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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday!

Last week I came by a lovely bucketful of wood ash. This is a wonderful fertilizer containing potassium... if you think about it... potash..... anyway you can save any wood ash from bonfires or log fires to put on the fruit trees in your garden. Please don't use just any old bonfire ashes, it must be wood ash. While I'm on the subject of soft fruit, this time of year you can do a simple piece of maintenance on your goosberry bushes. Just scrape the top inch of soil away around the surface of the soil under your gooseberry bush (if you are really lucky you might find a baby boy or girl there) this exposes the soil in which the gooseberry sawfly has laid its eggs and larvae will hatch soon and demolish your foliage. This time of year, the hungry birds will soon peck away at the exposed soil and eat all the eggs and larvae - this really worked for me last year - saves having to use a pesticide spray later in the year.
Soft fruit will benefit from this potash feed early in the season, strawberries..
Loganberries, raspberries, and particularly your apple trees! Give your apple trees a helpful start to the season!
The latest report from under the black dustbin reveals that my forced rhubarb has nearly doubled in size in just 4 days! (see previous post). Finally, just to let you know that Matron is giving up shopping in supermarkets for Lent!! Had my last visit to Sainsbury's today!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Forcing Rhubarb

Just a week ago I found a discarded black plastic dustbin in a skip. I had been looking for something to completely exclude all light from my rhubarb crowns. This patch of 'Timperley Early' is nearly 4 years old, so the plant is strong enough to withstand forcing. Just by excluding all light during the first few months of growing produces much sweeter and more tender sticks of rhubarb at the beginning of the season. This does put somewhat of a strain on the plant, but this is a patch of rhubarb which I am going to move, dig up or give away next year.
Many more of my first set of early tomato seedlings have germinated in my heated propagator. Once again the variety I have named Great Wall of China is well ahead, all 7 of the seeds planted are up. 100% germination rate in 7 days!
Shallots 'Pikant' have been planted in modules in the unheated part of the greenhouse just to get them off to a good start. They seem to be responding well to the increasing day length.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli 'Rudolph' is still producing fantastic spears every week. This should keep me going until the main crop starts in April.
Finally, the old bird box is on its last legs, so it came down today... down with the old...
And up with the new!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

First out of the starting blocks!

First tomato to germinate in my heated propagator was this one! Planted on 14th February and already 1cm tall. Just 5 days to germinate! 'Liberated' from the greenhouse at West Dean gardens last year.
An exciting find - I have quite a few seeds, from these early indications they seem fertile and full of life.... or should that be 'chi' ?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Affair with the Love Apple

I cannot be the only person who keeps collecting more and more tomato varieties! Nowadays I seldom buy tomatoes except if I want a specific F1 hybrid such as Sungold. I collect quite a few from seed and I have been blessed with some swaps from fellow bloggers. My tomato collection reflects my love of travel, and thus I have seeds from Quebec, Azores and from the Great Wall of China (via West Dean Gardens). There doesn't seem to be the space to grow as many as I'd like. Today I planted a few Ildi, Great Wall of China, Noir du Crimee, Sub Arctic Plenty and Sungold. You can see below that I grabbed a handful of chip forks from my local fish and chip shop while they had their back turned !!! they make wonderful plant labels.
Later in the season I will plant black cherry, Coracao de Boi, Den De Lor, and Golden Gem. And probably some others that I can't resist either! I am particularly looking forward to growing some of the black and purple varieties this year too. And seeing as how we have had sub Arctic conditions here in London, the tomatoes from the Crimea and Quebec should do well.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Exciting News for Matron's Tits!

Please can I share with you the sorry state of my garden at the moment. It froze over this morning and poor Buddy had to go out this morning and was slipping and sliding everywhere! Anyway... exciting news ... Last week I visited a junk yard and purchased a 16ft length of reclaimed floor board. The nice man in the yard sawed it up for me into 4ft lengths. All this wonderful, solid pitch pine board cost me just £5. One side is painted blue but my tits won't mind that. This is the time of year when tits are prospecting for new accommodation and may leave a deposit on a new home!
In the January 2008 edition of BBC Gardeners World magazine there was a recipe for making your own titbox. I have held on to that issue since then. Just a matter of getting to grips with a ruler, a pencil and a power saw!
I had to make a few alterations to the published dimensions in the magazine. It is obvious that the person writing the magazine had never actually made a box from his own measurements. The front panel and the back panel need to be longer by the amount of the thickness of the wood (in my case 15mm). Just a matter of nailing and glueing the pieces together.
For as long as I could remember as a child, my Dad used to make titboxes with enormous skill and enthusiasm. His domain was his toy shed, full of power saws, hammer drills, boxes of screws and drill bits. I am really a girly girl and prefer to stay in the kitchen!!
So today, I fumbled my way round a Black & Decker jigsaw and a Bosch power drill to make the necessary cuts and holes. By the way... tits must have a hole of no more than one inch and one quarter. For robins and wagtails you can just make the front panel about 2" shorter and they prefer a rectangular opening at the front of the box.
The hinge for the lid is just a piece of roofing felt which I have glued and nailed to the lid. I am happy with the result and feeling proud that I managed to keep on an ancient family tradition.
I hope Pa would be proud of me too!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

It's National Bramley Week!

What will they think of next? Apparently February 1st to 8th is National Bramley Week! It is 200 years since an apple pip was planted in a garden in Nottinghamshire. In 1837 it is reported that a Mr Bramley took a cutting and grew it on to maturity. In 1900 this tree fell over but started to sprout branches again (this is known as a phoenix tree) and to this day the original tree still stands. You can still buy authentic cuttings from this original tree.

Who thinks up these marketing events? I suppose it was a bumper year last year for Bramleys so there are a great number in cold storage somewhere and the supermarkets want to get rid of them (how cynical am I?). Here is a picture of some of mine which are in storage. Can you see which one I am about to pick out and throw? They still have to be checked every couple of weeks. A Brillaint company Ken Muir sells these apple trees from cuttings taken from the original tree.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Snow Bishop

Ladies and Gentlemen... may I introduce... The Snow Bishop of Cricklewood!!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Global Warming???

I picked another crop of early PSB 'Rudolph' yesterday. We enjoyed a wonderful Sunday lunch of roast leg of lamb with fresh veggies. That is the good news... It snowed overnight and this morning. The worst snow England has seen in 18 years apparently. ...
We have about 7 inches of snow at the moment, with another fall due to happen this afternoon.
You know, I visited Maine, and Quebec last Autumn where it is quite usual to have 10 meters of snow and life carries on just as normal. So can somebody please tell me why London has 7 inches of snow the whole place comes to a grinding halt??
Anyway, I managed to take a few shots in the garden this morning. Now I have to contemplate the thought of driving to work this evening. Eighteen miles through central London in the worst snow storm in history.... I will pack a bag.
Sleeping bag, bottled water, chicken curry, thermos of fresh coffee, snow shovel, mobile phone charged, bag full of DVDs to while the night away...
So in the words of another famous, and intrepid explorer........
I am just going outside.... I may be a little while.....