Down on the Allotment

Matron grows vegetables and fruit in a Hampshire garden. I've been growing veggies since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Some traditional varieties and old favourites as well as new ideas. I share my garden with my allotment assistant Daisy the Labrador. On Twitter as @MatronsVeggies

Friday, November 09, 2018

Matron goes winkling!

 This takes me back to childhood holidays in Cornwall!  Whilst out on a seaside walkies along the Solent I saw these winkles - or common periwinkles at low tide.
 I checked with a local wildlife warden that the sea quality in this part of the Solent is excellent!  Strong tides bring fresh water to the area twice a day.
 So I picked a bucket of winkles from the rocks and picked some seaweed to pack with them.  After cleaning thoroughly I soaked them overnight in salt water to allow them to filter out any sand or impurities.
 Boil in salty water , with the seaweed, for about 10 minutes and then cool in the fridge for a couple of hours. 
Fiddly work to get them out of their shells with a needle or a pin (my Grandfather was a London pawnbroker so we have some long pawnbrokers pins for the task)  It is well worth the effort.  Serve with vinegar and pepper on a slice of wholemeal bread.  Perfect!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


 I collected three hybrid layers a couple of weeks ago.  They have settled down really quickly and started laying beautiful eggs almost straight away.  They are calm and curious and they don't seem to mind Daisy poking her nose at them from time to time.
 This Eglu chicken coop is really easy to use and easy to clean too.
 Ta Dah!
 Early this Summer I hung a pheromone lure in my apple trees, but unfortunately it didn't work as well as I had hoped.  Many of the apples still have maggots inside them.  I'm certain I put the lure up at the right time, but maybe the Summer was just a really good year for the fruit moth, or these trees were already so badly infested it will take a bit more work. 
So I bought a sticky grease band to wrap around the trunk of the tree.
Winter moths climb up the trunk of the tree ready to lay their eggs next Spring in the developing apples.  So maybe this, plus another pheromone lure next year might do the trick!   The sticky band might even catch something bigger..... I hope not.... but you never know!
Exciting news!  I bought a Peach tree for my new house.   I have a lovely South facing dry wall at the front of my house, so this espalier pruned Redhaven Peach should do well here.  This variety has some resistance to peach leaf curl, but this wall is very dry anyway so fingers crossed.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Hot Stuff!

 I've been picking chillis nearly every day now.  Wait until they are fully red and then harvest them.  This will enable unripe chillis on the plant to develop. Don't leave them on the plant when they are ready to be picked, you will inhibit the ripening of the others.
 So these Transylvanian Targu Mures chillis are on a plate in my airing cupboard. 
 Same here with these Joe's Long Cayenne chillis. Drying slowly in a warm cupboard.
 Meanwhile back on the plot, these Physalis are beginning to ripen.  Hanging underneath the branches these plants look really lush and healthy.
 I planted two plants here next to each other, they need a partner for good pollination.
And here they are!  Really lovely, sweet fruit.  I can highly recommend giving them a go.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Matron's Maggoty Apples

 I have two beautiful apple trees in my new garden.  They are so lovely and I have enjoyed sitting under the shade of the trees this hot Summer.
 One is definitely a Bramley apple tree, but I don't know the eating apple identity.
 So last week I sent off 3 apples, a twig with a bud and some leaves, and a cheque to the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent.  They provide a fruit identification service this time of year.  I wait eagerly to find out what I have in my new garden.
 Meanwhile, although I put up my codling moth pheromone trap at exactly the right time of year, I do seem to have a problem with maggoty apples.  These are fairly old trees, perhaps the infestation was quite severe, perhaps the hot Summer had an effect on the numbers?  I don't know really. 
I'll put a grease band on both the trees this Winter to catch some of the Winter moths climbing up the trunk (hopefully I won't catch any passing Labradors!!!)  and I will put up the moth trap again next year and see if it improves.  Any ideas why the codling moth trap didn't work? Anyone?

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Matron goes to the Village Show

 I moved down to the New Forest in April this year, to a beautiful Village called Sway.  So of course one thing I did straight away was to join the local Gardening Club.
 So for the first time here, I decided to put an entry in to the show.  Lots of wonderful fruit, veg and flowers on show.  I've not done this before so I had quite a few of my lovely Delistar cucumbers in the greenhouse to choose from.
 So these two were the pair that matched well for size, shape and appearance.
So I displayed them in the village church first thing in the morning... then I had to wait until 2pm when the show opened.....


Powdery Mildew

 I bet all of you out there suffer from powdery mildew at this time of year.  It is inevitable really, in dry weather it tends to become more prevalent, but just makes these courgette leaves look scruffy.   But just recently I was at a local cheese and wine party, and one of the speakers used to work in an organic vineyard where grape vines suffered from powdery mildew.
 I am just itching to try this remedy, but organic wine growers used a tea made from either mares tails, or stinging nettles to help combat mildew.  Boil up the mares tails in water for about 30 minutes and make a weak tea, then when it is cold spray it on the affected leaves, or on unaffected leaves to prevent mildew.  The active ingredient is salicylic acid (aspirin!)  Makes sense with stinging nettles because they do make a nice tea which is said to have healing and anti inflamatory properties! Maybe that is why! -  Can't wait to try this remedy next year and see if it makes any difference!
 Meanwhile, about a week ago I planted some of these specially prepared Charlotte new potatoes for harvest at Christmas.  I suppose these have been kept refrigerated to fool the tubers into thinking it was Winter, then when I planted them they think it is Spring!
 Just look at the growth in just one week!  A nice potato bag in the greenhouse, with some nice compost will keep it warm enough.  I've left a few inches at the top of the sack to earth up when they get taller.  Looking good for now.
 Looking forward to New Potatoes at Christmas!
Meanwhile, I don't think my Pheromone codling moth trap is working.  I hung out the pheromone trap as advised at the right time of year, and still many of my apples have maggots.  I have two beautiful, full size apple trees which may have had a long term infestation.  This Winter I will try a grease band at the bottom of the tree to catch the Winter moths, as well as a pheromone trap next Summer.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Second Sowings

 You may find that runner beans find it very hard to set pods in this dry weather.   You may find that giving the flowers a shower with the hose on a daily basis may help.   They also love to have moist roots, you really cannot over water runner beans, so after a good water make sure the roots have a good mulch.  They are also greedy feeders so keep up the feeding as well.
 I am growing Physalis this year.   I picked up one plant earlier this year at a local fete,  I then remembered that these really do need a pollination partner to set fruit.   I remember having problems with my Mexican tomatillo plants a couple of years back.  They do much better if they have another plant or several plants with which to cross pollinate.
 I have made some second sowings of some of my veggies.  Already my Romanesco Courgettes and my Delistar Cucumbers are doing really well and cropping every day, but I know they will start to get tired in a couple of weeks and there will be plenty more heat and day length to come in September and October.  I've also made a quick second sowing of some dwarf French beans.  They will come up quickly in this weather.
It is hot, hard work in this heatwave, so my lovely garden assistant Daisy is supervising from a comfy spot! Thanks Daisy!

Monday, August 06, 2018

Cabbage White Pests

 Every day I go out and find yet another load of Cabbage White Butterfly eggs.  When these broccoli plants are still in their pots, It is fairly easy to go round every leaf on every plant and just squish the eggs between finger and thumb, being careful not to damage the leaves.  This is time consuming, but they are growing well and I seem to be keeping on top of it.
 I caught this one having a quick lay on my Purple Sprouting Broccoli seedling!
 It was too slow!   One down.... a couple of million to go!
 Elsewhere on the plot I have a glut of Romanesco Courgettes.. I am finding novel ways of using them with everything I cook.  Yesterday it was on a vegetarian pizza!
How could I ignore the pleading eyes of my garden assistant?

Matron Does Twitter!

Matron has woken up and smelled the 21st Century!!  You can now follow my Twitter adventures @MatronsVeggies

Monday, July 16, 2018

Unusual edibles

 Since moving down to the New Forest in Hampshire in April this year, I have been enjoying the stunning coastal scenery.  One of the delicacies to be foraged in salt marsh land is Samphire.  This succulent plant grows close to the ground and is known by different names in various parts of the UK. 'Poor man's asparagus' is one that comes to mind.  Eaten raw it tastes a bit like a cross between spinach and sea water!!!  Next time I see some I will bring some home and steam it - see if it tastes better cooked!
 Matron is starting on a new venture in the new garden.  I have obtained this Eglu chicken run, and in a few days' time I hope to start a new family!  Exciting times ahead.  Not sure yet how Daisy will take to these critters invading her garden....
 I have purchased layers pellets and mixed grain for starters. I do hope they will be able to recycle kitchen waste, weeds, various slugs, snails and insects... and turn them into eggs for me!
 Now here's a thing.   I bought a physalis plant at a local fete.  Otherwise known as Chinese lantern, golden berry or cape gooseberry, this fruit grows inside a paper lantern.  I seem to remember in the past that pollination can be problematic with only one plant, and so, I managed to obtain a second plant locally so pollination should be good.
 In my new greenhouse I am growing some shoots that appeared on one of my purple sweet potatoes.  It may be a little late in the season to start these (they do need a longer growing season) but the warm weather here  in the UK has meant they are making great progress.  I have just potted them up into a larger pot in the greenhouse.  Sweet potatoes are a relative of bindweed!!
 I've been meaning to try this for ages.  Seaweed extract is something you see on plant food labels and so I decided to see if I could make some liquid fertiliser in the same way that you make comfrey liquid.  So here goes! 
 I collected a few bags of different types of seaweed and gave it a good wash to remove the salt.  Some of this seaweed has air bladders on it to help it float in the water, so this was definitely helped with the use of a piece of concrete to weigh it down in the water.
So this will sit in a quiet corner of the garden for a few weeks to see if it will rot down to make a liquid feed.  Watch this space!
P.S.  I have noted with pride that many of Matron's ideas usually end up on the pages of gardening magazines, or on TV gardening programmes!  I've not seen this done before, so keep your eyes peeled, and programme and magazine editors are sure to pick up on this one for an interesting topic. ;-)