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!