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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Slug Wars

 Funny things going on in Matron's fridge at the moment!  I ordered a box of Nemaslug to try to get control of the number of slugs on my allotment.  We've just had a very wet, very mild Winter and I fear that it will be a bumper year for slugs and snails. Better get on top of them at the beginning of the season.  My elderly Mother wanted to know what the blue and green box was in her fridge! "One hundred million worms, Mother" was the reply!
 This comes as a pale powder that you dilute in a 2 gallon watering can.  The nematode worms live in damp soil and when they come in contact with a slug they begin to kill it. The soil has to be kept damp so that they can survive.
In about a week the slugs should have stopped eating.  To be honest, I don't know if this works or not!  I will never know how it would have been if I hadn't used it!  To me, it just seems like a good idea to reduce the numbers at the beginning of the season. Safe to use with pets and wildlife, so a bit better than pellets.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bees and Broccoli

 Regular readers will know that 'Matron does not do flowers' but there are exceptions to every rule.  It is becoming increasingly important to encourage bees and pollinating insects, so I always leave some of my veggies to go to flower.  The bees just adore these Broccoli flowers.  Just leaving 4 or 5 plants to go to flower with the last little florets creates a whole row of thousands of lovely flowers.  You can do the same with most veggies.  Leeks and Parsnips do particularly well in flower.
 Meanwhile my Gooseberry Invicta bushes are showing signs of life too.
 and my potatoes are up too!  The soil has been warming up nicely over the past few weeks, and although Good Friday is traditionally the time to plant potatoes, Easter has been late this year so I popped them in a few weeks ago.  Did you know that a traditional way that farmers used to test if the soil was warmed up was to pull down their trousers and sit their bare bottom on the soil to see how warm it was!  You will be glad to know I don't do that!   We've had some lovely rain this weekend, so they are going great guns at the moment.  This little one is Red Duke of York.
 Peas planted in toilet rolls are well away now.  I need to plant them out because the root systems are now coming out the bottom of the tray.
Tomato seedlings are doing well too.  Mainly in the greenhouse, but I take them outside during warm days to gradually start the hardening off process.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Warming up

A bright sunny day today in London. Still not quite warm enough but Leo and I have been out in the garden all day!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Try something new

I visited my favourite Asian supermarket yesterday. I live in West London and the suburb of Southall has been the home of people from the Indian sub continent.  I decided to look into some of the fresh veggies that I see on sale there. This is what I found.
 You must know about Scotch Bonnet peppers. Very hot, colourful and used widely.
 Many of the fresh ingredients are seasonal, these are Chana - or fresh chick peas.
 Little pea pods containing just two peas. These look like fun!
 Yellow limes are known by many names in different places. Also known as Mexican Lime, Persian Limes, West Indian Lime, Bartenders Lime and Key Lime.  Smaller than other limes and about the size of a golf ball. Make them into delicious Key Lime pie!
 So how about some Dudhi - Indian melon. Widely grown around Asia, when bigger they become a Calabash or bottle gourd.  Peel, de-seed and cook as a vegetable.

 Karela are known as the Bitter meon. Widely grown around Asia, but not bitter when young and green. de-seed and cook.
 Papdi Val, known by many different names, Surati beans, Lablab beans, or Hyacinth Beans. Seasonal fresh beans that look like pea pods. Some information suggests that the beans inside are not good to eat, and others give recipes for Surati beans.  These young green pods are cooked and eaten.
 These are Tindora cucumbers. Common in Indian cooking and widely used around Asia. The Ivy gourd is an invasive grower and a weed pest in many countries. Fast growing they climb up and choke the light from trees. Sometimes known as 'Gentlemans Toes!!'  They have a bland taste and are chopped and eaten with spices.
 These are Turia, or Ridge gourd when small, but you might know them as a Loofah! Yes that very same bathroom sponge for scratching your back!  Here they are picked and eaten young when small and green.
 This is fresh Haldi - or Turmeric. Related to the ginger family, but did you know you can get either yellow or white turmeric?
and finally Aubergines - they come in different colours but these white Aubergines will help you understand why they are also known as Eggplant!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Pricking out

 I spent a pleasant afternoon pricking out these little tomato seedlings.  The first two leaves are seed leaves. Then, when the next two true leaves start to show I like to transplant them while they are still small.  Only handling by the leaves and NEVER holding the stem, I potted these up right up to the top of the stem so just the leaves were showing.  This means that more roots will form along the stem giving the plant a bigger root system to help it to grow.
 I always need lots of new plant labels this time of year, so I made my own.  This is a 4pint plastic milk bottle.
 Makes dozens of plant labels.
Meanwhile, under a dripping tap on a North facing wall, my Wasabi plant is really enjoying life at the moment.  Putting on lots of strong, green leaves.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Green Shoots

 I feel it in my bones that it is the right time to start sowing seeds!  The soil is gradually warming up and the days are getting longer.  Time to turn to my old friend Mr Wilkinson to provide some basic seeds to sow.  How about this HUGE packet of Hurst Green Shaft peas?
 I've been saving toilet rolls for months now!  Peas do like to have a long root run, so planting the seeds inside a toilet roll will encourage them to start to grow downwards! They can be planted out with the cardboard around them.
 Meanwhile in the greenhouse my little tomato seeds are making good progress. Started off in a heated propagator to germinate, these are looking good.
 I know it is quite late to plant garlic, but I found a French garlic bulb in the kitchen that had started to sprout.  Since this picture was taken 2 days ago, they have doubled in size.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained!  I might get something out of these later in the season, let's see.
My friend Mr Wilkinson has come up trumps again, Broad Beans Aquadulce Claudia are up and running. I will take these outside to harden off and plant out.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Matron Strikes Gold!

I was out digging in the garden over the weekend when I struk gold!  Who would have thought it?  There I was minding my own business, weeding my suburban allotment in West London when...

Lo and behold I caught something glinting in my dark London clay soil!  So, gold pan in hand (I just found one in the potting shed..) I headed for the water butt to do some more panning.  Nugget after nugget they just kept coming. 
I'd better not tell anyone, look what happend in the Klondike... there was a gold rush!