger specimens.
Following good advice from Steve and other regular readers of my blog, I patiently waited for the stems to fall over before pulling the crop up. With the weather forecasting wet for the next few days, i decided to harvest most of them today to avoid the stems rotting.

As this image shows, there's still a few more Champions in the raised bed - still growing strongly. This specimen is well over cricket ball size already, so although it wont be a show winner, and the taste may deteriorate, it's gonna be a big one !
That is of course assuming the foliage stays intact for a bit longer.
I really want to encourage our daughter to help and get involved in the garden, but despair at the sight of new seedlings being pulled from the soil.
Oh well, onwards and upwards !

Some of the rest of todays harvest can be seen here, laid out in a warm and sunny, and most of all dry location, for the stems to dry out.We've had a really good crop overall, and I'm more than happy with our little stab at growing onions.
Next season there will be a whole bed reserved for this crop. It's not just about the excitement of growing onions, the key for me - that you just don't get with shop brought onions - is how well they retain their flavour after cooking. You've got to try this for yourself to understand what I'm saying !

If I may be so bold, I've taken a leaf out of a fellow bloggers book, (Thanks Matron) and decided to keep on sowing seeds. It's nice to have harvests, but it seems such a shame to have a bare patch of soil. Yesterday afternoon I prepared this bed (formerly home to the Stuttgarter Giant Onions) and planted 2 x 3' rows of Beetroot (v.Boltardy). With the current spell of warm/hot and damp weather upon us, there's no good reason why these seeds should not germinate. It also gave me the opportunity to tidy up the Leeks. I read recently that any foliage from the Leeks that touches the ground should be removed, preventing easy access for slugs and snails, and therefore promoting better growth. We'll have to wait and see!

On the same theme, I today prepared this bed, and planted 2 x 3' rows of Kohl Rabi. I prepared drills, and sowed the seed rather more generously than my earlier in the year efforts. This bed was previously home to my Red onions (v.Red Karmen) and the soil was in really good condition. A gentle rake over the seeds once sown, then gently pressed down and watered in well. I'm looking forward to another crop here - all being well.
I'm a strong believer in not always believing the information contained on the seed packets, rather I use it as a guide. The seed manufacturers must obviously provide some guidance on growing, but with the ever changing seasons, there surely is some latitude in the information provided ?

Again, about six weeks after the books tell us, we took our last harvest of the year from my Rhubarb crown (v.Timperly Early), and the secret squirrell created 2 delish Rhubarb & Ginger crumbles. Try it ? The taste is amazing! After harvesting, the crown was thoroughly drenched, then a thick mulch of potting compost , mixed with slow release fertilizer, was poured over the crown. This will now be left until next spring, letting the plant build up its reserves, before I again start forcing the plant for an early crop. Mmmmm I can hardly wait!

The Pot Marigold's planted here and there on the raised beds, are still flowering well. In fact, there's an abundance of flowers all over the garden, but we are not seeing many bee's. I hope it changes as we progress through the summer, but I'm not sure it will.
Elsewhere on the plot, all is going well. The Runner & Broad Beans are flowering well, and producing crops, albeit only small amounts at the moment. The Turnip seedlings are now about 1" tall and I'll soon have to start thinning them out, we've bucket loads of Carrot seedlings (v.Autumn King 3), and Chard seedlings beginning to take over. So you see, there's loads of work still to be done. What fun!

I hope you're still enjoying your gardens as much as I am. I've got a little project underway that I will bring you news of soon. The only hold up on it is funds, but I'm trying to scrounge bits and bobs, and am slowly getting there. Watch this space ! Till then,


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Olympics - What are they ? 10.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat - our diary blog about growing your / our own veg in Raised Beds.
No time to sit and watch the telly here at Reads Retreat, far too much to do in the garden and home! As reported a few days ago, these Turnip seeds that were planted straight into the raised beds last weekend, germinated with just 3 days! This picture taken this morning shows that they continue to grow at a fast rate. The planting lines are clearly visible thanks to my method of using a cane to mark out the sowing drill. This coupled with the warm weather and plentiful rainfall has given these plants a great start. Very soon i will have to start thinning them out. I hardly used any of the seeds, compared to the estimated contents on the pack - 1500 - and only £1.09. At a later date I'll explain how I store any surplus seed, which despite claims on the packs, last for ages.

At the same time as I planted the Turnip's, I also planted some Chard, which you can just see emerging around the edge of the bed. These took longer to germinate as I expected, as the seeds are much larger. You can speed up germination of large seeds by soaking before planting out.

My Courgette plants seem to be recovering well. The problem was I think created by me, over watering ? The plants seemed to be dying off, and the leaves didn't look too healthy. This was followed by heavy and prolonged rainfall which compounded the problem. Therefore, I just "neglected" the plants for a few days, and one of them has revived itself, and is bearing fruit again, and they're growing quickly too. Cant wait to harvest more from this plant. I read that I should expect about a dozen from each plant, and so far we've had about half a dozen, so looking forward to a few more yet ! We'll see. Might grow some yellow varieties next year ?

My Raspberry root that i purchased from Wilko's, is finally starting to add some growth. Like the Blackcurrant that I purchased at the same time, they were both planted in shallow soil in pots to get them established. Hopefully they will continue to form a good root base so that I can plant them into their growing positions late autumn / early winter. I must admit that despite the price of a couple of pounds each, I am dissapointed with how badly / slowly they have grown. I may attempt some cuttings if i'm feeling confident, as i dont want to keep on spending when funds are so tight elsewhere. It would be nice to get some from from the plants this year. Maybe we will, we'll have to wait and see!

It's a very similar story with the Gooseberry bush. Purchased from the same place, it's taken an absolute age to get this far! I have fed and watered it consistently, but still the growth is slow. I'm really keen to get this going; my grandfather - i remember - grew these in his garden at Clacton, and I would love to do the same here. I maybe will buy some better stock for planting out next year. After all, you get what you pay for , and not much more.

And now the good news ! Look at these 2 towers of lush green foliage. The lighter green ( as you may have guessed ) is the runner beans. These have been grown year on year from seeds saved by Grandad. I was down to 5 seeds this year, as they just didn't want to germinate. Now though they have recovered well. We've had a few small picking's, and are looking forward to many more! The darker green is the climbing French Beans (v.Blue Lake). Again, these seemed to take ages to get going, then suddenly they sprang into action. We've had several picking from this too, harvesting the bean pods at about 4" long. They taste delish, and will deff be grown again here at Reads Retreat. To the left of the pic is my clump of Toms (v. Moneymaker) which are also doing well.

Another great and unexpected success this year have been my Chili Peppers (v.Cayenne). We've got them growing everywhere we can find space to put them, even in this hanging basket alongside Beetroot (v.Boltardy). There's plenty of nearly ready to pick Chili's already, and still more are forming. We've had less success with our sweet peppers, but we are persevering to see if we can get a crop.

That's about it for todays update, there's still loads more to tell you about, including a new project indoors, but sitting here typing is making my back ache, so please excuse me for now.

Take care all, get out into your gardens as the weather permits, and enjoy yourselves!