Down on the Allotment

Matron grows vegetables and fruit in a courtyard garden. Which edibles will tolerate less than ideal growing conditions. Discovering how veggies can grow in partial shade.

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!

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Getting started

 I've had these runner bean seeds in my seed box for a couple of years.  I bought them from a heritage seed stand at the Hampton Court Flower Show and I do like to try new varieties.  So I just decided to do a germination test before I planted them.  Absolutely fine!  kept them in the kitchen between two layers of wet kitchen paper to see if they germinated.  These Purple Runner Beans are growing fine now.  Looking forward to saving some seed later in the year.
 I have a lovely South facing patio so I am just getting started with a few grow bags.  These metal stands are really good, you can put 3 plant support canes in each bag and I have found that tomatoes and chillis do really well in these.
 Now the exciting news!  I cut my first turf this week.  I have observed where the sunniest part of the garden is, and I am making a vegetable bed along one side of the garden.  I am just cutting a strip of turf every couple of days and planting my veggies.
 This soil is wonderful sandy loam.  I've not had this type of soil before, I lived in London all my life and it was always heavy London clay before.  So I am excited at the thought of being able to grow straight carrots!! Yay!
 So a cause for celebration this week as my first Romanesco courgette plants went into the ground. Every couple of days I will turf another strip and plant some more.
And even more exciting news.... as we speak the concrete base foundations are being dug for my new greenhouse! Lots going on here in Matron's new allotment garden!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What to do with garden waste

 I've been making progress in my new garden.  These lovely Romanesco courgette seeds were up and germinated within just 3 days.  It has been exceptionally warm in the last week here in the South of the UK.
 I was out in my front garden doing some work and this blackbird was just so excited, he was hopping between my feet and right under my trowel to get to the creepy crawlies that I was digging up.  Top of the menu was some lovely chafer grubs I disturbed.
My new local authorty here is the New Forest district council, and unlike my old home in London they do not take away garden waste along with the household waste.  You have to pay for each single garden waste bag (£30 per year) which is collected every 2 weeks.   I could fill one of those bags in 5 minutes so I am having to make regular trips to the council dump at the moment.  An interesting way of disposing of nasty weeds like dandelion, dock, bindweed is to soak it underwater in a bucket and make a liquid plant feed - just as you would with comfrey or nettles.   Make those pesky weeds work in my favour for a change!
 Garden waste and lawn clippings which are suitable for composting go in my new bin.  Grass on its own must be mixed with brown leaves, twigs and cardboard to make a good healthy mix of nitrogen and carbon.
 I brought some Tayberry cuttings from my old garden, they seem to be doing well in their new spot.  A Tayberry is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry.  I seem to have a sandy loam soil here in the New Forest, so a good dressing of my horse manure compost was just the ticket.
Meanwhile the tomatoes and chillis are pretty much ready to be planted out.  I must be absolutely sure there will be no more frosts before I put them out in their final position.  As they say in Scotland (apparently..) "Ne'er cast a clout till May is out" - so there you have it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Codling Moth Trap

 I have inherited two old apple trees in my new garden.  They are covered in blossom at the moment, even after a first pruning a couple of weeks ago to bring them under control.  I thought I would try to control the number of maggots in the apples when they crop, so the timing of a codling moth trap is important.
 Over the past May Bank holiday weekend in the UK we have had some unprecedented hot weather here and the nights have been warm too.  The bees were busy pollinating the flowers and nearly all of them have now gone over and the petals have started to drop.
 The instructions state that the normal time that the moths fly and attack the apples is during warm nights in mid to late May, but it does mention exceptionally warm weather may encourage them to come out earlier, so I decided to put the trap out now.
 A little rubber plug has been impregnated with the scent of a female codling moth.  All the little  Boy moths fly around looking to get lucky, smell a willing Female moth inside the trap... fly in... and get stuck on the sticky card.  I will keep checking over the next days and weeks to see if anything flies in.
The trap is hung in the trees at head hight, it is effective for an area of about 15 metres (50 feet) of the trap and should last about 5 weeks before a second pheromone lure and another sticky mat is replaced.  This takes me up to the beginning of July when I will replace it for another 5 weeks.   What I am going to do with tons and tons of eating apples this Autumn is on my mind now.  Perhaps I could buy a small press?  Make apple juice or cider?...

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Planting Out

 Many of the pots I brought with me during the move need to be planted out as soon as possible.  Plants are just beginning a major growth spurt as the weather warms up.  These rhubarb crowns will perk up in a while, they had been in pots since February.
 A good amount of my well rotted horse manure and a couple of days of heavy rain will give them the best start possible.  I won't be picking any sticks this year, and very few next year to give them an opportunity to build up healthy roots.
 The raspberry canes have travelled well.  This new growth looks healthy and vigorous. I'm pretty sure this is an Autumn fruiting variety which fruits on this years' growth in about September.  I probably won't allow it to put energy into flowers or fruit this year. So if I see any developing I will prune them out so they have a chance to establish well.  I sprinkled some mycorrhizal fungi on the roots as I was planting them.  I've had good results with this in the past.  The fungi (when in direct contact with the roots) enables the plant to better take up nutrients from the soil.
 Needless to say, these also had a good helping of well rotted horse manure and some heavy rain to get them started.
 According to the land surveys prior to the purchase of this new house, the soil is described as 'sandy loam' - it certainly looks and feels like it.  I might invest in a soil testing kit just to see what I have here, but like the rest of the New Forest it will be an acid soil.
Meanwhile, Daisy has been making herself at home watching the seagulls down on the Quay at Lymington.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Matron is Happy!

 I know I am among friends here, so I can share my excitement at seeing this sign at the side of the road the other day.  Only 5 minutes from home I went to visit this morning with a couple of large bags and a fork!
Perfect stuff!  Tons and tons of it, and I could park my car right next to it.
At the far end of the heap, just dig a little and this is lovely mature well rotted manure from mostly hay, straw and some wood chippings.  Friable, crumbly and wonderful!
At the other end was the hot stuff.  Steaming and hot!  This will get my new compost heap going when added to some grass clippings, torn up cardboard and dry leaves.  A nice combination of green and brown, nitrogen and carbon. 
So this lovely bag of well rotted manure will be just the stuff to help me plant my rhubarb crowns and my raspberry canes in my new garden.   Matron is Happy today!