Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas everyone

Hope you all have a fantastic day.

From all of us at

Reads Retreat.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

First Snow

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, where we are just getting to grips with the first snowfall of the winter. Yesterday morning my drive home from work was treacherous to say the least. During the night ( i was working!) there was about 4" of snow in about 3 hours. The roads were somewhat slippery, and my journey home took about 40 mins instead of the usual ten mins! I think it was 2nd gear all the way! This snap was taken through the conservatory window at about 7.00am. It looked lovely! Off to sleep i went!

The view from the same window (different angle obviously) was somewhat brighter this morning. Clear blue sky had followed a light overnight snow fall, and the snow on the conservatory roof was attempting to melt. Every now and again there's a "crunch" as a chunk of snow falls from the roof! I couldn't resist a snap of these icycles. Nothing to report from the garden, except to remind you all to put food and water out for the birds! Wild birds are a great addition to the garden, and especially during this weather, their presence should be encouraged.

I hope you are not too badly affected by the snow - try and enjoy it !

Take care all,


Sunday, 29 November 2009

Birthday Spuds!

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, where Spud (that's me!) is celebrating - it's my Birthday. We also bring more news of the Christmas spuds, that are growing at a rate of knots. The shoots are now almost at the top of the bucket, and as soon as this update is finished, I'll be earthing the shoots up again. We're really quite hopeful that we'll be able to eat some freshly dug spuds with our Christmas dinner, and with 4 weeks (ish) to go, it's looking promising. No other news from the plots today. Maybe if the weather actually brightens up a bit - the rain is lashing down right now - then we'll get out into the garden or up to the plot! Right now I'm just gonna sit back and chill out - enjoy my birthday. There's a joint of beef in the oven, cake freshly made this morning, and the outlaws on their way over. Life's good right now.

Take care all,


Friday, 27 November 2009

Spuds update

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, for a quick update on the new potato's! Yup, you read that right - new spuds! We planted 4 small seeds in a bucket just a couple of weeks ago (14th) and already they are growing really well. This picture taken 2 days ago shows just how well they are doing! No extra care has been taken, they are just being watered on a regular basis. After this shot was taken, the shoots were "earthed up" to just below the leaves with fresh multi purpose compost. Already, 2 days later, they have grown another inch! Not sure if we'll be able to harvest these on Christmas morning or not, but wouldn't it be lovely ! Not much to report from the plot I'm afraid, just that we're continually scouring the seed catalogue's for new varieties to try !

We hope the recent bad weather has not dampened your gardening enthusiasm, and hope you will pop back soon for another update from Reads Retreat.

Take care all,


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Spuds are sprouting!

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, where we bring you the good news that our spuds are sprouting already ! I know it's hard to see from the picture, but 3 of the 4 tubers are sprouting. The largest is at the 1 o'clock position in the pic!
It certainly is a reassuring sight, i was beginning to think we had left it too late for these to grow. But, wouldn't it be nice to dig them Christmas morning, and eat them the same day !
Not much else to report from RR. The wind and rain continues virtually unabated, and not much is getting done with the raised beds. If there's an opportunity today, I will cut back the asparagus fronds, and cover the bed with a layer of home made compost.

Hope you will pop back soon for more updates .

Till then, enjoy your gardening,


Sunday, 15 November 2009

Grandad's Plant Labels

Welcome back to Reads Retreat.
The weather is improving somewhat, we now have all the ground floor windows open, and the sun is shining through. It feels quite warm to boot!

I was just "pottering" in the conservatory, and stumbled across a jam jar full of plant labels, that I inherited and stored away for posterity.

I thought it would be lovely to "re-create" some of the fine flower displays that Grandad always had in his gardens, and so to the labels - a great place to start:

  • Tulip v.Lily
  • Hardy Annuals
  • Clarkia
  • Chrysanthemum v. Allouise / Garden Bloom
  • Chrysanthemum v. Tone Gambol
  • Arcadia Gold
  • Hollyhock v. King Alfred
  • French Marigold v. Ballet Girl
  • Geranium v.Trull's Hatch ? (half a doz. of these labels)
  • Silverdale
  • Orange Beauty
  • Swan River Daisy
  • Salvia's Pink
  • Sedum Acre
  • Morning Glory v. Madeleine Queen
  • Pansy - Imperial Antique shades
  • Aquilegia v. McKana's Giant Mixed
If you can help in identifying any of these plants / names, it would be appreciated. Info on stockists etc also much appreciated. I'm off to surf the net now too see what i can find!

That's it for now.

Take care and enjoy your gardens.


A change in the weather

Welcome back to Reads Retreat.
Its a cold and wet wintery morning, still having the torrential downpours, but the good news is that the fencing around the garden managed to survive the elements last night, If you could see some of the fence panels you'd be as surprised as us!

I made a start yesterday sorting out the seed packets ! Loads more to do here, but getting there slowly. I'll be having a clear out too - some of the seed is past its recommended sow by date - and these will be replaced. I don't like to throw seed away, so if you want any, let me know! All i ask is you make a donation to cover postage - you can do that via Paypal!

Watch this space, I'll post the list as soon as possible!

That's all for now, take care all & enjoy your gardens!


Saturday, 14 November 2009

A spud gamble!

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, where only yesterday I was planting some first earlies spuds! Way back in the spring, our darling daughter Ruby planted 1 seed potato in a patio container - this being a concrete boot ornament - which was never going to amount to a great harvest, but we didn't want to knock her enthusiasm. Sure enough, the plant put on great growth. When the time of harvest was reached, Ruby was delighted with this haul of new potato's. 4 of the spuds were about an inch in diameter, and the other 3 were about pea size! Not wanting to seem ungrateful, i told her we would keep them to use later! They sat in the conservatory all summer, and when they recently started to chit I fell upon the idea of planting them up - maybe they will grow some new spuds in time for Christmas? What the hell, we've got nothing to lose:
I started off with a 3" layer of multi purpose compost in a B&Q bucket, then placed the larger of the 4 tubers onto the surface, before covering with a further layer of mp compost. These have now been well watered. We plan to keep / grow them in the unheated greenhouse, hoping the extra warmth vs. being outside will help with the growth. Maybe we'll feed them with tomorite when they start to grow ? And who knows, we may get treated to a few new spuds for Christmas day. This is; after all, the fun of gardening. The best way to find out if something works is to try it!
We'll keep you posted.

That's all for now folks, but pop back soon for more updates from RR.


Friday, 13 November 2009

Rain rain rain !

Welcome back to Reads Retreat where so far - last 24hrs - we've had over an inch of rain! It's coming down in "stair rods" as my friend PC used to say. There's been no let up at all, and I'm glad at times like this that I fixed the conservatory roof!
Not that there's much I can do anyway, recovering as i am from viral pleurisy. To top that, I now have "Man Flu" too, as do all the family.
There are a couple of things that i need to get on with, like sorting out the seed storage boxes and placing orders for next year. There's also some new potatoes to plant up - yup , you read that right, and I'll do that later and explain myself.

I hope wherever you are that you are coping with this deluge, and we look forward to welcoming you back to RR in the near future.

Take care all,


Sunday, 8 November 2009

91 Years of Rememberance 08.11.2008

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

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Toms and Leaf Mould !

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, after what seems like a very long time! Our absence has been partly due to the inclement weather, as well as a couple of other factors. Mum #2 has been a tad ill of late, and we have been visiting her on a regular basis. Thankfully she is going home today, and we'll be off to see her soon. I have also been a tad ill, and am just getting over a bout of Viral Pleurisy.
On the garden front, the raised beds are very nearly finished in terms of this years growing. There's still a few Beetroot growing, but that really is about it. The fronds on our Asparagus crowns are starting to yellow, and these will soon be cut back for the winter. Over the next couple of months we'll be adding some manure as a mulch dressing, and we'll probably use the spent compost from our tomato tubs on this bed too. The raised beds have really struggled with the dry summer, and the soil was really baked and starting to open up large cracks. The level of the soil has also sunk somewhat, and again this will be replenished over the winter.
Our previous post regailed the news of our last tomato harvest - hehehe - how wrong we were! The picture above is of our last harvest. There's a good mixture therein, including Yellow Pear, Gardeners Delight, and Moneymaker. Clearly the majority are not ripened, and will be used in green tomato chutney (anyone got a good recipe?), to add to our store cupboard!
The only other item to report today is that we have started collecting leaves to use as leaf mould. There's a lot of praise for this soil conditioner, and although it will take a good year to rot down into something useful, it is free. On that basis we'll give it a go. There's plenty of falling leaves in our driveway, and we'll collect these and see how we get on! We'll store them in a garden refuse sack in the corner of the plot, and keep our fingers crossed for next year!

That's all for now folks, but pop back soon for more updates from Reads Retreat.


Saturday, 17 October 2009

Last of the toms!

First of all:
Mum - Many Happy Returns for 16th
love from us all

Welcome back to Reads Retreat. Sorry we've been absent for a while, but we've been a little busy. Not much has been happening in the garden, but we did venture out earlier to pick what is probably the last of the toms. The basket pictured left contains what is probably soon to be chutney! Some of these toms were given to me by a fellow allotment holder who had "no use" for the greener ones - that surprised me a tad ! Not much gets wasted here at Reads Retreat, and this mixed bag of ripe / green toms is no exception. Check out Reads Recipes in the next few days, and you might find another mouthwatering chutney recipe!
As usual at this time of year, we are hanging up bean pods to dry, and this pic shows some "drying" in progress. We never seem to save enough pods, but at least the seeds that we get this year can be mixed in with whatever we buy for next year, which does of course save us some money in the long run. Also, we can be very selective as to which plant we save seed from, and hopefully the following year we'll get bigger and better crops. This is especially important on the runner bean front, as my Grandad Read collected runner bean seeds for many years, and I'm carrying on the tradition, writing this blog in his memory. Wonder if he's reading this now ?

That's about all for now.

We hope you'll pop back soon for more updates from Reads Retreat.

Till then,


Sunday, 11 October 2009

Hunter Hunted !

Welcome back to Reads Retreat.
Just a quick post to let you know we harvested the last Butternut Squash (.v. Hunter) yesterday, and it weighed in at a hefty 1.666Kg - what a whopper!
It's now been moved to a sunny storage place where we hope it will continue to ripen. Also, the skin should toughen up a bit, enabling us to store it a while longer. Thats all for now, cant bring any news from the plot today as my car's MOT expired yesterday and as such cant be driven. MOT is Tuesday - fingers crossed,


Sunday, 27 September 2009

Tidying up for Autumn

Welcome back to Reads Retreat! Oops ! - I started this post about 2 weeks ago, and forgot to finish & publish it! God, where does the time go? At the time of these pictures, we were having a good run of green toms, so many in fact that i decided to cut these from the dwindling plants, to bring them inside to hopefully ripen up on the windowsill. I'm pleased to tell you that this is going well!

Notwithstanding the plethora of green toms, we are also madly harvesting the rest of the ripe toms. The daily haul includes Moneymaker, Gardeners Delight, and Yellow Pear. We seem to be getting a good late crop, even as I belatedly type this post up (well into October) we are still harvesting them on a daily basis. Yum!

The plants themselves are now a tad bedraggled, and very soon we will pick the remainder of the crop before tidying up and throwing away the remains of the plants. We really have had a bumper crop, and have to lay the blame of late pickings on the weather.

We've had some similair late successes with our Chilli plants. This one of unknown origin (a present from Huw & Jane) has done remarkably well, producing an abundance of 3/4" long hot specimens. They've mostly all ripened on the plant, though some will inevitably be taken inside to finish their ripening.

As for this beauty - we've had loads of these fiery hot "Firetongue". This plant was purchased from Victoriana Nurseries, quite late in the season, and with a bit of TLC has put on tremendous growth. Jen used this variety in our home made tomato sauce!

These Jalapeno "Hercules" are somewhat dissapointing in that they have failed to redden up. We've been using them as they are and have no complaints!

We've been tidying up the raised beds, and this one has a fresh mulch of spent grow bag compost on top. It's uncanny just how much the level in the raised beds has fallen over the last couple of years, and this top dressing should go some way to rebuilding that level. We've had some excellent crops from this bed, including some great tasting Lollo Rosso - cut and come again lettuce. There's still half a dozen or so carrots left to pull, before the bed is finally covered for the winter.

Our Rhubarb crown has done bloomin great this year, providing substantial harvests up to the end of August. We'll let the leaves die back a tad more, before applying our winter dressing of manure / compost. We do this every year and it seems to do well from it. We have a second crown in the borders now (v. Victoria) which should mean an even bigger crop next year.

We still have this Butternut Squash (v.Hunter)in the raised bed. Won't be long now till harvest time, as the weather is deteriorating and the temperature starting to drop. Must get this one in before the first frost.

Our Asparagus bed is doing pretty well. 8 out of the original 10 plants have survived, and we're hopeful that we'll get to harvest some next April. If not, then we'll have the satisfaction of eating fresh Asparagus from the allotment - the plot we've just taken on has an established asparagus bed already!

This runner bean plant (v.Scarlet Emperor) has inadvertently turned into our sacrificial seed generator. To be honest we kind of forgot about the seeds that Ruby planted, and as we had such a great crop recently from the plot, we never needed to harvest these. There's a good bunch of nice sized dry pods, which will yield a good amount of seeds for next year!

And finally a pic of our ever eager helper. Ruby had a fantastic time "helping" us clear up the garden. Cant wait for next year when she'll be a bit more able to understand what we're doing.

That's all for now folks, but check back soon for more updates.

Enjoy your gardens - we love autumn!


Sunday, 6 September 2009

What's growing at Reads Retreat

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, the home of veg growing in raised beds. Aside from the mornings work at the allotment, there's still a riot of activity on the home plot! This Butternut Squash(v.Hunter) is the pick of the crop at the moment - being quite huge in size and still growing. It's a first for the home plot, and one to be repeated at the allotment next year. There's a good few others growing here, but this is by far the largest. Needs a bit more sun yet to ripen it up. Fingers crossed eh !

The Dwarf Yellow podded French beans are still producing well. We manage to eat them a couple of times a week, and although they're getting fewer in number now, we hope to be cropping them for a good few weeks hence. This is another for the allotment next year. Must remember to save some seeds!

Our late sowed Courgette is still producing! We managed to cut another 6 incher today, but will be using it tomorrow. There's still plenty growing too, despite the white mottled leaves and the plants poor appearance. Might as well get what we can from it!

The even later planted Zucchini are growing well too, though the plants themselves are way smaller. I reckon if we get enough sunshine in the next 6-8 weeks, then we may be able to get a crop from these too. Nothing to lose by waiting a little while.

The toms are reddening up nicely. We're picking these almost daily now and loving the taste. The Yellow Pear ones are fruiting well, but I'm not as keen as Jen on their taste. Elsewhere around the plot we have a half dozen or so Moneymaker plants, which are currently full of trusses, but none of them are ripe yet!

That's about it for today's update - hope you've had a good read!

Dont forget to visit our new blog - Reads Recipe's - which Jen is updating on a regular basis.

Hope you are still enjoying your gardens as much as we are.

Take care all


Saturday, 5 September 2009

Check out our new blog:

Launched only a couple of days ago:

aims to showcase all the wonderful recipes we use.

Bookmark us and pop back soon, as we slowly get to grips with yet another blog!


Tuesday, 1 September 2009

First September Harvest

Welcome back to Reads Retreat. Every day it seems that winter draws a stage closer, soon we'll be "decking the halls ...etc" and looking forward to spring. What a cheery thought! At least we can still harvest home grown veg from the garden & the plot. These 3 courgettes are just at the right size, and eager to be eaten - guess we'll have to keep them happy!

One thing that brings us so much joy, is the excitement Ruby has when she gets to pose for the camera with something freshly harvested, these 2 cobs of sweetcorn proving the point. She really wanted to get peeling, so I was lucky to get a quick photo first!

Don't you just love the look on her face,"these are mine " kind of look. Whenever we plant any seeds in the garden, Ruby always helps, as she did when we planted this corn. Variety is Swift Early - and we'll be growing these again next year - but in larger numbers!

The final harvest from the raised beds today was this handful of Dwarf Yellow Podded French Beans. This crop has been a rip roaring success this year, and they taste out of this world. Definitely one to grow a lot more of next season.

That's all from Reads Retreat today, hope you've enjoyed the update.

Hope all your gardens and plots are going well too.

Take care all,


Monday, 31 August 2009

End of the month update

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our blog diary of growing your own veg in Raised Beds. Sorry for the lack of updates lately, regular readers will know that a lot of our efforts go into the Allotment, which is going well, whilst less effort is seen on the home plot. That said thought, we are still making rich pickings from the raised beds. Pictured here is our runaway success: These are dwarf yellow podded french beans which we had never grown before, but will definitely grow again next year. The plants stand about 18" tall, and bear large trusses of beans that start pale green and mature into bright yellow. They make a fantastic addition to the dinner plate, and add a splash of summer colour. Prior to planting I erected some 4' canes for support. I'm laughing now!!

Despite the messy appearance of our tomato plants, the yield is looking good as the toms are now starting to ripen at quite a pace. We have 3 varieties growing: Moneymaker, Gardeners Delight, and a Yellow Plum variety - the name of which escapes me! We have had minor issues with Blossom End Rot, but those affected were picked "green" and discarded. The rest it seems are doing ok. We have more plants dotted around the raised beds, some hidden behind other crops and some wherever there was some vacant land!
Our late planted Courgette plant is putting on good growth too. At first it seemed intent on just growing leaves, but now it is finally bearing fruit! We have lost a couple to slugs etc but that is to be expected. Now though it's looking good. There's at least 3 there ready to be picked, ranging from 4 - 6" long. Next year we are planning on growing many more of these up at the allotment, as they are a lovely tasting veg, and they can easily be frozen too. Maybe we can save a few for Christmas dinner ?

Talking of a "vacant" space in the beds, this Tomato (v. Gardeners Delight) was placed in a sunny spotand left to it's own devices! We grew far too many tomato plants for the space available - or should i say far more germinated than we had expected! I even gave half a dozen or so plants to my neighbour as we had no room left. Mind you, I always think that some of the fun from growing your own is giving some away!

Talking of late sown plantings, these 2 courgette plants were only transplanted to their growing position a few weeks ago. They were "found" in the conservatory, and we thought it best to get them in. Even if the planting is too late to provide some fruits, then at the very least we'll get this show of late summer colour! And if pushed, we could just eat the flowers!!

Another late sowing (a trend here perhaps ?) was this Sweetcorn (v.Swift Early). We had never grown this before and we were eager to try. We have been astonished by the growth rate, and have already harvested our first cob! Shared 4 ways at the dinner table, it was delish.
It seems a bit hit and miss when it comes to harvesting - are the brown silks really the best indication of ready ?

A lesson well learnt now, is that you cant plant 4 x Butternut Squash plant (v.Hunter) in a bed that is 3' x 3' ! Well, you can, but the leaf growth soon romps away from the bed. We have had to cut stems back at various times throughout the summer, but the result has been worthwhile:

This specimen is at leat 8" long, and about 4" girth. All we need now is a bit more sun to ripen it off! And there's me only yesterday praying for rain! There's a few more small fruits too. This is something we will grow more of next year too. Its only recently that we started to eat them, and they do taste superb. We got the seeds from from the BBC Dig In promotion, details of which can be found here. Go and have a look, and bag some free seeds!

Final pic for today, is this Passion Flower which is growing wild in the border. It seems that the bounty of fruits are ripening off, so maybe we can harvest these too. I've not tasted them before, so am keen to give them a go.

Thats all for today folks, hope you've enjoyed our update!

A quick hello too to Aunt Ann, who is visiting the UK again at the moment - hope you have a lovely stay.

Pop back soon all, for more updates from Reads Retreat.

Enjoy your gardens,


Wednesday, 12 August 2009

10,000 Visitors!

Well almost, can't believe that my site is so appealing, but thank you all for visiting over the years.

How long to get to 20,000 visitors!


The Glorious Twelth

In loving memory of

Nana Read

on the one hundredth anniversary of her Birthday

Loving memories - in our hearts forever.


Friday, 7 August 2009

Harvested this week

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, the place for Home Grown veg in Raised Beds. These 2 Beetroot (v.Boltardy) were pulled on Monday, and put straight onto the pot for cooking. Food miles ? What are they! These 2 roots were about cricket ball sized, and once cooked, served up for tea. What a lovely taste. We harvested a yellow rooted variety at the same time, but unfortunately the slugs and snails had found it first. It seems they like the yellow ones in preference, and that may put us off growing them again. We've had a couple of good ones, but the Boltardy remain our favourite.

Midweek, we pulled some Spring Onions, and Ruby was only to happy to pose for the camera with them. These onions taste superb, and put the shop brought varieties to shame. They have a lovely peppery sweet taste, and this is definitely something we plan to grow more of.
We have also had regular pickings of our cut and come again lettuce(v.Lollo Rosso), which never seems to hang around long enough to be photographed! We have enjoyed a really crop for some time now, surprising really as we only 2 x 3foot rows of it!

The runner beans that Ruby helped to plant are growing really well too. This variety is not truly known, as the beans have been grown year on year from Grandad Read's stock of seeds. Bless him, I think of him every time I look at the plants. Hopefully this year we can store away a few more seeds for future years growing. They always perform really well, and seem to attract the Bee's in large numbers.

This late planted Courgette plant is finally bearing fruit - 5 at the last count in various stages of growth. We continue to feed and water it, and at last we are getting closer to our reward. We are growing a lot more varieties up at the plot, and these too are putting on great growth.

Its a lovely time of the year at the moment, as most of our time can be spent enjoying the garden space and harvesting crops as we go.

That's all for todays update, but we look forward to welcoming you back to Reads Retreat in the very near future.

Take care all, and enjoy your gardens.


Sunday, 2 August 2009

Update from the home plot::

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our home plot guide to Growing your own veg in Raised Beds. There's been quite a lot going on recently both at the plot and at home too, with veg growing on really well, in spite of the very changeable weather of late. This pic shows one of our Tomato plants, now overflowing with green trusses of toms, just waiting for the sun to ripen them off. Looks like we should get another decent crop this year. We are also growing some Yellow toms for the first time, and cant wait to try them.

Our late sowing of Dwarf Yellow podded French Beans are starting to shine, with an abundance of pale yellow / white flowers, bearing the promise of beans to come. This planting - a half a dozen plants - was more of a space using exercise than anything else, and it looks like we'll be well rewarded for our efforts.

Our "small" plot of Butternut Squash(v.Hunter) plants are growing well too. Flowers are starting to form on the ever growing plants, and where the flowers form, we are removing some foliage to let the sun in. We've not grown these before, but the seeds were free and we had a bit of space. As the plants will grow up to 20' long, they will easily outgrow their allotted space, so we are now trailing the stems over the paths. One for the allotment next year we think!

One one remaining Courgette "Zucchini" is now starting to put on good growth. Again, this was a late planting. Despite the best efforts of the local slug population, we are now starting to see some fruits forming. We have a lot more plants growing at the allotment, so we should end up with a few for the table!

Our first effort at growing Sweetcorn seems to be on track. We have about half a dozen plants in this block, and we are carefully nurturing them as they grow. Cant wait to taste some freshly buttered cob's !

Our Rhubarb has done exceptionally well this year, provide large quantities of fruit. Apart from the usual "Crumble's" we've also got a large stock of jams including "Rhubarb & Ginger", and a mixed fruit jam consisting of Plums, Rhubarb & Gooseberry. Yum . Let us know if you want any of the recipe's !

And finally, what garden could be complete without a hanging basket or two ? These were created by Jen, and with regular watering are flowering profusely. They need a lot of dead heading, but then they do attract a lot of bee's.

That's all for now. We hope your gardens & plots are doing ok too.

Take care all and pop back soon for more updates.