Thursday, 30 April 2009

Going like a ..... Rocket !

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat.
This picture that welcomes you is the aptly named Rocket seed potato that I showed a picture of just 9 days ago. All the spuds planted at the time are starting to show through the weed membrane and reach up to the sun. Out of all the planting holes in this first bed, only one spud has yet to show. Lets hope they all grow on well and provide us with a bumper crop of spuds. I've grown this variety at home before, and they taste wonderful.

I managed a good few hours at the plot yesterday, and managed to plant up all my climbing beans and peas. The latter were very delicate and sadly a couple got broken during planting. Hopefully they will recover in time to put on some good growth. All the plants had grown well at home in the loo roll inners, and the protruding roots were a great indication of well they like this growing medium. I really cant see the point in forking out for plastic root trainers, especially as the rolls are completely free!

We had our first crop of Purple Sprouting Broccoli from the plot yesterday - enough to grace the table and compliment the Roast Lamb. Ruby loved it, as we all did, and hopefully we'll get a good few harvests here. There's a couple more of the growing but as yet not ready to pick. If only they'd grow as fast as the weeds! Jen has planted some of these at Reads Retreat, the more the merrier ! What a truly great FIRST harvest from the plot!

Whilst I was there, the final job of the day was to plant a row of Parsnip (v.Hollow Crown). These too were started in loo roll inners, and are therefore really easy to plant. These crops spend a long time in the ground, so I'm planning a few rows here and there to act as edging around some of the plots. One of the things I still need to get sorted is some kind a barrier across the plot. The wind whistles across the site and is a bit of a worry.
Hopefully later today I can get a few more hours in and try and repair my shed. I've invested in a sturdy Hasp & Staple, and a half decent padlock, which will hopefully deter all but the ardent thief!

Thats about it for now, but drop back soon for more news from our lottie!!

Take care and enjoy your gardens and plots,


Friday, 24 April 2009

Beans & Toms

Welcome back to our Allotment Retreat, our blog diary for the new Allotment. As you are probably all aware, we erected our bean poles a couple of weeks ago, in readiness for the large quantity of climber seeds we have been growing at home. This pic shows 1 of the 2 trays we have planted in loo rolls, and kept in our unheated growing area.
There are: Runner Beans(v.Scarlet Emperor), Climbing Peas(v. Victorian Colossal) sourced from Victoriana Nurseries, French Beans (v.Blue Lake), Purple Podded Beans(v. A Cosse Violette), and Borlotto Beans (v.Firetongue). As usual, we have grown these in loo roll inners, as these make a fantastic substitute for the more expensive root trainers that are available. The added bonus is that the loo rolls can be planted straight into the ground; so the roots are left un disturbed, and the cardboard just rots down in the soil. NB Simply click on the underlined description to take you to the retailer! I must give an extra mention to Premier Seeds Direct, I have purchased a large amount of seeds from them by Mail Order (via their Ebay store) and have been very impressed with their customer service. Its got to be worth a look?

Also, when i got home from work last night, i was pleasantly surprised to find that Jen & Ruby had potted on 22 Tomatoe seedlings into 4" Pots. Especially nice to know that Ruby helped, what a darling. Pictures to follow!

That's all for now, take care and enjoy your gardens & plots.


Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Spuds are in - all of them!

Welcome back once again to Reads Allotment Retreat, our diary blog of our new allotment venture. It's been a busy couple of days at the plot, but a lot has been accomplished. Neil (pic) popped up to the plot with me today to help plant the second spud bed. It would have been a mammoth task on my own, and would have taken a lot longer without his help. The bed was rotavated yesterday afternoon, having previously been dug over by my better half just a week ago, and I wanted to get the spuds in before too much weed growth took hold. The first to be planted today were the Maincrop (v.Cara) , of which there were about 40 tubers. They have been planted fairly closely - I'm prepared to get smaller spuds and more of them, than to go for less but bigger - if you see what i mean. As these will be in the ground the longest, it seemed a good idea to plant them in the end of the bed with the better soil. The soil at the other end has more weeds and less depth, though there is still an adequate depth for the second early crop:

Before planting the Second Earlies (v. Nadine), we covered the bed with a weed membrane, and pegged down as best we could with some pegs mum had bought me a wee while ago. These will hold this larger sheet of fabric (1.5M x 7M) firmly in place. Wind whistling across the site is a major headache not just for me, but for fellow plotholders too. Next we laid the 60 ish tubers out roughly where we were to plant them, before cutting a cross in the fabric and planting through this. The holes (with tubers in) were then lightly covered in general purpose compost before being thoroughly watered in. A lot of plotholders have asked me why I use this planting method. The simple answer is that the spuds dont need earthing up, and weed growth is severely restricted; if not, stopped, meaning that the spuds can grow without anything competing for the available moisture.

These are the pegs I used for securing the weed control membrane. They did a superb job and are really secure in the ground. I've put these on my shopping list now, as I could do with a few more packs. Does anyone know where I can buy some more ?

This might not be one of the best pictures you'll ever see here on the blog, but I just had to capture this shot of one of the First Earlies (v.Rocket) showing through the soil. Ok, it's only about half an inch tall now, but still a lovely sight to see! All I need to do now is stay vigilant in terms of watering. Spuds need good supplies of water early in their growth so that they can quickly defend against disease - scab being the main problem encountered with poor watering early in the growth. It's true though that most varieties nowadays are quite resistant to scab, but you never can be too careful.

And what update would be complete without a lovely picture of Bramley Apple blossom! I know, you've seen it before.
Now that the spuds are planted I truly believe we are getting somewhere. There's still a whole host of jobs that need doing, but I'm not going to list them here, as seeing them in Black & White might worry me a tad! In the next day or so, I'll post a further update on where we are with the seed planting at home, and there's plenty of activity there. Only today Jen planted a batch of Butternut Squash seeds, all I need to do now at the plot is make a bed to put them in. Ahhh, it's a good life!

Finally, if you're wondering how Ruby is, she is coping admirably well. For those that don't know, she fell of the bed Sunday morning and fractured her collarbone. Bless her cotton socks.

I hope you are getting on well with your gardens and plots, and that you will find a few minutes here and there to pop back to Reads Allotment Retreat.

Take care,


Monday, 20 April 2009

Thanks Bill

Welcome back once again to Reads Allotment Retreat. As today's title says, thanks due to Bill again for letting me use his Mantis Tiller. As you can see in the picture, our second spud bed is now ready for planting. Despite the few days of hard rain, the Mantis coped admirably in chopping up the huge clumps of earth. It did struggle occasionally, but on the whole has saved us a whole heap of work. This bed is approx 14 metres long, and took only a couple of hours to work over. I'll definitely start saving now for one of my own, and maybe by the autumn I will have enough to get one!
I'm hoping to get the planting underway maybe tomorrow, or failing that, sometime next week. As always, we'll keep you posted.

Take care all,


Friday, 17 April 2009

Onions - Lots of them! 14.04.09

Welcome back to our plot for another update. Despite Tuesday being overcast and a bit cooler, we decided to risk a soaking and put in a few more hours hard graft. Having managed to rotavate the beds a couple of weeks back, we needed to get our onion sets in quick to stand a chance of them taking root. Using some scrap timber floorboards raided from a skip a while ago, I managed to knock together a couple of Raised Beds for the purpose. Ably assisted by Neil, these didn't take too long, and Jen was able to get the sets in. There's approx 120 all told, a mix of White (Sturon) and Red (v.Red Baron)) as well as a couple of handful's from a fellow plotholder !After planting and watering in, we roughly fixed some mesh to the top to keep the pesky birds at bay. This can be removed as and when required.

While Jen was planting the sets, I carried on with the second row of canes for the climbing beans etc. I had to take some canes from home as I had not bought enough the day before, and really wanted to get this job finished. Hopefully in the near future, we will be planting out our collection of climbers, that have been started off in loo roll inners at home. We have to admit though, I couldn't resist planting a few bean seeds there and then!

As you can see in this pick, our collection of concrete blocks is growing. Jen decided to get the next spud bed dug over, and every now and then hit one of these with the fork! I don't mind though, we are now forming a "Free" wall with these, but i don't really relish the thought if finding too many more - they're a real pig to get out due to their weight. Also in the pic is my newly restored digging spade (thanks Bob) with a long handle. It looks cumbersome I know, but is really easy to use.

Here's that second spud bed which Jen has dug over. What a star! Hopefully next week I can borrow the Mantis Tiller again from FIL Bill and get this readied for planting. As soon as this done we'll get straight on with the planting. We have about 40 second earlies to go in (v.Nadine) as well as the maincrop (v.Cara). I'm beginning to think we are planting too many (?) but having never had the space before, it seemed like a good idea to me. Hopefully if we get a good crop we can store some into the winter. What a treat !

Looking back over the plot at the end of the day, it's very rewarding to see the clear and measurable progress we have made, not just in the last couple of days, but over the last 8 months. Already we have produce nearly at harvest stage - the Purple Sprouting Broccoli that was planted in the depths of winter is just asking to be picked, and the Red Cabbage planted at the same time are looking good too. The "cut and come again" Cauliflowers have not done too well, but were a cheap experiment.

Finally ? Well, I just couldn't resist another pic of the glorious blossom on the Bramley Apple tree. We find ourselves searching it out as soon as we arrive at the plot!

Hope you've enjoyed this; the second update, of our progress earlier in the week. Any further plans we've had since that time have been curtailed by the heavy and constant April showers!

The forecast for the weekend is somewhat better - drier, and we hope to be rotavating the freshly dug spud bed on Monday afternoon.

Please feel free to pop back soon. It's a busy couple of months ahead, and we have loads more to do. Hope you continue to enjoy your gardens & plots. Take care all,


Thursday, 16 April 2009

Busy Days

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our diary blog of our new allotment. As the title suggests, we've had some busy days in the last week, and are making great progress.
Sunday 12th -I popped up to the plot Sunday morning and purchased sufficient bamboo canes for out 2 rows of climber (about 40 in total), which at 32p each from the allotment shop is a considerable saving vs. what we would have to pay elsewhere i.e. Homebase and the like.
While I was there i booked the "lawnmower" for Monday, as the grass on the plot had not been cut since August last year! The hire from the society is 50p - for as long as it takes - and includes a full tank of juice. Not the best mowers in the world, but adequate for my needs! I also had a chance to talk to Alf about my new fruit trees. I had read that newly planted bare rooted trees should have their blossom removed in the first year to promote root growth. That seemed a bit harsh to me, and Alf's years of gardening confirmed my suspicions - that the majority of the blossom should be left intact, only removing any blossom that forms near the ground level. He also indicated that I should add plenty of GC compost around the base of the trees, to help hold in the moisture, as well as giving a good watering once a week to help the roots establish. Finally, due to an error on his part, he had ended up with 2 trays of shop bought Leek seedlings and he only needed 1, so i bought the other off him. Cheers Alf.

Monday 13th - Jen, Ruby, and I arrived at the plot around midday. We had a list of things to do - as long as a couple of arms! It was a glorious day, and being a Bank Holiday there was plenty of activity on the site. First job of the day was to collect my canes from the shop, and then get cracking with the lawnmower. Whilst I effed and blinded over the efficiency (or lack of) of the lawnmower, Jen (wifey) got on with planting up the rest of our first early potatoes. There were about 30 Rocket and 30 Maris Peer to go in. In the absence of any more free wood to construct a permanent bed, we elected to cover the rotavated bed with a weed membrane, before cutting planting holes and planting the seed potatoes through them.

After I had finished cutting the grass, I set about starting to put the bean canes up. No mean feat considering the beds are about 15' long each. My top tip for this job is to use cable ties. These are inexpensive and last better than string or twine. I find the latter gets nicked by the birds over the course of the growing season, thereby weakening the support structure. It's quicker to use ties too! While I got on with this, wifey finished the spuds planting then started on digging over the next spud bed. Ruby was not far away, and quickly joined a group of kids in kicking a football about.

This Rhubarb crown was planted last year and virtually forgotten about. Now it is putting on good growth at quite a rate.
I need to clear the grass around this crown, and allow a bit more moisture and air in. That's another one of those 5 minute jobs added to the list. I need to do a similar exercise around the Red and Black currant bushes (5 more mins) as well as cover the slats in the "pallet" compost bin (another 5 mins) - you get the picture !

This is our Bramley Apple tree, one of 3 varieties purchased from Aldi's that we recently planted. Each time we visit the plot there is a bit more growth, a bit more blossom. We are just glad that they survived being moved so soon after their initial planting; and whats more, appear to now be thriving. We don't expect a huge crop this year, though a few fruits to pick would be nice! Next year however, will hopefully be a bigger harvest ! The other trees planted at the time are: Elstar Apple (eater) and Conference Pear, and further down the plot a Victoria Plum.

Final job of the day was to find a home for this Primula which we were given. I know you cant eat them, but a splash of colour looks good!
We're off to the plot tomorrow , so we'll bring you another update soon. Pop back to see our progress. Hope you are all enjoying your gardens. Take care,


Tuesday, 7 April 2009

All systems go !

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, our guide to starting an allotment from scratch. Regular readers will know that I arranged for my father in law - Bill - to visit the plot with his Mantis Tiller. We managed to get there on 31st March, and put the tiller to good use. Despite my reservations of it's effectiveness on the stony soil of the plot, i was pleasantly surprised with how effective it actually was. It's only downfall was that it is a lightweight machine, and it has to be "persuaded" to dig down. That said though, it produced a fine tilth on the beds we used it on.
Today we descended en-mass to the plot; Wifey , Ruby, and myself ! The timber that is pictured forming the first raised bed on the plot, was donated by my neighbour "Arthur", and was sufficient to create this first spud bed. Here we have planted our first batch of First Early Spuds (v.Rocket). Thirty seeds were planted in total, and there's another 30 of this variety still chitting, so i need to perhaps buy some timber? When I say "we" . it really was a joint effort: I made the planting holes (using an old broken spade handle, Wifey sprinkled some fresh compost in the holes, and Ruby (bless her - 22months old) dropped the seeds into the holes, before Wifey provided a further sprinkling of compost on top. The black mulch layer is a cheap weed prevention fabric that i use when planting my spuds. Aldi were selling the same stuff recently ( £4.00 for 10 Metre Roll) , but you can find it cheaper. Cross shape cuts are made where you want with a sharp blade, and you simply plant through it. A few lumps of rubble / bricks will hold the fabric in place, until the spuds start to grow through. I am really glad that we got this done today, not least because there's a few days of rain forecast, which should get the growth on its way.

Our newly positioned tree's are also doing really well, and all are budding up nicely.
This pic shows the Bramley Apple, which is already adorned with lovely crimson and white buds. I read recently that in the first year the blossom should be pinched out, thereby letting the tree put most of its energy into root growth. We'll have to read up a bit more on this as it sounds a bit harsh to me ?

And finally, a pic of a rather tired chap, oh, and a Victoria Plum tree!
This tree is also doing well, and we cant wait to reap the rewards of Huw & Jane's present. I'm sure that some Plum jam will be on its way to them as a thank you!

Meanwhile on the home front, i planted a couple of trays of seeds, 1 tray of onions (v. Bedfordshire Champion) as well a 1 tray of Leeks ( v. Autumn Mammoth). Maybe a tad late on these, but with a lucky summer (who knows) the timing might just be ok!

There's been a lot of activity on the home plot too, so pop and have a peek when you get a chance.

That's it for now. Hope you've enjoyed this update, and we hope to see you soon.