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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Banana shallots

I grew these from seed this year, one of the wonderful selection from the Italian seed company. Perfectly dry now, I shall tie them into a string. I have been on an allotment ever since I could walk, my Father taught me how to string onions when I was small. I wish I knew a young person who was interested so that I could pass on this skill. Posted by Picasa

Swiss chard - Rainbow lights

I only discovered "Rainbow lights" a couple of years ago when I bought a packet in the USA. Now it is a firm favourite and fills "the hungry gap" in the midst of Winter when nothing else will grow. Completely hardy and long lived. This chard will survive the Winter, keep cropping then start to grow again in the Spring and have a second flush of life. Wonderful coloured stems ranging from red, pink, yellow, orange and white. The leaves are better than spinach because you don't get that horrible metallic after taste. The stalks can be eaten raw like celery, or cooked on their own, or chopped up with the leaves and cooked. Fantastic. Posted by Picasa

Hardy winter crops

I have been making an effort this year to try to fill what is called "the hungry gap" - the period of time between January and March when Autumn crops have been used and Spring crops have not yet arrived.

Leeks - my old friend, can be dug up out of frozen soil and under snow always there, a reliable crop for the hungry gap. I tried some "January King" cabbage last year - they started out wonderfully but after a short holiday I came back to find them looking like a paper doylie, a lace curtain, fish net stockings... whatever. Purple sprouting broccoli - such a long hard winter last year that something ate my broccoli, I think it might have been pigeons.

So I have just sown some chinese cabbage, endive, perpetual spinach and golden turnips. All have come up, but I think the slugs have eaten all the chinese cabbage. I have bought 6 purple broccoli plants, they are growing beautifully - having to rub off caterpillar eggs every day.

So, armed with sprays, pellets and nets... LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bigger every day!

So I tried to leave it a month before taking the next picture of my Dills Atlantic Giant. Feeding and watering it as much as possible. Does anyone have any secret tips for growing supersize pumpkins? Posted by Picasa

Red spider mites

A few blogs ago when I pictured my first baby aubergine I was having a few problems. The leaves were turning a mottled sandy colour. Well, the little endive and winter lettuce seedlings started turning the same colour, on very close examination...the underside of the leaves were covered in tiny, tiny little critters. Less than a milimetre each and a sandy colour.

Apparently they don't like damp conditions and they thrive in hot dry greenhouses.... Out with the watering can then.... twenty times each day..... I don't think so.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Successional planting - The hungry gap

Have been planting some Autumn and winter seeds this week. Planted some golden turnip seeds, some perpetual spinach, some mini leeks and some mixed salad mixture.

Have also planted some endive, and some lettuce seed recently purchased in Northern Norway - so it should be fairly hardy !

I am trying a second crop of cucumber in the greenhouse. Last year at the chilli fiesta at West Dean, Chichester - I noticed that in September the first crop of cucumbers were practically spent and the plants dying down. They had some younger plants ready to take over - seems like a good idea for we tend to get longer Autumns going right up to November. Has anyone tried a second crop of cucumbers?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Leek pips

This Spring I left half a dozen leeks go to seed. I now have some wonderful seed heads which are covered in bees. I was reading in a veggie magazine last week on how to propagate from "leek pips". Apparently you leave the seed heads until the Autumn when the little seeds start to sprout from the flower. This flower head then has little green leeks growing out of it like a mane of green hair! The idea is then to pot them up and overwinter them in the greenhouse for early leeks next year. Will give it a go. Posted by Picasa

Baby Aubergine

My aubergines are looking sick. Plants are quite large, but older leaves are mottled with a sandy appearance and eventually go pale. Any ideas? Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Phew what a scorcher !

Here is proof. This is 94 degrees in the shade at 4pm today. Apparently hottest July day in England since records began. Posted by Picasa

More sex down on the allotment

A few blogs ago, a comment was made that I appeared to be "pimping" my pumpkins - by fertilizing female flowers with male flowers. Well, my friends it all goes on down on the allotment I can tell you. Just take a look at my poor pathetic MALE codling moths caught in this honey trap. You see, the little rubber thingy in the middle gives off the "come and get it boys" pheromone produced by a female codling moth who is "up for it"... who could resist? Here endeth the lesson for today. Posted by Picasa

Bigger by the day..

They say that a watched pot never boils. This pumpkin is just getting bigger day by day. I probably need to get out more..... but I am excited. Perhaps I will try to wait more than a couple of days before posting the next pumpkin pic eh? Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Giant Pumpkins

These Atlantic Giant pumpkins are growing away well now. Just look at the difference in two days compared to the last photo. This one has doubled in size. I have been feeding with a combination of Tomorite and manure tea. Does anyone have a favourite recepie I could try? Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sex in the plant world..

Don't get excited ! I went round a few days ago, pulled the petals of a ripe male flower (see the more yellow one in the background here).. and polinated inside a female flower - just in case they couldn't manage it on their own. Here is one of my "Dills Atlantic Giant" pumpkins. The others I have are yellow so I can't figure out where these stripes came from. Awaits. Posted by Picasa

Royalty !

See previous blog entitled "stolen from the Lost Gardens of Heligan". Here is my dwarf French bean "Royalty" . Saved seed from my one precious plant last year, and now have about 8 healthy plants. Have just planted a second row of seeds for an Autumn crop. A wonderful heritage variety that turns green when cooked. Excellent Posted by Picasa

Harlequin tomato

These Harlequin tomatoes have just started to ripen. Bigger than they looked on the packet and they seem to be prolific. Note the upturned calix resembling a jesters hat - hence the name Harlequin. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Home grown food

Last night my evening meal consisted of entirely home grown food! - apart from the venison burgers courtesy of Waitrose.

On the menu:

Steamed epicure new potatoes
ribbons of goldfield runner beans
baby defender courgette
side salad of sliced lemon cucumber
with harlequin baby plum tomatoes
purple basil garnish
compote of summer fruits
gooseberry, loganberry, redcurrant
good or what?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Flat Beans

I planted some flat runner beans "Goldfield" mixed up with the usual green "Enorma". This seems to be a good idea. The yellow flat beans have lovely cream yellow flowers and are many weeks ahead of the green ones which have red flowers. A good combination with a longer productive period. Note to self, try this next year! Posted by Picasa

Sweet Potato bush...

Not much change since June, have become a little bushier since previous photo. Posted by Picasa

Picture of Lemon Cucumber

Pulled my finger out at last, here is an example of my "Lemon" cucumber. Extremely prolific, but seems a little prone to fungal spots. Perhaps not too resistant. Might plant some more seeds now for a later crop in the Autumn. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rain at last

Thunderstorms all over London today. Phew! Saved me a lot of watering by hand since there is a hosepipe ban here. Everything is perking up and looking happy today, including myself.

Ate my first gooseberries today. Saw flies have eaten nearly all the leaves, this happened while I was on holiday, otherwise I would have sought them out and squished them.

First tomato eaten today! A small baby plum tomato "Harlequin" probably not as red as it might have been, but tasted divine. The first of many I hope.

Still working on a photo... be patient

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Lemon Cucumbers

I had a packet of seeds posted to me from the USA last year (is that legal?) anyway... I saw them growing wild in hedgerows around Mississippi, they are a variety of cucumbers the packet just calls them "Lemon". They have done well in the greenhouse and they are extremely prolific. Picked my first one today - about the size of a tennis ball, completely round and a creamy yellow colour, fairly spikey, but these rub off. Doesn't taste of lemon, so the name must just refer to the shape and or the colour. Flavour was OK, a nice mild juicy cucumber flavour. Will post a photo when I pull my finger out.

Does anyone know the protocol about seed packets from the USA?.. I looked on the DEFRA website when visiting Madeira earlier this year and it seems that almost anything goes within Europe.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hot July day

It was about 85 degrees today, phew! Lots of weeds had grown while I was on holiday, cleared patches of ground whilst drinking pints and pints of squash. Pulled up all my broad beans and then took a while to admire my nitrogen nodules (aren't they exciting?).

Atlantic Giant pumpkins look OK, starting to ramble since I pinched out the leader. Largest one is the size of a lemon now. I think I will leave 2 pumpkins on each plant and pinch out the rest, see how big I can get them - remember boys, I am going for size this year instead of flavour....

Loganberries are ready, had my first ones this weekend - just naked with nothing on, straight from the plant. Those dastardly saw flies are munching their way through my gooseberry "Invicta" pesky critters. Redcurrants are ready to pick too... mmm Summer Pudding.