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

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Pickling walnuts ; Part 1

 I found a walnut tree last weekend. These green walnuts are just about right for pickling.  Green walnuts should still be soft inside with no shell formed yet. You can test this by poking it with a needle and making sure there is no shell.

The process of pickling walnuts is fairly long.  Make sure you wear gloves! Walnuts will stain your hands and clothing with a strong black dye!  Wash and trim the walnuts then soak them in brine for a week.

At first they will be a nice green colour but....
After a few days in the brine you can see the black dye starting to become apparent.  Walnut juice was used in days gone by as an ink from which many illuminated manuscripts were drawn.   More updates later.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

Pumpkin pollination update

So a couple of days ago the female flower opened one morning.  I only had a few hours to hand pollinate with pollen from a male flower. 

Then later that afternoon after pollination the flower naturally closed and started to die back.
So about a week later the little pumpkin went from pea sized, to marble, then a conker… and today it is a tennis ball!  Appropriate for Wimbledon week. 


Sunday, June 23, 2024

Giant pumpkin update

 After several weeks of unseasonal cold weather my giant pumpkin is gradually coming to life.  I’ve added a foliar feed of some diluted Epsom salts to add magnesium as the leaves were yellowing a bit. Looks good now. I even have a little female flower! 

Fingers crossed. 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Giant Pumpkin project 2024

A few years ago I had some success growing a giant pumpkin which I entered in the RHS London show.  Won a prize!  Anyway I decided to give it a go again.  The lovely Kevin Fortey from Giant Veg was kind enough to send me some proper seeds.
Just two days after sowing in a heated propagator it germinated.
The next day out in the greenhouse it looked like this
and in only a few days the giant genetics were staggering.
After just one week it had grown this much and had been re potted.  Stand by for updates! It's going to be BIG.

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.