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 29, 2023

Drowning in cucumbers

 Still here! Everything is growing so fast these past few weeks. Long hot days have seen a lot of activity inside and outside the greenhouse.

I found a Polish variety of tomato , these are known as 'Raspberry Tomatoes' they all have a lovely pink colour and an amazing taste with just the right amount of sweetness, acid and flavour.
First time I've grown Cornichon cucumbers for pickling. Make gherkins with 3% brine solution, fresh dill, slices of horseradish, garlic clove and pickling spice.  I also add some raspberry leaves into the brine as it adds tannin to the mix which keeps them crispy.
Another adventure - this will eventually be an Armenian Yard Long cucumber - hopefully.  At the moment it's a Hampshire inch long...
And I am really drowning in cucumbers in the greenhouse.  These lovely Delistar cucumbers are cropping like crazy.  Only 3 plants in a growbag and I have 4 or 5 every day! 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

 I'm still here! Not sure if this blogger platform is still here or not, but here goes.   I decided to dig one of my 'Tahiti' purple sweet potatoes this week.  This first one was in a growbag container and did get a bit dry at times.  Ideally I'd like to leave sweet potatoes in the ground as long as possible because it is at this time of year they put on growth and swell the tubers.

I am told that the leaves of this sweet potato are edible too - I didn't really feel like trying them but my chickens appreciated them.

Strange curly, fattened roots compacted together in a mass.   An OK harvest, not really spectacular, but it does give me more hope that the plants I have in the open ground will be a bit better when I dig them up in a few weeks.   I also have some regular Beauregard sweet potatoes in the ground as well.  I'll update more when I dig those up.   

Hope there is someone out there reading this.  xx

Monday, August 17, 2020

Success with Peaches

 Hooray!  Matron is still here!  I thought blogger had threatened to delete all posts on this platform, I thought I was going to loose everything but it looks as if I'm still here!  

So let me share this success with you.  6 of these beautiful Rochester peaches set fruit.  A couple were pecked and went rotten, but I did manage 3 beautiful ripe peaches.  They were hidden from birds by the leaf cover and managed to survive.  Really wonderful taste and texture.  Only a 3 year old tree so anything is a bonus.

Next post will show you how I have fan trained the tree.

It's good to be back!  Matron xxx

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Peach Tree Pollination

 Look at my peach tree! Beautiful peach blossom is usually one of the first fruit trees to come into flower.  This espalier pruned tree is up against a sheltered South facing wall. 
 As they flower so early in the season, pollination by bees and other insects might be problematic, and hand pollination with a soft paintbrush is usually advised, but I noticed something wonderful this week.
 I planted the peach next to two, large rosemary bushes either side of it which also appear to be in flower right now, at the same time as the peach blossom. 
So the mass of flowers on the rosemary bushes here is encouraging bees to come over to pollinate, and they are also flying on to my peach tree to pollinate that too!   I am waiting a few more weeks before pruning the peach tree.  Peaches are one fruit tree that you do NOT prune in Winter with other fruit trees.  They must be pruned in early Summer when all danger of viruses like Silver Leaf disease or peach leaf curl are over.  These viruses are active over Winter and I must wait until the weather warms up a bit before pruning this espalier.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Spring Plantings

 Now that I'm living down here in Hampshire, I made a trip across to the Isle of Wight recently.  I bought some Elephant Garlic cloves.  I know they are a very mild type of garlic, rather like the taste of leeks, but I thought they might be fun to grow.  Have you tried them?
 The Garlic Farm also does an amazing cooked English Breakfast, and they are also dog friendly!
 Meanwhile back at home I started a new venture.  I am planting an asparagus bed.  This patch of ground gets sun most of the day in Summer so I am using this place behind the greenhouse. I don't need access much of the time so it will be fine. 
 I chose 3 different varieties, Gijnlim, Connovers Colossal, and Pacific Purple.
 Prepared the ground and added well rotted horse manure, some superphosphate and I used mycorrhizal fungi on the roots to encourage healthy root development.   I won't be picking a crop for a couple of years, so patience will be needed until then.
 Meanwhile at home on a rainy day, I ground up my dried chilli.  Joe's Long Cayenne, and Targu Mures Transylvanian Paprika.
 My tomato and chilli seedlings are doing well on a windowsill, and under some grow lights.  Time to prick them out.
Found this handy little windowsill propagator, so they are now happy in their new trays.  Varieties here, are Sungold, Golden Jubilee and Pantano tomatoesOrange Kilian and Joe's long chilli.

Monday, February 04, 2019

A New Venture!

 As the days are gradually getting longer, my purple sprouting broccoli is beginning to respond by starting to produce florets.
 And even the little side shoots are now beginning to show. So lovely to see the beginning of the new growing year.
 A new development for my new Hampshire garden, as I am on sandy loam soil I thought I would start an asparagus bed.  So I carefully weeded this sheltered spot behind the greenhouse making sure to remove every possible weed, then give the soil a good helping of my well rotted horse manure compost.   When it stops snowing here!! I will get the crowns planted.
I've bought some different varieties to plant, Pacific Purple, Conovers Colossal and Ginglim F1.


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Happy New Year

 Happy New Year everyone!  I am thrilled to say that the dreaded leek moth has not yet found my garden!  Even on a fairly poor, sandy soil this year I was able to grow a respectable crop of Musselburgh leeks.  With the addition of some more compost and manure this next season I hope to continue to do well.
 No success in 2018 with my pot grown purple sweet potatoes, I had a very late start due to my house move.  But I managed to take a couple of slips and rooted them in water on a windowsill.  I will pot them up and keep them going until I can plant them out.
 Chickens are doing well!  It seems like a convenient arrangement for me, they eat all my excess veggies and kitchen waste as well as slugs, snails and other critters - then they give me lovely manure for the compost heap, AND they lay eggs!  Well done Girls.
 A lovely surprise in the garden this year was growing these physalis.  Again, a very late addition to the garden they grew and grew producing lots of fruit, but sadly many of them did not ripen.  What I did get was really lovely.  A real recommendation if you haven't grown them before.
 So, on Christmas Day I had a wonderful harvest of specially prepared Charlotte new potatoes.  Autumn sown in a container in the greenhouse, this bag has many more to come.  Well worth the space in the greenhouse to make an extra Winter crop.
These chillis caught my eye on Twitter last week.  These are wonderful bright orange cayenne chilli from the Czech republic called Kilian.  A standard cayene type chilli which ripen to orange. I found them at Sea Spring Seeds if you fancy trying them.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Matron goes winkling!

 This takes me back to childhood holidays in Cornwall!  Whilst out on a seaside walkies along the Solent I saw these winkles - or common periwinkles at low tide.
 I checked with a local wildlife warden that the sea quality in this part of the Solent is excellent!  Strong tides bring fresh water to the area twice a day.
 So I picked a bucket of winkles from the rocks and picked some seaweed to pack with them.  After cleaning thoroughly I soaked them overnight in salt water to allow them to filter out any sand or impurities.
 Boil in salty water , with the seaweed, for about 10 minutes and then cool in the fridge for a couple of hours. 
Fiddly work to get them out of their shells with a needle or a pin (my Grandfather was a London pawnbroker so we have some long pawnbrokers pins for the task)  It is well worth the effort.  Serve with vinegar and pepper on a slice of wholemeal bread.  Perfect!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


 I collected three hybrid layers a couple of weeks ago.  They have settled down really quickly and started laying beautiful eggs almost straight away.  They are calm and curious and they don't seem to mind Daisy poking her nose at them from time to time.
 This Eglu chicken coop is really easy to use and easy to clean too.
 Ta Dah!
 Early this Summer I hung a pheromone lure in my apple trees, but unfortunately it didn't work as well as I had hoped.  Many of the apples still have maggots inside them.  I'm certain I put the lure up at the right time, but maybe the Summer was just a really good year for the fruit moth, or these trees were already so badly infested it will take a bit more work. 
So I bought a sticky grease band to wrap around the trunk of the tree.
Winter moths climb up the trunk of the tree ready to lay their eggs next Spring in the developing apples.  So maybe this, plus another pheromone lure next year might do the trick!   The sticky band might even catch something bigger..... I hope not.... but you never know!
Exciting news!  I bought a Peach tree for my new house.   I have a lovely South facing dry wall at the front of my house, so this espalier pruned Redhaven Peach should do well here.  This variety has some resistance to peach leaf curl, but this wall is very dry anyway so fingers crossed.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Hot Stuff!

 I've been picking chillis nearly every day now.  Wait until they are fully red and then harvest them.  This will enable unripe chillis on the plant to develop. Don't leave them on the plant when they are ready to be picked, you will inhibit the ripening of the others.
 So these Transylvanian Targu Mures chillis are on a plate in my airing cupboard. 
 Same here with these Joe's Long Cayenne chillis. Drying slowly in a warm cupboard.
 Meanwhile back on the plot, these Physalis are beginning to ripen.  Hanging underneath the branches these plants look really lush and healthy.
 I planted two plants here next to each other, they need a partner for good pollination.
And here they are!  Really lovely, sweet fruit.  I can highly recommend giving them a go.