Wednesday, 31 December 2008

It's the end of the year as we know it! 31.12.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our guide to growing your own veg. As you are all aware, the current cold spell has temporarily halted progress on the plot, but that doesn't mean we have stopped shopping! Yesterday we picked up some more seeds to compliment our stock! I always save my own Runner Bean seeds, which can find their roots from my Grandads original stock , and this year is no exception. The only difference for next year is that we will be planting on a much larger scale! With that in mind, i purchased an extra pack to mix in with those that I have saved from previous crops. I chose the variety "Scarlet Emperor" as these always get good reviews from other growers. It's easy to spend a small fortune on seeds, but this pack of 40 were just a quid from Wilkinson's. That to me seems a very good price, and the quality from this High Street store is usually very good.
At the same time, i purchased a new pack of Parsnip seeds (v.Hollow Crown), as i keep reading that these seeds do not store well year to year. At 50p for 500 seeds, again it's hard to go wrong.

We are always keen to try something new, and this year we have decided to grow Climbing Peas. The variety "Victorian Colossal" were sourced/ordered from Victoriana Nurseries.
Victoriana is a place that I recently discovered in Challock, Kent, having previously scoured many of their adverts in the gardening press. Its the sort of place thats getting hard to find; A nursery where you can talk to knowledgable staff who know what they're talking about. They grow their own veg for their own use and also for seed sales. Their stock is vast and the prices seem very reasonable too. What really made a visit worthwhile for me though, is that when you walk into the place, it smells right! Know what I mean ? There's no annoying Cafe, Gift Shop etc, just veggies and trees and all the other stuff that you actually want. Pay them a visit if you can, I know you will enjoy it!

That's all for now. I'd like to thank all my readers / contributors both here and at Reads Retreat for their time this year, and wish you all a Happy & Prosperous New Year.


Thursday, 25 December 2008

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Spud bed preperations ongoing! 18.12.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our guide to starting an allotment from scratch. "Tempus Fugit" as Grandad Read used to say, and it certainly seems to be flying right now! There's only about twelve weeks to go until I'll be thinking of planting out the newly chitted seed potato's ! And before I can do that, I need to prepare the ground for planting. With that in mind, I have started to dig 1 of 2 trenches, that will be the home for my spuds. Each row is approx 15m long x 1m wide, Sufficient space i hope for 4 rows of spuds. That's quite a few more than I've ever planted before, and I'm really excited by the prospect. To prepare the ground, I am digging about a spits depth, and simply turning the soil over to allow the elements of the British winter to do their best. I'm hoping for a few more heavy frosts to help break the soil down. My fellow allotment holders ( new and experienced ) are insanely jealous of the condition of the soil on my plot, as they continue their preperations on heavy, waterlogged clay ! Then in the early spring, I hope to be able to lightly fork over the soil, and rake level ready for planting. When it comes to the actual planting, I will be using my trusty method of planting through holes in either black plastic or weed control membrane. This negates the need to "earth up", as the black fabric / plastic stops the light from getting to the developing tubers and turning them green / un-useable. See HERE for more details!
The digging has not all been plain sailing in the spud trench. Progress today with the spade was severely limited; indeed, almost stopped when I reached these 3 specimens of concrete blocks. They were about 8" below the surface, and ran straight across the trench. I tried to dig the first out with my spade (RIP) which snapped at the first attempt. Thanks then to Don for lending me an improvised breaker bar. It took about half an hour to dig all 3 out, sadly that time would probably have been enough to finish digging the first bed. Never mind there's always next week ! A great method for working off any overindulgence from the christmas fayre - a spot of light digging!At least now I have somewhere to sit and a place to rest my sarnies ! All's well...
Following the recent spate of vandalism on the site; not withstanding the amazing disappearance and return of my compost bin, I went to the plot today armed with a paint tip marker pen.
These are a great way of marking your gear, and as soon as I had finished labelling my bin and water butt, there was a steady stream of people waiting to borrow the pen to mark their own stuff, tools etc.
It's a shame that people only think of ID'ing their stuff after it has been nicked.
Hindsight's a wonderful thing!

Casting my eyes back over the plot ( all 10 rods of it & the bit on the end) , I'm amazed; and at the same time tremendously happy,with what I have achieved in 4 months. There's still a hell of a lot to do in the next 4 months If I'm going to get the plot anywhere near ready for planting, but I keep to the old adage that doing a little on a regular basis is the best way forward.
It does seem a shame that when I took on the plot, there were plenty of others taking on new plots too. I've not seen some of those people since August, and the lack of activity on the plots is sadly quite evident. Let's hope they return in numbers in the new year.

Thats about it for now, I look forward to welcoming you all back soon.

Take care all,


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Label your garden tools 10.12.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat.

There's been no news on the allotment break-ins that occurred last weekend, and I'm not expecting any either. The thefts did make the local press though, which may help in the articles being traced?

Readers of my blog have suggested some ways to make the theft of tools less desirable. The most common idea has been to paint your postcode on the items, and if possible to use something like Hammerite, which is difficult to cover up and hard to paint over. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Other ideas have been to paint the tools different and/or bright colours - High Vis colours for example.

The National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners (NSALG)maybe able to offer some practical advice on Insurance for your plot, and some Contents Insurers will cover Gardening equipment stored at your allotment.

Hope this helps.

Take care all,


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Unwanted Guests 09.12.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat.

Unfortunately I have to tell you some bad news. On the night of 6th December 2008, someone or some people (?) broke into our allotment site, and caused a lot of damage.
A lot of peoples sheds were broken into, and garden tools and the like were stolen. There was also substantial damage caused, not only to the sheds, but also by the unknown visitors trampling on the plots.

Anyone with any information about these thefts can leave a comment anonymously here on the blog via the Comments section, or you can make an anonymous report at Crimestoppers.

Thank you.


Sunday, 7 December 2008

Weather halts digging! 07.12.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat - our new venture into growing our own on a larger scale.
How quickly the weather changes! All plans for today's foray with the fork and spade are now postponed until tomorrow. This is due to the fact that the ground temperature today of 1Deg C means its too cold and hard to dig. For your interest, I always use the Met Office forecast, as I find it is the most accurate. Of course, feel free to use whichever you want, but note that the Met Office forecasts are rarely wrong.
Despite this weekend's curtailed plans, I have made a couple of visits to the lottie this week:

On Monday this week, i managed to re secure my compost bin into place on the plot. I drove a few stakes into the ground, then screwed from inside the bin into the posts, which I'm hoping will now secure the bin in place should the "wind" decide that it wants to take it away again.
Furthermore, I have started to pile up a good layer of stones around the base, which will hopefully assist in keeping it in one place ! I am recovering so many stones from the prepared beds that i'm now thinking of using them to form the paths between the beds - it's got to be cheaper than anything else i could use! It'll take a while, but then, I'm not going anywhere!

On Tuesday there was a welcome first time visitor to the plot - Hi Mum !
Crikey, it was well cold, but with plenty of coats, we managed to keep the cold out! We didn't stop too long - just a fleeting glimpse for mum to see what we are doing. Reassuring then to see the compost bin still firmly rooted to the spot, as well as the brassica's showing good growth, and the over wintering onion sets starting to show through the surface. There's plenty of people who will happily "tell" you how to plant your onion sets, but I always put mine in a little deeper than most others - about 2" deep. This is a great way to stop the birds pecking them out. By the time the new growth is showing, the sets have already sent down their roots to hold them securely in the ground. Still get good crops !

On the home front, we recently cleared out the side passageway of the house. This area has a Plexiglas roof, which means the area is like an unheated greenhouse. I cant afford a greenhouse for the foreseeable future, so this will do me for now. I managed to acquire some kitchen base and wall units from work / friends, which now act as my staging.
As you can see here, the space is already being put to good use! I have started my Japanese onion sets (v. Senshyu) in 3" pots - about 50 of them, and they are all shooting well. I read this in one of my many reference books as a way of getting a head start. When the roots are protruding from the pots, I can transfer them to their growing position on the lottie, provided of course that the ground is workable enough. If you add this lot to the 50 or so Radar sets I've planted already, we have the makings (hopefully) of a good harvest. I'm also going to be growing some from seed (v. Bedfordshire Champion) and will hope to avoid a glut in supply. I've also planted a dozen or so Garlic bulbs (v. Fokyhama) from my store that i grew last year. I have not been able to yet buy a fresh supply as everywhere is selling out fast. Will have to keep looking.

Finally in the "Greenhouse", I have a couple of 4" pots with some Rosemary cuttings. Not sure how they will do - I'm not usually very good at propagating from cuttings. I took the cuttings as the new growth, cut horizontally below leaf bud then dipped in Rooting Powder, before placing 4 to each pot. On one pot, i snipped out the growth on the tip, but did not do this on the second pot. We'll have to wait and see how we get on ! If all 8 survive, I plan to plant these on the plot as a fragrant hedge - an idea stolen from a recent visit to the local farm shop!

That's about it for this week. I hope you have enjoyed this update, and I look forward to welcoming you back to Reads Allotment Retreat.


Sunday, 30 November 2008

I've got another compost bin ! 30.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat.

Just a quick update to let you know I have now got a compost bin. Whilst at the plot today, I met Paul who identified one for me! Next job will be to stake it down more securely, as well as paint my name & plot details all over it, should it go missing again !

Will bring you more news in the week.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Missing ! Where's my compost bin ? 24.11.08

Nipped up to the plot today, as i was planning to top up my compost bin with some household scraps.
Imagine my surprise to find the bin is no longer there. First thought was that it had blown away in the wind, but on further investigation i found that the tent pegs I'd used to secure it in place ( against the wind! ) had also "blown" away.
Shall have to mention this to the powers that be. The trouble is that all bins in use on the site are more or less the same, and as mine is not marked ( my mistake ) I will be hard pushed to track it down.
Oh well, i threw the kitchen scraps into the open bin, and was on my way.

It's a hard lesson, and I'm £10 worse off.

See you all soon,


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Our super soil - I love it. 16.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our online diary for whats growing on Plot 81.

Today I finally got back into the thick of it, and spent a few hours up on the plot. It's really great to be back, and the first job of the day was to have a look round the plot, checking on the condition of the soil. I was in for a great surprise! Last time i was here, i was digging up / turning over football sized clods of earth, thinking how on earth ( no pun intended ) am I going to get this soil ready for planting. Well, six weeks of exposure to the elements seems to have started the ball rolling. In general, those large clumps are now about the size of tennis balls, and as the attached pictures show, these lumps easily crumble into the finer stuff with virtually no effort. This was better than I could have expected, and gee'd me up no end. Looking around the surrounding (and new) plots, I'm am amazed at the amount of "new" gardeners on the scene who seem intent on removing the top 2' of soil and importing their own "top soil". I really cant see the point, especially when the ground is actually pretty good. I know it might not seem that way when you first start to dig, but with a little effort....... and it even smells nice too!

One thing I did expect to find after six weeks of absence was a whole lot of weeds. It has really chucked it down recently, and has also been quite mild. A dreaded combination of conditions. Imagine my further surprise to find the dug beds "virtually" weed free. Armed with my trusty fork, i set about digging the bed over. Joy of joys - the fork was easily pushed into the ground a good spits depth with virtually no effort, and as such this task was made a whole lot easier. After a thorough once over, a whole bag of general purpose compost was also dug into the surface, together with a good sprinkling of growmore GP fertilizer. After a further bit of fiddling, we were ready for some plants. Excitement took over, so I stopped for a cuppa. Thank god Mr Thermos had invented the flask. Ahhhh.....

Having now cleared the ground ready for planting, the first task was to cover the ground with weed proof membrane. I've been using this stuff as a "mulch" for a few years now, and I have to say it works really well. The material is a finely woven mesh, which acts as a barrier to the light, helping to prevent germination of seedlings, but also being black , it helps to absorb the suns heat and keeps the planting bed that little bit warmer. Also, as it is woven, water is able to permeate through without any issue. The biggest problem on our site, is that there is no protection from the wind which sweeps across the plots. Hopefully my collection of hardcore will keep the sheet in place. If that fails, I will have to resort to pegging it down. Time now to lay out the plants.....

Rightly or wrongly, I don't like to use a tape measure to work out spacings. Lets face it - it's not really necessary. On a given area like this, its pretty simple to work out where 15 plants will fit! Here we have a collection including Purple Sprouting Broccoli, and a couple of Cabbage varieties. These were purchased as tiny "Plug Plants" from the Victoriana Nursery, in Challock, Kent, for a relatively small cost of 25p each. I grew them on at home in 3" sq. pots, ready to be transplanted now into their growing positions. You'll notice a patch of bare soil at each end - we'll come to that later!

Phew, now look at this happy little lot!
Double click on the image to view it full screen size, then use your back button to read the text! (Sorry - people always asking me how !) . To cut the fabric is used a stanley knife, making a small cross with the blade. The corners are then lifted back to gain access for planting. I was going to use "collars" around the plants to keep out the cabbage whites, but a fellow plotholder advised me that a pile of small stones around each stem will do the same job, as well as providing some much needed support while they set their roots. Let's see shall we !

So what to do with the patch of bare earth each end of the bed ? Luckily I had with me approx 40 Radar Onion sets which are ready for planting out right now. I managed to get about 20 in each of the small beds, and now I can sit back and see how we get on. As i mentioned earlier, theres a lot of new plotholders. The majority of these folk seem to have descended en mass about 2 months ago, have dug their plots over, and have not been seen since. Maybe it's because the rent is not due till January, but the way I look at it, its time that is wasted. There's plenty that can be planted now, and always something that needs doing. So why leave it all till next year ? If I didn't have to work for a living ( ahh - what a dream ! ) then I would be on the plot much more often. Even if there's no gardening to do, then there's still loads of chatting to do ! Being the first on site this morning there was a steady stream of faces to my plot. Joe even commented on my flask "Is it full?" yes Joe, fancy a cuppa ?

All in all, a great few hours work. Now I've got the bug again, and my back seems ok at the moment. I cant wait to get back up there ! Hope you'll come back soon to check on our progress. Till then,


Saturday, 15 November 2008

Soil is looking good ! 15.11.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our diary blog for our new allotment, where we plan to share our knowledge as we get growing.

Tomorrow morning I hope to spending some time on the plot at last. I've been absent for a fair while ; for a number of reasons, but hope to get some time in now. I popped up to the plot today to have a nose about, and was pleasantly surprised by what i found.
The soil that I had painstakingly weeded / turned over is now quite crumbly - a stark contrast to the clay boulders i left there a month ago! It's a long way off a "fine tilth" but easily ready for some planting. Just as well really as I have a dozen or so brassica's ready to go in. Hopefully this won't hurt my back too much. It'll be kinda nice to be planting something too. There's been a lot of activity on neighboring plots ( some of them new ) in my absence, but I still feel that mine looks right. I think there's a nice balance to the beds orientation and layout, and I am looking forward to really getting going next spring.

Back at home today, i planted up the remaining Senshyu onion sets, and started on a pack of Radar Sets. These set bulbs are much larger / look sturdier, so we'll see how they perform against each other. I'm also planning to grow Bedfordshire champion from seed, as they did really well at Reads Retreat this summer. There's still a lot of hard graft ahead, as well as some hard landscaping in the spring with the erection of the raised beds.

I hope you will come back soon, and see how we are progressing. Till then,


Thursday, 13 November 2008

Plot Preperations 13.11.08

Welcome back to our Allotment Retreat blog, our new guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds, on a slightly larger scale!
Sorry there have been no updates for over a month - we've had a busy time of late, not least planning for our wedding which is now booked for 24.01.2009!
Add to that the fact that our home PC / internet connection has been unavailable for about six weeks, so it's been hard to keep in touch. Hopefully there will be a break in the weather this weekend, allowing me to get my hands dirty again. I dread to think of how well the weeds will have flourished in my absence, considering the heavy rain we had lately.
As you can see, I've got some F1 Cabbage (v.Greyhound) on the go at home, as well as some recently planted (into 3" pots ) some overwintering Senshyu Yellow onions, which are sprouting well. These will be planted out when strong roots are protruding through the base of the pots.

I've also invested in a new Rhubarb crown, which I hope to plant up this weekend. Then of course I can get my Garlic ready for planting.

Alongside all these home preparations, there's still a lot of hard graft ahead at the plot. I have decided to hold off on buying / building our raised beds, as we are saving hard for or wedding.

Hopefully there will be more regular updates to follow, and I hope to see you here again soon to share in our adventure. Take care till then!


Monday, 6 October 2008

Tatties on order ! 06.10.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our new diary blog created for you to track our progress on the new 10 Rod plot, as we start from scratch!

There's many good reasons for joining an allotment society, not least the massive discount you can get as a result.
Yersterday I ordered my seed Potato's, and was amazed at just how cheap they are compared with shop prices.
Browsing the catalogues from Marshalls, Suttons etc, you could reasonably expect to pay around £6.00 for a 2Kg bag. I ordered the following for my next years planting:
First Earlies - Rocket - 3Kg for £2.90
Second Earlier - Maris Peer - 6Kg for £4.30
Maincrop - Cara - 3Kg for £2.90
Salads - Charlotte - 3kg for £2.90.

To me, this is a considerable saving. All spuds are Scotch, and graded to size. What more could i want ? From previous purchases over the last few years, I know that a 2Kg bag will easily fill a 25' row, so I can now work out the spacings and sizing of the raised beds required on the plot.

All I need to do now, is get the plots readied. I will be buying the timber soon for constructing the raised beds, as well as stocking up on manure to work into the soil, before it is all top dressed with GP Compost, which will create the tilth required for planting.

I'm hoping to get some planting underway quite soon. We recently visited the Victoriana nursery at Challock in Kent. It was great to find an outlet that is not full of Christmas decorations and expensive gifts. Instead, you are greeted by the knowledgable staff who work there, and they were only too happy to stop and talk. Whilst there I purchased a mixture of plug plants to grow on at home, ready to plant out when the time is right. These included Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Cabbages etc, and are just what i need to get a head start.

We've also been pouring over seed catalogues ready for next seasons crops. I've found various outlets for what i need, not least a company called Premier Seeds Direct, operating on ebay. Their costs are well cheap compared to the high street, and all i can do is recommend them to you. Regardless of how many varieties you choose, you only pay Post and Packaging on the first item. How good is that !

We're still without computers at home, so for the forseeable future, updates will continue in print form only.

Come back and see us again soon. Till Then


Thursday, 2 October 2008

What no internet ! 2.10.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat.

We currently have no home internet access, this update courtesy of Kent County Council Library Service !

Come back soon for lots of news and updates!


Friday, 19 September 2008

Stone me ! 19.09.08

Welcome to Reads Allotment Retreat.
Just a quick update to let you all know that despite the very stony soil we are now digging through, we are making progress on the plot. We're over halfway on the first 5 rods - in terms of digging / weeding, and we'll soon be starting to construct the raised beds, in time for some autumn planting.
In just a couple of hours this afternoon, i managed to fill an old washing up bowl with stones, and there's plenty more to come out yet. The ground is still very hard, and a few drops of the wet stuff would be more than welcome.
We are still searching through seed lists, and there's a definitive buzz of excitement with every new purchase.
We've also got a few things underway at home, planting seeds into peat pots that can be dug in as and when the ground is ready.
I'm back at the plot tomorrow, so will take my camera with me to get you all a proper update.

Take care all, till then.


Sunday, 14 September 2008

The sweet smell of ..... progress ! 14.09.08

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our new blog guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds - Allotment style! Work has continued over the last couple of days, transforming our blank canvas of a plot into something that resembles our initial plan. This pic shows one end of the plot, home to 4 raised beds which measure approx 7' x 4', and all dug to a depth of 1 spit. The ground is breaking up really well - better than i expected anyway! If you had told me i would have done this much in 4 short weeks, i would not have believed you! I feel sorry for Ray - like me - new to all this, on the next plot to mine. His soil is really wet / heavy clay. Me thinks I've been kind of lucky.

Looking down the plot from the other end, you can see where I've started on the second "U" shaped bed. Initially I just lift the turf with a fork, before lifting this off. Doing this with a few days gap in between, allows the underside of the turf to dry off, making it easier to separate from the soil. I'm planning on buying some timber to form the beds later in the month, and hopefully - depending on the weather , get round to planting some veg before christmas. So much to do and so little time !

Really must dash now, up at 4 in the morning for work . Take care all, and come back soon.


Thursday, 11 September 2008

More digging ! 5.09.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our new Allotment Guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds. After another afternoon of dodging showers, we managed to clear the weedy topsoil from the bed marked out 2 days ago, and dig down / turn over the soil , down to a depth of 1 spit. This was far easier to dig than the previous 2 beds, probably due to the topsoil having been loosened a couple of days earlier. All the beds that are going to be dug, will in due course be turned into raised beds. We plan to use scaffold boards again(as we used at home ) so we will wait until we know what quantity to get, then order them en mass to save on multiple delivery charges. These can easily be cut to size on site, and quickly assembled. A lot of people advised against us using these boards previously, but the ones we used 2 years ago are showing no sign of rotting. After all, they were in use by the scaffolding company for a few years before we got them.
While we were at the plot, the council delivered a free load of pallets, and the allotment regulars just said to help ourselves. Apparently, these deliveries happen a couple of times a year, so it seems we were in the right place at the right time! I was beginning to wonder where I could scavenge some pallets from. Currently, they are just roped together, but long term I will secure them properly. Its nice to have a large composting area on the actual plot - makes life easier. There are "communal" composting bins dotted around the site, but they are currently full, and apart from that, I don't have a wheelbarrow yet!
Have to say that so far we are impressed with the way the site is run, much more organised than we expected!
Thats all for now. More digging to be done soon, and hopefully some planting before the end of the year. More on that to come! See you all soon,


Marking out & Digging ! 03.09.08

Welcome once again to Reads Allotment Retreat, our guide to growing veg in Raised Beds. Work at the allotment is slowly getting going, and the plot is starting to take shape. As I'm still recovering from Back Ache, I'm taking things a little slower than i otherwise would, and just spending a bit of time on the plot. Having marked out the ground on 5 Rods of the plot ( yup, we've taken the other 5 Rods on too ! ) we have started to dig the areas for our raised beds. The initial job involves loosening the turves with a fork, which in turn allows air and moisture into the ground, ready to be dug at a later time. We have found this a good way to progress, mainly because the top 4" or so of soil consists mainly of large compacted roots. Below this to a depth of 1 spit, the ground is relatively easy to dig but does contain a lot of stones/rubble, some quite large. As we progress with the digging, the larger stones are being removed and placed around the base of the compost bin - in a hope to improve it's stability.
These beds have already been prepared - dug to a depth of 1 spit, and thoroughly weeded. Again , large rubble & stones have been removed, but there's still loads to come out. During digging of these beds, we found some rather old but still perfectly formed Parsnips, some up to 2' long! This was great news, a sign of previous cultivation, albeit some time ago. During digging, the aroma of the veg filled the air - lovely. We are seeing too plenty of worms, and as i stated previously, the soil actually smells nice.

There's still plenty of hard digging ahead, but by doing a little at a time, we are making fabulous progress. I think what puts some people off with gardening is that it all seems too much. By creating small beds 1 at a time, it gives us a more manageable workload, with realistic achievable targets.

Come back and join us soon. If you have any comments please leave hem for us. We are still learning and any advice will be taken on board. See you all soon.


Monday, 8 September 2008

A Key Day ! 27.08.08

Welcome back to Reads Retreat, our blog guide to Growing Your Own Veg in Raised Beds. Regular readers will know we have just taken on an allotment. Thursday 27th August was our first day on the site, and after collecting the keys to the facilities, we made a start. The first job of the day was to rake away the grass which had been strimmed down to ground level for us. Sammie did a good job of this. This was followed by marking out the plot with pegs and string, working to a plan we had drawn up previously. We sited a compost bin and a water butt in the middle of the plot. We are lucky enough to be able to access mains water for most of the year, so Sammie filled the water butt up - several trips to the tap with a watering can! Eventually, i will rig up a hose connection to make this job much easier. The grass cutting's filled the compost bin, to which we added generous handfuls of cardboard / paper, and plenty of water to get it going. Worms from the garden compost bins were also added, as well as some worms dug up on site. This plot is 5 Rods / 151sq yards - whichever way you look at it !
The first hole to be dug was a 2" deep circle to house the base of the compost bin. This was done because the site is very open, and i envisaged the bin flying around in the wind!
The next job on the list was to start digging. This site was previously cultivated, but that was probably about 40 years ish ago, so now its very hard and compacted. However, once you get through the top 4" it's actually not that bad. I managed to dig the first bed, turning the soil over down to a depth of about 12", plenty of worms present which is a good sign. There's also a lot of stones, some quite large which will be taken out over the next few months as the ground is re dug and weeded. We are planning on 10 Rectangular beds, each about 7' x 4', cut into and dug out of the ground. This will allow for access paths between each bed, and also mean that we can reach all the beds without standing on them, which would otherwise damage the soil structure. Is it just me, or are allotment holders quite frugal ? Many of the neighbouring plot holders were only too eager to tell me where to get the latest bargains locally! I have just bought 5 x 75 Litre bags of GP compost for £10! - now that's a bargain !

The Sheppey Horticultural Society are having their Annual Flower & Vegetable Show this weekend, and although i will be working nights on the same days, i will hopefully get time to pop in and say hello.

Join me again soon for more updates from Reads Allotment Retreat.


Breaking News ! 17.08.08

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

Breaking news ?
Today we have fulfilled a long standing ambition, and taken on an Allotment - Plot 81. We saw a small ad in the local paper detailing "Sheppey Horticultural Society's" Open Day, and decided to go and take a look. We were fully expecting to have to sign up on a "waiting list" and were gobsmacked to find plenty of vacant plots.
Not wanting to take on too much too soon, we opted for a 5 Rod plot. As it stands right the now, the plot is somewhat overgrown and will need a lot of hard digging / weeding but nothing that can't be done. The ground will initially be strimmed back for us and then we can get cracking.

The site itself is one of 2 Allotment sites on the Isle of Sheppey, and the site we have chosen is by chance the one with all the vacant plots. The site facilities are impressive too - Toilets, running water, and a site store, selling most things we are likely to need, at great prices too, i.e. 8' Canes for 28p each! We met a few of the plot holders: Bob, Kelly, Joe, Dave - names that spring to mind, and we were made to feel most welcome. We're really excited about this project, and are now looking forward to getting stuck in.

The Sheppey Horticultural Society are holding their Annual Flower and Vegetable Show on 30th and 31st August ( details attached) so we will be calling in to meet some more of the members, and to size up the competition.(Double click on this image to see it full screen)
At present, I have no photo's to show you, but then you all know what a vacant plot looks like!We're going back next week to pick up our keys and membership card, so I will take a camera with me.

Take care all, and wish us luck! Check back later for my blog update!