Monday, 13 July 2009

A Gardening Update !

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our diary blog for our Fruit & Veg grown in Raised Beds. It's been a while since we posted an update - we've been rather busy with the allotment project! But just to reassure you all that we are still growing at home, here goes!
As is the norm at this time of year, we are spending a fair bit of time nurturing our tomato (v.Moneymaker) plants to their cropping stage. This involves regular watering and weekly feed of suitable"miracle" growth liquid! We have half a dozen in pots on the patio - in full sun, and a half dozen more dotted around the plot in the raised beds. Some of the plants have begun to set their trusses, a sure sign of the delights that await. Every year I intend to grow a different variety - this year being no exception - but we continue to find that this variety - Moneymaker - are great croppers. Why change ?

Nestled into this corner of our patio we have yet more goodies! As well as another tomato plant, we have a tub of Strawberries, which having already cropped is now sending runners out all over the shop. Where possible these are being layered into more tubs to grow new plants. These will be separated from the main plant in about 4 weeks time and will give us a new bunch of plants for a larger crop next year. That and somewhere to plant them all too! We have also acquired some "Hospital" strawberry plants that had been badly neglected. These are sitting in water now, and sending up new shoots. Lets hope they recover!

In the patio border where there used to be a large rambling rose, we now have some edible goodies, including a lovely Tayberry bush (a wedding present from Huw & Jane) and also our one surviving Courgette plant. We've really struggled with the latter this year, as we dont want to use slug pellets in case little Ruby picks them up! This is our last plant of any note at Reads Retreat, and we have only one other which was planted up at the allotment only yesterday. We're green with envy as we see others are well into their courgette harvesting . Maybe we'll get a late crop. Fingers crossed eh !

Despite the fact that the contents of the hanging baskets are not edible, they are certainly beautiful. Wifey has done a great job here, not only in brightening up the garden, but in attracting an abundance of wildlife and especially Bee's to the plot.

The Gooseberry bush in the background here, is the £1 jobbie we got from Wilkinson's last year. The greatest surprise was that it was a Red fruit variety - we were expecting green! We didn't get a massive harvest, but plenty of enough for some seriously nice Mixed Fruit jam.
In the foreground we have another surprise in the form of a healthy looking potato plant. I think this is whats called a "Volunteer" plant, i.e. one that has grown from a previously left behind potato. Not complaining mind you, and soon ready to be pulled up. I'll let you know later if we get much from it!

Our old faithful Rhubarb(v.Timperly Early) continues it's great growth. Having recently been cut right back to provide fruit for our mixed fruit jam, it has grown right back, strong enough to maybe harvest some more. If we get enough, we hope to try making some Rhubarb & Ginger jam, mmmm that sounds luvvly.

And finally, we get to a raised bed!!! As you can see we've erected frames over the beds, mainly due to the large number of cats in the area that favour the good soil in our beds rather than their own backyards to crap in. Grrr it really winds me up. Many a day in this neck of the woods you can see cat poo flying through the air! Why should we clean it up, we don't have a cat! Anyway (rant over), in this bed we have Spring Onions, Lollo Rosso Lettuce (cut and come again variety) as well as some Broccoli Raab. The latter was a freebie on a magazine cover, which promised a crop in 60 days. Well, it grew so fast we forgot to harvest it and it bolted!!! Trimmed it all back and again it's growing on strongly.

The next available bed has become home to our squash project. As well as trying to grow these at the plot, we have 4 plants at home too, which are putting on great growth. Again, they might be planted a tad late, but wouldn't it be great to get at least 1 squash from these. If anyone has any growing tips and tricks, we'd love to hear from you!

Talking of new projects (it must be the year for them), we are having a go at growing some sweetcorn. Having read that they need to grow in a block layout, we used this 3'x3' bed. We planted about 12 seeds, and were a tad dejected when only 4 plants appeared. Nonetheless, they do look healthyand will hopefully provide us with a couple of corns. Is it too late to plant any more ? I guess it is but am happy to listen if you have any advice on this crop, how else will we learn ?

This bed is pretty much full of Beetroot! We've grown a few different varieties this year - with mixed success! Boltardy remains the strong favourite, but we have also tried some Golden types too, if nothing else but to add a bit of colour to the salad bowl. The big thing we've noticed this year with the raised beds is just how much the soil level has sunk - the worms must be working hard! We'll have to replenish the stocks before next growing season! At the back of the bed we also have some seed grown Onions(v.Bedfordshire Champion). I want to grow a larger crop of these next year at the plot, as opposed to the "sets" which never seem to really perform. Note to self : Planning!

Having run out of room (again!) in the raised beds, we have these 3 sturdy Aubergine plants in a nice sheltered spot in the garden. I do like growbags, they offer that extra space just when you need it! And as a bonus, the spent soil can be added to the plot later in the year.

Part of the reason for running out of room this year is that we've given one large bed up to grow our own Asparagus(v.Jersey Knight). These 1 year old crowns are all doing well, 9 out of 10 that were planted are flourishing. Sadly, so too are the weeds, and vie for constant attention. We're getting there though, and maybe next year we'll be able to harvest a small crop ?

So, as you can see, we've not been idle here at Reads Retreat. Always lots going on! We'll try and post more regular updates as the season progresses!

We hope you are all enjoying your plots and veg growing, and we look forward to welcoming you back soon to Reads Retreat.

Take care all,


Monday, 6 July 2009

Visitor's bearing gifts!

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, the home of organically grown fresh veg in Raised Beds. This weekend we had a visit from Huw & Jane, as they toured round Kent en route to France. Huw asked if his camper van would fit on the drive, and it sort of did - ish! We had a great couple of boozy nights, and even managed a quick visit to the lottie to show off our latest gardening project. I was a tad surprised that they arrived bearing gifts of the horticultural variety, less surprised though by the quantity of alcohol consumed during their stay!

This lovely healthy Chilli plant was one of the gifts. Already bearing one Green Chilli, it also has a lot of flower buds on it just waiting to burst into fruit. Huw has been growing these quite successfully for a number of years, and passed on a bit of his knowledge, especially regarding how to "pollinate" the indoor grown varieties by gently squeezing the flowers with thumb and forefinger to simulate the work of insects. We'll be trying this on our various chilli plants and will let you know if it actually works!

This one was a complete surprise, a Vietnamese Coriander plant! It has tremendously fragrant foliage, and the plant itself looks really healthy. Huw & Jane told me to treat it like a Fuchsia (in terms of propagating cuttings) and hopefully we can get some success with doing this. It would be great to create a few more plants from this one, and make it go a bit further.

On Friday afternoon, this was to all intents and purposes, just a 6" pot full of soil. Huw assured me there were lots of coriander seeds in there, and lo and behold, 3 days later it is bursting into life! Cant wait to have fresh coriander in the next curry mmmmm that will be good.

There was also a couple of bags of "spent hops" to use on the allotment. This can be dug in and used as a soil conditioner later in the year, and its something we'll be needing a bit more of. Maybe I will get in touch with the Shepherd Neame brewery in nearby Faversham?

And finally, the bin men had to work a bit harder today when they collected the recycling! Crikey, what a lot of bottles!

Thats about it for now, but if the rain holds off for an hour or so, I'll nip out to the garden with my camera, and bring you an update on the gardening front.

Thats it for now, thanks once again to Huw & Jane for their pressies, it was lovely to see you both.

Take care all,


Saturday, 4 July 2009

Mum's spuds

Welcome back to Reads Retreat. As if proof were needed, you don't need a lot of space to grow your own veg. Mum planted half a dozen seed pots in an old wooden box in her back garden, and nurtured and loved the growing plants. Topping up the compost as she went, all was looking great. Then terror set in around the middle of June as the foliage developed little brown spots. I feared it may have been blight, and advised mum to remove all the "brown-spotted" leaves and bin them. After a couple of weeks, mum decided to empty the box. Joy of joys prevailed, with a tidy harvest of 3 1/2 pounds of lovely New Potato's! Well done mum, hope you enjoy them.


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Yummy - Home made Jam !

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our lil blog of home grown goodness! Despite the lack of recent posts, we have still been busy on the home plot. Having recently taken our first harvest of Red Gooseberries, wifey decided to make some mixed fruit jam, using fruit mostly from the garden. Also added was some lovely Rhubarb and a couple of Apples, the latter were not home grown but we hope to have some next year from the lottie. Can't wait to get tucked in. Now then......toast !

More updates to follow soon.

Take care all and enjoy your gardens,