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

Monday, March 30, 2015

New Shoots

 There's no doubt about it, Spring is here.  The clocks went forward yesterday and the days are getting longer.  Plants on the allotment are feeling the change and the sap is rising.
 I always start broad beans in modules to protect them from pests at the beginning. They are quite hardy so once they have germinated under cover they are happy to sit outside for a few weeks.
 Chillis and tomatoes are a bit more tender so they are started in a heated propagator in the greenhouse.  I am growing two very long chillis, Joe's Long and Spaghetti chilli .
 I've been busy pricking out tomato seedlings into individual pots.  Still under cover but gradually hardening off inside the greenhouse and outside on warm days only.
 The Webbs Wonderful lettuce are enjoying life too.  They do well when the days are cool.  I have them protected in this black dustbin.
I always leave a few broccoli plants to go over into flower.  The bees just adore vegetable flowers so it is worth leaving some space for last years' veggies to go to seed.  It is worth leaving some for the bees, have a look at the RHS Perfect for Pollinators project. Bees love leek flowers too.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hard work

It is hard, hard work digging an allotment.  I am over run with bind weed.  Every year I dig the soil and I am careful to remove every little bit of bindweed I see.  And yet each year it just grows back.
 That's just why there is no short cut to having an allotment and growing vegetables.
 People starting an allotment for the first time might underestimate the amount of work it takes to keep the soil weed free.
 This stuff is just everywhere!
 The dandelions are a bit easier, but the roots go down so deep that if you leave just a bit it grows back.

Meanwhile elsewhere on the plot I will be digging up my disastrous crop of leeks.  I was really looking forward to these Musselburgh leeks again, they stand well over Winter but the dreaded Leek Moth has all but destroyed these.  The moth lays eggs on the leaves and the larvae eat their way along the leaf and down inside the stalk down to the base.  It is the nibbling of the base of the leek that makes one healthy leek develop multiple leeks from the base.
 There are a few which do not appear to be badly damaged, but on the whole the crop is not good.  The leek moths are active from May right through to October and there is no chemical spray available at the moment.  The only sure way to protect is to entirely cover the leeks with a fine mesh.
 I'm not much of a builder, and it is awkward to keep removing the mesh to weed and to water.  I might try some French Marigolds (Tagetes) which are known to repel insects.  Does anyone have a remedy?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Paris Markets

 I went to Paris for the day yesterday.  Took advantage of an amazing special offer on the Eurostar train from London and found myself at the Gare du Nord about 2 hours later.  Regular readers will know how much I love visiting markets when I travel.  I made a special trip to the Marche d'Aligre just near the Bastille area.
 Why can't the English do fresh produce markets like other countries do?  Why are we so far removed from real, fresh fruit and veg?  Is it because of the big supermarkets that we just get them sanitized and packaged in a little plastic pack?  Just look at all these lovely veggies.
 Just an amazing selection of varieties of everything.  You can choose what colour you want your tomatoes or your carrots. This was a feast for the eyes.
 I was sorely tempted by these amazing globe artichokes, but I would have had to carry them around Paris all day while I was sightseeing.  Those ripe beefsteak tomatoes would have gone down a treat.  I am fed up with aenemic, tasteless, crunchy supermarket tomatoes.
 The market traders just make such an effort to display their produce so beautifully, they take a pride in what they do.  Do you suppose if I opened up a market stall like this in my own town I would sell anything?  Am I the exception to the rule? Would the majority of English folk not know what to do with it?  
This genuinely seems to be a part of our heritage which has gone missing somehow. Is it just down to those of us who grow our own veggies to keep this all alive?  It wasn't that expensive either.
Is it just me?

Sunday, March 08, 2015

They're Up!

 The first seedlings of this new growing season are up!  I like to get chilli seeds off to an early start in a heated propagator because they need such a long growing season.  I might get some others started in the next few days.
 These are 'Spaghetti' chilli and 'Joe's Long' chilli which I am growing for a Guinness World Record - Longest Chilli competition this year.
Meanwhile elsewhere on the patch - the pigeons are having a really good feast on my lovely calabrase! grrrrrr. Not funny.