Thursday, 31 July 2008

Another bucket of spuds. 31.07.08

Back again to Reads Retreat ? Nice to see you - whether you are a regular reader or a newcomer ! Everyone is welcome.
This is the latest harvest from my bucket grown spuds - not a massive crop but certainly enough for 2 or 3 evening meals. In case you are not aware, remove and discard the green bits prior to cooking and eating the rest. ( The green bits are mildly poisonous ! ). Still pondering over where grow the spuds next year, but in terms of greater yield, i expect to return to growing at least one early variety in the raised beds, and use the buckets for something else, maybe for more toms, or something of that ilk. All reasonable ideas will be considered !
It's been a hot and humid day today & still is, although it's just started spitting with rain. We need another good downpour to replenish water butt stocks, as well as to water the crops. My soapy water attacks on the blackfly are finally paying dividends, with large runner and french bean pod clusters forming all over the place. One funny thing to note is that we planted some spare tomato plants in gaps around the runner beans, and now have little clusters of Red & Yellow flowers. You have to look twice!!

Thats all for now, please bookmark my site and come back soon, or enter your email address to receive updates direct to your inbox. Your continued visits have helped me to the dizzy heights of 7th in the Top 100 Gardening Sites - Thank you.


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A Dog with 2 Tails - Thats me! 30.07.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, my guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds. As for todays title, that sums me up to a tee today. Yesterday evening we decided to lift some of the onions from the raised beds. The 1st harvested were this little lot. The variety"Red Karmen" were grown from sets that I purchased on that little shopping site - ebay ! 20 Planted and 20 decent sized and perfectly formed usable little lovelies for the kitchen. The smallest 1 - just bigger than a golf ball, with the majority at about the size of a tennis/cricket ball. A couple have been used already in the kitchen, and they taste superb, maintaining their own inherent flavour right onto the plate. You may think this is nothing special, and you would probably be right. The key thing here for me, is that I've never grown onions before, and now I'm hooked. Its not only the veg that are amazing, but also just how shallow they sit in the soil, yet grow so big. But hold on, there's more:
This lot were also lifted. The variety here is "Stuttgarter Giant", bought from the same ebay shop! Sadly, this little lot failed to live up to their name, producing only about 10 Tennis balls and about 10 golf balls. That said though, they do taste delicious, and are full of flavour. But the best is yet to come: I initially planted sets as I was not confident enough to grow from seed. So, after planting these, i bought some seed to have a go. Fellow bloggers seemed to be selecting the variety"Bedfordshire Champion" so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. And this is the best bit - the BC's are still in the ground, and seem to be outgrowing the onion sets. Again, seeking the advice from fellow allotmenteers, these are still in the raised beds - thanks Steve! It's very tempting to lift these too, but I will wait a couple more weeks.
Don't forget to check out Steve's blog - it's well worth a look. There's a link in my bloggers list.

Elsewhere on the plot, all is well. We had a few French Beans with our dinner tonight, which also included freshly dug new potato's as well as a red onion in the "Toad in the Hole ".

There an abundance of nearly ready crops in the garden, and I'll keep you updated as and when they get harvested. I even bought some Liquid Tom Feed from Wilko's today, and its been used on Toms, Aubergine, French & Runner beans, Pumpkin, Beetroot, Chili Peppers etc etc etc.

I think we're in for some more rain over the next couple of days, so I hope you've been enjoying the weather so far. Thats it for now, but I'll be back soon with more news. Till then,


Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Early morning - wet ! Lovely !! 29.07.08

Welcome Back to Reads Retreat.

Well, what a refreshing change! When we turned in last night, the sky was full of lightening and the heavens opened. Not sure how long it all lasted, I was away with the fairies as soon as my head touched the pillow.

As i strolled around the garden / plot this morning, it was not the feeling of Dew underfoot, but the satisfying knowledge that it rained good and hard. The plants have all withstood the downpour, the water butts are full, and the air smells fresh.

But, its about 9.00am now, and its heating up fast. Lots more to do still - weeding / hoeing etc, so I might get cracking while I can !

Forgot to mention that Sunday afternoon, i sowed yet more seeds, this time straight into prepared seed beds. I planted a row of Carrots(v. Autumn King 2), as well as 2 rows of Chard ( the mixed colour stems variety ! ), and hopefully these will germinate and grow on for harvesting later in the year.

Thats all for now, take care and have fun in the sun,


Sunday, 27 July 2008

Early morning dew - lovely! 27.07.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, on a beautifully sunny summers morning. I couldn't resist walking barefoot on the dew covered lawn this morning. It must be nigh on 15C already, and it's only 7.00am! The feeling of the cool dew on my feet was lovely - to me it's one of those feelings you wish you could bottle up and sell - "fortune" awaits! Armed with my camera (as usual) i set out to bring you some shots from around the plot. The first to catch my eye was this gloriously yellow shaded Pumpkin flower. The pumpkin plant has gone wild - must be about 15' long already, with numerous tendrils reaching out for support, and a bounty of flower heads just waiting to burst open! It's my 1st real attempt at growing a pumpkin so any advice would be welcomed! I've already read a bit on the RHS website and discovered the reason the leaves were rotting - they don't like to get wet! Those affected are now removed, and I'm watering directly at the root. I'd really like to find out if these plants are self pollinating, or whether a bit of intervention is required. Someone must know - so please get in touch!

This shot shows more flower heads, this time on our Aubergine plant. If you look closely you will see that some of the previous flower heads have dropped from the plant, remainders of which are visible on the lower leaves. My only idea was that the plant was drying out, and is now not only getting daily drenching, but a weekly feed too. We've only recently starting using this veg in the kitchen, and we are excited by the prospect of the taste from a homegrown version, with a zero carbon footprint! It's just too easy to go to the supermarket and buy one. You never really stop and think about which continent it might have come from, and bearing that in mind - just how fresh it actually is.

Our Tom plant (v.Tomazing) that was bought for me is the first tom plant in the garden to be colouring up. This plant was originally a tiny "plug" plant from T&M, purchased with 4 other veg plugs (including the Aubergine) for less than £4.00. It has put on very good growth outside on the patio, and there are plenty of little green toms. We expect them not to last too long though, they are right outside the patio door, at the right height for little fingers to reach out and grab them! Hey ho, Ruby seems very happy in the garden, so we will let her be. She often carries the watering can around (empty of course) and pretends to water everything in sight / reach ! Bless her. The other toms growing well on the plot are the Gardeners Delight variety, which are here, there, and everywhere we could find some space!

Our climbing French Beans (v. Blue Lake) have put on great growth during the recent hot spell. Already there is a bounty of pods all over the plants, but at a mere 2-3" long are still a way off harvesting. Traditionally, I've only grown longpod runner beans before, but again the french beans are a new addition in the kitchen and they taste gorgeous, so this year we are growing both. You may remember that I'm growing these on wigwams this year, as opposed to the traditional line of canes, and from what we can see so far, it looks like access for harvesting will be a lot easier.

Sadly, right next to the French Beans, are my wigwam of Runner Beans. I say sadly because the latter are covered in Blackfly. The good news is that the plants seem to be surviving, plenty of deep red flowers abound and the first 1" long beans are showing. I've tried spraying with soapy water to get rid of the pesky things, but so far am losing the battle. I'm just hoping that not too many transfer onto the french beans. I'm wondering if there's a variety of Runners that are more resistant to Blackfly, and will look into this. Good news: Spotted some ladybirds today!

Inspired by an article I read in BBC Gardeners World mag earlier in the year, i decided to use a hanging basket to grow something other than flowers. This little 12" basket is home to 2 Chilli (v. Cayenne) plants, and 3 or 4 Beetroot (v.Boltardy) plants. The Chilli plants are faring better at the moment ( early days yet! ) and have a few small hot ones growing nicely, about 1 - 2" long already. The fence is south east facing so gets a fair amount of direct sunlight. Beetroot doing well too, but with limited growing space they may turn out a bit small?

This is our latest bucket of spuds, 2 tubers planted just a couple of weeks ago, and already growing nicely. I planted another bucket with 1 tuber last weekend, and now have just 1 tuber left. That last one will go into a larger container and hopefully give us a slightly larger crop than we have been getting. I'm still in 2 minds as to what we do next year, but I'm erring on the side of using the raised beds again next year, but only growing first earlies, which would free the bed up for successional crops. I think these ones are Kestrel but I've long since lost the packaging!

Final pic for this morning, looking back over the raised beds. Space is now appearing ready for some further planting. The next bed to be cleared is in the foreground - the onions! Already have harvested the "Stuttgarter Giant" whites, and there's about25 "Red Karmen" and 20 ish "Bedfordshire Champion" still to harvest. There's also 2 rows of 6 leeks interspersed so will have to be careful not to disrupt them, as well as the Kohl Rabi. All in all, its been a pleasant growing year so far, but it does seem that everything is a bit later this year ? Maybe that's just me not being organized enough.

Hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it! Long may this glorious weather continue so we can enjoy more premium gardening / garden usage.
Take care all.


Thursday, 24 July 2008

All down to secret squirrell! 24.07.08

Welcome back for another (non veggie) update here at Reads Retreat. You may remember that I cleared the overgrown patch of land in the foreground with the intention of getting my better half planting some flowers. Well, back on the 23rd April, sowing got under way. Using the "Broadcast" method i.e. rip top off packet and scatter seed here and there, we got rid of a few packs of seed. Actual varieties used escape me, but included Night Scented Stock, Poppies (?) and Nasturtiums. Along the way other bits have been added ( Pot Marigolds, Toms, Bay Tree etc) and here is the result:
Already there's a plethora of colour with the delicate Daisy like poppies with their delicate Blue, White and Yellow flowers. The Night scented stock are reaching for the skies and are full of buds. The Nasturtiums are just starting to flower, all in all its a great success. Ruby loves it too, picking the odd flower head for mummy. The Bay Tree; having started at 8" tall, is surviving but you have to look hard to find it. Well done hun. Luv you.

See you all again soon.


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Kohl Rabi Success 23.07.08

Welcome once again to Reads Retreat.
Just when I thought I had run out of good things to tell you, I remembered this "First" growing success! Earlier in the year when I planted my onion sets, i chanced my arm with a row of these strange veggies between the onions. As I was not sure what the emerging seedlings looked like, i probably erroneously discarded a few early on. Luckily this one has survived and is being lovingly nurtured. Its a tad bigger than a tennis ball right now, and i've read it should put on considerably more growth. My only concern now is the somewhat abundance of the dreaded cabbage white butterflies. Im keeping my eyes peeled and fingers crossed ! So far there are no caterpillars - not that I can see anyway.
Check back tomorrow for further updates on the progress here on our plot.
Till then, take care and enjoy this glorious weather.


Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Successional spuds 22.07.08

Here we are again at Reads Retreat - Welcome back.
Updates are coming thick and fast - can you keep up ?
This year we decided to grow our first and second early spuds in containers, thus freeing up more space in the raised beds. Spuds do take up a lot of room once established, so this had to be worth a try. Double click on the pic and it will enlarge to show more detail. Overall, this method is proving quite successful. The yield from each "pot" has been slightly lower than we would have liked, but maybe that's my fault for putting 2 tubers in each pot. That said though, the bonus of growing this way is that as soon as the spuds have been harvested, the containers can then be refilled and re planted, which so far has meant a continuous harvest of new potatoes. I've got 2 tubers left to plant up, which i will plant individually to maximise the yield at this late stage in the growing season - these are early varieties after all. The more observant amongst you will notice the 2 buckets in the foreground are temporary home to fruit bushes that i brought from Wilkinson's. They have taken a very long time to get established, but are finally flourishing. The one on the left is Raspberry and the one on the right Blackcurrant. We're not expecting any fruit this year, but you never know!
We also bought 2 Gooseberry bushes from Wilkinson's, i laughed because the varieties were labelled as "Red" and "Green". Percy Thrower would turn in his grave! The green variety failed to grow, but this Red variety is now well established and putting on good regular growth. Occasional feeding and plenty of water seems to be doing the trick. I'm going to plant a couple more next year in the same bed, and hope these fruit bushes will provide a tasty barrier between the patio and the garden. As usual, you'll have to watch this space. I did wonder whether i could take cuttings from this plant - let me know what you think.

There's still more to come - so much to tell you all about, but that's it for today. I look forward to welcoming you all back soon.
Take care all and enjoy your gardens.


Monday, 21 July 2008

That was then,,,,,,,, 21.07.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, for a bit more of an update!
I can't promise these daily updates will continue, but hopefully will while i get back up to speed!
This shot was posted on my blog on 8th June, showing my 2 Courgette plants that I had acquired!
I was hopeful of great things here - I had never grown courgettes before and was a tad worried that the outside temperature would not be enough to sustain good growth,

How wrong I was! Believe it or not, this is the same container, hidden by the mass of lush foliage.
We've already harvested 2 delish fruits and there are many more on the way. I read that regular watering is the key and this is what we are doing. As for the taste - far superior to anything you can buy. Just to the right of the pic is our Aubergine plant, which is also putting on good growth. The first set of flowers fell away - not sure why, but more flowers have appeared and we're hoping to harvest at least one of the lush shiny fruits. We'll have to wait and see. The small black pot contains an Apricot tree, grown from a shop bought fruit seed, and just to the right of that there is a pot of Sweet Peppers, growing ok but not really anything special at the moment.
So, bear with us folks as we continue to bring Reads Retreat up to date, there's so much more to write, but while my back is recovering i find i cannot sit at the desk for too long.
Take care all, see you again soon.


Sunday, 20 July 2008

A Worthy Cause ! 20.07.08

I was just browsing the RHS website ( see link on main page ) and discovered they are running a petition to try and get Mr Brown ( the would be PM ) to reduce VAT on plants and seeds.

Check it out and if like me; you think its a worthy cause, then add your name to the petition.

Not sure how long it runs for, better be quick !


Fokyhama ! 20.07.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat. Many apologies for what may seem like a long time away, its seems like ages since my last update.
You may remember that I was praying for rain. Well, my prayers have been well and truly answered.
So much so in fact, that my overwintered Garlic crop had started to rot in the soil. This lot were dug up in the last week, and laid out for drying in the sun, before being put away into store in a cool and airy place. 16 Bulbs in all, from my original purchase of 3 cloves just 2 seasons ago. Its an amazing crop to grow, it does nothing all winter, then all of a sudden springs into action. This lot will easily last us the rest of the year ( only just finished using last years crop - and we eat a lot of it ! ) and will also provide seed cloves for planting out this December.
I couldn't resist the title - quite fitting really as I put my back out on Thursday last week ( its also the variety of the Garlic ! ), and now resemble a very old man trying to get around the house. I managed a quick foray into the garden today, but could only manage a few steps. Valium is wonderful stuff, but I'd rather have my fitness.
Lucky for me then i have Secret Squirrell to help me out. Behind every great man, and all that .
Hopefully my back will improve over the next few days, enough maybe to let me photograph the plot and bring you up to date.

I've missed you all and your comments too, but I'm back to stay now.
Let me know how your plots are going - always nice to get reports from fellow bloggers.

Finally, a warm welcome to Rowan, who entered the world on 12th July 08 at 12.40am, a gorgeous son to my Niece's family - Love and best Wishes to Claire & Laurence, Charlie & Alicia.

Happy Birthday Justin 21 Again!

I'll be back soon. Till then,


Thursday, 3 July 2008

Where has all the rain gone ? 3.07.08

Have you seen it in your neck of the woods ?
You know, the wet stuff.
The ground here at Reads Retreat is bone dry, and no amount of daily watering is doing any good.
Today we lifted a couple of onions and some Garlic.
All seem reasonably well grown, though a tad small.
"They" keep forecasting rain, but it seems to be missing us.
Lets hope we get some soon.
Take care all, more updates to follow in the very near future.