Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Better pictures - we hope!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. Sadly there's still no news from the plot due to the persistently inclement weather. The ground is either sodden or frozen, and there's little that can be done at this time. On a more positive note, I'm now the proud owner of a new camera. This was a combined Birthday & Christmas present, from my in laws and Jen. I've been after a decent upgrade for some time, and this Fuji s7000 is a great replacement to my Fuji Finepix 3800. The latter has served me well, but this new camera is a far greater spec than i had before. All we need now is for me to get to know it! There's a huge instruction manual to read and digest, before i can switch off the "Auto" button. There's no rush and I'm looking forward to rediscovering some real photography.

Hopefully the next time you drop in, I can bring some news from the plot.

Till then, take care and enjoy your gardening.


Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas everyone

Hope you all have a fantastic day.

From all of us here at

Reads Allotment Retreat.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Crikey - that was cold!

A sharp frost again tonight, -7 according to the forecast.

Heating is on and I'm summoning up the courage to venture out to work!

Still, last day before xmas, then 6 days off Yippee!


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

It's pouring with rain!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, for a very quick update !

Woke this morning to gently falling snow and a frosty outlook. An hour later and it's pouring with rain! Long may it continue & melt the snow, then maybe we'll get to the plot!

Take care all,


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Winter weather - it's here !

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where the winter UK weather has well and truly arrived. On sunday this week I ventured up to the plot amidst the showers to have a nose around - I was the only one there! That's got to be a first! The ground was very waterlogged - puddles all over the place, and there was no hope of turning any soil on that day.
Three days later and the tables have truly turned, we've had 2 nights of very sharp frost's, with last nights effort reaching a whopping -8Degrees. It's not all bad news though, as these frosts will help to break up the waterlogged ground that has already been turned. Hopefully the recently planted Garlic will benefit from the frost, and I'm looking forward now to lifting a few Parsnips. 2 more nights at work then I'm off for 4 days, back in for 2, then off till 30th December. It's all panning out nicely. It's hectic at home as we make final preparations for the yuletide festivities, but great fun too.

Pop back soon for more updates, and wherever you are - enjoy your gardening.

Take care,


Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Finally - some news from the plot !

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where finally i have found a break in the weather (dry but cold! ) coupled with me actually feeling a lot better! I've been absent from the plot for over a month - mainly due to illness - and was constantly thinking about all the work that needed to be done in getting ready for next season, let alone the onion and garlic sets that were sitting on a shelf in the conservatory - slowly starting to sprout.
When I arrived at the plot, i was both surprised and a tad upset to find my greenhouse up ended and flattened! That's without glass in it ! I guess all the strong wind of late had been enough to get it moving, Luckily, I managed to re-erect it and straighten the damaged frame, and make a note of the fact that i need to get this sorted !
Despite all the rain of late, i was pleasantly surprised to find that the beds were not sodden. Drainage is seemingly far better than I had imagined. We've had a lot of rain, for days on end (not as much though as the residents of Cockermouth) and its good to not see pools of water as expected.
This raised bed was my focus of attention for the day(5/12/09). It had been well weeded about 5 weeks ago, after we harvested the remaining squashes, but already was well weedy. The grass around the perimeter was growing over the timber frame, and the whole thing looked a mess. The bed is approx 20' x 4', so i divided it into "quarters" in my head and set about weeding, promising myself a coffee after each quarter! Thats the beauty of having a kettle and camping stove in the shed! The ground was wet enough to let me pull the weeds free with minimal use of a trowel, but the soil dry enough to still be crumbly. It smelt good too, mainly due to the fact that after the first early spuds were harvested earlier in the year, we dug in some spent hops as a soil improver before planting out the squash plants. After 2 hours i was ready to get planting:

The first in the ground were that Garlic cloves. I had bought 2 Garlic bulbs from Wilkinson's a good 7 or 8 weeks previous, and they were already sprouting 1 1/2" shoots. I laid the cloves out in 3 rows across the bed, spacing them approx 6" apart in all directions, which will not only give them space to grow, but also make it easier to weed between the plants as they grow on! I planted these about 2" deep, with the green shoots only about 1/2" from the surface, where hopefully they will quickly spring into life! Hopefully they will still have time to send down some strong roots, before the really cold weather sets in. Thinking next about how to define the spaces between the garlic and the onions, I decided to thin out the rows of Chard(v.Zilver) that had been planted late in the summer, and use these. Hopefully these will take quickly and grow on nicely too !
Next up were the Red Onion sets (v.Red Baron) . These were laid out on the surface in a similair fashion to the garlic (adopting the same spacings) before being gently planted up. Again, these were planted so that the growing tips were about 1/2" from the surface. I'm mindful of the fact that these have gone in quite late - about a month - but they have a better chance of growing in the soil than on my shelf at home!
All told, I've ended up with 6 rows of 8 onions. Like the white onions i planted next, these should be enough to give a good late spring crop, by which time i should have my onion seeds well and truly growing on. I love all this planning!

A wee while later i realised i had transplanted the Chard to slightly the wrong place, but couldn't be bothered to uproot them again, so i planted 2 rows of white onion sets one side of the chard, with 4 rows on the other. Best laid plans and all that!!
Some of these sets had just started to sprout, and as such were planted ever so slightly deeper than the red sets, so hopefully they will grow on at the same sort of rate? That's my theory anyway!

And there you have it! All nicely weeded and planted up!Oh, i forgot to mention : I also planted up 3 rows at the end of the bed with some Broad Beans (v.Aquadulce). These seeds were a free offer from Wiggly Wigglers, and being the kind of guy i am, i had to have 'em. Free, after all, is one of my favourite words !! And there's only really me that like the beans, so 20 or so plants should be more than adequate! And again, they've been planted very late, so may not come to much anyway.
Well, we hope you've all enjoyed the small update, and we look forward to welcoming you all back again, very soon!

Take care all, and enjoy your gardening,


Friday, 27 November 2009

Swapping Seeds .

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. There's not much to report from the plot at the moment, as due to the recent bad weather and my recent illness (now - fully recovered- thanks for all your good wishes) I have not set foot on the plot in a couple of weeks.
We have not been idle though, and recently we arranged a seed swap with a fellow blogger in Canada! Dan at "Urban Veggie Garden Blog" posted an update recently about "Vermont Cranberry Beans", and they sounded delicious. After making contact we were delighted when Dan agreed to send some seed in exchange for some of our seeds. We were delighted to receive these this morning, and were surprised also by some "extra" seeds which we had not expected: "Cherokee Purple Tomato". We are always keen to try new varieties, and are now eagerly awaiting the spring so we can get planting. The weather in that area of Canada seems similair to ours, and we hope the seed swap proves fruitful.

If any other readers would like to exchange some seeds, then please get in touch! We would love to try more varieties from around the world. In a recent posting, we listed the varieties / quantities we have in stock, so you can clearly see what we can afford to swap.

Thats all for now, but we hope you can pop back soon for more updates from the plot.

Take care all and enjoy your gardening / growing.


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Plans for next year

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. Sadly, there's not a great deal of plot activity to report. I'm due back at work this Friday after my illness, and don't want to risk anything before then. I have; however, been perusing the seed catalogues, and have found these climbing French Beans (v.Golden Gate) in the Dobies lists. We grew a dwarf variety of these this year on our home plot, and they were great, not least because due to their colour they are easy to spot on the plants! I have been tempted to grow v.Cobra too, but we have so many seeds saved from our Blue Lake crop that we will probably grow these again next year, and see how we get on!

The other option that has sprung to mind recently concerns Sweetcorn. This year at Reads Retreat we really struggled with germination of sweetcorn seed, although we did manage a small crop eventually! One of my favourite nurseries - Victoriana - are selling Sweetcorn(v.Swift Early) as plug plants, so we might buy from there instead, or as well as growing our own. Postage costs are too much for me, I'd rather go and visit the nursery, and say hi to Stephen and his family while we are there. Seriously, if you are close enough to visit, then I suggest you do! It really is a worthwhile trek!

Thanks too, to Fiona at The Cottage Smallholder blog, for pointing me in the direction of The Tree House Diaries, a great site and a good read - luv it!

Thats about it for now, but pop back soon for more news from Reads Allotment Retreat.

Enjoy your gardening!


Monday, 16 November 2009

Best Blog Award!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where we bring you news that we have been awarded a "Best Blog Award" from Jo at "The Good Life". It's so nice to receive an award - it lets us know that we're not only reaching our target audience, but that we are blogging about something of interest to others.Thank you.

Of course, this now gives us the chance to nominate some more blogs for the award.
Here are the rules:-

Post the award on your blog (including the above picture) along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Choose 15 blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them. Don't forget to leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

The 15 bloggers we would like to pass this award on to - in no particular order are as follows:-

  1. Mr H @ Subsitence Pattern - read about Sun Roots!
  2. Rosie @ Eco-Gites - a great eco-friendly read.
  3. Tanya @ Allotments4you - an inspiration to us all.
  4. Dan @ Urban Veggie Garden Blog - a small thank you for the seed swap!
  5. Carrie @ Grow Our Own - for shining a light through her words.
  6. Matron @ Down on the allotment - always full of new ideas.
  7. Amanda @ Eight by six - a fellow local blogger.
  8. Sarah @ Our patch of earth - worth a read for the chickens saga !
  9. Eliane @ Faites Simple - making a go of a new life in San Fran
  10. Daphne @ Daphne's Dandelions - provides a link to report your harvests !
  11. Layla @ Eco Experiment - living with Zero waste.
  12. Sue @ Making a house a home - Stunning photography.
  13. Michelle @ From Seed to Table - Great list of cookbooks
  14. Jenn @ Gamine's Garden - Quality blogging
  15. Fiona @ The Cottage Smallholder - some superb recipes here!
We hope you will all accept this award as we think you have great blogs. We have also found it fun to follow the recipient's links to the blogs they have nominated as it's a great way to find other great blogs.

Please leave us a comment in this post so that we know you have accepted the award. On seeing your comments, we can then leave congratulatory comments for you too !

That's all for now, enjoy your blogging!


Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sorting the seeds - at last!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. It's a sunny; though wet and windy, wintery morning. There's no hope whatsoever of me getting to the plot today, manly due to continued poor health, but also due to the fact the ground will be saturated following the last 36 hours ish of rain we've had. And, it's still raining! Yesterday afternoon i finally started to sort out our seed storage boxes, the pic shows the allotment box on the left, and the Reads Retreat box on the right. I've been putting this job off for an age, but finally started. The first job was to write a handwritten list of opened and unopened packets. Some seed is surely too old to be viable, but the majority should be good for the next couple of seasons. Those that are too old will be offered to fellow readers around the world ( please - just pay the postage via Paypal) before being put in the bin. It's possible that someone should want them. Take a look at the list and let me know if anything takes your fancy! Email & payment please to oktarine@hotmail.com. After 4 weeks, all surplus seeds will be binned! The generated list - complete with Sow by dates - looks like this:

Unopened Packs:

Chervil(v.Simple) SB2012
Cabbage(v. Golden Acre/Primo) SB2011
***Swede(v.Ruby) SB2008***
Carrot(v.Chantenay Red Cored 2) SB2012
Parsnip(v.White Gem) SB 2012
Kale(v.Nero di Toscana) SB2012
Courgette(v.AstiaF1) SB2012
Beetroot(v.Solo F1) SB2010
Sprouting Broccoli(v.Early Purple) SB2011
Onion(v.Bedfordshire Champion) SB2012
Spring Onion(v.Toga) SB2011
Tomato(v.Garden Pearl) SB2012
Kale(v.Dwarf Green Curled) SB2011
Marrow(v.Tiger Cross) SB2010
Parsnip(v.Tender and True) SB2010
Cabbage(v.Red Acre) SB2010
Carrot(v.Jaune du Doubs) SB2010
Cabbage(v.Mammoth Red Rock) SB2010
Carrot(v.Early Nantes) SB 2012

From this list, the Swede seeds will be replaced with fresh stock, so if you want these, let me know!

And now the "Opened" packs, incl. seed count where possible:

Borlottii (v. Lingua di Fuoco-Firtongue x 25 seeds) SB2009
Climbing Purple Bean(v. A Cosse Violette x 10 seeds) SB2010
French Bean(v.Dwarf Yellow x 8 seeds) SB2010
Calendula (v.Fiesta Mix x 30 seeds) SB2009
Winter Squash(v.Burgess Buttercup x 8 seeds) SB2010
Sweetcorn(v.Swift Early x 5 seeds) SB2009
Butternut Squash(v.Hunter x 5 seeds) SB2010
Beetroot(v.Chioggia x 150 seeds) SB2010
Onion(v.Bedfordshire Champion) SB2010
Leek(v.Autumn Mammoth 2 / Snowstar) SB2011
Peas(v.Victorian Climbing x 50 seeds) SB2010
Peas(v.Kelvedon Wonder x 50 seeds) SB2008
Squash(v.Summer Crookneck x 25 seeds) SB2009
Sweetcorn(v.Extra Early Sweet x 12 seeds) SB2010
Courgette(v.Zucchini Yellow x 2 seeds) SB2010
Kale(v.Frosty F1) SB2009
Tomato(v.Moneymaker x 10 seeds) SB2009
Cauliflower(v.All year round) SB2009
Cabbage(v.January King 3 /Savoy x 50 seeds) SB2009
Turnip(v.Golden Ball x 100 seeds) SB2008
Swiss Chard(v.Zilver x 10 seeds) SB2009
Spinach Beet(v.Perpetual x 30 seeds) SB2010
Parsnip(v.Hollow Crown x 30 seeds) SB2011
Courgette(v.All Green Bush x 10 seeds) SB2012
Chili Pepper(v.Cayenne x 10 seeds) SB2011
Leek(v.Musselburgh x 20 seeds) SB2009
Brussel Sprouts(v.Red Delicious x 20 seeds) SB2008
Kale(v.Dwarf Green Curled x 50 seeds) SB2011
Parsnip(v.Hollow Crown x 20 seeds) SB2010
Cabbage(v.Golden Acre/Primo x 200 seeds) SB2009
Fennel(v.Florence x 200 seeds) SB2010
Carrot(v.Autumn King2 x 1000 seeds) SB2012

As if that wasn't enough, we are also drying & storing our own "saved" seeds from:
Runner Beans (v.Unknown - Grandad's mix)
Dwarf Yellow French Beans
Climbing Purple French Beans
Blue Lake Climbing french beans.

And finally (!), we grew a couple of Squash (v.Turks Turban) that didn't grow very big - I'm toying with the idea of saving the seeds from these and trying again next year!

So as you can see, we have a lot to work with. We just need to now work out what we are going to grow, buy more seed as required, and get rid of the older / less viable seeds! We'll put together a list from these 2 lists of what we're getting rid of, and then it's a first come / first served basis if you want to save any from the bin.

Pop back soon for another update from RAR.


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Slow, but steady progress!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where finally we bring some news from the plot! (Albeit old news as due to my recent illness I've not lifted a spade now for a good couple of weeks).
Our first view today is of our new potato bed, which is slowly but surely being dug ready for next springs planting's. The bed was home this year to our climbing beans, and is now almost completely dug over. Progress has been slow as it had only been shallow dug for the beans. There's also a multitude of stones and weeds to remove as we go. We are digging down now to a minimum of 1 spit (a spade's depth) and opening up the final layer before replacing the turned and weeded earth. This, together with a generous top dressing of our plot made compost (more of that later) , should be sufficient growth depth for the 6 rows of spuds that are planned. The beds that were home to the spuds last year are now earmarked for different crops, as we try and form a mini plot rotation. We won't be bothering with a 4 year rotation as the space and layout would make this difficult, but we may get a 3 year plan underway! The soil itself is now looking good, and the nitrogen rich roots from the climbing beans have been left to rot down where they grew, thus enriching the soil further over the winter. We don't plan to manure the ground this year, rather wait until next autumn. This will let the spuds do the work of breaking up the soil further over the course of next year.

If you look closely at the picture above, you will notice that there is a large mound the length of one side of the bed. This is the result of emptying our compost bin (pictured left), so that we can once again fill it up! The content was mostly topsoil turves that we had cleared away - approx 4" deep - so that we could get a head start last year with planting up our new plot. This autumn / winter's compost will be more "green" material, including weeds and veg leaves, and will probably be topped up with more turves from Plot 87 as we start to clear that. We must have composted and made a good half ton of topsoil, and this will be spread around the plot as we go, helping us to create the good tilth that is required for new plantings. Unfortunately, there's still another compost bin adjacent to this one that needs emptying, but good too in the fact that we haven't got to fork out (no pun intended) for more topsoil. This to me is the heart of having an allotment. I often gasp at fellow plotholders stories and tales of how much they have spent "buying in" topsoil to get to the same stage. How easily some people waste money eh?
Finally, a view to remind us (as if a reminder were needed!) of the hard work that still awaits on our new plot. There's been no progress on our winter project - the greenhouse - but by siting the structure where it is now, we have discovered an otherwise hidden and well established Asparagus bed - aren't we lucky! This will supplement our efforts at home, and hopefully yield a decent crop next April.
There's a lot of work still to do, but we think we are starting to gain the upper hand. As Percy Thrower used to say, " a little work done often is the key", and that is what we are doing. Hopefully you'll stick with us as our 2nd year of allotmenteering draws near, and we look forward to welcoming you back soon.

Take care all; wherever in the world you are, and enjoy your gardens.


Monday, 9 November 2009

20 years since the wall came down

Crikey - where has all that time gone!

I remember Radio 1 played "Wind of Change" by the Scorpions, constantly!

(Click here for the lyrics)

Where will we be in 20 years time ?

Knee deep in mud probably!!!

Check back soon for an allotment update !


Sunday, 8 November 2009

91 Years of Rememberance 08.11.2008

Armistice Day is upon us again. Save a prayer for those who died, those who remember, and those that will never forget.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae


Sunday, 18 October 2009

A generous gift

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. During a recent visit to the plot, one of my fellow plotholders was taking down her bean plants / canes as she tidied up for the winter. I was amazed and surprised to see the old plants going straight to the compost heap, complete with a bounty of pods still attached. I enquired as to whether i could pick some pods to dry the seeds for next year, and was greeted with the comment "do people really do that ?". Erm, well yes! The lady in question has had a bumper crop this year, and as such I expect the seed will be good too. I didn't hang around long enough to ask what variety they were, I merely collected enough for me - and maybe some to share, and was on my way.
To me, this is part of what allotmenteering is all about.

Back soon folks,


Saturday, 17 October 2009

No need to worry!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, in what has been a worrying week. The picture left adorned our local newspaper on Thursday morning this week, and set alarm bells ringing around the town! No prior notice had been given and there was uproar at the allotment site. Whilst I was there during the afternoon; doing a spot of digging, there was plenty of chatter about this. Along with a few other plotters, we decided to attend the Local Area Development meeting to be held that evening at the local council offices. At around 7.00pm we sat in the council chambers with baited breath, ready to put our case. Thankfully this was not required: The chairman of the meeting opened with a statement which basically said that the allotment site was an established Allotment site and would be taken off the list of viable travellers sites immediately. The councillors looked startled and surprised as we all burst into loud applause, before standing and leaving. The local newspaper printed a revised story which can be read here.

Phew! Panic over !

Check back soon for more updates from the plot.


Sunday, 27 September 2009

Maincrop Spuds - Cara

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where today we lifted the last of the Maincrop spuds(v.Cara - pic). We had a good harvest and are relatively pleased with the net result. However, we have decided next year that we will be growing just first and second earlies, staggering the planting dates a bit more to extend the crop season. We find that maincrop varieties are so cheap in the winter months that we may as well buy them, and concentrate our growing on the more expensive / harder to find varieties that we really enjoy.

More updates from the plot soon.


Friday, 18 September 2009

Ruby - What a darling:

Just a quick extra note: Couldn't resist sharing this picture with you all. When i got home from work last night, Ruby was seemingly not interested in the house full of toys she has accumulated, but intent only on shelling the borlotti beans! I said "what a clever girl", and she replied " I know I am" . Priceless!

Take care all,


Midweek Harvest

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. Crikey, that was a quick week! We had a visit from "Nana Pops" from Monday - Thursday, and we had a really great time - cramming a lot in. On Wednesday we all popped up to the plot to "show off " our allotment - mum was suitably impressed whilst suitably shocked at just how much work we now have in coping with all 3 allotments. As always, she didn't leave empty handed - managing to acquire one of our small pumpkins. Pictured here is our small harvest from the day before, including a Marrow, Pumpkin, some Zucchini, Maincrop spuds and a mixture of climbing beans including Borlotti, Runners, and Purple podded French beans. We have to say; the maincrop spuds (v.Cara) tasted delish. Also this week, I managed to start digging and weeding the new beds. Next year we will grow some of our spuds - probably the First Earlies - where the Runner Beans etc are this year, thereby taking advantage of the nitrogen now in the soil. The Runner beans themselves are going great guns - a late flurry of flowers should give rich pickings in the very near future.

Next week will probably be a tad quieter and we should be able to get a bit more done on the plots. Hopefully you'll pop back soon and check for more updates.

Don't forget our new venture : Reads Recipes. Jen has been busy in the kitchen, and has added more recipes. Go on, take a look ?

I hope you're still enjoying your plots as much as we are, and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

Take care all,


Monday, 14 September 2009

Cut the grass - Not workers jobs

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. Are you enjoying the weather ? If not, maybe you can take a few minutes to join the campaign to save jobs at the RHS? Their Union is fighting a decision to cut 100 jobs, and they need your help.
You can read more on this story here, and sign an online petition.
I urge you to support this. I was in a similar situation in January of this year, and it was my works union that saved my job.

Let's hope that Unite can do the same for these RHS staff.

Take care all,


Sunday, 13 September 2009

Courgettes galore!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. Have you had a good week ? We've been kind of busy (work etc.) and so far, I've only managed a couple of hours at the plot. Most of that time was spent watering - trying to get the last knockings of growth out of our squash plants / runner beans etc. Just as I was about to leave, i bumped into a fellow plotholder - Andy . He gave me a haul of giant courgettes, they'd overgrown on his plants as he too had been absent for a couple of weeks with a bad back. As you can see, they're pretty big - about tabloid newspaper size! By the time I took this picture today, over half have already been used ! Jen is busy as I type, preparing some courgette chutney! Check out the new blog for more recipe idea's - Reads Recipe's.

I'm now on the first of my 4 days off; and although we have a few busy days lined up - mum visiting etc, we hope to put in a bit of work on the plot too. Hopefully, you'll pop back in a few days for more updates?

Till then, enjoy your gardens and plots.

Take care,


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Latest harvest & Other stuff

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. We've had a busy morning today, with wifey adding another gorgeous recipe to our new blog - Reads Recipe's - whilst I've been busy at the plot harvesting more produce. This haul is the last of our Second Earlies spuds (v.Nadine) which amount to approx 10 lb's. We've really enjoyed these spuds and will be growing them again next year. The ground now vacant has been thoroughly dug over, and this will be repeated in a few weeks time.

I also harvested 3 squashes (v.Turks Turban), but only managed a picture of 2 of them, the third is cooking as i type! These didn't get as big as hoped, but maybe if we plant them earlier next year they'll do a bit better. Thanks again to Stephen at Victoriana Nurseries, who donated this years squash plants. What a star! The pumpkins and courgettes are still growing on well, and we hope to bag a late harvest of those.

I picked a load more Beans(v.Borlotti) ready to dry out. So far we have dried about half a pint of beans, and have them stored in an airtight container, ready for use later in the year. We have also used them in place of Kidney Beans in Chilli con carne and can assure you they taste yum. In the bottom of the bag there's also a few late runner beans(v.Scarlet Emperor) which will be enjoyed with our lunch today.

Meanwhile, up at the plot:
The marrow plants that looked to be on their last knockings a couple of weeks ago, seem now to be bursting back to life. Maybe if the good weather continues, we'll bag a few more before the end of the growing season? We've enjoyed about 6 in total from 2 plants, so any more really would be a bonus. We even have some jars of Marrow Preserve in the cupboard (recipe to follow) . I tasted this while Jen was putting it into the jars - it had a lovely sweet Butterscotch type flavour - delish.

I couldn't believe the state of the runner bean plants - there's an abundance of new flowers that have suddenly appeared, so hopefully we will be cropping these again soon. Next year we plan to grow the runners in a different location - more of that in the future - and the existing beds will be planted up with our potato crops. A four year rotation plan for planting is all well and good, but I think we'll opt for a 2 year plan as it will be easier to manage. Well alternate the planting with roots / above ground veg. See how we get on !

This squash (v. Waltham Cross) is growing atop our compost bin, and looking good for a decent specimen. There are still new shoots here and there, so dependent on the weather for the next few weeks, I may / may not cut these back. Watch this space !

Whilst at the plot today, I placed my order for next years seed potato's. Ordering through the society is definitely a money saver. Next years selection is as follows:
  • First Earlies: Maris Bard, which are a popular choice at the allotments, and are a renowned heavy cropper with good Blight / Scab resistance. 6Kg for £4.80.(approx 60 Tubers)
  • Second Earlies: Nadine, after such a good crop this year, choosing these was a no brainer. We have been delighted both with the size and taste of the crop. Consider that I've just dug the last 10 lbs today and there has been no deterioration after the extra time in the ground.6Kg for £4.80. (approx 60 tubers.
This order will be delivered early in January next year, ready for chitting / planting out as the weather permits.

Thats about it for today, hope you've enjoyed reading our harvest update!

Hope you are all enjoying your plots as much as we are.

Take care,


Friday, 4 September 2009

Forward planning & other stuff!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat.
I just want to start by saying "Thank you" to all the new visitor's to the blog, especially the one's who have left comments. It's nice to know that in writing the blog, we are reaching an appreciative audience. You will notice that we have expanded our blog list considerably of late, this mostly down to requests from other garden blogger's around the world, and also a few that we have come across recently.

Furthermore, we are starting to compile a new blog - Reads Recipes - where we plan to list as much info on what we make as we can (jams, chutneys, relishes etc) from all our produce, be it grown or foraged! Please bear with us on this, as we get the ball rolling!

With regard to forward planning - we've been shopping :
We popped to our local Wilkinson's store yesterday, and came away with some sets for the allotment. Not sure really how the prices compare to elsewhere, it's just that we happened upon them when looking for something else! First up we have a bag of 50 Red Onion (v.Red Baron) sets, which can be planted out late autumn. These will provide an early crop (May - June) whilst my main onion crop are still in full growth.

Next up we have this bag of "White" onion sets. Again there's 50 in the pack. The only downside is that there is no specific label on the packs, and apart from the first item, i cant remember the variety. (If you're reading this and know the variety, let me know please !).

And finally, there's a pack of 3 Garlic Bulbs. We forgot to plant any of these last year and have been begrudgingly paying for it all summer ! I aim to plant the garlic soon after the first frost. I read on the RHS website, that the continued "frosting" of overwintering garlic, helps the cloves to grow into strong new bulbs. This always seem to work and act as a good time planner for when to plant out.

Regular readers will know that we're not big fans of onion sets, but at the very least we'll be able to harvest these early in the summer. We plan to grow our main onion crop from seed (v. Bedfordshire Champion) , as these always perform well, outgrowing the sets by far. Also, this variety is not susceptible to neck rot.

That's all for now, but keep your comments coming, we love reading them!

Take care all and enjoy your gardening / growing.


Thursday, 3 September 2009

Plum Jam - Yum!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. What a glorious sight to see when i got home from work last night: 7 Jars of scrummy Plum & Cinnamon jam to add to our stash! We are rapidly losing count of how many jars / varieties we now have, maybe we should write a list? This one will probably be named Woodpecker Plum, after the location where the plums were picked ? I'm thinking of starting a new blog to list all the jam / preserve / chutney recipe's that we use, so you too can make similar types. Let me know if you're interested! Check out our new blog here.

At some point today we need to visit the plot. The main reason is the weather: Wind speeds upwards of 30mph / gusts upwards of 45mph are forecast for the next couple of days, so i need to make sure my bean canes are still firmly planted in the ground !
The other reason is that I have salvaged a First Aid Box (wall mounted) from work, and we will be donating it to the Allotment Society. Many times I have cut my fingers, but no-one ever seems to have any plasters ! Maybe when we have donated this box the society can use some of it's funds to stock it ?

Finally, you may have noticed a slight change to the blog title ? Well we started with Plot 81, but now we also have Plot 83 & Plot 87!

That's all for now, but see you again soon?

Enjoy your plots,


Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Yippee, it's raining!

Or as my old mate used to say: "it's coming down in stair rods".

Great news - the allotment needs a good soaking.

Hope the rain is welcomed where you are too!

Take care all,


Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Spuds -more dug today

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. Today I dug some more of our Second Earlies (v.Nadine), and got this tidy haul from just 3 plants. It was a bit of an exciting dig, as the haulms had already died back, and I wasn't sure if the spuds would be ok, if any at all. As you can see, they are all ok, and suffering no ill effect from being left in the ground. That might change though, as a spell of wetter weather is on its way! We haven't even got to the maincrop yet!

Thats all for now. Take care and enjoy your plots,


Monday, 31 August 2009

Stage 1 of Jigsaw completed !

Welcome back for the promised update ! As you can clearly see, the first stage, i.e. putting the Greenhouse frame together, has been completed. It was a bit of a struggle - perhaps I should have helped take it down in the first place! Obviously with something this old, a lot of the bolts were rusted solid, and there are a fair few bolts missing too. That said, I'm impressed by how sturdy it is, and that's without the weight of the glass too. I think the next step will be to buy and fit the missing bolts, and then secure the unit to a wooden base. This base will then be securely staked to the ground. In siting it here, I have the benefit of protection from the wind on two sides, and it's also fairly hidden from view.

This second pic gives a clearer idea of just how much land we now have to deal with! It's a mammoth undertaking, but I'm sure we've made the right decision. 450 Sq yards of land sounds like a hell of a lot, but then you have to remember that we managed 300 sq yards in our first year!
Time for a well earned rest now, and maybe a cup of tea!!

Take care all, and pop back soon for more updates from the plot.


We've got a Greenhouse!

Welcome back once again! Crikey you're saying - another blog entry already ? Well, this morning I was given this Greenhouse for my plot. To enable easier transportation, it was split into the sections as per the photo. All in all, it's not in bad condition - should do us well. The glass is 95% ok, one pane got broken in transit, and there were a few missing already, but these can easily be replaced at a later date. Just popped home for a bite to eat, then it's back to the plot to sort this jigsaw out!

I was also given this selection of hand tools, all of which are gratefully received. Among them is a draw hoe, dutch hoe, small spade, loppers, pick axe etc, again all will be useful at some point. These were supplied in a water butt.

Can i just say thanks to Roy, Kye & Ian for their help in moving this lot, as well as a Big Thank you for donating it all as well.

Thats all for now folks, but pop back soon to see if the jigsaw fits together !!


Sunday, 30 August 2009

Wow - Pumpkins!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. As regular readers will know, earlier in the year we were given some Squash plants. The majority of the plants did not have labels, so were planted "blindly" with a view to sitting back and waiting for whatever might come along. Well, thanks to Stephen at Victoriana Nurseries who kindly donated these plants, we now have about half a dozen pumpkins (v.Racer) growing away happily in what was otherwise an empty patch of ground. The ground had actually been home to our First Early spuds (v.Rocket) and after they were harvested, the ground looked rather bare. Now at least we have a plan for future spud beds!
Some of the other plants donated turned out to be "Turks Turban" squashes, and we now have 3 of these growing away merrily. We thought about harvesting some today, but we are not sure when they peak - in terms of size - and would be grateful if someone can shed some light on this!

We also found that we have a couple of Yellow Courgettes growing (Zucchini?) and this monster was harvested today to go with our Sunday roast !
Whilst at the plot we also started the Borlotti bean harvest off, we have loads and loads to get through, but we will get them a little at a time, as the beans need to be thoroughly dried before being stored away. The ones we picked today were 99% dry already, but a lot of the pods still on the plant are a long way off yet.

The Butternut Squash (v.Hunter) are going great at the moment too. The seeds for this were free from the BBC Dig-In promotion on CBeebies, so anything growing here is a bonus! The plants were started off in 3" pots before being transferred to their growing position - on top of the compost heap. Growing alongside these we have another variety - Waltham cross - which is also doing well.

The runner beans have not fared brilliantly this year - due mostly I guess to inadequate ground preparation! A lesson that has now been well and truly learnt! The good news however, is that there is a somewhat late flourish going on, and there's now an abundance of new flowers. Look carefully and you'll see the Bee's in attendance too! All we really really need now, is a few days of rain.

As you can see in this picture, work has been progressing on the new allotment. These 2 beds have been what I call half dug, i.e. I have lifted the top 4" and simply turned it over. I then layered some well rotted manure across them, to encourage some worm activity. This compost will then be dug in later in the year, and then left to settle over the winter. Tomorrow, I will be collecting my new greenhouse, that has kindly been donated by a friend. It's a 6' x 7' item, and we are looking forward to it's arrival.

And as this second picture shows, we still have a mammoth task ahead of us in preparing the rest of the plot! Wish us luck eh !

That's about it for today, hope you have had a good read.

See you all soon,


Friday, 28 August 2009

Foraging for food!

Welcome back to the Reads Allotment Retreat blog. I'd love to be bringing you an update with pictures from the plot, but it's been a hectic week to say the least and thus far we've not managed to get there yet! However, today we had one of those lovely summer days that you normally dream of in the depths of winter. I finished work at 7.00am this morning, and after a few hours kip we all went out in search of some free fruit. I'd read a snippet about a local plum orchard on another blog "Eight by six Gardening" and managed to contact the author to confirm the location.(Don't worry Amanda - your secret's safe with me!). We set off in glorious sunshine early afternoon, and we were eventually (no sat nav!!!) greeted by the sight of about 50 plum tree's growing in an open park. It's hard to believe we've lived just down the road - so to speak - for 3 years, and not known this was even there! Most of the tree's are pretty old and established, but there are plenty of newly planted specimens too. The tree's were laden with fruit, and within about 15 mins we had filled this 10 litre bowl to overflowing. Obviously I sampled some as I picked them, but the vast majority made it home to meet their fate - jam jars! Once we were done with the plum picking, Jen & Ruby eagerly set off for the swings, leaving me to explore the hedgerows further. I managed to find and pick about 2 lb's of Damsons, as well as about 1/2 lb of Blackberries. We'll be back for more of the latter as and when they ripen up! Just up the road from this secret location is a nice little farm shop. We called in for our usual: 2 dozen medium F/R eggs (£2.40), and picked up some Braeburn Apples (£1.50 for 2kg) and some Conference Pears (£1.20 for a Kilo). Ruby loves this place - buy her a little bag of chicken feed and she's off ! Next stop Tesco for cooking apples, then home to peruse our swag.
Purely by coincidence, our postman delivered 2 books today that I had ordered for Jen:

Jams and Chutneys: Preserving the Harvest, Over 150 Recipes (Hardback) By (author) Thane Prince
ISBN 13: 9781405329545
"This title lets you return to the good life. It offers information on all you need to know to make sweet and savoury preserves in an irresistible package, and preserve your harvest and create amazing jams, chutneys or preserves out of fruit, vegetables and even flowers from your garden. It comes with over 150 easy-to-follow recipes for making long-lasting sweet and savoury preserves to enjoy or give as a welcome present. It features a combination of traditional recipes, plus plenty of inspiring new ideas, and shows how to get the best from your ingredients, with clear guidance on all the equipment and techniques you'll need for making wonderful jams, jellies, marmalades, pickles, chutneys and relishes.You can pick up key cooking techniques from step-by-step sequences including identifying the perfect point of ripeness for different recipes, checking setting points and potting safely. It is perfect if you want to know how to preserve gluts in your fruit and vegetable produce, or for aspiring jam-makers and cooks".
Order from www.bookdepository.co.uk . Postage is free in UK.

Pickles, Relishes and Chutneys: Step-by-step Recipes for Home Preserving (Hardback) By (author) Catherine Atkinson
ISBN 13: 9781845432843
"This comprehensive guide opens with a history of preserving and pickling, which provides an insight into the traditional techniques and local delicacies. Practical advice and information about techniques, equipment and choosing the best ingredients follow in the authoritative and wide-ranging introduction, which is followed by the heart of the book: over 75 recipes covering every kind of chutney, pickle and condiment. Explore accompaniments to meats and poultry, from traditional basics, such as Horseradish or Mint Sauce, to modern flavours, such as Roasted Red Pepper and Chilli Ketchup or Cranberry and Red Onion Relish. Accompany seafood with Lemongrass and Ginger Jelly or serve oysters with Bloody Mary Relish. With its wonderful photography and comprehensive and exciting recipe list, this is the perfect source book for every cook who wishes to know more about chutneys and pickles. Catherine Atkinson is a trained Cordon Bleu cook who has worked in a number of restaurants including the Roux Brothers' patisseries. She also worked as Deputy Cookery Editor on Woman's Weekly magazine". Again, ordered from the Book Depository.

Now as I sit here typing, the 2 lbs of Damson's are nearly Jam, and smell delicious. The rain is thundering down outside - lovely - watering the plot for me in my absence.
Sunday I hope to get my greenhouse, that has been donated by a work colleague. It's an old 6' x 7' one, but in pretty good condition. It will need a base preparing and re-assembling on site, but will be well used. Can't wait!

That's about it for now, but please come back soon for more updates from the plot.

Take care all, and enjoy your plots and gardens.


Monday, 24 August 2009

Saturday, 22 August 2009

It's been a busy week.....

and we've been busy! As you can see, Ruby is proudly displaying our latest Marrow from the plot. These have grown really well, 4 now from 2 plants, and there's more growing too - maybe 2 more on the stronger plant which will be ready in the next week or so. As I type, Jen is preparing a Marrow Jam, which looks and smells delicious. (Recipe from the Allotment Growers Cookbook ISBN 978-0-276-44260-5). This has been a truly great cookbook this year, and we've tried loads of dishes from it. Well worth the money, in our opinion. Whilst the jam prep is underway, we're cooking up a feast of home grown veg for tea! I've been charged with cooking the pan fried potato's (v. Maris Peer), whilst Jen is roasting some beans( Scarlet Emperor, Purple French & Dwarf Yellow French, together with some toms, yellow zuchinni, green courgettes, and some onions from the plot. The sausages - I have to be honest - are from Aldi's!. Cant wait to tuck into this lot.

Not content with the amount of work our 10 Rod plot gives us, we have taken on another 5 Rod plot adjacent to ours. This is the space we originally wanted to plant our tree's on, and to be honest - we've wanted it for a while. Now we have got it (in writing from the society) we can spend some of our time now cutting beds into the unloved soil, and stealing a march on next years preparations! We have also got a good supply of Free manure now from a local stables, and will be using this to dress the beds, before we cover them with mulching cloth. They'll be left like this for the worms to do their work, before being dug over late autumn.
One thing we need to start soon, is listing what we are going to grow, and perhaps more importantly where, for next year. We've had some successes, as well as some failures, and need to focus and plan ahead. Watch this space for an annual review and forward planner.

That's all for now, but pop back soon for more updates from the plots.

Take care all,