Sunday, 30 December 2007

2008 beckons 30.12.07

Greetings and Salutations to you all .

I hope you have all had a good holiday, although it certainly has flown by. I managed to work 2x 12 hour night shifts last week, but am now off 'till the 2nd Jan 08.

Have you managed to drag yourselves away from the comfort of your armchairs and central heating ? I did today and was pleasantly surprised:
Not a great pic, but if you look closely you will see that the Broad Beans ( v. Bunyard Exhibition) have started to show through my mulch cloth. I planted these about 3 weeks ago, as I have been advised that seed sewn before the full onset of winter, is less likely to succumb to the dreaded blackfly. Regular readers will remember my crop earlier this year was wiped out due to the blackfly, So I'm hoping to fair better next year. As always, I'll keep you posted.

The Curly Leaf Kale (v. Frosty) has been a bit of a let down on my plot. The plants are surviving quite well considering the weather of late, but that's about all they have done. The seed pack estimated growth to a height of 18" , but I have about a third of that! There might be enough for 1 stir fry, though i might just leave them where they are a bit longer. Maybe they will start to grow now that I've threatened to pull them up !
Wasn't it Prince Charles who advocated that we should talk to our plants ? Not sure, but hey - it's worth a shot !!!

My open composter ( my next raised bed ! ) is filling up nicely.
Tomorrow I'll go and buy some GC compost to make a top layer, before I finally cover the bed over with mulching cloth . This will help to rot the contents down a bit, and also prevent any weedgrowth.
It'll be interesting to see how my runner beans perform next year !
Incidentally, I have some Runner Bean Seeds for sale on ebay (ta Neil) , and its strictly first come / first served. Krissy & Topveg - if you're reading this - you'll get yours for free as promised earlier in the year.

On a non veg note, here's a pic of some Cineraria that I planted early in the year. I have been amazed at how well these plants have grown, considering how tiny the seeds are. They are also a great colour to have in the borders, which without them would have been rather dull and drab.

Well that's it for this weeks update.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy & Prosperous New Year.

All the best,


Saturday, 22 December 2007

Season's Greetings 22.12.07

Once again, the festivities are upon us, and we really cant wait.
This will be our daughters first - she will be 6 months old on Christmas Day and we plan to spoil her rotten !

Not much has happened in the garden of late, the weather has curtailed any plans that I might have been harbouring for hard landscaping of paths / fences etc, and all that I have been doing is filling my new raised bed with the daily compostable waste, in readiness for the spring plantings!
Next years garden design is already in my head, and the planting and crop rotation is all worked out!

Next year I will be working a new shift pattern, and hope that I will be able to spend a bit more time on the plot, as well as keeping my blog updated. I'm also thinking about adding a cookery blog / section, so will keep you posted on that one.

All that remains is to wish all my contributors / readers a Very Happy Christmas, and a prosperous New Year. May all your dreams come true.


Sunday, 18 November 2007

Salvage Time 18.11.07

Welcome to my weekly update at Reads Retreat "Grow your own veg in raised beds".

The frosts arrived with a vengeance this week, wreaking havoc around the garden, with my christmas spuds (v. Maris Piper)being the most affected. The plantings in 2 out of 3 of the beds are all but ruined, and only a week or so of prolonged mildness can now save the day.
This little spud is the only one to have fully survived the frost attack - due mainly to it's sheltered position.
Despite gentle watering of the other 2 raised beds, the fact that the daytime temperatures remained so cold did little to help. With the other affected plants, I have removed the affected foliage down to the mulch layer, but have left the stout stems in the hope that they will survive. Of course, I'll keep you all posted on this.

The Curly leaf Kale (v.Frosty) is starting to pick up a bit. I'm guessing the current cold snap is somewhat deterring the cabbage caterpillars, and the crops are starting on their growth. This is really good news, although the plants have a lot of growth to put on before I can harvest the little gems. They currently stand about 6" tall - thats about a third of their expected growth height. It's a real treat to see crops growing at this time of year, and very rewarding for your efforts.

Elsewhere in the garden, it's hard to believe that winter really is just around the corner. The Silver Birch at the end of the garden is fighting hard to retain it's leaves, although I can assure you it's slowly losing the fight.

The grass; I expect to mow maybe once more this year, before adding some weed and feed fertilizer to help it through the winter months. What I'm after now though is a better mower with a grass box, as I don't think raking the lawn is really that effective.

Later today I shall be planting out some Broad Bean (v. Bunyard Exhibition) seeds. I have been assured that the dreaded blackfly have little / no effect on overwintered plantings - that will surely be a blessing following the blackfly problems I encountered earlier in the year, when I had to totally abandon the crop that I had planted.

The Garlic (v. Fokyhama) are not showing yet, but equally there is no evidence of any bird activity or disturbance to the soil, so it's fingers crossed on this little lot.

My Leeks (v. Musselborough) are doing well, and despite the odd plant bolting, I will harvest these soon and see how they are!

My Parsnips (v. Hollow Crown) , have sprung into a new lease of life, with fresh green foliage adorning the row. Maybe I upset the neighboring roots when I pulled out the 2' monster last sunday? Either way, I'll be digging up another today to compliment the sunday roast. I'm surprised how nice it was last week - considering i have no taste for the shop bought variety.

Thats about it for this week. If I think of anything else that I missed, I will add it later on!

Hope you continue to enjoy your gardens as much as I do mine.

Take care


Friday, 16 November 2007

Jack's Back - Big Time ! 16.11.07

Woke up this morning to a very heavy frost.

The forecast last night from the MET office seems to have materialised: Air temp of -2C with ground temperature of -6C.

Best thing to do now is to water the foliage of any plants you're still growing, this ensures that the foliage warms slowly when the sun eventually hits it, and prevents the thermal shock it would otherwise get, which would kill off the plants.

Good luck all !


Sunday, 11 November 2007

Spare a thought. 11.11.07

Welcome back to this weeks update of Growing your own Veg in Raised Beds. Sorry I missed you all last week, but tempus fugit and all that.
I'd like to start today with a poignant reminder, Thank you to all those who gave their lives in service to this country. And how lovely it is, to see the poppies in bloom. What a fitting tribute.

Today I finally got to spend a good few hours in the garden. There's so much to do ( yes, even at this time of year ) , and it was nice to catch up with the plot.

Way back in the year, I planted six Parsnips as an experiment. Experiment in that the seeds were planted in toilet roll inners before being transplanted to the raised beds at a later date. The foliage grew well all year but recently died back to nothing. At this point I kind of forgot they were there. Until today that is, when I dug up this 2' monster ! Boy was it delicious too. I just could not believe the size of it. remember my raised beds are only 9" tall, and only have 6" of soil in them ! I guess this proves the point that all the digging is worth it prior to the hard landscaping of the raised beds. If the parsnip had been 6" long, I would have been chuffed. Needless to say - I'm over the moon. I will be planting more of these next year, without a doubt.

As you can clearly see from this picture, I finally cleared the Runner Beans away, and now the plots look oh so bare.
In doing this job, I accumulated yet more seed pods for seed collection.
I would estimate that I now have in excess of 200 seeds, and will be giving these out as previously promised. Some are going to France ( for Krissy), some to Topveg, whilst others will be shared amongst family and friends: Fred, Bill, Mick, crikey I'm losing track ! I'd better start writing this all down. A point to note is that some of the seeds this year are jet black as opposed to the mottled purple and black that you would expect. Can anyone explain why this might be ?

My next raised bed continues to take shape. Currently it resembles an open compost bin, with all sorts of garden and household waste accumulating there. I'll give it another month or so, before adding a bag or 2 of garden centre general purpose compost as a top dressing, and then I will cover it with the trusty mulching cloth, so that it can all rot down nicely, ready for next years plantings. I will also collect some cardboard toilet roll inners to add, these rot down nicely and are great for retaining moisture. I will be planting my runner beans in this bed next year. Oh I can hardly wait.

My Christmas new potatoes are not doing as well as I would have liked. I think they have started to succumb to the frosts, so I will be covering with fleece sometime soon , and hopefully will be able to salvage some haulms and the associated crops. I've got some planted around the garden in other beds, that were planted about 3 weeks after this lot, and so far they seem to be ok, but obviously they have less growth on them. This is another of my experiments - I figured I've got nothing to lose by trying these out. If all else fails, I can always buy some !
Would I ?

As you see, I'm having a mixed success / failure rate on the Curly Leaf Kale. Some of the plants are flourishing, but the dreaded caterpillars are wreaking havoc on about half of the plants. They're not strong enough yet to use as cut and come again plants, So I'm playing the waiting game here.
With the return of the Robin's to the garden, I'm hoping they will seek out the tasty treat of the caterpillars, as well as the snails, now that the plot is much more exposed. I tried spreading bits of bread on the ground around the plants which attracted the birds, but the caterpillars are so hard to see, maybe they missed them. Maybe I need to erect a sign " Fresh Caterpillars - Help Yourself " !!! with a direction arrow ?

Ok, this might just look like a patch of bare soil - I'll give you that! But today, I planted 4 rows of Garlic bulbs, that I had saved from my Summer harvest.
It's a job I've been meaning to do for a few weeks now, but at least I finally got there. It's really satisfying to be planting at this time of year. Now I just have to sit back and wait for a late spring harvest - yummy.

So where do you site your next composting bin? Well, after a bit of thought, I decided to put it where the next raised bed is going to be put. Makes sense to me! Next spring when it comes to construction, I can simply build a square around the bin, then lift off the compost container and hey presto, a raised bed full of compost.
I've started the bin off with all the waste growth from the runner beans. I also added a generous sprinkling of water and some trusty compost accelerator, to get the process underway. Over the next couple of weeks , I will add the remaining spent compost from the hanging baskets, as well as all the household waste I can muster!

I'm adding some more pics from around the plot at the end of this weeks update, what I really need to do though is work out how to add a slideshow. Maybe Steve ( if you're reading this ? ) can give me a few pointers. If you are aware of how to do this please get in touch.

I think that's about it. I hope you are still enjoying your gardens as much as I am. I will try to get back to weekly updates ( ok mum ) , but can only do what time permits. Enjoy the week and I'll see you all soon.


See ya !

Monday, 29 October 2007

Well Read at Reads ! 28.10.07

Unable as I was to get much done in the garden last week, due to a severe chest / viral infection, I thought I would instead share with you all whats on my book shelf.

I buy my gardening books mainly from Car Boot Sales and charity shops, and have found many a good tome for a bargain price. Of the books I have collected so far, I think I have spent less than £20 all told, and that includes 1 Brand New book. The list therefore, starts with that one :

  1. Grow your own veg - Carol Klein. This BBC book that accompanied the series, is much better than the series in terms of both presentation and information. It is easy to read, and now well thumbed. A really great reference book that I would not want to be without. ISBN# 978-1-84533-293-8.
  2. In your Garden - Percy Thrower. A week by week guide to growing throughout the year. ISBN # 0-600-34840-7. Not sure if still in print but worth finding!
  3. In your Greenhouse - Percy Thrower. My edition is 1964 Version, with no ISBN number. A great read though, saw one recently in an Oxfam bookstore.
  4. The big Book of Gardening - Charles Boff. This book published by Odhams, was my first gardening book, and is now well thumbed. A valuable reference book that I just keep going back to. No ISBN number.
  5. Practical Small Gardening - Peter McHoy. Found this tome at a car boot sale (like a lot of my books ) and found it useful for planning patio container plantings. ISBN# 1-901289-11-7.
  6. The Complete book of Greenhouse Gardening - Marshall Cavendish of London. An encyclopedia of information. Some far more detailed info than i need, but still a great book. ISBN# 0-85685-089-6.
  7. The Practical Garden Encyclopedia - Professor Alan Gemmell. Another great resource - written in laymans terms so even i can fully understand it! ISBN# 0-907812-69-4.
  8. The Garden Expert - Dr Hessayon. ISBN# 0-903505-22-3
  9. The Bio Friendly Gardening Guide - Dr Hessayon.ISBN# 0-903505-33-9
  10. The Houseplant Expert - Dr Hessayon.ISBN# 0-903505-35-5.
  11. Bonsai - Colin Lewis. A great introduction to this technique. Inspiring. ISBN# 1-84065-283-7.
  12. Colourful Containers - Richard Bird. As it says ! ISBN# 0-7063-7493-2.
  13. Flowers in Britain - L J F Brimble. My book printed 1947 so no ISBN number. A very good reference none the less.
  14. The Amateurs Greenhouse - T W Sanders. Mine the 3rd edition, and again no ISBN# .
  15. The Ideal Gardening Book - Dean & Son. No print date or ISBN, but a lovely tome.
That really is about it. I'm always on the lookout for more, so if you know a good one, please let me know. Hopefully next week there will be more to update you on from the garden.

Till then, hope you all have a great week.


Sunday, 21 October 2007

Jack's Back ! 21.10.07

Welcome to Reads Retreat -"A guide to growing veg in raised beds".
As you can see, "Jack Frost" has returned, having been away since 7th February - on his vacation I guess! It's always lovely to see the white grass and feel the cold air around. To me, this is the best time of the year. Sure - first harvest is a good time too, but Jack's return earmarks the start of preparations for next seasons growing.

It's also nice at this time of year to welcome the Robin's back to the garden - a sure sign that autumn is definitely here, and winter is just around the corner! Makes me think of Christmas too.
The thing that we must all remember now, is to make food and water available for the birds. I always try to keep a nut feeder topped up, and maybe a fat ball or two around the garden. If you have a bird bath, make sure it always has water in and when its really cold , a drop of boiling water will melt the ice.

As you can see here, my Christmas spuds are doing really well, and I'm excited about the prospect of digging these up fresh for the festive table. The spuds I planted in the other 2 beds are just starting to show and I'm hopeful that these will mature too.

Well, I've not run out of runner beans yet ! There's still a plethora of them to harvest, and many new flower buds are still appearing.
Today, I picked approx 100 to dry out for seed harvesting, as well as enough for the dinner table - which were very tasty i must add. Next year the beans will be grown in the new raised bed at the end of the plot which you can just see in the picture. I'm also thinking of trying a new variety that Steve is selling on ebay. They are Mergoles, and are apparently a stringless variety with pods about 12" long. I'm always keen to try different varieties, but my existing variety will form my main crop, as they do so well it seems daft not to grow any of them at all ! As for the new bed:

Its starting to fill up! I'm trying to be as cost effective here as possible, as well as providing a good rich base for next years planting. The base layer for this raised bed has been lightly forked over. Next, a generous layer - about 4" of grass cutting's - has been added, before spent garden compost is added on top. Basically, any compost that has been used this year in pots i.e. for growing toms in, will be sprinkled over the top, before I finally add a couple of bags of Garden centre peat free compost . This combination should provide a good growing base. Before the final onset of winter, I will cover the raised bed with mulching cloth. This will prevent light from reaching the soil which in turn will stop any weeds from germinating, and will allow the soil to break down underneath.

Some time in the next week, I will be planting out some garlic ( v. Fokyhama ) that I grew earlier this year. I've waited for a few frosts to come and go, for a couple of reasons:
1. The frost helps to firm up the wet soil before planting and
2. the cold snap conditions the soil nicely.
The reasoning behind planting out the garlic now is that the colder weather, especially the frost, helps the garlic cloves to multiply in the ground, and the moisture contained in the cold soil provides enough moisture to get the bulbs growing well. When I planted earlier in the year, I peeled the cloves before planting, but for the winter lot I will leave them unpeeled, which will provide an extra barrier against them rotting.

My Curly Leaf Kale (v.Frosty) is still struggling, having been munched by caterpillars. There is signs of growth but even this is being attacked. A fellow blogger recommends putting bird food around the plants (hoping the birds might eat the caterpillars too) so I will try this over the next couple of weeks.

My hanging baskets have all but expired, yet the odd flower is battling with the elements for survival. If you "double click" on this image, it will blow the image up to full size, and you will see the frost enveloping the flower. The hanging baskets will be cleared out this week, and any surplus spent compost will go into my new raised bed. I've not decided yet whether or not to plant up a couple of the baskets to provide some winter colour. Guess you'll have to wait and see ".

This is my final view for the week. I spent a couple of hours re finding the path edges, and gained about 6" width the length of the path. Its amazing to me how the grass will grow over the concrete! It's my intention to get rid of the concrete path and lay a brickwork path in it's place. I'll have to see how many bricks I can accumulate and then find the time.
Thats really about it for this week. I hope you have found this an interesting / informative / and even maybe useful read? Thanks to my contributors / comment leavers. It's nice to know I'm doing something right. Take care and enjoy your gardens.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Tomato Harvest 07.10.07

Welcome back to the Reads Retreat blog.

Sorry I missed you all last week, but it was a kind of hectic weekend - the type you really dont want to happen too often. Many thanks to Kev & Fred, for making sure we all got home - We would have been stuck without you.

Today saw the final harvest of my Moneymaker toms. The brick trough has been cleared out and replanted with more winter growing New Potato's (v Maris Piper).
The toms were initially planted as seed on 22.03.07, and were grown on in the conservatory before they were planted out 18.04.07. We've had an abundance of toms all summer - a never ending supply on the kitchen windowsill ! But this is the last of them. I'm looking forward to next spring already !

The bed here that has been vacated by the moneymaker toms, is now home to 4 more chitted seed pots. that I'm hoping will grow and mature in time for the festive lunches.
This is the second planting of the same variety, with the third planting over in the raised beds.
They all chitted extremely well, giving them a good start in the ground. Fingers crossed on this little lot - I'll keep you posted.

This bed shows the great growth from the first set of winter spuds, that were planted out just a few weeks ago.
They are not all faring that well, but the growth is still encouraging given the lateness of the growing season.
I've left them largely to their own devices since planting, and have only watered them sporadically.

The Kurly Leaf Kale was in a desperate state this morning.
The majority of the large leaves had been thoroughly ruined by the caterpillars. All affected leaves have now been cut off, and all plants well watered with a fairy liquid solution, which will hopefully deter the little blighter's.
I just hope this little lot survive, I'm really looking forward to harvesting this crop later in the year, for some lovely greens mmmmm.

And just when you think it's time to clear the runner bean bed, you look out the window and see a profusion of Red budded flowers .
Where did they come from ?
It looks like we'll be enjoying these treats ( as we did today ) for a few more weeks yet !
As for harvesting seed, I've collected approx 200 already, and can see me easily harvesting the same amount again. Therefore, let me know if you want some ! First come - first served basis !

That's about it for this weeks update. Hope to see you soon.


Sunday, 23 September 2007

Shorter & Colder Days 23.09.07

Welcome to my veg plot update:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, 17 September 2007

Finally - some rain. 16.09.07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, 9 September 2007

I could use some rain ! 9.09.07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other news:

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

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

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


Sunday, 2 September 2007

Christmas Day Spuds ! 2.09.07

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

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

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

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

So far so good, and not much outlay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know mum wants a couple!

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

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

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

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