Saturday, 23 August 2008

Its a bit chilly ! 23.08.08

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

Just popped out to look over the plot - and there's a definite chill in the air. The good news though was the sound of the Bee's in the garden. They are everywhere, all over the French Beans(v.Blue Lake) as well as on the Nasturtiums. It seems they arrived late and are now on overtime!

At long last we have a couple of Aubergines forming. All previous flower buds have died back and dropped from the stems. Perseverance with regular watering / feeding seems to be having the desired effect!
Slightly off topic ( I know! ) but wanted to share this pic of one of the many "Bonsai's" in the garden. This Acer is now on its second growth of the year. I let it dry out at the middle of June, die back, then re commence watering and feeding. This gives a second show of the leaves, and I'm told that it helps keep the tree healthy. We have several other trees in pots, including Ash, Walnut, Elm, and are all growing well this year.

I'm having trouble uploading further pictures today, so will have a go again later .

Pop back soon for more updates from the plot.


Monday, 18 August 2008

Bricking it ...... 18.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our guide blog to Growing your own Veg in Raised beds.Continuing on from yesterdays theme, here's a before and after photo of our latest brick path. These bricks were left over after yesterdays creation and needed using up - we kept tripping over the pile of bricks! Again, I must stress that these are not yet cemented in place, merely laid out in a nice "pattern" ready for cementing at a later date. I cant promise that "Plot 81" will be this ornate, but you never know. We're still excited about getting on with the plot, and secret squirrel is already waxing lyrical about crop rotation, planting plans and the like. There's no stopping her !

Elsewhere on the plot, the Beetroot(v.Boltardy) are starting to show, and the Turnips(v.Golden Ball) seem to have survived their thinning out. I'll give the latter a couple more weeks to grow on before finally thinning them out.

I saw my 1st Meadow Blue Butterfly today. Apparently they've been in the garden all summer ( Brown's too) but I had not seen them until today. There's also loads and loads of Dragonflies flitting about - I'll try and get some pictures to post on the blog. Thats about it for now. Join us again a bit later in the week for a further update before I get back to work.


Sunday, 17 August 2008

Looking good on the plot 17.08.08

Welcome back to our plot update here at Reads Retreat - our guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds. We're both still on cloud 9 on the back of acquiring our own allotment. There's a lot of work in preparation terms, as the site is currently overgrown, but we now have a great opportunity to expand on what we grow. As you can see in this picture, our garden plot is now in full swing, we're still planting as well as tackling the hard landscaping ( laying bricks etc. ) but we'll get to that later. The French Beans(v.Blue Lake) are racing up their canes, and have already provided a few good harvests, with the prospect of providing many more yet. The traditional "family" runner beans are now also starting to put on good growth. Alongside the reads runners we planted a few "new seed" , some different varieties with both Pink & White flowers. These were given to me by my FIL and it seemed a waste not to use them. As stated in an earlier post, there's also a lot of Bee's in the garden now, a great and encouraging sight.
The toms (v.Tomazing) right outside the patio door were looking a bit sad a couple of weeks ago, having been stripped of most foliage by an enthusiastic but somewhat inexperienced Ruby. The plant was left bare except for 2 trusses of green toms. With no way of getting these to redden up foreseeable, we used the method of hanging an over-ripe banana on the plant. This gives off a gas which helps to redden up the toms, and as you can see it's working a treat. The added advantage, is that the banana is attracting some great looking Butterflies, which I tried to capture in this photograph. However, the adage of never working with children / animals has come true as every time I took a pic, the butterfly closed it's wings. I took about 8 shots but this is the best of the lot!

Here we have the first of our Sweet Peppers(v.Moneymaker) that we raised from seed. Pictures don't lie, but this pot of 3 plants is only about 10" tall, and the biggest pepper is still very small - but in our eyes still a success. It's always nice to grow something new at Reads Retreat, and in our eyes, if the plant bears fruit then its a success. We've got about a dozen or so of these plants dotted around, and although a lot of the plants are bearing flowers / buds, this is the first to bear fruit. We'll keep on nurturing this and see how we get on. The Chili peppers we're growing (v. Cayenne) in the hanging baskets and various pots around the plot, are also doing very well. Cant wait to taste them in a few more dishes.

Our newly "dressed" Rhubarb crown (v.Timperly Early) is already sending up new shoots after only a week. This is a good sign of a healthy crown, and we've enjoyed many a harvest from this throughout the summer. I must say it's tempting to grab a few more sticks, but we'll have to wait till next spring. Now that we have acquired our own allotment, we plan to include a few new crowns in our planting plan, to give us more of this tasty dessert throughout the following years.

Regular visitors to Reads Retreat, will know that I keep my eyes and ears open for bricks, as they are always useful on the plot. This area that I've now bricked over, was previously covered in wood chippings laid on top of a weed control membrane. That was a satisfactory path area, but as the material continually rotted down, I found we had to keep adding chipped bark to keep the path at a decent height. Now we have bricks laid out over the top, it looks a bit better and matches the other access area. All I need to do now is get some mortar to bed these down onto, and to fill in the gaps. Still got loads of bricks left so expect to see more paths being laid!

The Turnips (v.Golden Ball) have had their first thinning, with the gap between each seedling now approx 2". They will be thinned to a 4" gap a bit later on in their growth, so we can select the stronger plants.
Some of the "far too many" seedlings thinned out today, have been replanted in the various gaps that are starting to spring up in the raised beds. Obviously, the seedlings don't like to be distirbed, but they have 2 chances, and we might as well let them choose for themselves!

Elsewhere on the plot, there's still loads going on. Our toms in the raised beds are very slowly starting to redden up, the recently sown Betroot (v.Boltardy) seeds have germinated and are poking their leaves up to the sky, my "Giant" onion is still growing well, and my Carrots (v Autumn King 3)and Chard (v. Bright Lights & Zilver) are coming on a treat. Oh, did I mention ? We now have an allotment too!!

It's all very exciting, so much to think about and plan! We're gonna be busy! Hope you are all still enjoying the fruits of your toil. Come back and see us again soon. Till then,


Friday, 15 August 2008

Busy Bee's 15.08.08

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

A welcome sight in the garden this morning, a plethora of Bee's all over the Runner beans / French beans. They have been somewhat absent from the plot over the recent weeks, but are now here in abundance. Great news!

I had a comment from "Matron" (see previous post) enquiring about how our Rhubarb tasted that we pulled a few days ago. I have to say, it was gorgeous, and cant understand why people stop picking it so early in the year. This crown (v.Timperley Early) is only in its second year, and has provided plentiful crops this year which again is against what most people say. As previously posted, we will not harvest any more this year, rather letting the crown build up energy for next spring's forcing. I tried to leave a comment on your blog (Matron) but cannot get it to work ? You can always contact me directly via :

Thats about it for now, but will be back over the weekend with further updates from the plot.
Till then,


Tuesday, 12 August 2008

GOLD for Bedfordshire Champions ! 12.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, the home of how to "Grow your own veg in Raised Beds".

Today saw the harvest start of the Bedfordshire Champion Onions. In my mind, they're all Gold medal winners, considering that I grew these all from seed, and they easily out grew the onion sets that were planted out in the raised beds about 2 weeks earlier. Next year I'll be planting more of these little ( er - not so little ! ) gems, and staggering the planting to get a longer lasting harvest.

As you can see, young Ruby was happy to help, as she willingly posed with her first onion. To be totally honest , I'm surprised that any of them grew at all, considering that Ruby's favourite pastime of late has been to pull the outer leaves off as soon as they were within reach.
I noticed that the seed grown onions all grew beneath the soil; as opposed to the sets that grew virtually on the surface of the soil, with the former producing much larger specimens.
Following good advice from Steve and other regular readers of my blog, I patiently waited for the stems to fall over before pulling the crop up. With the weather forecasting wet for the next few days, i decided to harvest most of them today to avoid the stems rotting.

As this image shows, there's still a few more Champions in the raised bed - still growing strongly. This specimen is well over cricket ball size already, so although it wont be a show winner, and the taste may deteriorate, it's gonna be a big one !
That is of course assuming the foliage stays intact for a bit longer.
I really want to encourage our daughter to help and get involved in the garden, but despair at the sight of new seedlings being pulled from the soil.
Oh well, onwards and upwards !

Some of the rest of todays harvest can be seen here, laid out in a warm and sunny, and most of all dry location, for the stems to dry out.We've had a really good crop overall, and I'm more than happy with our little stab at growing onions.
Next season there will be a whole bed reserved for this crop. It's not just about the excitement of growing onions, the key for me - that you just don't get with shop brought onions - is how well they retain their flavour after cooking. You've got to try this for yourself to understand what I'm saying !

If I may be so bold, I've taken a leaf out of a fellow bloggers book, (Thanks Matron) and decided to keep on sowing seeds. It's nice to have harvests, but it seems such a shame to have a bare patch of soil. Yesterday afternoon I prepared this bed (formerly home to the Stuttgarter Giant Onions) and planted 2 x 3' rows of Beetroot (v.Boltardy). With the current spell of warm/hot and damp weather upon us, there's no good reason why these seeds should not germinate. It also gave me the opportunity to tidy up the Leeks. I read recently that any foliage from the Leeks that touches the ground should be removed, preventing easy access for slugs and snails, and therefore promoting better growth. We'll have to wait and see!

On the same theme, I today prepared this bed, and planted 2 x 3' rows of Kohl Rabi. I prepared drills, and sowed the seed rather more generously than my earlier in the year efforts. This bed was previously home to my Red onions (v.Red Karmen) and the soil was in really good condition. A gentle rake over the seeds once sown, then gently pressed down and watered in well. I'm looking forward to another crop here - all being well.
I'm a strong believer in not always believing the information contained on the seed packets, rather I use it as a guide. The seed manufacturers must obviously provide some guidance on growing, but with the ever changing seasons, there surely is some latitude in the information provided ?

Again, about six weeks after the books tell us, we took our last harvest of the year from my Rhubarb crown (v.Timperly Early), and the secret squirrell created 2 delish Rhubarb & Ginger crumbles. Try it ? The taste is amazing! After harvesting, the crown was thoroughly drenched, then a thick mulch of potting compost , mixed with slow release fertilizer, was poured over the crown. This will now be left until next spring, letting the plant build up its reserves, before I again start forcing the plant for an early crop. Mmmmm I can hardly wait!

The Pot Marigold's planted here and there on the raised beds, are still flowering well. In fact, there's an abundance of flowers all over the garden, but we are not seeing many bee's. I hope it changes as we progress through the summer, but I'm not sure it will.
Elsewhere on the plot, all is going well. The Runner & Broad Beans are flowering well, and producing crops, albeit only small amounts at the moment. The Turnip seedlings are now about 1" tall and I'll soon have to start thinning them out, we've bucket loads of Carrot seedlings (v.Autumn King 3), and Chard seedlings beginning to take over. So you see, there's loads of work still to be done. What fun!

I hope you're still enjoying your gardens as much as I am. I've got a little project underway that I will bring you news of soon. The only hold up on it is funds, but I'm trying to scrounge bits and bobs, and am slowly getting there. Watch this space ! Till then,


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Olympics - What are they ? 10.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat - our diary blog about growing your / our own veg in Raised Beds.
No time to sit and watch the telly here at Reads Retreat, far too much to do in the garden and home! As reported a few days ago, these Turnip seeds that were planted straight into the raised beds last weekend, germinated with just 3 days! This picture taken this morning shows that they continue to grow at a fast rate. The planting lines are clearly visible thanks to my method of using a cane to mark out the sowing drill. This coupled with the warm weather and plentiful rainfall has given these plants a great start. Very soon i will have to start thinning them out. I hardly used any of the seeds, compared to the estimated contents on the pack - 1500 - and only £1.09. At a later date I'll explain how I store any surplus seed, which despite claims on the packs, last for ages.

At the same time as I planted the Turnip's, I also planted some Chard, which you can just see emerging around the edge of the bed. These took longer to germinate as I expected, as the seeds are much larger. You can speed up germination of large seeds by soaking before planting out.

My Courgette plants seem to be recovering well. The problem was I think created by me, over watering ? The plants seemed to be dying off, and the leaves didn't look too healthy. This was followed by heavy and prolonged rainfall which compounded the problem. Therefore, I just "neglected" the plants for a few days, and one of them has revived itself, and is bearing fruit again, and they're growing quickly too. Cant wait to harvest more from this plant. I read that I should expect about a dozen from each plant, and so far we've had about half a dozen, so looking forward to a few more yet ! We'll see. Might grow some yellow varieties next year ?

My Raspberry root that i purchased from Wilko's, is finally starting to add some growth. Like the Blackcurrant that I purchased at the same time, they were both planted in shallow soil in pots to get them established. Hopefully they will continue to form a good root base so that I can plant them into their growing positions late autumn / early winter. I must admit that despite the price of a couple of pounds each, I am dissapointed with how badly / slowly they have grown. I may attempt some cuttings if i'm feeling confident, as i dont want to keep on spending when funds are so tight elsewhere. It would be nice to get some from from the plants this year. Maybe we will, we'll have to wait and see!

It's a very similar story with the Gooseberry bush. Purchased from the same place, it's taken an absolute age to get this far! I have fed and watered it consistently, but still the growth is slow. I'm really keen to get this going; my grandfather - i remember - grew these in his garden at Clacton, and I would love to do the same here. I maybe will buy some better stock for planting out next year. After all, you get what you pay for , and not much more.

And now the good news ! Look at these 2 towers of lush green foliage. The lighter green ( as you may have guessed ) is the runner beans. These have been grown year on year from seeds saved by Grandad. I was down to 5 seeds this year, as they just didn't want to germinate. Now though they have recovered well. We've had a few small picking's, and are looking forward to many more! The darker green is the climbing French Beans (v.Blue Lake). Again, these seemed to take ages to get going, then suddenly they sprang into action. We've had several picking from this too, harvesting the bean pods at about 4" long. They taste delish, and will deff be grown again here at Reads Retreat. To the left of the pic is my clump of Toms (v. Moneymaker) which are also doing well.

Another great and unexpected success this year have been my Chili Peppers (v.Cayenne). We've got them growing everywhere we can find space to put them, even in this hanging basket alongside Beetroot (v.Boltardy). There's plenty of nearly ready to pick Chili's already, and still more are forming. We've had less success with our sweet peppers, but we are persevering to see if we can get a crop.

That's about it for todays update, there's still loads more to tell you about, including a new project indoors, but sitting here typing is making my back ache, so please excuse me for now.

Take care all, get out into your gardens as the weather permits, and enjoy yourselves!


Thursday, 7 August 2008

Thunder & Lightning 07.08.08

Welcome back to a soggy but otherwise ok Reads Retreat. our guide to growing your own veg in raised beds.
Slightly "off topic" boy did it rain last night. Being a fan of a good old storm, we lay in bed, curtains and windows open watching the lightning light up the night sky, with the heavy thunder roaring all around and raining, like it's going out of fashion. Brilliant.
When I ventured out to the plot this morning, the air smelt lovely. Furthermore, i was greeted by the delightful sight of all 5 rows of Turnips; planted just a few days ago, germinated and pushing their seedlings up to the light. A bit more of a wander found the small row of Radish have germinated too. Sadly no pictures today, I've been a tad busy. I have to admit to "borrowing" todays pic from auntie !

Pop back tomorrow for a more detailed update. See you soon,


Monday, 4 August 2008

Rained all night ! 04.03.08

Welcome back to another quick update at Reads Retreat, where a quick break in the weather enabled an outstanding sowing job to be completed:
I had a vacant raised bed, just 3' x 3', and this was my choice planting. 2 Varieties that I've wanted to try for a couple of years now.
The Swiss Chard (v. Zilver) is a renowned cropper that with a bit of TLC should get through the autumn and well into the winter, whilst the Turnip (v. Golden Ball) should grow tennis ball sized roots, whilst at the same time providing some turnip tops for use as a nourishing "winter green". What's more, buying good seed from reputable sources can only help with this latest venture. I'm hoping the mild weather continues to aid the germination.
Initially, the Swiss chard was planted around the perimeter of the bed, approx 2" from the boards, and about 2" apart. If all these seeds germinate they can be thinned out later on, the thinnings then being either cooked as baby leaves, or replanted elsewhere on the plot. Next, I marked out 5 rows (about 6" apart ) by pressing a cane into the surface of the bed. This provides drills deep enough to accommodate the Turnip seed, without causing disruption to the soil immediately adjacent. The seed was then sown fairly generously ( 3 seeds/inch) along each drill, then covered with loose topsoil which was then firmed into place. This all followed by a gentle watering to settle the bed.

After watering in the seed, the boards were then marked each end of the drills. This way emerging seedlings can be distinguished from emerging weeds, and the latter easily removed. From what I've read, 1 sq yd should be sufficient for about 30 turnips to grow on, so the drills can be thinned out accordingly as time permits.

The final job of the day was to erect a temporary barrier to the newly planted bed. This was simply achieved by 2 buckets of spuds, which so far seem to be doing the trick! As soon as the bed becomes established, then the buckets can be moved back to their home on the patio.
All in, the whole task took about half an hour, as the bed had been prepared earlier. Time to sit back now and let nature take it's course.

Hope you have found this update both interesting and useful, and I look forward to welcoming you back soon. Keep me posted on how you are getting on. Till then,


Sunday, 3 August 2008

Roast Lamb & Veg from garden 03.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat - the home of How to Grow Veg in Raised Beds.
Todays update is less about actually growing veg, and more about actually enjoying the fruits of labouring on the veg plot.
Our sumptuous dinner today was Roast Leg of Lamb, cooked with fresh Garlic & Rosemary from the plot. This was complimented by Rhubarb Chard, a mix of Runner Beans and French Beans, as well as some freshly dug second early spuds. I have to admit we had some roasties too, but it was sheer bliss to sit and eat what was mostly our home grown veg, the taste is out of this world.

Regular readers / subscribers will know that I planned to plant some more seed today. Unfortunately, the ground was so hard, i could not dig sufficiently ( partly due to my ongoing back problem ) to prepare the ground for new sowings. The good news though, is that its pouring down as I write this, so first job for the morning will be to get that planting done. The bed I will be using is only 3' x 3', but I'm planning on planting some Organic Zilver Chard around the edge, and if possible about 30 Turnip seeds in the middle. I'm hoping this will provide further cropping late into the autumn, and can maybe use the turnip tops too as some winter greens.

Time permitting, I might get round to planting a further batch of Kohl Rabi ? We'll see.

Thats all for now. See you soon.


Saturday, 2 August 2008

Start 'em young ! 02.08.08

Welcome once again to Reads Retreat, where we not only grow veg in raised beds, but we nurture new gardeners too! After a small outlay at Wilkinson's for a wheelbarrow and garden tool set, there is now absolutely no way I'm going to keep Ruby out of the garden! What a great way to start - for £7.00 you get the barrow, a rake, a spade, a roller, bucket, shapes for "making" things in the mud, and a watering can. Just a shame I cant get the same outfit in adult size for a similar amount.
Back on the veg front, I planted a small row of Radish seeds today (v. Scarlet Globe), and also spied that the 2 rows of Chard / Leaf Beet planted just a few days ago have started to germinate. No sign of the carrots yet, but don't expect them for a few more days yet. I've still a lot of planting planned, and hopefully tomorrows list will include Turnips and Kohl Rabi.

And if you are left wondering what to do with all this fine veg you are growing - fear not ! Today I have added a new list of Chef's websites. The list will grow as I root out more site addresses, and if you have any favorites you would like me to add, then drop me a line. Emails please to:

Thats about it for now, but we'll see you again soon.


Friday, 1 August 2008

Pumpkin Growing Tips 01.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat - your one stop shop for topical and timely info on growing your own veg.
This year I've been trying my hand at growing some pumpkins, and have to say have been finding it difficult to track down useful growing tips. I have found a pretty good site and added it to my sites of interest.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we planted some tomatoes in the spaces around the runner and french beans. I've just popped out with the camera to show you what i mean. It looks really nice to see the contrasting Deep Red flowers on the Runner beans with the bright yellow of the tomato plants. I'm sure we're going to see much more colour shows like this as the growth continues.
The runner and french beans both seem to have responded well to the feeding with liquid tomato fertilizer, with buds / flowers forming all over the place. Looking forward to pick enough to grace the dining table.

Continued thanks go to Jen, this glorious show of colour greets me every time I step out onto the patio. Who would have believed it , a veg grower like me loving flowers too. Is that whats known as natural progression. Not sure really , but they do look great. The Nasturtiums are also looking good, but the night scented stock is yet to flower - maybe its too early.

My Tomato (v. Tomazing) is now full of well formed trusses of lovely little fruits.
Up until yesterday, there was a further truss of bright orange toms that were very nearly ripe. Then Ruby discovered them, and now they've been picked and put on the kitchen windowsill for further ripening!
The other toms around the plot are either in flower or full of green toms. I'll be thinning out the non productive leaf shoots over the next few days, to let the sun get to the toms to ripen them off. I've got 2 further varieties arond the plot: Moneymaker & Gardeners Delight. I'll bring you more pictures of these as they start to ripen off.

Thats all for now - enjoy your gardens and come back soon.