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

Friday, May 30, 2014

Leek Moths

 I have a lovely lot of lovely Musselburgh Leeks planted out now, but Leek Moth has been a problem for me in past years.  A relatively new pest which has crept from the South of England and is travelling North.  I have only noticed this damage in the last couple of years.  The moths lay their eggs in the soil and the larvae burrow their way up through the shaft of the leek.
 So I bought a pheromone Leek Moth Trap the other day.  There are no known sprays which are effective on the Leek Moth, so either fleece covering or pheromone treatments are effective.
 This little rubber thingy smells of the sexy pheromones of the female leek moth.  Poor, desparate male moths come into this little green box thinking they are going to get lucky... and stick to the sticky card in the trap!
 It is hung just above the ground at the same height as the leeks.  There are apparently two bursts of activity for the leek moth, the first is May-June, and the second season is August.  
I will leave this trap for 6 weeks or so, then replace it with a fresh pheromone tab to catch the August moths.  I'll let you know how it works!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Confession Time

 My tomato plants have not been well.  For weeks now, despite ideal sunshine, warmth and growing conditions they have been looking sickly and pale.  They have put on no growth in weeks, and at a time when they should be shooting up.
 The only thing I can really put it down to is a lazy short cut  I took earlier in the Spring.  I bought some lovely new seed compost in which to sow the seeds and they did great until it was time to transplant the seedlings into pots... I had an old bag of compost left over from last year in the corner of the greenhouse, so instead of going and buying new compost to pot on the seedlings I used last year's compost.
 The only thing I can think of is that this old compost soured or went bad over Winter. They did not like it one little bit.  So in the last couple of days I tried re-potting a few plants in new compost...
 and in just 2 or 3 days they seem to be coming back to life.
 The one on the left is in old compost and the one on the right I re-potted just a couple of days ago.
That will teach me to cut corners.  I learn so much about gardening by the mistakes I make as well as the successes. They are all now potted up in new compost with a dilute liquid feed and some bottom heat in a propagator to help them on their way.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Visitor comes to Town!

 I had a visitor this week!  Sue from Gardening with Wyatt was over from Oregon, USA for a tour of English gardens and, of course, a trip to the Chelsea Flower Show.
 We arranged to meet up as her tour came out to the RHS Gardens at Wisley, Surrey which is just a few miles from where I live.  We both share a love of gardening and a love of dogs, so Leo came with us to meet  her.
 There was an exchange of gifts between humans and between dogs.  Sue gave me a lovely selection of seeds from the Territorial Seed Company which I shall get planting straight away.
Wyatt very generously gave Leo a box of sweet potato crunchy bones!  He loves them! Thank you Wyatt and Sue for a lovely visit.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Matron goes to Grenada - at RHS Chelsea

 One of my favourite stands in the Great Pavillion at Chelsea Flower show was the stand from Grenada.  Also known as the 'Spice Island' there was a fascinating display of spices.  They were also giving out samples of a lethal 'Rum Punch' - good job I was not driving home.. it was wonderful!
 Mace is a layer which surrounds the Nutmeg.  This is one of the most well known spices from Grenada.
 Who could overlook the Cocoa bean!  Whoever thought to open the pod, ferment and dry the seeds, roast and grind them up and make a delicious drink? Whoever you are... thank you.
 Cinnamon is the bark of a tree.  So was it the same person who thought to strip, roll and dry the bark of a tree?  Whoever you are.. thank you.
 Cloves are a dried flower bud.
 And these are the outer husks of nutmeg seeds which are used as a mulch. It smells wonderful when the sun warms it up.
 but one of the highlights of my day was meeting this person.  Can you see what he was wearing?  It was my honour to meet Sergeant Johnson Biharry VC.  One of the other amazing products of Grenada.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Matron Goes to Chelsea - Part 2

 Lots of lovely shopping to do at Chelsea, there really is something for everyone!
 I bought myself a Leek Moth Trap.  These pheromone traps mimic the hormones given off by the female leek moth, a sticky pad traps the moths as they come in to investigate.  Leek moths have been an increasing problem in the past few years. I'm going to give this a go.
 A really fascinating display at the Robinson's stand.  I loved the idea of this 'Mexican Tree Spinach'
 or try growing some 'Caigua' which are part of the cucumber family apparently.  I love to grow new and unusual fruit and veggies.  So lovely to be able to talk to the lovely ladies from Robinson's who really know their onions!
 A stunning display of fruit, flowers and veggies from Waitrose and the NFU, showing the quality of produce which can be grown in the UK.
 and of course, Matron found a friend - or two friends!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Matron Goes to Chelsea - Part 1

Every year when I go to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show it gets more and more approachable and friendly.  I must admit that the first time I visited a few years ago I was debating whether or not the shoes should match the bag - but not any more. Of course, from my point of view it has improved every year with the inclusion of more 'grow your own' and 'dig for victory' displays.
Allotment societies are invited by the RHS to attend.  So many people grow their own veggies now, it is no longer just reserved for the working classes. Everyone is doing it! Hooray!
One very moving display examined the effect of the First World War on gardening.  Many of the fit, young men employed as gardeners were lost in the war. 'Where Have All the Gardeners Gone'?
Naughty Peter Rabbit put in an appearance too.  There he was in Mr MacGregor's garden eating the lettuces!  How many of us know the meaning of the word 'soporific?' - We have Beatrix Potter to thank for that one.
Monty and Joe put in an appearance too.  Today was a real star-spotting occasion too.
There was a bit of a bloggers and tweeters meet up - or a 'tweet up' at one point.  Here I am today with Celia from Purple Podded Peas.  Sensible shoes at the ready...
How about these?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chelsea Flower Show

 It's going to be an exciting week.  Tomorrow is the start of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  I am going along to see what's what and who's who and where.
 Not all flowers, but veggies too and some stunning garden artwork and statues.
But not everyone is looking forward to the week. Poor Wyatt is going to be without Mum from Wyatt Gardens BECAUSE... she is visiting me here in England!  Don't worry Wyatt, I'll take good care of her. There may even be some treats on their way back to the USA for you!

Pollinating Insects

 Regular readers will know that 'Matron does not do flowers'  But the exception to that rule is to encourage pollinating insects to my allotment so that they can pollinate my vegetables!
 I planted some Limanthes - poached egg flowers a few years ago for just that reason. They self seed all over the place and come back year after year.
 The bees just love them and there is always a buzz around this patch.
 I always leave just a couple of each of the veggies I grow to set flower and go to seed.  Bees just LOVE vegetable flowers.  Here I have left some of my Swiss Chard to go to flower.  Just a few weeks more and that too will be covered in bees.
 Meanwhile I decided to plant out some of my Runner Beans.  These are special beans from Gwylym at  the Aeron Vale Allotment Society where he is attempting to breed a purple runner bean.  He has kindly given me some of these Purple Star seeds to grow and share.
Meanwhile all is not well in the tomato department.  ALL of my tomato seedlings are looking very sick.  They were fine till I transplanted them into pots now they are all bolt upright and not happy.  I will pot them on in bigger pots with fresh compost and see if that works.  Any ideas?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Musselburgh Leeks

 The weather is definitely warming up here in London.  No one can tell you when to plant your tender veggies out for certain, you just have to take an educated guess that the last frosts are over.  I have started to harden off these Aeron Vale Purple Star runner beans during the sunny day times.  They seem to be loving these long, paper pots and are putting on inches each day.
 Meanwhile my Musselburgh leek seedlings are just about ready to plant out.  Over the years I have tried lots of different leek varieties. Some giant leeks, some pot leeks, some new F1 varieties and some heritage varieties.  I have decided that you really can't beat Musselburgh - a good old favourite for a reason.
 Leek seedlings are pretty hardy. They don't seem to mind a bit of root disturbance during transplanting.  I just separated each one.
 Buried them down into the soil along the back of a trowel.  Water them in thoroughly and they should be fine.
Some people trim the top of the leaves to avoid too much stress on the plant.  These are still fairly small.  A good rule of thumb is that the further apart you plant them, the bigger the leeks will be.  I have planted different spaces apart ranging to 6" apart for small leeks and 12" for bigger ones.  I also planted some of the much smaller seedlings in a patch just a few inches apart. These will make some delicate baby leeks.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

More from Berlin

 Well, you have to take a picture of the Brandenburg Gate if you go to Berlin, so here it is!  Fascinating history to this city which is a great place to visit. delicacy is the 'Currywurst'. I suppose I had to try it just for the 'cultural experience'.. really it is just a bratwurst sprinkled with generic curry powder, chopped and covered in some sort of curry sauce which really tasted more like barbecue sauce to me.  Not bad.. but nothing to write home about.
 So back to the important stuff.  I did find a market in Dresden.  I found this lovely market stall selling nothing but all sorts of different types of brushes.  Back brushes, nail brushes, bottle brushes and dustpans and brushes.  These were 'bad' brushes... ie. bad = bath in translation.
 So, I found some enormous Rabarber...
 Some Blumenkohl..
and best of all... some 'schwarzwurzel'...  looks like Salisfy to me.. but the name made me giggle.