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

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. ;-)

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Codling Moth Pheromone Trap

  I am pleased that over the last several weeks the pheromone trap in my apple trees appears to be working well.  The scented rubber thing only works for a limited period of time before it runs out.
 So yesterday I opened a new scented lure and a new sticky card.  This will continue to trap the moths before they have a chance to lay eggs inside my apples.
 Apples on the two standard trees are developing well.  We are coming to the end of the 'June drop' when small apples fall naturally to the ground, but I am thinning out groups of apples to just two or even just one apple so they develop into a smaller number of larger apples instead of lots of little ones.
 A momentous moment on the plot! My first harvest in my new garden.  Yesterday I enjoyed these Romanesco courgettes for lunch.  It really is important to pick them while they are still small because it encourages more to develop.
 The Rhubarb crowns I brought with me are doing well.  To start with, you can see the older leaves started to become unhealthy and 'nibbled at' - but eventually all that lovely horse manure compost has enabled them to have a really good, healthy growth spurt.  I will NOT take any stalks of rhubarb this year, I will leave it all to develop a healthy crown below the soil.  Taking stalks will weaken the plant at this stage.
 The raspberry canes I brought with me to the new garden have also enjoyed the thick layer of horse manure compost.  Really I shouldn't allow them to fruit in the first year because they are still putting energy into developing healthy roots, but as you can see I let a couple develop fruit.  This growth will fruit next year.
 So I started a veg patch by removing turf on the lawn.  All is going really well, but due to the heat over the past few weeks it is impossible to dig any more turf, the ground is too hard.  Happy with this little patch for a start.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Matrons New Greenhouse

 I've been monitoring where the sun rises and sets in my new garden.  I've been here 9 weeks now and there is definitely a sunny side.  Above picture is first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, this is the South facing side of the garden so this is where the veggie garden and greenhouse will be.
 Here is a good solid base going in.  6ft x 8ft is a nice size.
 Matron particularly enjoyed watching the nice young Man working hard.
 Such a nice, hardworking young Man.  In no time at all I had a level concrete base which just needed curing for a few days to let it harden.   So Daisy and I locked ourselves in the house for an afternoon so as to avoid doggy paw prints all over the concrete before it dried.
 But our resident blackbird had other ideas while we were inside.
 So Daisy felt it was only fair that she should put her mark down in a long held family tradition!
 Well done Daisy!
 Matron was extremely happy that another nice Man from Vitavia came to install the greenhouse this week.  It would have been nice back in April or May... but never mind, it is here now.
Absolutely perfect!