Sunday, 11 May 2008

Spuds Spuds Spuds 11.05.08

Welcome to the Reads Retreat weekly update on Growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

It's been a great week, the weather has been superb, with temperatures reaching 80F and cooling at night sufficiently to enable restful sleep.

So much is happening on the plot, I'll start with the .....
Spuds ! This pic is one of many taken early this morning whilst wandering around the plot. My bright orange buckets are overflowing with fresh green foliage from my recently planted first early (v. Aaron Pilot) new spuds.
The 2 buckets to the rear were planted about 4 weeks ago, with the 2 buckets in the foreground having only been planted 2 weeks ago. It seems there is measurable growth each morning, constantly trying to hide the fabulous tasty spuds that are growing beneath. The big green tub has also been planted with first earlies - and i'm waiting patiently for signs of growth here.
The more observant of you will notice the bucket in the foreground is in fact a Blackcurrant, one of my cheap buys from wilko's, planted here to get established prior to planting into its final growing position, which as yet is not decided upon!
Whilst we're on the theme of whats in pots, here we have a couple of tomato plants (v.Gardeners Delight) that i've potted on outside, attempting to get an early crop. With the weather as it is, it shouldn't take to long for these plants to get established.
The 2 pots at the back are home to Peach tree's, grown from seed by my father in law. Not sure how old these are, but this is the 2nd year i've had them. Although they die right back over the winter , they are now growing really well. Not sure if they will fruit for a few years, but fun growing!
There's also a small pot of cuttings ( Candytuft), donated by Arthur next door. These will be great additions the the borders if they grow on well. I'm not usually one for growing flowers, or indeed taking cuttings, but it seems a great way to go, saving money etc. .
Somewhat forgotten about; but hopefully saved in time are my Basil (v. Dark Opal) plants. These were growing in the conservatory, where despite best intentions, i had forgotten to plant them on. They're a bit leggy, but have been planted deep and transferred outside to grow on. Already they are showing good signs of recovery. I plan to plant these alongside my tomato plants later in the year, to ward off the bugs that are so attracted to the toms.

While on the pot theme, here's a snapshot of my Bonsai, well - trees in pots ! I started out with good intention, but mostly these are being left to their own devices. By planting each one in larger pots, i'm hoping to increase the main stem (trunk) diameter, whilst restricting their height. This is working well, and in a couple of years, i should be able to start the Bonsai process off a bit better, namely trimming roots and leaves, and potting into smaller pots. When i first read up on Bonsai, i was struck with what the chineese call "the michi" i.e. its not the end product that is so desired, but how you get to the end point. It's a great adage, and is reflected throughout my gardening.

Another quick look at my spuds. These were planted as seed last summer in this small raised bed, and i hoped to grow them for xmas. Again, forgotten about over winter, they are now growing on really well, and will hopefully deliver some lovely spuds.

Last weeks update contained a pic similar to this one of my onion bed. Already you can clearly see how well the plants have progressed in just 7 days. The only issues here are that the topsoil is drying out really quickly, and the weeds are growing very very fast. I'll need to weed this bed on a regular basis to stay on top of them, otherwise they will be competing for moisture with my crop. If this hot spell continues for much longer ( not usually heard of in the UK ) then i will have to add another layer of mulch - for which i will probably use the contents of a Tunstall growbag. This selection is based on me knowing that these growbags have very fine content, its easy to smooth around existing plants, and does not need to be sieved.

The Chives in the raised bed are now into flower, and I'm looking forward to adding these flowers to the next salad we do. Master Oliver swears by em, so we will have to give them a try. I'll let you know what - if anything - they taste like!

We took our first main harvest of Rhubarb (v. Timperly Early ) in the week, and enjoyed a really tasty crumble and custard! However , as you can clearly see, there is loads more to come. With daily watering its hard to see where we cropped, as there is plenty of new growth. I really love having this in the garden, and cant recommend it enough as a great addition to your plot. The price you pay in the shops is astronomical in comparison, and tastes nothing like the home grown fruit.

As well as all the activity outside, I'm continuing with raising plants from seed in the conservatory. This week I planted more Runner Bean seeds (my first seed sowing was not very productive) and also planted some climbing french beans (v. Blue Lake ) - the seeds of which always remind me of tic tac's! Then there's a tray of Chard (v. Bright Lights) which are used in 2 ways - culinary in salads (leaves ) an steamed (stems) and also to add colour around the otherwise green plot. My sowings of salad leaves - mixed varieties are growing on well, and will be moved outside later today.
The plants i received in the post last week have all been potted on into 4" pots, and are putting on great growth. A sixth plant has been added to the drip tray - a present from mum who visited in the week. So now i have 2 courgette plants !
Very soon i envisage that these will all be planted out into final growing positions. All i need to do is find / create some more space.
Not a simple task !

Thats all for now, I'll be back later to finish this off.


Friday, 9 May 2008

Luvvly Jubbly 08.05.08

Picked this Rhubarb at about 5.00pm, and had Rhubarb Crumble and Custard for pudding.
You cant beat the taste, fresh and absolutely gorgeous!
What a lovely way to round off a busy day in the garden. Dont forget to check my update this Sunday - its been a busy week and there's so much to tell you about.


Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Plants by Post ! 04.05.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, the home of "Growing your own Veg in Raised Beds".

Are you enjoying the weather ? Me too - gloriously sunny and getting warmer all the time.

We've had a busy time of late, plenty of activity in the garden, coupled with a day out yesterday to Brands Hatch ( courtesy of Big sis - Ta very much ) to see the A1 GP Meeting. A great day was had by all, and it was great to see everyone again - and a chance too to deliver some very late Christmas presents !

Meanwhile on the gardening front .....
My better half ( secret squirrel as she will be known from now on ) ordered these lovely plants from the Gardeners World supplement. They arrived minutes before we left for Brands on saturday morning, hence it was much later in the day before I had a chance to look them over. I've been perhaps over cautious in the past in not ordering "plugs" through the post, as I thought the packaging would have been an issue. How wrong I was / am, these arrived in perfect condition, just a few days after despatch. Well done Thomson and Morgan! All I needed to do was let them get wet, and then leave them to settle for a few days, prior to potting on. Simply double click on the image for info of varieties!
Things are looking good in the onion bed too. Not sure how well this pic will appear on the blog, but i can assure you all is growing on well.
There are various varieties planted herein, including :
Stuttgarter Giant (25 Sets)
Red Karmen ( 25 Sets)
Bedfordshire Champion ( 12 from seed )
Leeks Musselburgh (20 from seed - in 2 rows)
The leeks were started in toilet roll inners and have been transplanted complete to their growing positions. I find this helps to blanch the lower stem during growth, negating the need for earthing up later in the season.

My repotted Rhubarb crown, is now sporting some new growth, and i'm hopeful that it will survive. I will leave indoors and in the bucket till later in the year when i will replant into its final growing position.

My other crown in the garden is now fully recovered from the early forcing, and on closer inspection I found it's growing now from 3 individual crowns.
Not bad really for a second season plant. Rhubarb crumble coming my way - yummy.

As you will know ( if you're a regular reader ) I'm quite partial to these B&Q buckets. They add instant colour to the garden, and make for a very cheap large pot.
This year they are home to all manner of things, and in this shot, my Early pots. The two in the foreground have just been planted, with the 2 at the rear having been planted a few weeks ago.
This is a deviation from the raised beds - a bit of an experiment! I'm trying to free up raised bed space to grow other crops, and am hopeful of good yields from these "pots" instead. I'm only growing first and second earlies this year, as maincrop whites are easily available at £4.90 for 25kg!

In another adjacent bed, things are moving on quickly:
The garlic continues to add growth at a staggering rate, and all plants are looking healthy - even the one my darling daughter Ruby ( 10 months old ) tried to pull free from the soil!The Chives are also looking good, with the flower heads forming nicely - cant wait to try these ( yes, the flowers ) in a nice fresh salad.The netting was added in an effort to deter the local moggies from littering the open ground. I take great pleasure in returning the cats doings to their rightful owners!I've also planted some Rhubarb Chard, which is beginning to show. The toms ( v. Gardeners Delight) are suffering from Slug attack but I'll persevere with these. Its a gamble trying to get an early outdoor grown crop, but hopefully it will succeed.

The Broad Beans are getting bigger by the day, and i've already spotted the first pod ! I'm so excited, especially after last years plants were totally engulfed in blackfly and had to be destroyed.
Fingers are still crossed on this one!
Just thinking about them now I can almost taste them!
I planted some pot marigold seed along the front of the bed, and these too are starting to show.Again, this is an edible flower, not just an attractive companion plant.

Strawberries in the hanging basket seem to be doing ok, although I'm worried that they might struggle for moisture as the growing season continues.
Theres plenty of flower buds already which is a good sign, so i'll have to keep a close eye on this one over the next few months.
If it doesn't work out, at least i will know for future reference.
Anyway, I cant eat the fruits as im allergic to them.

These are the "Christmas Spuds" that I planted for last christmas !
I left them in the ground when the the frosts killed off the foliage, and simply forgot about them.
Now I'm being rewarded with fresh growth where i least expected it.
Not sure if the fact that the seeds in the ground for so long will affect this years harvest, but with nothing else planned to go in this spot, I guess I'll wait and see what happens.

Raising plants from seed seems a never ending task.
I'm lucky that secret squirrel lets me use the available space in the conservatory.
Hoping soon that the seed raising will tail off, and we can start to enjoy the fruits of my toil.

Hope you've enjoyed this update. I've been quite excited to find my blog listed at number 12 in the Top 100 Gardening sites, and thats all thanks to you - my readers. Thank you !

Join me again soon for more updates from Reads Retreat.