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, April 29, 2010

Biodiversity in Your Garden

Matron is running a very special competition here on Saturday 1st May. What are you doing in your garden or allotment to encourage biodiversity? The Royal Horticultural Society is celebrating 2010 as the year of Biodiversity. They have asked me to ask you to write just 100 words on what you are doing on your plot to encourage biodiversity. The fantastic prize I will be giving to the winner is a one year RHS membership which entitles you and a friend free entry to any RHS garden for a year! WOW!
For me, I am doing everything I can think of on my vegetable garden to encourage pollinating insects! they just adore this broccoli that I have left to go to flower!
Just write your 100 words on my comments section on the Saturday 1st May post. I will choose the winner! I don't want a political rant, nor do I want you to get heavy... just some uplifting, original, inspiring and effective ideas.
You'll see here behind my Isle of Wight garlic I have created a log pile. This has been here for several years in a shady corner, I don't touch it, I just leave it for the beetles and earwigs.
And of course, the compost heap is just the engine room of any plot. I just love the science of mixing up the right combination of carbon, nitrogen, air and water. I like mixing compost heaps almost as much as I like making cakes!!! So many beneficial fungi, insects and critters live in the compost heap!
I thought I'd show you my lovely tomato plants. I have been hardening them off over the past couple of weeks. Last night they spent their first night out. Here you can see some side shoots which needed pinching out.
Actually, I refer to them as armpits!!
They have to be removed if you want a nice straight cordon tomato. Get thinking about those 100 words! Post them on Saturday!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rhubarb Jungle

I got down and dirty with my rhubarb this afternoon! It is quite a jungle out there! That hard Winter has done wonders for this rhubarb, that and the 6 inches of composted horse manure I put on it this Spring.
It got me thinking that it reminded me of something a few years ago...
I visited the sub-tropical Trebah Garden in Cornwall and walked through their Gunnera Passage!
Of course..rhubarb and gunnera are related! Just one is a bit bigger and spikier than the other!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Seed Swapping!

It is time to plant my cucumbers and squashes in the greenhouse, so I made my selection today.

Courgette Defender
Courgette Soleil
Climbing Courgette Black Forest
Cucumber Tiffany
Squash Yellow Straightneck

And then it occurred to me that a number of things I am looking forward to sowing this year are from seed swaps.
These are 'Ollies Sunflowers' sent to me from Bag End. Special sunflower seeds in memory of their shaggy dog Ollie.
And these special cucumber 'Bari' and 'Tromba d'Albegna' squash sent to me from Mas du Diable. Cucumber Bari are a small furry cucumber from Italy, you peel off the furry jacket (like the fur on a melon). Tromba d'Albegna are the trombone squash.
Salmon flowered peas ( or perhaps they are salmon flavoured peas??) sent to me by Celia at Purple Podded Peas. A beautiful old heritage variety - these look very healthy and are being hardened off at the moment.
I just loved these Queensland Blue pumpkins sent to me by Scarecrow in Australia last year. They are a must plant this year too!
And just take a look at these rosemary flowers! My large rosemary bush is just covered in these pale blue flowers. The bees and insects just love them.... that reminds me...
Don't forget Matron is running a fantastic competition on May 1st. I have been approached by the Royal Horticultural Society and asked to ask you to write 100 words on what you are doing to promote biodiversity in your garden. The prize will be a one year membership of the RHS, which entitles you and one other to free entry for a year to any RHS garden. WOW! I will ask you to think about what you will write, then leave your 100 words on my May 1st post! Matron will choose the winner... and Matron's decision is final....etc.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More Seeds Sown

In a few weeks hopefully all danger of frost will be over. This will be the time to plant out the more tender veggies. Today I made a first sowing of sweetcorn 'Extra Tender & Sweet'. In the past few years better sweetcorn varieties have been bred which are more suitable for our British climate. I grew some of these F1 hybrid varieties last year and they really last on the plant for several weeks without going over. Well worth the extra money you have to pay for an F1 hybrid. I've left another dozen seeds in the packet for a second sowing in May. Now is a good time to start saving eggshells. I dry them in the greenhouse till they are brittle, and when I plant out my tomatoes I scrunch a handful of crushed eggshell into the planting hole to provide extra calcium for the plant.
I found a little unwelcome surprise in my garden shed this afternoon. Hanging from the ceiling was a little wasp nest. It was the same colour as the surrounding chipboard, an the wasps had been eating the chipboard and regurgitated it into this beautiful, delicate nest. It weighed next to nothing.
Quite a stunning feat of architecture. You can see that the multilayers would keep the nest well insulated and well ventilated.
But I don't want it in my shed thank you!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Matron's Special 600th Post!

Has it really been 600 posts? - well the post counter on the dashboard says it has! I was contacted recently by someone from the Royal Horticultural Society and I was asked if I wanted to become involved in some activity to support their RHS biodiversity project. 2010 is the year of biodiversity so I was asked if I would run a competition on my blog.
So the RHS are offering you a wonderful prize of a one year membership, which entitles you and a friend free entry to any RHS garden! and this is what you have to do....
Just think about it for the moment, and I will post details of how to enter on Saturday May 1st, but I would like you to think about writing just 100 words on what YOU are doing in your garden to promote biodiversity. Matron doesn't want you to get overcome with doom and gloom, neither does she want a political rant. Just a nice, gentle, uplifting, innovative, clever, creative, inspiring 100 words. That's all! - Matron will choose the winner!
So, can you eat your bodyweight in maggots and larvae every day? can you?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blossoming Blossoms!

Ahh Spring must be here! Beautiful apple blossoms are just bursting out down on my patch. These blossoms are on an early 'family' fruit tree.
My later Bramley apple is nowhere near out yet!
Just such a wonderful pink colour, aren't they?
The gooseberry plant 'Invicta' is just starting to form little flowers and berries. This time of year I scrape the soil underneath the plant and expose a little of the under layer of the soil. This is where the gooseberry sawfly may have overwintered their larvae. If you expose them now, they may make a welcome meal for some of your feathered friends - or even let your chickens have a peck around. You will be glad later on in the season when your plants are free of this pest!
My strawberries are starting to flower too. Keep them clear of weeds this time of year, give them a dressing of bonemeal too, but don't water them until after the fruit has set. Strawberries hate having their very fine roots in water.
Attention blog readers, this is my 599th post. Stand by for a blog special next post.....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Still in the Greenhouse

The temperature in the greenhouse over the past few days has been rising. Most of these little modules have to be watered every day, even twice a day. Still not ready to go out, we are still getting frosts most nights so only hardy plants can go out at the moment.

I am pleased that several of my lemongrass seeds have germinated, so let's see how long I can keep them alive!

These are some salmon flowered peas that Celia from Purple Podded Peas gave me last year. I look forward to seeing these lovely flowers.

PSB Broccoli 'Rudolph' and Brussels Sprout 'Bosworth' have now germinated. This is the first time I have grown sprouts. Hope I will have some for Christmas! fingers crossed.
Here is the PSB Rudolph that I planted this time last year. Still producing loads of lovely broccoli almost every day. Patience is something that new gardeners have to learn! this was sown a year ago - but well worth it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day Trip to Calais

I took advantage of a special half price deal on the EuroTunnel today and went on a day trip to the Auchan supermarket in Calais. This is not any special type of French supermarket, just the equivalent of one of our large chains. What struck me was the sheer quality in not only their fresh produce, but in everything else! What on earth has the British consumer been putting up with at home for all these years! A spectacular tray of beefsteak tomatoes!
Fresh and beautiful endive!! ( I love this!)
and of course, saucisson, salami, of every shape and description. Formidable!!
Matron came home with a carful of goodies, here are just a few bits of booty. Gruyere cheese, mirabelles in syrup, artichoke hearts, dijon mustard, salsifis (I love salsifis, it deserves a blog post all to itself..), hearts of palm, pollen pellets, pate de Campagne... Bon apetite Matron!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Multicultural Chickens!

Welcome to our two new multicultural chickens! They live in the diverse and colourful area of the London Borough of Brent in a delightful.... area called Cricklewood. Ladies and Gentlemen.. I give you... Chicken Patty....
and Chicken Joloff!
Both were bought at point of lay, and both have now started laying small pingpong balls!!.. well done girls!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Warm Spring Days!

Here in London, we've had 4 or 5 sunny, warm Spring days in a row. Finally the blossom on my plum tree has opened! Much later than it did last year. The warm Spring days have given my garden frogs some ideas as well... In the absence of a garden pond, they spawned in a shallow flowerpot dish, only 2" deep! They must have been desperate! I know I have frogs living under the carpet on my compost heap, and I suppose they couldn't escape to the neighbours garden where there is a small pond. This spawn has been safely transported to a friends garden and found a home there!
A belated Birthday prezzie arrived in the post this week. The aptly named Plants4Presents online gift shop has exotic plants on mail order.
This is a Coffee Plant... or several. Growing instructions say it should be out of direct sunlight, warm, and constantly wet. I will find a place indoors and see how it goes. Fun!
The past few days has me caught up with all my pricking out now. My tomato seedlings have been potted up into modules. I planted these, almost all the way up the stem right up to the seed leaves as new roots can develop from the hairs on the stem. They have already perked up and put on some growth in just a few days.
I have taken my seedlings outdoors for some bright sunshine too, started the hardening off process in the warm shelter outside.
These leek seedlings are well on their way too. This year I am trying a F1 variety called Oarsman. They were recommended to me by a member of the National Vegetable Society. I thought I would give them a go.
Peas are hardened off and planted out too. These are Hurst Green Shaft, I've not tried this variety before but they have a great reputation for flavour and productivity. Fingers crossed.
Finally, today I put my back into some hard work, and dug my runner bean trench, and filled it with grass clippings and worm compost. I'll let that sit and settle for a few weeks before planting my Runner beans.