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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tumbling Toms

 Every year I try to come up with an acceptable display in the front garden.  This raised flower bed is South facing and gets sun all day (assuming we ever get any). This year I decided to give the neighbours a taste of Matron's allotment by planting a row of Tumbler tomatoes
 I am just so pleased they are growing well and producing lots and lots of flowers.  Hopefully followed by lots and lots of small tomatoes.  This planting is right next to the pavement in our road, so  a bit of thought has been given to what will happen when passers-by are tempted by these lovely sweet little red jewels....
Well,  I don't mind a bit if a passing commuter or schoolby or dog... takes a fancy and picks one for a taste... that is fine.  What I will object to is anyone turning up with a trug, bucket or box and helping themselves to the lot!... Leo has strict instructions to bark loudly, chase the suspect... and lick them to death!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kicking the Bucket

 Don't worry! I'm in good health, I just wanted to share the progress of my stinging nettle liquid feed.  Just a week or so ago I picked some nettles and weighted them down in a bucket and filled it with water.

With the warmth of the sunshine these nettles are beginning to decompose and produce a powerful liquid feed.  By 'kicking the bucket' every time I walk past I can see the bubbles of methane rise to the top and escape.  It is beginning to pong!  Just a few days more and it will be ready to use.  Just a cup full in a whole watering can is the way to dilute this strong stuff!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Matron in Hog Heaven!

 Growing my own food has somewhat spoiled me as far as restaurant dining is concerned.  When you have picked and eaten your own home grown produce straight from the garden then from my point of view, most restaurants don't live up to the standard I am used to.   When I say MOST restaurants, that is until I visited THE PIG at Brockenhurst, Hampshire this week.
 For this is no ordinary restaurant, it has its own walled kitchen garden where seasonal fruit and veggies are picked and brought to the kitchen each day.  Genuine, fine dining using the best and the freshest picked produce (oh and its own smokehouse on site too!).
 One of the really endearing parts of the whole dining experience was the cozy, Victorian kitchen, parlour atmosphere. Functional, lived-in country kitchen tables, chairs and furniture made me feel right at home.  Somehow an ultra-modern, spot lighted, designer feel would have been way out of place here.
 I am completely hooked on lemon and nettle tea now!
 and part of my lovely dining experience at The Pig was a tour of the walled kitchen garden, by Chef James Golding himself.  Think of it... a chef who knows his way around a veggie garden!! Matron was in hog heaven!
 Speaking of hog heaven.... the resident Tamworth pigs were enjoying life on the premises as well.
 You have to admire the dedication and enthusiasm of Chef James Golding don't you.  Just in case he gets his chaps mixed up with his chops... he has a little map just where he needs it!
Now where in the world would you find one of these?...  A perfect end to a perfect day.  If you find yourself wandering around the New Forest in Hampshire any time... drop along for a plate of 'piggy bits'!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Perfect Growing Conditions

I was researching how to grow my new Japanese Horseradish (Wasabi) plant and did some research online.  Growing conditions are similar to that of watercress, ie in shaded running water by a stream.  The best I came up with here is putting the pot in a bucket under a dripping tap on a North facing wall.  Looks to be thriving!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tomato Habits

 Tomatoes like to grow in different ways.  Some varieties like this Tumbler tomato like to grow in a bush.  These Determinate plants send out lots and lots of side shoots and produce fruit from many different trusses.
 Sometimes with the best will in the world I can't get my tomatoes to grow up a single stem, like this Beefmaster tomato, it just wants to send out side shoots everywhere.  I have given up with this plant and will give it 3 or 4 canes to support the plant then it can do whatever it likes.
 Other varieties like this Sungold tomato are Indeterminate plants.  They grow up a single stem and can reach heights of 8 feet if allowed at the end of the season.  Pinching out side shoots is still necessary, but once a good height is reached then it is probably better to pinch out the lead shoot so that the plant can devote more of its energy to producing and ripening fruit instead of height.
 Meanwhile my lovely Masterpiece Broad Beans are showing signs of life.  I look forward to picking my first crop of tender beans in a few weeks.  Actually, you can pick them whole when they are this small size and cook them like a mangetout.  I've never tried it, perhaps I should... seems like a waste of beans to me... perhaps I might try.
 I bit the bullet this week and planted out some of my squash plants.  A generous gift from my Blogfather Stan, some Patty Pan squash,  Yellow Scallop squash and some Lebanese Squash.  I've not grown any of these before so I look forward to seeing what happens.
 I bought some sweetcorn seedlings because all my self sown ones failed to germinate.  It is still a bit too cool to plant out, sweetcorn just love the heat... will we ever get a Summer?
And finally, I picked a bucket full of nettles this afternoon. Weighted down in a bucket and filled with water this will make a powerful liquid feed in a couple of weeks.  Pegs on noses when it does mature!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Favourite Places

 The garden at RHS Wisley in Surrey is one of my favourite places.  To be more specific, the vegetable garden is the place where I feel most at home. 
 Lovely straight rows of veggies, lots to look at and compare with my own.
 I do envy their lovely sandy soil here in Surrey, but we have to make do with what we have on our own patch and then find things that like it.  Matron's allotment is on lumpy London clay.
 Always pleasing to see that even the best plots suffer with pests having a nibble on their brassicas.  I suspect this was a rabbit!
 Oh, but the highlight of the trip today was to see the amazing selection of vegetable plants in the garden centre shop.  I don't think I have ever seen such a fantastic selection for the veggie grower.  I couldn't resist buying just a few more plants for my patch.
Most of all I couldn't resist buying this... Japanese Wasabi.  Might be a bit tricky finding the right conditions for it. I understand that it is now grown here in Hampshire on gravelly watercress bed.  Apparently it likes shady damp, moist conditions with lots of fresh running water. I will have to think about providing ideal growing conditions.   I will have to think of some damp, gravelly environment to keep it happy. Has anyone tried this yet?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Matron's Passion

 One of my top foodie passions is to eat fresh fruit and vegetables grown locally and in season. So today I drove about an hour down the M40 just past Banbury in Oxfordshire to the Wykham Park Farm shop.  and boy was it worth it.
 Set in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside this gem of a farm shop specializes in growing and picking their own asparagus. Cutting and selling bunches of asparagus on the same day.  Actually they have a mail order business to pick and post asparagus on the same day too.
 Not just fruit and veg inside this farm shop, but a first class butchery with locally reared meat too.  Leo was pulling frantically to get inside the shop for some reason... perhaps it was the Gloucester Old Spot Cumberland Sausages?
 And grazing in the field right next to the shop were these fantastic old British Longhorn cattle.
 Well, no trip through Banbury would be complete without partaking of a local 'cultural experience', the Banbury Cake.  Really just like an Eccles cake, but with a university degree!
 Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross (photographed above)
to see a fine lady upon a fine horse...

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Germination Problems

 Nowadays I leave many veggies to run right to flower and seed to help the bees.  They just love these Purple Sprouting Broccoli flowers.  It is going to be a regular part of my growing plan now to leave a few of each batch to flower like this.
 In a few weeks' time my Winter Leeks will burst into wonderful purple flower spikes and give the bees another reason to visit my garden and to pollinate my other veggies when they come into flower.
 Elsewhere in the greenhouse I have had awful germination problems this Spring.  Only two out of fifteen sweet corn germinated, and nearly all my curcurbits, squash, pumpkins and courgettes have also failed despite 3 or 4 different sowings. Hmmmm
 Then isn't it hilarious that all the squash seeds in my kitchen compost are coming up all over my allotment like weeds!!   .... now I've been having a think...
 I'm pretty sure that I have not bought any squash or pumpkin from a supermarket at all.  I am pretty sure in this case that all these volunteers must be from my Queensland Blue pumpkins.  In which case I am pleased.   Nature knows best!
Finally from seed sown a few days ago, I have a couple of courgettes germinating. Left is Defender, (my favourite) and right... looking a bit weedy... is Black Beauty.  They should do fine.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Swelling Fruits

 The long, cold Winter resulted in a fine display of apple blossom this Spring, but it looks as if it is going to be another good year for fruit.  These apples have set quite well and are enjoying the warm weather.
 Definite signs of life on this Sungold tomato plant.  After a very, very slow start we are now trying to catch up. This is a greenhouse tomato plant, the others outside are a bit further behind.
 I overwintered one of my Black Pearl Chilli plants from last year on a sunny windowsill over the Winter.  I cut the stems right back in Spring and gave it some heat and light in the greenhouse propagator.  Chilli plants are perennial given the right conditions, these lovely leaves will turn purple and black and will fruit with small, black, chillis.
 The purple tomatillo plants are enjoying the sunshine outside now.  I bought these seeds in Texas back in March, and they seem to be quite sturdy little plants.  In fact, in previous years I have had volunteer tomatillo plants popping up in Spring all over my patch on their own!  Tomatillo plants need to be planted together in groups to aid pollination.
 I am disappointed with the results of my nematode worm slug treatment.  I bought a packet of Nemaslug and followed the directions to the letter.  I kept the soil wet for 2 weeks after application (not hard in my London clay soil) but my beautiful Blauhilde beans have been eaten to death!  I wonder if Nemaslug kills snails as well?  Aren't they just slugs with shells?
Finally my Masterpiece Broad Beans are shooting up.  Now tall enough to get staked and tied up for support.  I am really looking forward to these.