Friday, 27 November 2009

Swapping Seeds .

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. There's not much to report from the plot at the moment, as due to the recent bad weather and my recent illness (now - fully recovered- thanks for all your good wishes) I have not set foot on the plot in a couple of weeks.
We have not been idle though, and recently we arranged a seed swap with a fellow blogger in Canada! Dan at "Urban Veggie Garden Blog" posted an update recently about "Vermont Cranberry Beans", and they sounded delicious. After making contact we were delighted when Dan agreed to send some seed in exchange for some of our seeds. We were delighted to receive these this morning, and were surprised also by some "extra" seeds which we had not expected: "Cherokee Purple Tomato". We are always keen to try new varieties, and are now eagerly awaiting the spring so we can get planting. The weather in that area of Canada seems similair to ours, and we hope the seed swap proves fruitful.

If any other readers would like to exchange some seeds, then please get in touch! We would love to try more varieties from around the world. In a recent posting, we listed the varieties / quantities we have in stock, so you can clearly see what we can afford to swap.

Thats all for now, but we hope you can pop back soon for more updates from the plot.

Take care all and enjoy your gardening / growing.


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Plans for next year

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. Sadly, there's not a great deal of plot activity to report. I'm due back at work this Friday after my illness, and don't want to risk anything before then. I have; however, been perusing the seed catalogues, and have found these climbing French Beans (v.Golden Gate) in the Dobies lists. We grew a dwarf variety of these this year on our home plot, and they were great, not least because due to their colour they are easy to spot on the plants! I have been tempted to grow v.Cobra too, but we have so many seeds saved from our Blue Lake crop that we will probably grow these again next year, and see how we get on!

The other option that has sprung to mind recently concerns Sweetcorn. This year at Reads Retreat we really struggled with germination of sweetcorn seed, although we did manage a small crop eventually! One of my favourite nurseries - Victoriana - are selling Sweetcorn(v.Swift Early) as plug plants, so we might buy from there instead, or as well as growing our own. Postage costs are too much for me, I'd rather go and visit the nursery, and say hi to Stephen and his family while we are there. Seriously, if you are close enough to visit, then I suggest you do! It really is a worthwhile trek!

Thanks too, to Fiona at The Cottage Smallholder blog, for pointing me in the direction of The Tree House Diaries, a great site and a good read - luv it!

Thats about it for now, but pop back soon for more news from Reads Allotment Retreat.

Enjoy your gardening!


Monday, 16 November 2009

Best Blog Award!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where we bring you news that we have been awarded a "Best Blog Award" from Jo at "The Good Life". It's so nice to receive an award - it lets us know that we're not only reaching our target audience, but that we are blogging about something of interest to others.Thank you.

Of course, this now gives us the chance to nominate some more blogs for the award.
Here are the rules:-

Post the award on your blog (including the above picture) along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Choose 15 blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them. Don't forget to leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

The 15 bloggers we would like to pass this award on to - in no particular order are as follows:-

  1. Mr H @ Subsitence Pattern - read about Sun Roots!
  2. Rosie @ Eco-Gites - a great eco-friendly read.
  3. Tanya @ Allotments4you - an inspiration to us all.
  4. Dan @ Urban Veggie Garden Blog - a small thank you for the seed swap!
  5. Carrie @ Grow Our Own - for shining a light through her words.
  6. Matron @ Down on the allotment - always full of new ideas.
  7. Amanda @ Eight by six - a fellow local blogger.
  8. Sarah @ Our patch of earth - worth a read for the chickens saga !
  9. Eliane @ Faites Simple - making a go of a new life in San Fran
  10. Daphne @ Daphne's Dandelions - provides a link to report your harvests !
  11. Layla @ Eco Experiment - living with Zero waste.
  12. Sue @ Making a house a home - Stunning photography.
  13. Michelle @ From Seed to Table - Great list of cookbooks
  14. Jenn @ Gamine's Garden - Quality blogging
  15. Fiona @ The Cottage Smallholder - some superb recipes here!
We hope you will all accept this award as we think you have great blogs. We have also found it fun to follow the recipient's links to the blogs they have nominated as it's a great way to find other great blogs.

Please leave us a comment in this post so that we know you have accepted the award. On seeing your comments, we can then leave congratulatory comments for you too !

That's all for now, enjoy your blogging!


Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sorting the seeds - at last!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat. It's a sunny; though wet and windy, wintery morning. There's no hope whatsoever of me getting to the plot today, manly due to continued poor health, but also due to the fact the ground will be saturated following the last 36 hours ish of rain we've had. And, it's still raining! Yesterday afternoon i finally started to sort out our seed storage boxes, the pic shows the allotment box on the left, and the Reads Retreat box on the right. I've been putting this job off for an age, but finally started. The first job was to write a handwritten list of opened and unopened packets. Some seed is surely too old to be viable, but the majority should be good for the next couple of seasons. Those that are too old will be offered to fellow readers around the world ( please - just pay the postage via Paypal) before being put in the bin. It's possible that someone should want them. Take a look at the list and let me know if anything takes your fancy! Email & payment please to After 4 weeks, all surplus seeds will be binned! The generated list - complete with Sow by dates - looks like this:

Unopened Packs:

Chervil(v.Simple) SB2012
Cabbage(v. Golden Acre/Primo) SB2011
***Swede(v.Ruby) SB2008***
Carrot(v.Chantenay Red Cored 2) SB2012
Parsnip(v.White Gem) SB 2012
Kale(v.Nero di Toscana) SB2012
Courgette(v.AstiaF1) SB2012
Beetroot(v.Solo F1) SB2010
Sprouting Broccoli(v.Early Purple) SB2011
Onion(v.Bedfordshire Champion) SB2012
Spring Onion(v.Toga) SB2011
Tomato(v.Garden Pearl) SB2012
Kale(v.Dwarf Green Curled) SB2011
Marrow(v.Tiger Cross) SB2010
Parsnip(v.Tender and True) SB2010
Cabbage(v.Red Acre) SB2010
Carrot(v.Jaune du Doubs) SB2010
Cabbage(v.Mammoth Red Rock) SB2010
Carrot(v.Early Nantes) SB 2012

From this list, the Swede seeds will be replaced with fresh stock, so if you want these, let me know!

And now the "Opened" packs, incl. seed count where possible:

Borlottii (v. Lingua di Fuoco-Firtongue x 25 seeds) SB2009
Climbing Purple Bean(v. A Cosse Violette x 10 seeds) SB2010
French Bean(v.Dwarf Yellow x 8 seeds) SB2010
Calendula (v.Fiesta Mix x 30 seeds) SB2009
Winter Squash(v.Burgess Buttercup x 8 seeds) SB2010
Sweetcorn(v.Swift Early x 5 seeds) SB2009
Butternut Squash(v.Hunter x 5 seeds) SB2010
Beetroot(v.Chioggia x 150 seeds) SB2010
Onion(v.Bedfordshire Champion) SB2010
Leek(v.Autumn Mammoth 2 / Snowstar) SB2011
Peas(v.Victorian Climbing x 50 seeds) SB2010
Peas(v.Kelvedon Wonder x 50 seeds) SB2008
Squash(v.Summer Crookneck x 25 seeds) SB2009
Sweetcorn(v.Extra Early Sweet x 12 seeds) SB2010
Courgette(v.Zucchini Yellow x 2 seeds) SB2010
Kale(v.Frosty F1) SB2009
Tomato(v.Moneymaker x 10 seeds) SB2009
Cauliflower(v.All year round) SB2009
Cabbage(v.January King 3 /Savoy x 50 seeds) SB2009
Turnip(v.Golden Ball x 100 seeds) SB2008
Swiss Chard(v.Zilver x 10 seeds) SB2009
Spinach Beet(v.Perpetual x 30 seeds) SB2010
Parsnip(v.Hollow Crown x 30 seeds) SB2011
Courgette(v.All Green Bush x 10 seeds) SB2012
Chili Pepper(v.Cayenne x 10 seeds) SB2011
Leek(v.Musselburgh x 20 seeds) SB2009
Brussel Sprouts(v.Red Delicious x 20 seeds) SB2008
Kale(v.Dwarf Green Curled x 50 seeds) SB2011
Parsnip(v.Hollow Crown x 20 seeds) SB2010
Cabbage(v.Golden Acre/Primo x 200 seeds) SB2009
Fennel(v.Florence x 200 seeds) SB2010
Carrot(v.Autumn King2 x 1000 seeds) SB2012

As if that wasn't enough, we are also drying & storing our own "saved" seeds from:
Runner Beans (v.Unknown - Grandad's mix)
Dwarf Yellow French Beans
Climbing Purple French Beans
Blue Lake Climbing french beans.

And finally (!), we grew a couple of Squash (v.Turks Turban) that didn't grow very big - I'm toying with the idea of saving the seeds from these and trying again next year!

So as you can see, we have a lot to work with. We just need to now work out what we are going to grow, buy more seed as required, and get rid of the older / less viable seeds! We'll put together a list from these 2 lists of what we're getting rid of, and then it's a first come / first served basis if you want to save any from the bin.

Pop back soon for another update from RAR.


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Slow, but steady progress!

Welcome back to Reads Allotment Retreat, where finally we bring some news from the plot! (Albeit old news as due to my recent illness I've not lifted a spade now for a good couple of weeks).
Our first view today is of our new potato bed, which is slowly but surely being dug ready for next springs planting's. The bed was home this year to our climbing beans, and is now almost completely dug over. Progress has been slow as it had only been shallow dug for the beans. There's also a multitude of stones and weeds to remove as we go. We are digging down now to a minimum of 1 spit (a spade's depth) and opening up the final layer before replacing the turned and weeded earth. This, together with a generous top dressing of our plot made compost (more of that later) , should be sufficient growth depth for the 6 rows of spuds that are planned. The beds that were home to the spuds last year are now earmarked for different crops, as we try and form a mini plot rotation. We won't be bothering with a 4 year rotation as the space and layout would make this difficult, but we may get a 3 year plan underway! The soil itself is now looking good, and the nitrogen rich roots from the climbing beans have been left to rot down where they grew, thus enriching the soil further over the winter. We don't plan to manure the ground this year, rather wait until next autumn. This will let the spuds do the work of breaking up the soil further over the course of next year.

If you look closely at the picture above, you will notice that there is a large mound the length of one side of the bed. This is the result of emptying our compost bin (pictured left), so that we can once again fill it up! The content was mostly topsoil turves that we had cleared away - approx 4" deep - so that we could get a head start last year with planting up our new plot. This autumn / winter's compost will be more "green" material, including weeds and veg leaves, and will probably be topped up with more turves from Plot 87 as we start to clear that. We must have composted and made a good half ton of topsoil, and this will be spread around the plot as we go, helping us to create the good tilth that is required for new plantings. Unfortunately, there's still another compost bin adjacent to this one that needs emptying, but good too in the fact that we haven't got to fork out (no pun intended) for more topsoil. This to me is the heart of having an allotment. I often gasp at fellow plotholders stories and tales of how much they have spent "buying in" topsoil to get to the same stage. How easily some people waste money eh?
Finally, a view to remind us (as if a reminder were needed!) of the hard work that still awaits on our new plot. There's been no progress on our winter project - the greenhouse - but by siting the structure where it is now, we have discovered an otherwise hidden and well established Asparagus bed - aren't we lucky! This will supplement our efforts at home, and hopefully yield a decent crop next April.
There's a lot of work still to do, but we think we are starting to gain the upper hand. As Percy Thrower used to say, " a little work done often is the key", and that is what we are doing. Hopefully you'll stick with us as our 2nd year of allotmenteering draws near, and we look forward to welcoming you back soon.

Take care all; wherever in the world you are, and enjoy your gardens.


Monday, 9 November 2009

20 years since the wall came down

Crikey - where has all that time gone!

I remember Radio 1 played "Wind of Change" by the Scorpions, constantly!

(Click here for the lyrics)

Where will we be in 20 years time ?

Knee deep in mud probably!!!

Check back soon for an allotment update !


Sunday, 8 November 2009

91 Years of Rememberance 08.11.2008

Armistice Day is upon us again. Save a prayer for those who died, those who remember, and those that will never forget.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae