Welcome to Matron's Squashblog

Squashblog has been published today. It seems that because I started the draft document on 27th October, that is where it is!... see below and enjoy!

A celebration of colour!

What an amazing variety of colour, shape and size!
Bring me your sugar baby, your yellow straightneck, your crown prince. Bring me your spaghetti squash, your tromboncino, your patty pan... and I will include them in Matron's Squashblog on Tuesday 30th October.

Many thanks to DaVikka for sending me some photos from last year's pumpkin festival at Kew Gardens.

Welcome to Matron's Squashblog!

Welcome to Matron's Squashblog. Many thanks to all of you who contributed, I have posted them below with a link to your blog. I hope you enjoyed my contribution above, he's got a face only a Mother could love, hasn't he?

The origins of Hallowe'en date back over 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). This festival, which means the end of Summer, celebrated the end of harvest and the beginning of the Celtic new year on November 1st. All Saints' Day is said to fall on this day when souls walked the Earth. In early Christian tradition souls were released from purgatory for 48 hours on All Hallow's Eve. Spooky!

Here is a contribution from Hels Blogspot quite an amazing feat when you consider that she has only a small window box and a balcony in her flat. What a gal ! Here you can see she has attempted yet again, to spell out her name in pumpkins.... better luck next time Hel !

Here is a row of little soldiers from Petunias-garden in Western Washington, what a wonderful example of the variety in size shape and colour.

I can't claim credit for this picture! It was taken by DaVikka at Mogblog. There was a pumpkin and squash exhibition at Kew Gardens last year. Missed it. Incidentally, I have found a great website for interesting seeds, and a particularly good selection of pumpkins and squashes at Seeds of Italy so give it a look!

Thanks to Stan, my blog-mentor at Naive Zebra, for this contribution. I was given an answer when I asked the question, "What happened to the other eyebrow?" - can you guess what the answer was?

I really hoped that someone would send me a photo of one of these! Thanks to Judith at everything in the gardens rosie for her contribution! I think this is an Italian squash Tromba de Albegna - it is supposed to taste supberb. Has anyone tried it? It looks like you might be able to break into a car with it !

What a stunning display from Magic Cochin at purple podded peas. I marvel at the amazing variety of pumpkins and squashes we can grow here. I wonder which one tastes the best? Which one is Humpty Dumpty, I wonder...

Here's a scarey offering from Jim at plot48. I wonder if this method could be used as a sort of night time scarecrow to keep the cats and pigeons off my patch. Hmmm

Here is an interesting shaped offering from Billie Jean at bjs allotment. Always a good idea to give them a comfortable layer underneath, to prevent damage as they grow. Otherwise they might end up just like Matron's pumpkin!

Here is a wonderful coloured pumpkin from Anita at ein-stueck-garten . These are such a rich amber colour, makes the mouth water.

Purple Hyacinth Beans

I've picked my purple hyacinth beans. I think they probably need a longer growing season than I can provide here in Southern England, but I am pleased that I have grown them at all. I have brought them inside to dry off and to collect seeds for next year.
Just one more reminder to send me a photo of your best, most unusual pumpkin or squash for Matron's Squashblog. I will be posting on 30th October, so just time to take some pics and send them to Ahhmatron@aol.com. I will post them with a link to your blog.

A Runner Bean Question?

Here is a picture of one of my runner bean roots. In the last few days I have taken advantage of the wonderful sunny weather to have a big clear up down on the allotment. I thought I would carry out an experiment with my beans. I have heard that runner beans can be grown as a perennial if you preserve the root ball over Winter. Here you can see that the root has clearly swelled up like a corm. I am going to plant 6 of the best in a pot of dry compost in the greenhouse overwinter to see if they come to life next year. Has anyone heard of this method? Can beans be grown like this?

There are still a few days left to take a photo of your best pumpkin or squash and email them to me for Matron's Squashblog which will be posted on 30th October. See posts below for details.

Book Recommendation

This book has spent most of its time off the shelf in the past few months. It is one of the most comprehensive and informative books on the subject, in my opinion. 'Preserving' by Oded Schwartz is beautifully illustrated.
It is published by Dorling Kindersley. A must have for any gardener with a glut of anything. Has anyone out there read it?

It's National Apple Day Today!

Today is National Apple Day! Go out and pick apples! Go visit an orchard! Go pick up your windfalls and make a pie, a crumble, a cobbler or even a Betty if you feel that way inclined. There is only one thing worse than finding a maggot in your apple..... that's half a maggot!
And don't forget to send me a photo of your most colourful, funniest shaped, most unusual pumpkin or squash for Matron's Squashblog which will be posted on 30th October. Email pics to me at Ahhmatron@aol.com

Growing Mushrooms - Week 5

Just a quick update on my mushrooms which are hidden away in my garage at the moment. At about week 2 a tiny mushroom like fungus appeared on the surface of the compost, then grew into a 3" tall stalk of spaghetti, then died the next day! The instructions on the packet said that mushrooms should appear between 10 and 12 weeks, so I suppose that was a bit premature to hope. They seem to be growing a very definite white mould underneath the surface. I remember from my biology lessons that this is called a 'mycelium'. No signs of life yet, but will keep posted. Above is a picture of sowing the spawn from the packet. I think it was stuck onto rice grains.

Just to remind blog readers, please feel free to email me with your squash and pumpkin photos for Matron's Squashblog which will be posted here on 30th October. See my post from 11th October for email details.

Drying Chillis

Now is the time of year when your peppers and chillis will be turning the most vivid scarlet colour. I use two ways of preserving them. Either put them in a glass jar in the freezer and take them out one by one when you want to use them, or dry them.

As you can see in this picture I have strung them up. You can do this by taking a needle and some thread and pushing the needle through the hard green stalk it should stay put as long as you need it. Chillis need to dry in a WARM place and not just on any windowsill otherwise they will go mouldy. Hang them up over a warm radiator in your living room, or inside your airing cupboard. Featured here are 'Numex Twilight' and 'Joe's Long'.

Matron's Squashblog!

Following the amazing response to Matron's dogblog - I have been inspired in the past few weeks at the wonderful photos of all your pumpkins and squashes out there. Thus inspired, I will be posting a Squashblog to celebrate all your weird and wonderful produce. I will be posting my blog on 30th October. Please send your best photo on an attachment to Ahhmatron@aol.com and I will post them all with a link to your blog.

The National Fruit Collection

I can most highly recommend a visit to the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale near Faversham in Kent. Last year I made the journey and it was well worth it. Above pictured is a 'Medlar' which is a lesser known fruit related to a rosehip. This fruit is left to ripen over winter till really soft and ripe, almost rotten. This process is known as 'bletting'. The medlar has a lovely sweet nutty flavour. Incidentally, the French translation for medlar is 'un bout de chien' - literally 'dogs bottom' - you can see why!
Quinces are coming to their best at the moment. Related to a pear, all the quinces at Brogdale are picked and shipped exclusively to Fortnum & Mason in London. All of them - except the windfalls which made their way into my kitchen for some delicious quince jelly !

Thousands of apple varieties to be found at Brogdale. Many of which are native to different counties in the UK and can be ordered from their shop.

Also at Brogdale is the National collection of pears, plums, cherries... and the National collection of nuts !!

Garden tidy up

I took the protective netting off my brassicas today to do some weeding. Hardly any caterpillar damage this year, so it has worked well. There was, however some slug and snail damage to the hearts forming on my cabbages. This variety pictured is 'protovoy' a small version of a savoy cabbage. I have not grown them before but they come highly recommended.

Last weekend I took a break from the rugby match (which was getting tedious) and threaded these toilet rolls on to the bottom of my leeks. They had been planted in a trench during the Summer, then earthed up so there should be a good 12" of blanched stem. I find that this addition just lightens a few more inches of stem and keeps it clean. By the way, Wales decided to score a whole load of tries and pep up the match while I wasn't watching. Great match.

I took delivery of a fresh batch of composting worms this week. Ordered them online from Wiggly Wigglers. I was thinking of placing some between two slices of bread for an amusing April 1st blog picture....

Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; To bend with apples the mossed cottage- trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on the granary floor, Thy hair soft- lifted by the winnowing wind; Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep, Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers; And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep Steady thy laden head across a brook; Or by a cider press, with patient look, Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,- While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows, borne aloft Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; Hedge -crickets sing; and now with treble soft The redbreast whistles from a garden -croft; And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Last pickings

I still have a few tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse. One of the stars of the show this year was my yellow beefsteak tomato 'Jubilee' which is an old heritage variety from the USA. Wonderful meaty texture and superb colour and flavour. Also about 200-300 seeds in the packet, so lots for next year.
Mid season I planted a second crop of courgette 'Defender' quite amazing to still be cropping in October, although it has a little white mildew, still a few to pick every day.
Reluctant to pick the last of my tomatoes in the greenhouse, they taste far superior to anything you can buy in a supermarket. Remarkable season this year starting in June through to October.
Next post will include update from my mushroom crop! Definitely signs of life in the garage.