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.