Monday, 31 March 2008

Finally it's here - British Summer Time 30.03.08

Welcome back to my weekly update at Reads Retreat, my guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.
Awaking to sunshine with a bonus of a dawn chorus - what a great way to start the summer. After changing all the clocks, it was time to crack on in the garden - so much to do and so little time !

It's been a busy and productive week, and i've loads to tell you about! In no particular order:

  • I potted on my Gardeners Delight into 3" square pots. Having sowed the usual 40 or so, i was somewhat surprised when they all germinated ! I guess I can add these to the list of plug plants I will be giving away! Some colleagues at work have already put their orders in!
  • The tray of brassica's are nearly all germinated and putting on good growth, the only no shows from the seeds planted last week are the Savoy Cabbage (v. January King) and I'm wondering now whether I have a bad batch of these? This is my second planting to no avail. I may have to opt for buying plugs of these but would rather be growing my own. Let's give them a bit longer, and see how we get on.
  • My sowing of Flat Leaf Parsley has failed to germinate. I'm guessing this may be because they are in a cooler location than I would have preferred. I will move these today and see if we can get them going.
  • My Pot Marigold's ( another ebay purchase from "Premier Seeds Direct" ) have all germinated and are putting on good early growth, and i'm looking forward to having these out on the plot this year. I will probably sow a few more batches of these, as time and space permits.
New sowings:

With the weather only just starting to warm up, i am still a bit restricted on indoor space! I did however manage to plant a few bits up for outside:
  • After a recent visit to S & T's (you know who you are ! ) I decided to plant a hanging basket with some strawberry plants. This seems like an ideal way to grow them, as the fruit will be less prone to ground based pests such as slugs, and I'm hoping the fruit trusses will cascade over the basket for easy pickings. Let's hope the birds don't find them first! I don't eat these myself ( seems I'm allergic to them ? ) but it's a great way to get the kids interested in and into the garden. I chose 3 different varieties ( 1 of each ) to crop at different times throughout the summer. They are: Pegasus ( June ), Hapil ( July ), and Pandora ( Late July - August ). I'll keep you posted on how these go.
  • My first batch of spuds were planted up (v. Aaron Pilot FE ) in buckets on the patio. I know that last year I had great success in the raised beds, but this year the space they were going to occupy has now been taken up with onion sets. If you read / hear the news, you will know there is an expected shortfall in supply for onions this year, due to the bad weather, so I've given one of my large raised beds purely to this crop. I've read up on planting spuds in containers, and it seems there's no reason why they wont grow successfully. Therefore, the First Earlies will all be going in buckets, and I'll plant them up with a few days gap between plantings to get a successional crop. Later in the month of April, I'll be planting my second earlies into large tubs formed from an old plastic barrel.
  • My stepdaughter has recently indicated a bit of interest in my gardening exploits, and with that in mind we planted some seeds for her. With her pocket money she bought packs of Oregano, Chives, and Curly leaf Parsley. I added to her haul with some Sunflower & Morning Glory seeds. They have all been duly planted, and their germination is eagerly awaited!
Recent Purchases:
Wilkinson's has a lot to answer for ! Seriously though, they have some great products at great prices, which i just could not resist :
  • Fruit bushes at just a pound each. I bought one each of Raspberry and Blackcurrant. I had a little chuckle to myself as I noticed the spelling on the packaging - Rasberry & Blackcurrent !!! The plain english lobby would have a field day!
  • How about 5 x 6" Pots for £1.29 - How do they do it ?
  • Lawnmower Blades for my Qualcast mower - 20 for a quid.
  • 15Metres of heavy gauge plastic coated garden wire for 69p
  • 100 Plastic coated wire rings ( for plant support ) 99p.
A trip to the local Garden Centre yielded the following :
  • Aubergine Seeds ( v.Black Beauty )
  • Nasturtium seeds (v. Jewel Mixed ) A purchased inspired after reading Matron's blog.
  • A new trowel for £1.50 - cant remember last time i bought one !
  • 8' Canes - 8@40p each. These were 30p each last year ?
Recent Harvests:
You may think I'm a bit early to be reporting harvests but i cant resist:
  • We had a second cutting of Forced Rhubarb, made a lovely crumble! I've removed the plant cover now, as I dont want to weaken it too much.
  • We have a nearly red chili (v. Winter warmer) to pick one day soon.
To do list :
This seems to be growing at a rapid pace, and its hard to know where to start:
  • Plant out Seed potato's, French & Runner Beans, Build wigwam supports for beans, plant aubergine seeds......
I can see I'm going to have a busy week! I hope you are progressing with your gardens and wish you all every success. Pop back soon as I intend to add some pictures when I get any time.
Take care all,


Friday, 21 March 2008

Snow ? We'll see 21.03.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, my guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

I hope that wherever you are, the weather is being kind to you. As i write this update today, there are forecasts of Snow and Sleet for the majority of the country, though going by the current Met Office forecast, we should miss the worst of the wet and just suffer the cold instead. Either way, I'm glad I opted to leave my outdoor sowings for another week!

I've had a fairly busy, and productive week, and will have to wait 4 days to carry on, as I'm working over the holiday weekend.
My week got underway on Wednesday this week, with the planting out of my newly acquired Gooseberry bushes. These were a total of £5.00, from Wilkinson's DIY, and I'm hopeful they will grow well in their new homes. They were planted with generous layers of sieved compost together with some granular growmore fertilizer mixed in. The location on the plot was the area where I tried to grow new potato's for Christmas day. Whilst the spuds were none too successful - the tops wilted and died in the autumn frosts - i did decide to fork over the bed before planting the fruit bushes. Lucky for me that I did, as I managed to harvest about a dozen new potato's, which I'm glad to say had overwintered well, and went straight to the table for tea ! Therefore, thats either very late earlies, or very early earlies !! I'll let you decide. The main thing was, it's my first harvest of the year, and it was delicious.
Elsewhere on the plot, there's not a great deal happening, due mainly to the inclement weather of late. My overwintered Broad Beans are still putting on healthy spring growth, and are looking good. Fingers crossed that the blackfly stay well away! This year has panned out very different to last, as most of my gardening seems to be indoors. Its an old adage i know, but "Good things come to those who wait", and I'm hopeful of the weather improving in the next couple of weeks. Indeed, i have some time off work at the beginning of April, and hope to be busy gardening.
These 4 little gems were acquired on a recent trip to the local Garden Centre. I'm hoping these box cuttings (that were 50p each) will grow sufficiently to make a nice hedge in the front garden. Not sure how long they will take to grow - if they do grow that is ( another rescue from the hospital rack ! ) - but they have a nice tinge of yellow to the leaves, and I think the growth will be worth waiting for. As i stated above, they were 50p each. Originally they were in 3" pots, were completely pot bound, and the roots were waterlogged. I've transferred them now to 6" pots, together with more growmore and fresh compost. They're only about a foot tall at the moment, but if they put on some good growth, maybe I can plant them out in the late summer / early autumn. That delay will give me time to prepare the ground and get some manure in. I love these longterm projects!

The next activity for the day was more seed sowing, and potting on of my seedlings. I planted a seed tray of Pot Marigold ( Calendula ). These will be planted around the plot, not only for decoration, but also because the flower petals are edible and will add some fresh colour to salads. They are also great companion plants to Tomato's, helping to keep the whitefly away. Plant these with Basil , near the toms, and you should be ok.
I also planted a seed tray of Flat Leaf Parsley ( sometimes known as French Parsley), for its many and varied uses in the kitchen. I've still to plant many more herbs, and will keep you posted on mine and their progress.
The other job of the day was to pot on the 40 or so seedlings of Sweet / Chili Peppers into individual pots. A task made more time consuming as I always sieve the compost. It takes longer at this stage, but the results are usually worth the effort.

So that was a busy Wednesday ! and today was pretty busy too.I sowed trays of the following:
  • Savoy Cabbage (v. January King )
  • Brussel Sprouts (v. Red Delicious )
  • Cauliflower (v. All year Round)
  • Cabbage (Green Acre / Primo 2 )
I've had limited success with this group of veg, but am persevering as i know the rewards are great. I'd be especially pleased if the red sprouts were a success, as I've heard they are a bit harder to grow than their green cousins.

And that's about it for this weeks update, as I said earlier - I'm working all weekend - so thought I'd get in early on the blog front.

I hope you and your gardens manage to escape the worst of the elements. If you would like to receive my updates in your email inbox, simply enter your email address in the subscribe box on the right hand side of the blog. As and when I update my blog, the update will be emailed directly to you. Simple ! Alternatively - just bookmark this page, and I hope you will come back soon.

Take care all.


Sunday, 16 March 2008

Which Seed Compost ? 16.03.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat - my guide to Growing your own Veg in Raised Beds.

At this time of the year, seed sowing is the main thing happening in the garden / on the plot, and it's a key stage in the development of your crops.
And every year, you are faced with the perplexing decision of which Seed Compost to use. Each and every supplier extols the benefits of "their" compost, be it peat free or whatever, so how do you decide which to use ?
For many years / successive seasons, I have used the Tunstalls brand, not necessarily because of how good it may be, but generally because of the price. When you can get 3 x 75 Litre bags for a tenner, you will find it hard to complain - in fact the only complaint is lifting the 75 Litre bags.
However, this year it seems that you can buy seed / potting compost almost anywhere, so i decided to try a different supplier - ALDI ! Yup, the bargain supermarket ! They are selling 20Litre bags for 99p, so pound for pound, they're not far off from the Tunstall's price ( 200 Litres for a tenner vs. 225 Litres for a tenner ) but the key bit that attracted me initially was the fact that it's far easier to carry 10 x 20 Litre bags, than 3 x 75 Litre bags.
I say initially because, now that I have tried the Aldi compost, I must say that I'm totally impressed by not only the quality of it, but also by how well my seeds are germinating / growing in it. I cant recall a sowing season that has gone as well as this one. Virtually every seed I've planted has germinated, and after pricking out / potting on, none of my seedlings seem to be suffering from the deadly "dampening off " that I usually struggle against. The other point is that I always sieve my compost before use, through a 1/4" sieve, removing the lumps that would otherwise hinder the seedlings growth. With a 20 Litre bag of the Aldi compost, I removed approx 2 Litres of lumps over 1/4", about 10%. With the Tunstall's and other brands I have tried, this figure is usually a lot nearer the 20% mark. These overs are used elsewhere in the garden in the borders etc and are not wasted !
So as you can see, I'm hooked! I would recommend you try some vs. the brand you are using. For a quid it has to be worth a try !

Here's a snapshot of the seeds I have growing in my unheated conservatory. This is using the compost from Aldi.

Most have been potted on, but the Sweet & Hot peppers will hopefully be done later today, as well as further sowing's, to include Parsley, Lettuce, Lambs Lettuce, Rocket, Spring onions.

Thats quite enough to be getting on with - don't you think !

You may have noticed that there is now a subscription service added to my blog. Simply enter your email address, and each and every update on my blog will be delivered straight to that address. What could be simpler ?

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks update, and that your preparations are coming along well too. Thanks to all of you who have contributed / commented on the blog - it's always nice to get your feedback. As a final pointer, I'd like to recommend that you take a look at Steve's Allotment blog - there's a link in my favourites, and why not join him for a "Live " chat Sunday evening 7pm to 9pm ?

Thats it for today,


Thursday, 13 March 2008

Rhubard Planted 12.03.08

The latest planting on my veg plot has been this Rhubarb crown.
The variety is Holsteiner, a vigorous plant that should be crop-able this year, providing it gets plenty of water.
At £1.99 for the crown, it seems like a good investment to me.
My other Rhubarb plant is a Timperley Early variety, which is currently being "forced" under an upturned bin, the fruit of which has already graced the dining table.
The new crown was planted in sieved compost mixed with granular Growmore fertilizer, and well watered in.
Time to sit back and watch this beauty grow.


Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Recent purchases 11.03.08

Just wanted to let you know of a great place place i buy seeds from:
A seller on eBay called: **karl** .

I've bought quite a few packs - all Sutton's, and all very cheap.

Got to be worth a look ? I don't like the price you have to pay in the shops !

I've bought 9 packs from this seller, and spent less than a fiver in doing so.

Also, Happy Birthday little sis, card in the post etc. !

See you soon,


Friday, 7 March 2008

Running late ! 05.03.08

Welcome back to "Reads Retreat" - My guide to growing your own veg in raised beds.

Apologies for the lateness of this update. With time running out due in part to work commitments and spending quality time with my family, I will for now keep it brief, with a few pictures of my latest seed sowing progress:

My tomato's (v. Moneymaker) Sow date: 2nd Feb

Potted on date: 4th March

Basil (v. Dark Opal ) Sow Date: 2nd Feb

Potted on date: 4th March

Onions (v.Bedfordshire Champion) Sow date: 2nd Feb

Potted on date: 4th March

Leeks (v. Mussleburgh) Sow Date: 2nd Feb

Potted on date: 4th March

Hot & Sweet Peppers Sow date: 2nd Feb

Potted on date: 4th March

Organic Lettuce ( first of many sowings! )

Sow date: 4th March

More purchases ! This time from Wilkinson's

Cant wait to taste these . let's hope they grow well....

Yummy stuff !

Talking of yummy stuff, couldn't resist this Rhubarb crown - a snip at £1.99.

Swiss Chard (v. Bright Lights ) - always wanted to try these, and

Flat Leaf Parsley - always useful in the kitchen.

Elsewhere on the plot :
The Garlic ( v. Fokyhama) planted in November continues to put on good growth.

I managed to plant a small first row of Carrot's (v. Early Nantes) too between the garlic and the chives. Nothing beats "companion" planting to keep the dreaded carrot fly at bay.

Thats about it for this quick update, I hope I can get back to you all soon. Till then, enjoy your gardens.


Sunday, 2 March 2008

Mothering Sunday 02.03.08

Due to today being about mums not gardens, update will follow on Monday 3rd March.

Have a good one mum !

See you all soon