Thursday, 25 June 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday Ruby

Happy Birthday Darling

Lots of love

Hugs and Kisses

From Mummy & Daddy


Saturday, 20 June 2009

A Good Heart

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our diary for our growing project! I'm pleased to announce that 1 of our Red Cabbages is hearting up nicely, despite a couple of the others having gone to seed. We had some funny weather this year: hot one minute, wet the next etc., and a few plants seem to have gone to seed as a result. The onion sets that were planted about two months ago are also having mixed success. The Red's seem to be fairing better than the whites, but we're still hoping for a good crop. Only time will tell. Next year I'm thinking of just sowing seed as opposed to sets, as the results always seem to be a bit better. We have a dozen or so (v.Bedfordshire Champion) growing at home in a raised bed, and these seem to be much healthier specimens.

I've managed to spend quite a bit of time at the plot this week, mainly due to the fact that my shift pattern has changed (for the better), allowing me to get a good few jobs done. I even managed a quick hour of work after my last 12 hour night shift - how's that for commitment! The bed that I dug recently has now been extended and weeded, making much needed space for more plantings! The B&Q bucket has been placed over the Rhubarb crown that I have moved to this bed. Previously the rhubarb was in a footpath - a design error from the early days of the plot! It had not grown well in it's previous position, as occasionally it was trampled underfoot! Hopefully now it will grow on well, and the bucket over the top might "force" the root growth? Let's hope so eh!

In the foreground of the previous pic (larger here) we have planted a marrow (v. Marketmore) plant, that we hope hope will grow well. The concrete blocks that have been dug up are now forming a much needed windbreak. The blocks were a real pain to hue from the ground, but now I find I'm looking for more of them. I know of at least a few more around the site that i will be commandeering in the very near future!

As more ground becomes available, it's quickly being weeded and made ready for more crops. This small bed was home to our overwintering onions, most of which have now been eaten! After clearing this patch of earth, I made 3 drills and gave them a good soaking. After draining away we planted 3 rows of Chard(v.Zilver). This will hopefully keep us in winter greens during the leaner months of the year, as well as providing a bit of structure to the planting area. Also, in terms of the planning, we're now trying to decide what to plant to follow the spuds ? We have started to harvest the First Earlies (v.Rocket), and over the coming weeks envisage the the bed will soon be cleared. Any ideas ? We're thinking of Turnip / Swede / Courgettes.

Our Runners are putting on good growth now, and following some "expert" advice from fellow plotholders, we have drawn the earth up around the plants. The idea apparently is that the rainwater will run off the mounds and go straight to the roots, which sounds like a fine idea to me. All we need now then is some rain! I'm off to the plot to water stuff today, and will have to remember where to water! Note to myself: Sort out hosepipe fittings!!

Our Leek bed is doing well, we are really glad to report! Since this was taken we have hand weeded the area, and it looks a lot tidier! There's also a row of Parsnips (v.Hollow Crown) down the left side, and these too are growing really well. It's only a small bed(approx 6x 4) but there's a lot packet into it. If it gets too crowded we can simply pull some of the Leeks a bit early, that would be a treat !

Back on the subject of winter greens, wifey has planted up a bed full of wintery delights consisting of Spinach Beet and Curly Leafed Kale. These are now starting to put on good growth, along with the left over Leeks down each side of the bed. It's gonna be a bumper Leek year!
As soon as more growth takes place, we;ll be able to get in there and pull the weeds. Weeds - god they grow well. Can we eat them too ? I have in the last couple of days found cause to speak to the site manager regarding neighboring plots that are not being tended. The problem is that weeds are growing all around, and the constant wind across the site is spreading the seeds from them, mainly it seems over my plot. We have also stated that if these plot are not sorted and become "available" then will will take one or both of them on. Let's wait and see!

Having completed all my chores for the day, I then hired the lawnmower and set about tidying the plot. Doesn't it look smart ? Only costs 50p for as long as it takes to mow - can't say fairer than that ! And, the more it gets mowed, the easier the mowing gets, and the grass clippings go straight in the compost bin. (2nd note to myself: Need another compost bin!).

And here' the view from the other end of the plot. A few months ago it was all overgrown and unkempt, but now look at it. We've patted ourselves on the back already, and can now get on with enjoying our plot!

That's all for today, thank you for visiting! We hope you enjoyed this update, and we look forward to welcoming you all back to our Allotment Retreat.

Take care all and enjoy your plots and gardens.


Friday, 12 June 2009

Happy Birthday Big Sis !

50 Today - Many Happy Returns

Lots of love from all of us at Reads Allotment Retreat.


Thursday, 11 June 2009

4 Hours later !

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where finally we've had a break in the weather allowing us a good 4 hours on the plot. There's always a host of jobs to do, and one that has needed my attention for a good while is cutting this bed out. Over the time we've had the plot, this area has become home to both Red & Black currant bushes, as well as the odd Primula and a Rosemary Bush. These had been planted in rough cut holes, and over time they have simply been swamped in the ever growing grass, and have struggled to put on growth. Well no more, it was hard graft but well worth the end result. The ground was well compacted, and full of horrible weeds. I took the easy way out for now - removing the top 4-6" of soil - but the bed will need a good weeding in the very near future.
While we were there, Jen (lovely wifey) managed to not only dig over and weed this bed, but also to plant a mixture of Turnip (v.Golden Ball), Beetroot (v.Boltardy), and Carrot (v......). This is the final "existing" bed to be planted up, and now we can begin to concentrate on maintenance. The onion beds are growing on well - as are the weeds - so this is next on the list.

For the last couple of weeks, we've been enjoying the over wintered onion crop (v. Senshyu), and we promised "Nana Pops" that we would pick some for her. Ably assisted by Ruby, we pulled a few to take to Nana's tomorrow. Ruby is really loving her time on the plot. Can't wait till she's a bit older and can do a bit more.

Finally - for now anyway - a pic of our Leeks. They're going great guns at the moment.

I'll expand this update as time permits, still lots to show you all, but I'm off to bed in a mo.

Enjoy the pics down the page. We'll be back soon.


Tuesday, 9 June 2009

It's raining

Morning all, and welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. I was up with the lark this morning, but the rain is still coming down, despite the forecast of sunny periods! Hoping to get to the plot later today to tackle the never ending list of jobs! In the meantime, I've been "surfing" and have added a few new links to other interesting blogs.
Pop back later and I'll hopefully post a picture update of the plot.

Take care all, TTFN.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Look what i got today !

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our diary blog for our new allotment. We went to the plot this afternoon, just to have a look and see how things are coming along. While we were there, we each picked an onion which Ruby is proudly displaying in the picture. These sets ( v. Senshyu) were planted last year and have overwintered well to produce these fine specimens, each approximately tennis ball sized. It's nice to be able to harvest these so early, bearing in mind that the onion sets we planted recently will not be ready for some time yet. Wifey reports they are lovely to cook with, indeed we had one tonight in our prawn curry. Yummy.
There's lots still to do at the plot, and now my shift pattern has changed again to something more sociable, we should be able to get a bit more done.

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

Take care all,


Sunday, 7 June 2009

Jersey Royals @ £1.00 a Kilo - Crikey!

Welcome back to our Allotment Retreat. As the title suggests, we're getting bored of paying good money for new potato's (even at that price), when we know we have a plot half full of spuds that are nearly ready to harvest. We've had some good periods of rain this weekend and hopefully this will speed up our date of first harvest. As stated previously, the First Earlies (v. Rocket) were planted back on the 7th April, and as such are very nearly ready. Hopefully early next week we can check the ground and lift some lovely new spuds. Can't wait.

As you are probably aware, Gardeners World Live is happening next week, and our favourite seed and plant supplier (Victoriana Nursery) is sponsoring one of the show gardens " A World outside the Garden". Click on the highlighted text to nip to their online page. Sadly we won't be able to make the show, but we wish Stephen and his team all the best for a great week.

Thats all for now from us, but pop back soon for more from the plot.

Take care all and enjoy your gardens.


Friday, 5 June 2009

Flowers on the plot!

Welcome back to our allotment retreat. As the title suggests and the pictures show, the spuds have started to burst into flower, a sure sign that they are growing on well, and getting closer to the all important harvest time. We are lucky to have almost white flowers mixed in with the usual lilac and yellow , and as the next few weeks come and go, we hope to see even more flowers. Over the last couple of days I have doused the spuds with a hose ( borrowed from fellow plotholders - thank you ) and I think they have responded well. This morning it's raining lightly, and the rain is forecast for the weekend, so they should get plenty of the wet stuff now!

Our apple tree's continue to put on good growth, as this picture of our eater shows. The variety is "Elstar" - not one of the common ones that i know, but a necessary pollinator for our Bramley apple. I'm constantly worried that the apple tree roots might dry out, and with that in mind have recently been collecting buckets of stones / pebbles from around the plot and placing them around the base of the trunks as an aid to locking in the moisture. Guess we'll have to wait and see if it works!

Our Bramley Apple; as you can see, is fairing far better than the Elstar, and it looks like we'll be getting some first season fruits. Differing opinions tell you to sacrifice this first bearing of fruit whilst others tell you to leave well alone. We're opting for the latter course, and we'll see how we get on ! Of the other 2 tree's we planted, the Conference Pear is looking good - plenty of lush leaves but as yet no other signs of fruit. Too early perhaps? The Victoria Plum tree however, is not looking so healthy. Most of the leaves have died back for some reason, and we will be watching this closely to see what occurs. I'm convinced that moving all 4 tree's earlier in the year was not a good move, especially so soon after planting. It's a shame also that we moved the tree's to accomodate a fellow plotholders wishes, and she has not returned to her plot since. What a waste of time.

The runners / climbers that we planted as seed directly into the ground are now making headway. As mentioned in earlier posts, our early plantings were devastated by the winds so we are really pleased that these are growing so well. We have been watering these daily over the last week to help them on their way, and with a few ( or more ) showers forecast this weekend, the growth should continue. Only trouble we have now though, is trying to remember what we planted, and where ! Maybe we can just wait and see, and look forward to the surprise !!!

And finally, here's our young apprentice! Ruby is with us whenever possible on the plot. She really LOVES the plot, and can't wait to be in it, either at home or on the allotment. We are both looking forward to the time when we can dig up some produce - take it home - and cook it !
Not long now darling.

That's it for today's update. Hope you've enjoyed it, and we look forward to welcoming you back to our Allotment Retreat very soon.

Take care all, and enjoy your gardens & plots.


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Crikey - Where has the time gone ?

Welcome back once again to Reads Allotment Retreat. Has it really been that long since I last posted an update ? I guess it has ! Its been a busy month, and there's loads to update you all on:You probably remember that I planted out all my climbing beans / peas etc on the 30th April, trying to get an early crop! Sadly the attempt failed, due mostly to the battering winds that sweep across the site, which demolished the young seedlings. Not giving up at the first hurdle, i set about acquiring some sheets of plywood (from a skip!) which i then erected both sides of the cane rows, in an effort to limit the damage from the winds. Next , I planted the seeds straight into the ground and waited for the appearance of new seedlings. As this picture shows (taken 29/5/09) we have been somewhat successful. As always, getting to the plot to tend the young plants is always an issue, especially when trying to juggle shift work and family life, but at last we are making progress, and with a concerted effort am now finding more time to get to the plot. After all, with summer upon us, this is when we need to be there! Just this morning i got to the plot, spent ten minutes watering, and was away. A quick visit but none the less , worthwhile.
Making good use of every available spot of land, we have adapted the top of the compost bins, one of which is now home to our Squash plants. We've planted a few varieties, and as its our first attempt at growing them, would be happy if we got just one fruit for our efforts. Loads more would be good too, but like everything else, we'll have to wait and see! As usual, we've planted through holes in either black plastic sheeting or weed membrane fabric. This will help to warm the soil as well as prevent light from reaching the light hungry weeds.
A fair few of my regular readers have been asking how my spuds are getting on ? We planted our first earlies back on the 7th April, and our second earlies / maincrop went in about ten days later. The most common question was "do they grow through the holes ok ? " and the picture above shows that yes they do. Occasionally a side shoot veers off under the sheeting and has to be "Re - routed" but on the whole, they have been left to their own devices. In all, we planted approx 180 seeds, and about 160 of those are growing on strongly. I noted on my brief plot visit this morning, that both the first and second earlies are now starting to flower. A sure sign of good things to come. The other main question is "How long do they take to grow ? " . Well, how long's a piece of string ? ( Twice the distance from the middle to the end - ha ha ) . Growing time will always depend on a number of factors: Soil condition, watering, weeding, time in sun, etc etc. , so it's always hard to give an exact length of time. However, give or take a few days, the following acts as a rough guide to sowing / harvest :
  • First Earlies - 70 - 80 days
  • Second Earlies - 80 - 100 days
  • Maincrop - 100 - 130 days.
I'll probably get lots of comments about this, but experience tells me that this is about the right time frame. Others will tell you to harvest at different times, i.e. when the flowers die off. Each to their own ? Simply the best way is to lift a plant gently and have a look!

We've successfully planted up a bed of leeks, as well as a single row of Parsnips, the latter of which should be lovely for Christmas dinner. We had hoped to get the raised beds in and constructed by now, but time and money has sped past us, and we are yet to get round to it. The Leeks will need earthing up later in the year, and we'll try to get the "construction" done at about the same time. Otherwise, we can just leave the bed to its own devices. Just the occasional weeding should suffice.
And finally ( for today anyway) here's a pic of our overwintered onions. A few of these have already graced the table at home, and there's plenty more where these came from !
Once again, I've run out of time, off now to make sandwiches and then to work.
I hope you've enjoyed this update, and we look forward to seeing you all again soon here at our allotment retreat.
Keep those comments and questions coming, and we'll get back to you soon.

Take care all, and enjoy your gardens.