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.