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!