Sunday, 27 April 2008

What plant food to use ? 27.04.08

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

Not a lot has changed since my update on Friday, suffice to say that my newly repotted Rhubarb crown seems to be settling into it's new home. After just a few days, there are a few new strong leaf shoots, which is very encouraging. Time will tell if this is going to survive, I hope it does !

As for the title of todays post "What plant food to use" ? A simple enough question but with a multitude of answers........

I recently purchased an old gardening book: "Growing for Cooking" by Violet Stevenson (ISBN 0 85685 016 0 ) 3rd Edition, published in 1973 by Marshall Cavendish, London.
It's a great book, and aimed directly at the kitchen gardener / small plot holder, and though somewhat old, is full of great information that is timeless in its content. And only 10p at the local car boot sale - What a bargain !

There's a great adage inside the opening chapter: "Treat your soil like a bank. If you keep withdrawing, you will be left with nothing. You have to put a little back occasionally, so that you can keep withdrawing" that is very true !

Bear this in mind as you dwell on the question of what to feed your plants with! Whenever I plant a new crop in the raised beds, I add some granular / slow release fertilizer at the same time, to aid the new planting. I also "top dress" the soil prior to planting, with a sprinkling of Blood Fish & Bone, as well as a new mulch layer to suppress the weeds and retain the moisture. This is me putting something back in as above. All things being equal, this gives the newly sown seeds / seedlings a good start in life - a healthy First supper you might say.

As the seedling grows on, its tempting to add yet more feed, but a little self restraint is called for here. Feeding time is usually marked by the setting of flowers ( Runner Beans, Peas, Broad Beans etc ) and there are a multitude of fertilizers out there to choose from . I used to use "Tomorite" on my toms, because everyone else did and they got great results. But hang on, this hasn't always been around, so what did people use before that ? My answer is a home made nettle tea - free of charge from mother nature, and effing good stuff too. Simply fill a bucket with nettle leaves, weigh down the contents with a brick, then fill with water. In a couple of weeks your brew will be ready to use. Apply straight to the soil, or dilute to use as a foliage spray. I used this all last year on my plot and was amazed at the results.
If you have a choice, you can also use Comfrey leaves instead of nettles, i heard this works well too.

So there you have it. Spend money on Tomorite or something of that ilk, or make your own and save a packet.

That's it for now. Hope you have a good week, I look forward to welcoming you all back soon .


Friday, 25 April 2008

Poorly Rhubarb 25.04.08

You may remember that i purchased and planted this new crown on the 12th March this year.
Sadly, it failed to grow on in it's new position, despite the ground being well prepared and kept moist.
A few days ago I dug it up and after washing the root off, replanted in a pot and moved it into my unheated conservatory.
Fingers crossed - i might be ok. After just a few days there are some new green shoots! I will keep it in the pot (if it continues to grow ) until it gets re-established, before replanting outside later in the year. Wish I had done that in the first place!

My existing Rhubarb Crown (v. Timperley Early ) is now flourishing and is sporting a lot of new growth.
We managed to force 2 early crops by covering the plant with an old dustbin earlier in the year ( very tasty ! ) , but I didn't want to "force" too much as the crown is only now in it's second year of growth.
This is a truly fabulous addition to the garden. If you dont already have Rhubarb in your garden, I reckon you should get some soon. Have you seen the shop prices !!


Wednesday, 23 April 2008

A sunny outlook - at last! 23.04.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat.

Sorry It's been so long since my last plot update - busy as usual trying to fit too much into too few days! A quick check of the MET office weather forecast tonight shows the overnight low to be in the region of 7C for the next 5 days - yippee !

I managed a big chunk of time in the garden yesterday, and thought i would share some pictures with you of the status quo:
Its looking kind of neat and tidy at last. This view from my conservatory door is pretty inspiring !
The newly dug bed on the edge of the patio will soon be home to some Night scented stock, Californian poppies, a few Pot Marigolds, and whatever else i can lay my hands on!
I spent a good few hours weeding this by hand but the end result should be well worth it.
Elsewhere in the garden:

The spuds in the buckets ( bit of an experiment ) seem to be doing just fine. The eager leaves are hungrily bursting into the light.
These have been well watered up till now ( helps to prevent scab from forming ) and will continue to get daily waterings until leaf growth is firmly established.
I've still got a lot more to plant, and I'm hoping that by staggering the planting times over the next few weeks I'll get a continual supply.

The raised beds are full of healthy growth as well as seeds planted directly into the warming rich soil that has been covered over the last 5 months. There are some weeds but not too many and not enough to be a worry.
The toms at the back are Gardeners Delight - maybe a bit early for planting out, but why not risk it ? I've plenty of plugs in reserve !
The Garlic in the foreground were planted last November, and are all doing fine.
Recently planted seeds include Rhubarb Chard, Carrot's, Beetroot, and their germination and growth is eagerly awaited.

The Broad Beans are doing really well too, with most of the overwintered plants now well over a foot tall.
The growing heads have been removed as these tend to attract the blackfly. Also, doing this helps to send the plants' strength to the crop, as opposed to just growing taller.
There's signs of slug damage to the leaves, but I can live with that for the time being.
Looking forward now to a tasty crop !

And finally for now, a pic of my hanging basket strawberry project. All appears ok, and after the recent cold snap which slowed the growth rate a bit, all now seems to be ok.
Plenty of new shoots appearing on the young stems.
Hopefully a tasty treat awaits!

Hope you've enjoyed the update. I'll try and get back into the habit of regular updates - it's going to be a busy next few months, and I'm looking forward to sharing my plot exploits with you all.

Come back soon, and please your comments!


Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Re org at Reads Retreat 22.04.08

You will notice from today, and hopefully over the next few weeks too, that I'm making some changes to my blog layout.
The first change is to post a separate list of links to gardeners blogs, the sites that i read the most frequently making up that initial list. The second list of links "Favourite Places" remains, but under the new heading "Sites of Interest".

If you want a link in either section, please let me know - I'd be happy to include you!

More changes to come ! Come back soon and take a look.


Which mag do you read ? 22.04.08

As an occasional buyer of Gardening Magazines, I often stand in the newsagents and browse the titles on offer.
My most recent purchase ( pictured ) was; I have to say, a little disappointing.
I don't buy this too often - mainly because the content can easily be found on line, but the lure of "Free" seeds is sometimes hard to resist!
However, aside from a couple of useful articles ( composting / hanging baskets for veggies) I found the mag to be a tad boring. Approx 75 pages of adverts is not my idea of a good read. If I ever go to China to source some fresh seeds then the relevant article may well be of some use ! In the past I have read various titles - "Amateur Gardening" & "Grow your own" are 2 that spring to mind, but there are too many to list. The worst thing is that they are all lacking in fresh articles relating to my own gardening exploits. Even when you do find something useful, chances are that the same content was printed in the same mag 12 months earlier. The upshot of all this is simple : Stop buying the mags in the first place. After all, I have now amassed a collection of "Free Seeds" and the chances are that I wont get round to growing them!

Think I will stick to using the pc, and regularly checking on the blogs of fellow gardeners, which is a great way to learn and share information.

On a recent visit to the Gardeners World Website, I entered my details in the "BBC GW Seed Trials" slot, expecting to hear no more. How surprised i was then to receive a few weeks later my confirmed entry in the seed trials together with - yup you guessed it - "Free seeds" ! I opted to try the Sunflower Seed trial as I have a plentiful supply of toms on the go already. I'll keep you posted on this, I'm hoping for some good results.


Sunday, 6 April 2008

April Snowers ! 6.04.08

Welcome back folks to Reads Retreat, my guide to Growing your own Veg in Raised Beds.
Forgive me the title - it's not a typing error! Having just glanced out over the plot I can tell you it's snowing. Not blizzard-esque conditions, but it looks like we might get a fair covering. The sky looks full of it! A call from the outlaws 30 miles away in Strood informed me they've had a good few inches overnight , and it's still persisting.

Hard to believe really when you consider Thursday peaked at 18C, while i toiled away on the plot:

I started by partially clearing the Raised Bed that was planted with curly kale. Removing the mulch fabric I was pleasantly surprised to find the soil virtually weed free. The Curly Leaf Kale was all uprooted and replanted at one end of the bed. The rest of the space was then raked over, and followed by a dusting of Fish, Blood & Bone, which was then raked into the surface.

I then planted up my onion sets, consisting of 3 rows of Stuttgarter Giant, 1 row of Leeks ( v. Musselburgh grown from seed), and 3 further rows of Red Karmen. There's still room in the bed for a couple more rows of Leeks, which I will be planting later in the week. The transplanted Kale have all seemingly survived being moved, and are all doing great - no drooping leaves! The whole bed was then well watered, and has now been left to settle. It's important to remember over the next few weeks to weed on a daily basis, so that the onions have no competition for moisture. I use a hand hoe for this, taking great care not to disturb the sets.

The strawberries in the hanging basket are flourishing, lots of new shoots and strong growth. Let's hope these are a success!

Rhubarb (v. Timperley Early) is now open to the elements, as I have now removed the forcing bin, and is putting on some strong green growth as it toughens up. I have read elsewhere that you can continue forcing a crop, but i dont want to weaken the crown - it's still only a year old. The second crown I planted a few weeks back (v. Holsteiner ) is not doing much yet! The leaves have not died away so I guess it is putting down roots ? Hope so.

No show on the newly planted spuds yet, a bit soon maybe ! Hope to plant some more up this week, and get my barrel ready to plant the second earlies in.

Next main job was the first cut of the lawn. The nitrogen rich trimmings went straight into the compost bin, together with some compost accelerator. It's full of worms in there - a good sign.

The other small task i completed on the plot was to sow a "thick" row of Marigold seeds next to the Broad Beans. These are planted mainly to deter the blackfly, but as already stated in a previous posting, the flower leaves are edible and brighten up the salad bowl a treat. And as a bonus, there will be a spray of colour amidst the greenery!

Meanwhile indoors:
  • The Savoy Cabbage seeds have still not germinated, and my hopes for these are dwindling. Very soon I will have to go and buy some "plugs" of cabbage, but i will still sow more seeds.
  • My Flat Leaf Parsley seeds are all now germinated, as the propagator was moved to a warmer spot! Putting on good growth now, and the lid is removed daily so that more light reaches the emerging seedlings.
  • All potted on seedlings continue to put on good growth, the toms especially will soon be ready for hardening off / planting out.
I'm a bit behind in some respects i.e. have yet to get my Runner / French beans planted up. Maybe i can find an hour to get this job underway ?

Still loads to do, and my 12 days holiday finish today. Back to grind 6.00am tomorrow!
Hope your gardens are still going well. Drop me a line or send a comment, it's always nice to hear from you.

Till next time, take care all and enjoy your gardens,