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.

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!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Building a Compost Bin

 What a perfect housewarming prezzie! The first thing I have to do before I do anything in my new garden is get myself a compost bin.  Mowing the lawn, trimming my bush (Oooh Matron!), just has to wait until I have somewhere to make compost.
 So I bought myself a handy little cordless drill and got down to it this afternoon. 
 The bottom layer of planks are fixed in to the bottom of the corner posts so it creates a solid square frame.  I am siting the compost area in the darkest area at the corner of an otherwise sunny, South facing garden.
 Once the bottom layer of planks were fixed firm, I just slotted in the other planks on the other sides.
 So now the compost bin is ready to start brewing!  Daisy's Sister lives nearby at a local riding and livery stable here in the New Forest.  So my new best friend can let me have an unlimited supply of fresh horse manure!  What more could a Girl want?  Newly mown grass, hedge clippings and fresh horse manure!  I know that all my fellow veggie growers will understand.
So, Daisy made the first contribution! My little 'Compostador'

Friday, April 20, 2018

Matron's New Garden

We've arrived!  Just last Friday Daisy and I moved into our beautiful house in the New Forest, Hampshire.  I am looking forward to sharing the beginnings of my new veggie garden.  Another exciting devlopment here is that my broadband speeds are much better, so whereas my old house took 15 minutes to upload a photo, here it is a mere 15 seconds!
 Straight down to business!  The main feature that swayed my decision to buy this house was the beautiful garden with two full size eating apple trees.  You can see from these photos that they are in need of some pruning.  We are just getting to the end of the season where you can do pruning before they spring into life for the Summer.
 I have found a wonderful local gardener who has good knowledge of how to prune trees rather than just hack away at them.  It is an art as well, deciding which branches stay and which go. You can see that many of these branches overlap, cross each other and grow inwards.  Apparently with a well pruned tree, a bird is supposed to be able to fly through the tree without hitting a branch!
 These lovely old trees are full of character, as well as a covering of moss and lichen.
The growth of lichens are a good sign that I have much cleaner air down here than I did in London.   The trees are going to get their first prune in the next couple of days so I am itching to get started on the garden.
Previous owners filled up a compost bin with last years' windfalls - so I think I am going to start a new compost heap!  Oh what fun!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Matron is on the Move!

So here is my new plot!  Haven't moved in yet, waiting for the lawyers to do their little dance and give me a moving date.  Hopefully in the first couple of weeks of April.   The left side of the garden is Northeast facing, and the back of the house is South South West facing.  You can see where the shadows are that even in early January the back of the house still gets the sunshine!

Two beautiful eating apple trees in the garden and otherwise a blank canvas!  I am thinking a compost heap will be built in the far North corner, and raised beds on the sunny side?  As you know, "Matron doesn't do flowers"  so I would be interested to hear your design suggestions?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

I'm Still Here!

 Don't worry readers - I'm still here but have been very quiet of late.  Matron is on the move again, this time to an amazing house and garden in the New Forest.   So I am beginning to pack up some of my faithful friends in the garden.  Actually January and February are quite a good time to lift and divide plants, especially this rhubarb.  I've managed to lift a few rhubarb crowns into pots ready to plant out in my new garden.
 This blackcurrant bush was a single stem that I planted in the ground just 2 years ago. You can see the main stem in the centre has two lovely side shoots.  I pruned this down to just 3 lovely stems and it came up nicely into a pot.  I can trace the ancestry of this plant to my last allotment garden, where it was a gift from my Sisters garden about 15 years ago.  Isn't it lovely that you can keep memories going through plants and their progeny?
 I have a wonderful Tayberry planted in my garden too.  Last Summer I layered one of the long shoots down into some soil, and last week I was pleased to find that it had rooted well and a new shoot is appearing.  This will go into my new garden as well.
 and my lovely Raspberry canes too.  January and February are just perfect for gently lifting these canes and their roots into a pot for transplanting. I don't expect any fruit the first year.  For any of these plants I will allow them at least a year to settle and grow new leaves and roots before allowing any fruit.
And finally here are some of my strawberries.  This is a variety I found a few years ago called Buddy!  Regular readers will remember that my lovely black dog Buddy was my faithful garden companion for many years.  Now his great great great Grandchildren will be coming with me to my new home.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Trip to Slovenia

 Just a couple of weeks ago I made a short trip to Slovenia.  Stayed here in Ljubljana, the most amazing city.  In fact Lublijana was awarded the Green Capital of Europe in 2016.  Recycling everywhere in the city centre, cars are prohibited from the old historic centre and most areas are pedestrian and bicycle only.    This wonderful street market is open 7 days a week, all year round.
Local restaurants sell dishes inspired by local food which is in season!  How wonderful is that?  Living a green life and eating local food is the norm here!
Here, the market stalls at the moment have individual local people who have harvested their own crops and brought them to market.  Ladies here go out into the forests to pick mushrooms like these wonderful ceps here.
One of the local specialties in Eastern Slovenia is Pumpkin Seed Oil.  You can buy it toasted or raw.  This is so delicious, if you ever get to try it I most highly recommend it.   The first course of many restaurants here is local bread dipped in pumpkin seed oil.
Oh... and there is this!  Prekmurska Gibanica  - layers of filo pastry, apples, poppy seeds, walnuts and curd cheese.   I enjoyed this several times, actually not sickly sweet like so many deserts but just natural sweetness from the apples and a little icing sugar on top.
Driving through the countryside in Slovenia you could see walnut trees everywhere.  So again in the local market people harvested and sold their own fresh walnuts.  I couldn't resist these!