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,