Monday, 10 May 2010

Quickie update

Popped up to the plot today, and whilst there harvested half a dozen Leeks. Should be tasty in a Chicken & Leek Pie tomorrow night!!

Good to see also that the Runner Bean seeds have germinated, lets hope they survive the frost that is forecast tonight.

First Early spuds are growing well.

Pop back soon for more from the plot!


Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Bean poles !

Welcome back to our Allotment Retreat, where we are please to inform you that we're fighting back. The weeds have run riot over the plot during my ongoing illness, but thanks to a little help, we are getting to grips with the jobs. Thanks must go to all who have helped out, most notably Neil & Stuart. It took a good ten days from start to finish to get the bed ready, but will hopefully be worth it in the end! So , how did we get here, and what did we do ? Read on!

Having first cleared the bed of weeds, and digging the soil over several times (removing amongst other things 8 x 1' sections of cast iron gutter, and copious quantities of glass) , we set about digging 2 trenches, each about 8' long and 1' wide, and about 18" deep. We then lined the base of each trench with about 6" of corrugated cardboard which had been torn into small pieces. This will soak up and store the moisture for the roots of the climbing beans. We then backfilled to give a good depth of soil in which the plants can grow.

Next off, we pushed 6 x 3' lengths of plastic tube deep into the soil. We will use this to get water direct to the cardboard reservoir area in the base of each trench, simply by watering direct into the tubes. We're hoping that this "reservoir" of water will get the roots going to provide strong plants.

And then we put the canes in! I prefer to put the canes in vertically and then bend them slightly to meet at the top. This seems to give extra strength to the structure - needed because our site is wide open to the elements. Finally we added a good layer of gen purpose compost to each trench top, to use as our planting medium. With 10 canes vertically on each side, we had plenty of space to get planting. We put Runner Beans (v. Scarlet Emperor) all down 1 side, with 2 seeds about an inch deep for each cane. On the other side, we have a bit of a mixture: 2 canes have Borlotti bean seeds, 4 canes have Climbing Purple French beans(v. a cosse violet), and 4 canes have Climbing French Beans (v.Blue Lake). This will hopefully crop the approx amount of each variant that we want.

We'll also start plants off at home, to fill any natural gaps.

Adjacent to the end of this bed, work is underway to clear enough space to put a wigwam of Vermont Cranberry Beans that were donated via Dan - cheers!

As i detailed on the 17th April, we decided to donate our greenhouse to someone who would get more use out of it. The lucky recipient of the "jigsaw" was Ralph, who in exchange was only too happy to rotovate our 3rd plot. Seems like a good exchange to me and we did the deal. Already Ralph has done half the plot, which made it very easy to plant our last 3 rows of spuds. These are our second earlies (v. Nadine) and hopefully they'll have enough time in the ground to give us a good, albeit slightly late, crop of tasty spuds.

So as you can see, many hands do make light work. Its still daunting looking around the plot - weeds everywhere, but a little and often is once again reaping rewards. The first early spuds are starting to show, the apple tree blossom is opening up, and there's a buzz of excitement around the site as summer approaches. Let's hope we all manage a good cropping year. I hope you've enjoyed our update, and hope you'll pop back soon for more from the plot.

Take care all and enjoy your gardening.


Friday, 23 April 2010

Happy St Georges Day

To all readers - especially the English ones - hope you have a fantastic day.

RIP Dan Holkham (3rd Battalion - The Rifles).


Saturday, 17 April 2010

Progress, slowly !

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. Slow but steady progress is now being made on the plot. It's hard to work slowly when there's stacks to do, but that's the way it has to be. I saw a Consultant at the hospital last week, who confirmed that my MRI scan from the week before reveals a Lateral Disk Prolapse at C5/C6. The good news is there's no invasive surgery on the horizon, but still i have to take it easy. I've signed up for Physio, a well as been referred for neurological tests. Fingers, like everything else possible, are well and truly crossed! In this picture, you can see that we've managed to clear 1 bed. This is home to our Rhubarb crown which is growing on well.There's also a clump of Rosemary, a Red and a Black currant bush, as well as a good clump of primula that were donated by Bill last year.
This next picture shows just how much we have to do, and also how far behind we are! We managed (with a little help!) to drag the mower around the plot today - at least now we can see where the beds are ! The Apple / Pear trees are beginning to fill with blossom, so hopefully this season we will improve on last years 5 apples !! Sadly the Victoria Plum tree never survived being moved, so we'll replace that just as soon as funds allow. In the background of the pic, you can just make out the spud bed that Neil dug for us. That was such a blessing.

As i said earlier, we can see where the beds are !!! The only good news is that the ground / soil is well broken up and only needs light weeding. Even so, a mammoth task awaits. After careful thought, I have decided to let our greenhouse go. This was given to us late last year, but with all that has happened this year, and a baby on the way real soon ( Grinning!), i think that someone else will get more use out of it. I / we cant commit the time to it that would truly make it worthwhile. I'm sure it wont be long before it gets snapped up!
That's about all for now. There's still plenty going on at home, as well as at Reads Retreat. Seed germination update to follow soon.

Take care all, enjoy the weather, and most of all, enjoy your gardening.


Sunday, 11 April 2010

More spuds in !

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where we are able to bring more news, some good and some not so good! So, starting with the best bit: Thanks to some kind help from Jo & Co., we now have another 4 rows of spuds in the ground. This accounts for the balance of the first earlies, and half of the second earlies. The ground is still heavy, and drainage struggling, but he spuds have a fairer chance in the ground than out ! On a slightly down note, the rest of the plots are badly overgrown. This is due to my absence with ill health, and at present am concerned at how we're gonna gain the upper hand, and maybe a phone call will be needed to rally some help. I'm sure that a good mow of the grass will tidy things up considerably, but this too will also expose more weeds! Talking of weeds, I haven't touched one since 16th March - patting myself on the back as i type!
Seed germination continues at a pace at home, and I'll update on where we are with that later.
The weather looks glorious again, so i suggest you get out there sharpish!

Take care all and have a grand day.


Monday, 5 April 2010

April already, and we've been busy!

Welcome back to our Allotment Retreat blog, where despite the lack of any physical activity on the plot, we are pleased to let you know that our seed raising exploits are in full swing! The conservatory is starting to resemble a nursery, with every available flat surface now being given up for seed germination. It's all very exciting, we are growing some old favourites as well as a few first time attempts - as always injecting some new challenges as we go along. The list so far is as follows :

  • Tomato's: Napoli Plum, Cherokee Purple, & Yellow Pear
  • Summer Squash: Crookneck, Delicata, & Burgess Buttercup
  • Marrow: Table Dainty
  • Sweetcorn: Ruby Queen & F1 Earlygold
  • Sweet Banana Pepper
Seeds already germinated from sowing last week:
  • Sweetcorn Swift Early - 7 plants
  • Courgette All Green Bush - 10 plants
  • Courgette Yellow Zuchinni - 2 plants
  • Sprouts Red Delicious - 15 plants
  • Tomato Garden Pearl - 20 plants (for baskets & containers)

We've also made the first investment of the season in some general purpose compost. I don't like spending too much (must take after my father) and this is the best deal I have found so far: 4 x 70Litre bags for £12.00, from Asda! We'll no doubt be buying more as the season progresses, and If i find a better deal - I will let you know.
Thats about it for now, but we'll keep you posted on germination rates etc. We cant wait to get back to the plot. So much to do, so little time!

Take care all and enjoy your gardening. Pop back soon for more updates.


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

More spuds in the ground

Welcome back to our Allotment Retreat.

Today's posting is just a brief one - to let you know we've got another 2 rows of 10 spuds in the ground. (Thanks Bill & Norma for your help).

This is ahead of the 3 days wet weather which is forecast.

The rest of the spud bed still needs some work, I'll try and get Neil over again !

That's all for now. Take care and enjoy your gardening.


Monday, 22 March 2010

Borrowed from Mossy

Couldn't resist sharing this ditty - my mate mossy has it as his facebook status:

Goodbye to my England, so long my old friend
Your days are numbered, being brought to an end
To be Scottish, Irish or Welsh that's fine
But don't say you're English, that's way out of line.
The French and the Germans may call themselves such
So may Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch
You can say you are Russian or maybe a
But don't say you're English ever again.

At Broadcasting House the word is taboo
In Brussels it's scrapped, in Parliament too
Even schools are affected, staff do as they're told
They must not teach children about England of old.
Writers like Shakespeare, Milton and Shaw
The pupils don't learn about them anymore
How about Agincourt, Hastings , Arnhem or Mons ?
When England lost hosts of her very brave sons.
We are not Europeans, how can we be?
Europe is miles away, over the sea
We're the English from England, let's all be proud
Stand up and be counted............shout it out loud!
Let's tell our Government and Brussels too
We're proud of our heritage and the Red, White and Blue
Fly the flag of Saint George or the Union Jack
Let the world know....WE WANT OUR ENGLAND BACK !!!

Sadly, it's so very true.


Sunday, 21 March 2010

Spuds are in !

Welcome back to our Allotment Retreat. Today, with a tiny bit of help from my friend, I managed to plant the first row of spuds. The First Earlies,(v.Maris Bard) are amongst the first spuds to go in on the site. The first in though were third week of feb by Steve - good luck with those!. I figured it was about time to get planting. All told, we have a total of 120 odd tubers to go in, so we'll try and do a row every couple of days. The ground (recently dug over by Neil) is not too wet and I think we'll get away with it. Time will tell! (There were plenty of raised eyebrows from those "that know" as we set about planting! I even got "told" i was throwing money away. We'll see).

The Rhubarb is seemingly flourishing, with the first stem a good 8" tall , and the second stem just appearing. There's loads more weeds too, but they're on the list. The list - boy is it growing!!

My plot neighbour (whom I've yet to meet), has decided to erect a scaffold net wall around his plot, which saves me a packet as I wont need a windbreak now. All i need now is all the other neighboring plots to do the same, and I'll be quids in. I know it looks neat and tidy, but is it really necessary ? Some people just seem to throw money at the allotment - goes against the grain with me!

The Primulas that we transplanted from Bill's garden in Strood last year, are finally coming into their own. Lets hope they do really well and keep the Bee's coming back to the plot. More flowers is the order of the day. What shall we add next ?

Finally, or should I say at last? The seed planting is underway at home. Ruby got the ball rolling this year after Grandad bought her a Tomato starter kit. These are doing ok on the kitchen windowsill, So we decided to get cracking. Regular blog readers will know we have accumulated an abundance of seed, and we're gonna try hard not to buy too much more this year!
Today's sowings include: Sweetcorn(v. Swift Early), Courgette (v.All Green Bush), Tomato's (v.Garden Pearl) - for the hanging baskets at Reads Retreat, and some Sprouts (v.Red Delicious).

That's enough to get us going. The enthusiasm is overflowing now, so watch this space for more news from the plots.

Take care all and enjoy your gardening.


One less weed!

I stopped smoking on Tuesday this week.

Now I just have to stop the weed from coming back!

Wish me luck!


Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mother's Day!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where I start this post with a shot of the lovely Roses I gave my darling wife today. Aren't they beautiful, just like Jen - love her to bits xx.
Further, can I extend a Happy Mothers day to all of you mums out there ( mine included!) - where would we be without you all.
Right after breakfast this morning I nipped to the plot to harvest yet more tasty leeks, which accompanied our Roast Pork dinner today - yum!

Whilst at the plot I took great delight in spotting that our Rhubarb crown is bursting forth from the manure mound that was unceremoniously dumped on it before Christmas. Rhubarb - as you know - is a hungry feeder, so hopefully this "rough treatment" will see us bag a bountiful harvest this year?

Thats all today folks, but really itching now to get cracking at the plot. Just need to get my health back.

Wherever you all are, I hope you are ready for the season ahead, and I wish you all a successful year.

Pop back soon for more updates from the plot.


Thursday, 11 March 2010

Digging update !

Well - what a grand job.
Neil really got his teeth into the task at hand, and we now have enough room to plant the first earlies! All I had to do was make the coffee! At least now we can get cracking!
Cheers !

Whilst at the plot, we couldn't resist harvesting a half dozen or so Leeks, some of which went into tonight's stir fry, while the rest will go into a leek tart for tea tomorrow!
We're excited now about the season ahead, and not so daunted by the mammoth tasks.
We hope you'll pop back soon for more updates from our Allotment Retreat.

Till then, take care all and enjoy your gardening.


What a gloomy day!

Skies are overcast, and there's a slight chill in the air.

But, todays the day when the help arrives. My brother in law is coming over today to help with the digging on the plot.

Will post an update later !


Monday, 8 March 2010

Chitting at last !

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. Finally we have got our seed potato's and have set about getting them chitting. This year we have decided not to grow Maincrop varieties as; despite their excellent taste, they take up a lot of ground for a long time. Also, they are readily available locally for £3.50 per 25kg sack! So, our choices ? Well, our First Earlies are Maris Bard(pictured). Although we have started the chitting process a bit late, it looks as though the planting date may also be later than usual too. The recent heavy rains have left large parts of the allotment waterlogged and unworkable. Couple that to the fact that I'm off sick from work still with my neck problem, and the planting of these seems far away! Once again we purchased these tubers through the allotment society, which proves again a great cost saving i.e. We paid £4.90 for 6kg of tubers - which is 55 tubers to be exact. Some of these are quite large and will be halved to make them go a bit further. Our choice of Second Earlies is Nadine. We grew these last year and were really impressed by the yield and their taste. These too were £4.90 for 6kg, and we'll get these chitting soon too. This represents a considerable saving over hgh street costs where, typically, 5 tubers are about a quid! The other main learning from last year is that we will not plant all at the same time, rather we'll stagger the planting for a continued crop.

Thanks must also be extended to my brother in law - Neil - who has kindly volunteered to help with the final bit of ground preparation prior to planting. I would not have been able to do this myself and am very grateful.

That's all for now, but pop back soon for more updates, our enthusiasm is growing fast for another good years growing ahead.

Take care all and enjoys your plots and gardens,


Sunday, 28 February 2010

Tempus Fugit - End of Feb 2010

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, for a long overdue update posting.

There's many reasons for my long absence - not least the weather: January was Cold, Frosty, and mostly snowy, which prevented any gardening activity what so ever. And then there was February! I awoke on the morning of 30th Jan in excruciating pain. My right shoulder and right arm in worrying agony. A trip to the emergency quack on that day left me with the diagnosis of a trapped nerve somewhere in my neck / shoulder. The treament : Morphine tabs 3 times a day for 6 weeks, as well as Happy Pills to ease the inflammation. Further doctors surgery visits followed and then the dreaded referral to a Spinal Specialist. I'm still waiting on a date for that. The pain has eased somewhat, but I've only had one good nights sleep in a month, the rest of the nights have mainly been spent sitting in an armchair covered by a quilt.

So you see, I've not ventured to the plot since 7th Jan. I've been in touch with the allotments site manager, and informed him that i will be coming back. My order of seed potato's is there waiting for me, as well as the endless job of ground preparations! Not sure how much will get done in the near future, but i cant wait to get fit enough to get stuck in !

On a happier note, I received a blog award from Tanya at Allotments4you. Awards are always welcome, more-so when you're feeling down, so I thank Tanya very much for that. In keeping with idea, the information pertaining to the award is detailed below:-

I had this award passed on to me because my blog makes her happy. That's a nice thought.

There are a few rules with this award which are as follows:

I have to link Tanya's blog to me, which I have done above.

Next, I am to list 10 things that make me happy.

Good Food.
Real Ale.
The seasons.
Natural history.
The thought that Labour will not win the next election!

Now all I have to do is pass the award on to some of my favourite bloggers...these would be:

Fiona @ The Cottage Smallholder
Nick @ The Tree House Diaries
Jo @ The Good Life
Mr H @ The Subsistence Pattern
Rosie @ Eco-Gites
Dan @ Urban Veggie Garden Blog
Carrie @ Grow Our Own
Amanda @ Eight by six
Sarah @ Our patch of earth
Layla @ Eco Experiment
Michelle @ From Seed to Table
Jenn @ Gamine's Garden

These are just a few of the blogs I read on a regular basis, that usually make me smile!

So what now ? Well, i need to see the specialist as soon as possible, and get back to work too. I cant live / survive on sick pay for too long. Also, i need to get some help on the plot - even if i have to get paid help, as i cant see myself being fit enough for a good while yet, and our second child is due in early July.

So, take care all and enjoy your gardens and gardening. Keep your blogs updated too, they are a huge incentive to me at the moment.

I hope the aforementioned bloggers happily receive their awards, and I look forward to posting a gardening update soon.


Thursday, 7 January 2010


Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. As you can see, we're bearing the brunt of the white stuff, and hence not venturing up to the plot until this lot clears. We did manage a brief outing to the plot on Wednesday this week, and were able to dig some Leeks as well as some Parsnips. I must add that both were delish, as well as a few small carrots that we managed to pull. Sadly there's been a lot of vandalism on the site recently, and a lot of plotholders sheds' have been broken into. My shed lock kept the buggers at bay, but they had a good go at the lock on my shed door, and the Hasp&Staple will need replacing. It really is soul destroying that this goes on, and short of posting Armed Guards, I cant see any ways of keeping the perpetrators at bay.

Anyhow, we hope you'll pop back soon for more updates from the plot.

Till then, take care and wrap up warm!


Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year Everyone

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat.

2010 is upon us, where did the last 12 months go ? Any ideas ??

We had a light covering of snow to welcome the new year in, and with frosts forecast for most of next week, it's hard to see when we might get to the plot!

However, wherever you are and whatever you do this year, we hope you have a fab time doing it. And we look forward to sharing our gardening exploits with you all. Keep us bookmarked - there's bound to be a break in the weather soon!