Friday, 17 July 2009

A great week

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where we've had a lovely and somewhat busy week. We had a "free" day this week and decided to visit Victoriana Nurseries in Challock,Nr Faversham, Kent. We've only visited once before, but when you see the entrance to the place, you just know you want to get inside! There's no mass of commercial adverts and bustling car parks to greet you, just the awe inspiring polytunnels and the somewhat quaint entrance. Once inside, drawing a deep breath of air tells you right away you're in a great place. The smell of the soil is lovely, as is the serene atmosphere within. We inquired as to whether the proprietor Stephen was available, and were delighted when he downed tools (well almost - secateurs in hand) to come and say hello. Even more delighted that he remembered us! The main purpose of visiting was to find some inspirational advice for what to plant next at the allotment, as the vacant spud beds were dying to be filled with plants. Stephen suggested a few things to try, like a Mustard "Green manure" as well as a couple of other ideas, but already I was thinking "more crops" for this season! On the way in we had passed some rather bedraggled squash / courgette / melon plants which were already lodged in the back of my mind. I mentioned these to Stephen, and he replied "take what you want, they're going in the bin later!". I couldn't believe my luck. Maybe they won't amount to much, but as fellow growers will tell you - it's heartbreaking to throw plants away. Victoriana Nursery recently took part in the BBC Gardeners World Live Show where they picked up a RHS Silver Medal - well done to all, especially to Stephen's daughter Milly (aged 3) who also picked up a Silver - the youngest ever recipient. Well done Milly!
Having bought our goodies from the nursery, we headed back to the car. This pic shows the driveway back to the main road. It really is a lovely place, we just felt like we wanted to stay, pull on some gloves and do a spot of weeding. It is definitely worth a visit if you can spare the time. It seems that family run businesses like this are a thing of the past, but Victoriana Nurseries is definitely a thing of the future, and we wish Stephen and his family all the best.

Having left the nursery, we set off to find a place to eat our picnic. After driving around for ten minutes, we stumbled across the beautiful vista literally just off the main road. Not wanting to impose too much, we pulled the car in off the road and parked up. The picnic was yummy - thanks Jen! I couldn't resist a few pictures after our lunch - this really is the Garden of England - we love it. We could live there!!! Where's that lottery ticket?

Next day we were straight up to the plot to plant up our haul. The bed pictured was previously home to our First Early spuds which produced a reasonably good crop. The ground has since been re dug, and 2 bags of spent hops added to improve the soil structure. The plants from Victoriana Nurseries were planted approx 3' apart, over a mound of grass clipping and some general purpose compost.(We used Wickes - 2 bags for £6.00). The plants were well watered in, and now we can sit back and wait. As I said to Stephen, they've got 2 chances! We also bought a pack of Marrow seeds to sow, as we are so pleased with our current marrow plants, we want to try some more. It's a small gamble, but if the weather holds out, we may get more crops?

That's about it for now, except to wish you all the best with your plots and gardens.

Hopefully you will pop back soon to check on our progress.

Take care all,


Monday, 13 July 2009

Five days - What a difference!

Welcome back to our allotment retreat. Just for a change we're bringing you pictures taken at the plot - Today! Check the pic from 5 days ago in our previous posting - I'm simply amazed at how quick this Marrow is growing. By way of a thank you, I not only watered it today, but gave it a good feed too. I think it deserves it, don't you ?

And here's the plant just 3 feet away, in the same bed. Obviously it doesn't want to be outdone and wants some of the attention too! These 2 plants were "shop" brought in Sunny Hunny a few weeks back, and considering how cheap they were, and the fact that they were a tad bedraggled, tells us we are doing something right. This second plant was planted over layers of garden compost/ grass clippings, and seems to be thriving on it.

After the many disasters of trying to raise Courgette plants at home this year (can't use slug pellets due to 2 year old Ruby might take a shine to them), we decided to plant this late developing Yellow Zucchini at the plot. It has found a new home in the bed that was home to our first earlies. Lets hope the recently introduced "spent hops" give the ground the nutrients it needs to support this new addition. Certainly smells nice !!!

The runners (all varieties) are going great guns at the moment - reaching as they do up and beyond the supports provided. When you stand next to them, they look just great, but it's not so easy to get a good picture of them, hence this shot taken looking underneath and through the foliage. I think it looks ok. Still not enough fully developed pods to get a plate full yet, so they have been left and will hopefully be more productive in a few days time.

We're really pleased with the Butternut squash plants, this is the strongest of the four on the top of the compost bin, but the other 3 plants are also doing well too. Squash has been a fairly recent addition to our kitchen, and we're hoping for a good harvest here too. There's so many delicious recipe's for squash, that we need as many as possible. I sowed quite a few varieties, but the ones doing best in this environment are the Waltham Cross variety.

The recently moved Rhubarb is growing well. It seems to send up new shoots every time I make an appearance. We are somewhat surprised by the growth, not withstanding the fact that it has been moved mid season. Great expectations here!
Well that's about it for today! Hoping for a few more trips to the plot this week, so we'll keep you all posted.
Till then, we hope you all enjoy your plots and gardens, and we look forward to seeing you back here again soon.


Rich picking's 9th July

Welcome back to our allotment retreat. Isn't July a lovely time of the year - everything is starting to look great, the hours/days/weeks of care on the plot are reaching fruition and it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labour. These runner beans(v.Scarlet Emperor) made a lovely accompaniment to dinner last thursday evening, and were joined by a handful of peas(v.Victorian Colossal) as well as some First early spuds(v.Maris Peer). The taste alone makes it all worthwhile, not forgetting of course the sheer joy of harvesting your own food!

The rest of the climbers are still putting on great growth, and are nearly all at the stage where the tops need to be pinched out. While Huw was here he suggested nipping the tops out much sooner, but I prefer to let them grow on till they nearly reach the top of the canes, and then trim the tops. I find you get a greater yield by letting the plants establish fully. We have quite a few varieties growing here, and each plot visit gives us more hope of big crops. There's plenty of blackfly present - a bain for all the allotment holders, but the plants are strong and coping well.

As detailed previously, our recently moved Rhubarb crown(v.Victoria) is putting on some good growth, seems like it likes it's new home! Cant wait till next year when we get to harvest from 3 different crowns! Wifey is currently planning a batch of Rhubarb & Ginger jam, if we can accumulate enough Rhubarb before we stop harvesting it the end of this month.

Here's one of our Marrow plants which is looking good. I think the variety is "GreenBush", but having lost the tag, it's hard to say for sure! The second plant that was planted on layers of compost/grass clippings is also doing well. We are hopeful of a good harvest here, as all the courgette plants at Reads Retreat have succumbed to the dreaded slugs, but there seems to be a lack of them at the lottie - we're not complaining. I have one more Courgette plant to go out, and may plant it at the plot?

The Butternut Squash(v.Waltham Cross) that are planted atop the compost bin are also starting to put on good growth. Quite pleasing really as this growing site was a bit of an experiment! Not sure if the heap is warm/damp enough for growing these - time will tell though.

That's about it for todays update, but with another plot visit planned for today, there's sure to be more pics to look at soon. We hope you'll pop back and have another look later!

Till then, take care all and enjoy your gardens and plots.


Sunday, 5 July 2009

Rocket! Yummy First Earlies

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our diary blog for our lottie venture! Friday this week we popped in to the plot to harvest the remainder of our First Earlies(v.Rocket) that we planted earlier in the year. Previously we had dug up about 3 pounds, and the hefty haul pictured left amounted to well over 15 pounds more. A very encouraging haul, especially as the ground we planted in was not as thoroughly prepared as we would have liked. Obviously we had some for tea friday night, together with some breaded Pollack. Yum!

This pic shows our second Marrow(v.Greenbush), which we have planted about 3' from the first one we put in, and when we popped up to the plot today, were encouraged to see a marrow forming on the plant. We know these are thirsty plants, and are hoping that the layers of grass cuttings we added to the planting hole will retain the moisture that is going to be needed for strong growth. We'll see i guess!
Elsewhere on todays brief visit, we were able to spend an hour digging over the bed that had contained the spuds. The ground is still fairly hard, but not so hard that we couldn't dig it. There's loads of stones to remove, and still some big clods of earth to break up. We'll get there, don't panic!

That's about it for today, but we hope you'll all pop back soon for more updates of our lottie exploits!

Take care all, and enjoy your gardens and plots,


Saturday, 4 July 2009

July already, and all's going well!

Welcome back to our allotment retreat, where all is coming along lovely. Pictures for this weeks update were taken on the 28th June so are all fairly current. This beautiful Marrow flower greeted me, and doesn't it look healthy. We now have 2 of these planted up and both are looking great. The second plant was planted slightly differently, on the advice of Bill: I dug a hole about 18" deep, and filled with alternate layers of soil/garden compost/grass clippings. The idea is that the layers will heat up as they rot down, creating a hot base for the marrow to grow in. Sounds good to me !

I recently moved our Rhubarb Crown(v.Victoria) from a "Path" area to its new how in the newly created fruit bed. Although not showing in this picture, the crown has already sent up new shoots, indicating to us that it is happy in it's new site. At least now it won't get trampled underfoot so often! In all, we now have 3 good crowns on the go, 2 back at Reads Retreat, and this one at the plot. Yummy, looking forward to bountiful supplies of jams and crumbles.

We're amazed on a daily basis at the growth rate of the various climbers planted up at the plot. We were a tad worried a month ago as the growth rate was so slow. The plants we had started at home and later transplanted on the plot had all died off, leaving us the only option of planting seed straight into the ground. Our fears that have been allayed, the only problem now is remembering what we planted where! There's a mixture of Runners(v.Scarlet Emperor), Beans(v.Borlotti), French Beans(v.Blue Lake), and Climbing Purple Podded Beans. We'll have to wait and see!

Our planting's of Chard(v.Zilver) are all growing well, so well in fact that they will have to be thinned out soon. At least that will give us some young leaves for the kitchen! Elsewhere on the plot we have more greens planted in the form of Spinach & Curly Kale, and we're trying to think of what to grow next. Land is becoming free as we take harvests of new potato's, and we don't like to see ground go to waste.

Final pic for today's quick update shows the view looking back over the plot. Bottom left is our First Earlies(v.Rocket) bed, and as of yesterday, this space is now clear as we have harvested a bounty of spuds from there. See separate post for details.
All in all, it's looking lovely, though still plenty of work to do.

We hope you'll join us again soon for more news from the plot.
Till then, enjoy your gardens and plots. Take care,