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.