Down on the Allotment

Matron grows vegetables and fruit in a courtyard garden. Which edibles will tolerate less than ideal growing conditions. Discovering how veggies can grow in partial shade.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Matron is still here!  Haven't gone away!  Things are quiet here in the garden but I will be back soon!

Monday, October 03, 2016

Harvest Time in the Garden

 So this is near the end of the first growing season in my courtyard garden.  I am really happy with the way things went this year.  I grew this small squash Uchiki Kuri initially up a small tripod, and then I let it climb and trail wherever it wanted.
 My new gardening companion Daisy has helped throughout the season.
 I used some metal frames around these growbags.  The frames supported 3 canes in each bag and I tied them all together for added stability.  So with 4 bags, each with 3 plants I grew a dozen plants on the ground.
 One of the most important factors is knowing the aspect of each wall of the garden.  This wall is South facing and has full sunshine for most of the day.  Using every inch of space here is key to having a productive garden. Climbing beans grow happily among climbing cucumbers, climbing squash and climbing courgettes.  Tomatoes also use some of this space.
 Just as an experiment I planted a few sweet potato slips in the ground here.  They are a relative of the bindweed family and although I planted them fairly late in the season they have put on a good top growth.  I am going to leave them as long as possible but I am not hoping for much this year.
This Romanesco Courgette was a huge plant,  eventually making about 8 foot across.  This was planted in the soil and used quite a bit of my valuable space but did show a really good tolerance for powdery mildew - hardly effected at all.  I may look for other more compact varieties next year as well as my favourite climbing courgette.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cucumber Crazy

 There is a cucumber glut in my garden at the moment.  They seem to come all at once and then have a bit of a rest.  These lovely large cucumbers are 'Carmen' a beautiful F1 variety which has an excellent resistance to powdery mildew.  Courgettes right next to it are  suffering but the cucumber is just fine.
 Really pleased with this variety,  it is growing in a large pot up against a South Facing Wall.  Definitely a keeper for next year.
 I really do like the smaller cucumbers, they are much more convenient for snacking, you don't have a half cucumber going to waste. This lovely pale skinned mini cucumber is Delizia.  Beautiful refreshing flavour with a thin skin.
 Again, these little cucumbers are in a pot climbing up against a South facing brick wall.  They really do appreciate regular watering - I think this is the key to all cucumbers.
 Now, my little 'La Diva' cucumbers are supposed to be another mini variety but I have some mis shapen ones here.   Perhaps my watering was not as regular, and this one was in slightly less sunlight on a West facing balcony.  In fact, I forgot the one on the left and it is a bit over ripe.  Apart from the shape, these have a really good taste, and a really convenient lunchbox or snacking size.
I have been using thick slices of cucumber for dipping.  Houmus, Salsa, Guacamole or Taramasalata, Using them up quickly now.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Gardening Companion

 Everyone should have a gardening companion! Daisy has been helping out in my new courtyard garden for about 6 weeks now.
 She has been helping me by eating sticks, chewing moss, nibbling leaves and by occasionally eating big, fat, juicy slugs!! (I make sure that her wormy, parasite medications are up to date!)
She is now 15 weeks old and growing in confidence and in stature every day.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Courtyard Garden Harvest

 Now I am growing my veggies in a small courtyard garden, I have to make the best use of space and aspect.  The main area is this South facing wall.  Companion planting is working well here.  Cucumbers and climbing beans are growing together.  These are Blauhilde purple dwarf beans.
 This cucumber is growing in a large pot on the patio.  It is climbing up a trellis against a South facing wall.
 It is amazing!  I'm making sure it is tied back and well fed and watered here.
 In one of the small soil beds here I am growing my Italian Romanesco Courgettes.  This is doing really well, but the space and spread of this plant - nearly 6 ft across - takes quite a bit of my precious space in this small garden.
 One way you can use all the space possible in a small garden is to grow UPWARDS.  This is one of my favourite climbing courgette Black Forest.  Doing well in a large planter container growing up against a South facing wall.
 I do love growing pumpkins and squashes but many of them take up too much space.  This year I am trying a smaller squash 'Uchiki Kuri' and climbing the plant up a tripod and winding through other plants in the garden and up walls.
Runner beans usually enjoy deep, fertile soil and lots of food and water.  These runner beans are in a container on the balcony climbing all over the hand rails.  I am waiting to see if they enjoy being in a container, or whether I will try a dwarf container variety next year.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Growing Purple Sweet Potatoes

 Here's something a bit different!  I love Purple Sweet Potatoes!  Having left a few on a windowsill in the kitchen I noticed a couple of weeks ago that they had started to put out shoots.  I decided to see if I could propagate them, so with the aid of my new garden assistant Daisy, I cut off the top of the sweet potato and planted the shoots in some potting compost.

 Lo and behold in just a couple of weeks of warmth, water and sunshine the two tops had filled this pot with roots.  Sweet potatoes are not related to normal potatoes in any way and they grow quite differently.  Actually they are related to the columbine or bindweed family.  They propagate through these vegetative slips which put out roots when buried in the soil.
 So carefully I separated the individual slips and tried to get some roots on each cutting.
 The potato itself does not put out any roots, just the green shoots so I had to separate them quite carefully.  It is fairly late in the season to be doing this, I really should have planted slips around May, but let's see what happens in my South facing walled garden.  I have planted some slips in containers and in a large pot, so if at the end of the season they are not quite ready... I can bring a pot indoors and give it some extra heat and light to encourage it.
So fingers crossed the slugs don't get all of them!  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Spring Harvest

 I have been really pleased at the amount and the quality of produce that can be had from container gardening in a small courtyard in London.  The protected nature of a back garden means that quite a few veggies have been ahead of more exposed spots.  I grew these Rocket first early new potatoes in a bag.
 They are clean and prolific.  The only slight down side is that because they were grown in compost rather than soil, the flavour was not that great.  Perhaps next time I could mix some soil and manure.
 Masterpiece broad beans are about 5 foot tall and doing great too!
 Another taste test on the horizon. These are the Italian Romanesco courgettes.  Supposed to be one of the best flavour.  Traditionally bought in Italy with the flower kept on.  Courgette flowers can be battered fried and eaten too.
 I am going to do a taste comparison test with my old favourite Black Forest climbing courgettes.
A climbing courgette is a real bonus in a space saving container garden.  I'll let you know how the taste test went.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New Assistant Gardener

 Hello everyone!  Matron has now filled the vacant position of 'Assistant Gardener'.  The job goes to 8 week old Daisy the Labrador. So far she has been keeping me on my toes picking up leaves, sticks, moss, and generally helping around the garden.
 She also picked a ripe strawberry yesterday when she came home, but this innocent little face denied all knowledge of the deed!
So what is the first task for an Assistant Gardener? - A trip to the local garden centre of course!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Matron's Container Veggies

 I am so happy with my new container veggie garden.  My South facing London courtyard garden has been coming on leaps and bounds.  I think the sheltered nature of it means that these courgettes are fairly well ahead of most others.  This one above is a Romanesco Courgette from Seeds of Italy.
 This climbing Black Forest courgette is a great way to save space in a small garden, they will climb up a trellis! I have interplanted them with Blauhilde climbing French beans. The beans will climb up the climbing courgette which will climb up the trellis!
 I can't believe the size of my broad beans either!  These are just Masterpiece broad beans but they are 5 foot tall already! This is the South facing wall, so I am growing most veggies here.
 Also very pleased with the plastic potato planters.  I have been earthing them up gradually to the top of the container and keeping them well watered.  Time is coming now, I think, for a little peek.  The Rocket new potatoes should be just about ready.
 I bought some grow bags and some metal plant supports for the tomatoes here.  I can tie all the canes together for additional support.  Lots of sunlight here in the middle of the garden so they should do OK if I can keep them well watered.
 and I didn't think my rhubarb would do as well as it has done in the first year after lifting and dividing crowns from my old allotment.  I suppose they might have needed dividing, and I did give them a lovely bed of rotted manure here.  This is a West facing wall so it gets mid day and afternoon sunlight.
 Right next door to the rhubarb on this South West corner is my Tayberry.  I transplanted this one from my old allotment too.  A Tayberry is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry.
Lots of flowers and fruit forming here, the bees are loving it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Growing Purple Sweet Potatoes

 I just love these!  I first heard about these purple sweet potatoes from a family member who lives in Hawaii.  They knew them as the Okinawa sweet potato (originally from Japan). This purple sweet potato was well known in Hawaii for making purple sweet potato pie - which is a little like our pumpkin pie.  I managed to find some in a Chinese supermarket in London, but I think they are really catching on here in the UK and you can find them in Waitrose as 'Stokes' purple sweet potato but they are seasonal and you can really only find them up till the end of April.
 Now these Japanese Okinawa purple sweet potatoes are being bred as 'Stokes' purple sweet potatoes and grown in the USA alongside their usual crop of sweet potatoes.  When you peel them they are just an amazing colour.  The cooked texture is quite dry with a high fibre content.  As with many other purple veggies they have a higher anthocyanin content.
 I usually steam them in a bag in the microwave so they don't lose too much taste and colour into cooking water. They have a wonderful, sweet flavour and really make a wonderful pumpkin pie, or just as an unusual vegetable to serve with a roast dinner.  You could steam and then fry these slices of purple sweet potato.
 and it keeps its colour even when cooked.  I can most highly recommend trying some of these if you find them.  Some sweet potatoes have different skin colours but have a white or orange flesh, so make sure you find these purple ones. They are well worth the effort to source them.
And finally I have a couple of small purple sweet potatoes that have started to sprout!  I am going to try growing some slips.  These do NOT grow like ordinary potatoes, they are a completely different family of plants.  These sweet potatoes are related to bindweed or the columbine family.  They propagate from vegetative shoots or slips and not by planting a tuber.  I will keep you updated with my progress, but I will keep these shoots growing a bit bigger before planting them. More to follow.