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

Friday, May 30, 2008

Twelve Million Hermaphrodites!

By a stroke of luck my Nemaslug arrived in the post today. I ordered them online last weekend, but they are a live product so should be stored in a refrigerator and used as soon as possible. It has been raining for about a week now so the veggie garden is in perfect condition to apply the treatment. This comes in a dry powder which is diluted in water and sprinkled all over the soil. The microscopic nematode worms (all 12 million of them - all hermaphrodites) eat slugs - hooray! Mum asked me an intelligent question today, "How do they know that they are all hermaphrodites?" - hmmmm any answers please?
Another exciting trip today, down to the riding stables to load up with free manure. I have just discovered that Ikea make these strong plastic bags which are ideal for manure, and only 30p each.
I was on my feet all day today with a trip to Kew Gardens. Lots and lots of baby ducklings and goslings everywhere!
Fantastic trees at Kew, I could just stand and stare all day.
We climbed right up into the treeline on the new exhibition - an aerial walkway right up in the trees! I bit wobbly but you can see life from a different perspective up there.
Couldn't resist sharing this photo of a beautiful male golden pheasant. I also can't resist sharing an anecdote... a few years ago a close family member was walking with the then Archbishop of York in the grounds of his official residence. She was unaware that he kept pheasants in the grounds, so she was a little puzzled when he asked her, "Would you like to see my magnificent golden cock?"

A First Feast

Yesterday I picked my first Globe Artichoke. I always have terrible problems with blackfly crawling in between the leaves and as a result most years they are inedible. This year I decided just to pick one slightly smaller before the blackfly really took a hold. It was delicious. Just boiled for 20 minutes and with the leaves dipped in vinaigrette. Delicious!

This week it has been raining most of the time, as a consequence, the garden is flooded. This is really great for the potatoes but I just can't get down there without wearing wellies. Anyway, I'm off to Kew Gardens today. More reports later.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A New Arrival..

Many congratulations must go to my Sister's two chickens Tikka and Korma... on the safe arrival of their first eggs! First one arrived on Friday 23rd May closely followed by one on Saturday evening and a third this morning! It might be coincidence but on Thursday I took them a prezzie of a jamjar full of freshly caught garden snails! These were gently crushed underfoot and devoured hungrily.

Snails in..... eggs out!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Happy Birthday Blog!

Here are my tomato cuttings! With the encouragement and photo from UKBob I decided to give it a try, seeing that these tomato seeds were about £1 each I thought it would be worth it. Looks like good progress!

My blog is 2 years old today!! Happy Birthday Blog! What a wonderful and interesting pastime blogging is? Believe it or not I do actually have a very busy professional job outside of my garden, but still I find time to dig my soil and write my blog! 2 years ago it was my buddy Stan who persuaded me that people might like to share my gardening experiences on a blog. I was not convinced to say the least... it wouldn't work, nobody would be interested.. in fact, Stan himself has discovered veggie gardening himself in a big way... yaaaay!
I wonder why these delicious little fruit are called straw-berries? Well, to stop the berries getting damp from laying on the soil, you put straw underneath!
These globe artichokes are getting bigger day by day. Today this one is the size of an orange, I think I will make it a little fleece covering and tie it round the stem. So far it appears un-discovered by blackfly, but I won't risk it much longer.
Finally, looks like it is going to be a good year for apples!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More from Matron's Flower Show..

There is a strict dress code if you come to visit Matron's Flower Show... yes, the shoes have to match the bag. This dress code will be strictly enforced!
The bees just LOVE the broad bean flowers! Honey bees thrive well in city gardens because of the range of flowers grown there. These are Bunyards Exhibition , a variety I have not grown before. They seem to be quite prolific. I was pleased to see that there were some veggies featured on the RHS Chelsea Flower Show yesterday. A step in the right direction although it will not be the same now that the gold medal winning veggie grower Medwyn Williams has retired from exhibiting there.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Matron's Flower Show

The only flowers you will see this week in my garden are those which precede tasty vegetables! I've just finished watching the opening day of the RHS Chelsea flower show on TV.. not a veggie in sight.. shame on them. Regard my crimson flowered broad beans, flowering their little hearts out at the moment. Small beanlets are starting to appear at the base of each plant.
Looks like it will be a bumper year for strawberries too. This is the third year I have found a permanent home for about a dozen plants. I just peg down the runners each year and try to remember which plants are past their best and whip them out. This week I will give them a feed and lay down some straw for the berries to rest on.. er.. that's why they call them straw-berries!
I took some cuttings from my beefsteak tomato plant Country Taste. These seeds were £3.99 for a packet of four seeds so I was keen to attempt to make a few extra plants from the side shoots which emerge from the 'armpits' of the plant. These are sitting up nicely, I checked this morning and cannot see roots yet but the little hairs on the stems appear to be thickening. I will just have to find space for an extra dozen plants now!!
These purple podded peas are romping away as well. Here you can see the fantastic purple pods as well as the stunning flowers. The plants are about 5ft tall now and still climbing!
My shallots 'Pikant' are doing nicely as well. The bases are just starting to thicken slightly and you can see where the bulb has divided into about a dozen little ones. When the days start to get shorter next month, the bulbs will really start to swell when the plant senses a change in day length and starts to store food for Winter.
I couldn't resist getting down on my hands and knees today to take a peek at my rhubarb jungle! This is going from strength to strength this year - fantastic! I will be careful not to stress the plant by taking too many stalks, but there are still plenty of small leaves emerging from the crown. I am picking about 4 or 5 stalks every week, they are so tender and sweet!

A Short Trip Away

Just arrived back home after a short trip to Warsaw and Krakow. Everything down on the allotment seems to have survived without me! More pics this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Matron's Tits!

I spent a good deal of my afternoon sweltering inside my greenhouse in order to get you some photos of my Great Tits.
These parents are working so hard to bring back mouthfulls of food for their growing brood.
The babies are getting larger now and from time to time they poke their little heads out of the hole to see what the big wide world is all about.
The adults are almost oblivious to my presence, flying over my head from time to time to go in and out of the nest box. I seem to remember a while ago one of the Australian bloggers expressed a wish to see my tits... well here you are!
Elsewhere in the sunny garden today I noticed the heart of a globe artichoke appearing. On closer inspection of this photograph I notice the dreaded blackfly already staking their claim. Most years my artichokes are inedible because of blackfly. How can I stop them??
I got all my squash and pumpkins planted out today, the weather has been too hot to leave them in pots any more. The varieties growing this year are:
Rouge Vif D'Etamps
Bush Delicata
Yellow Straightneck
Bush Table Queen Acorn
Black Forest Climbing Courgette
Defender Courgette
Here is an early tomato, my first one set this year. These are a bush tomato - can't think of the name right now.. will get back to you.
Finally a plea to anyone who might be willing to do a bean swap with me?? My other passion besides growing veggies is dog training.. can anyone provide me with a few of a variety called something like DOG BEAN beans? I can offer you either some Vermont Cranberry beans (liberated from Mount Vernon, VA) or some Royalty (liberated from Heligan). Anyone who can assist, please comment and I will email you.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Sunny Weekend

This afternoon in the garden my thermometer in the shade registered 82 degrees. I could hear thunder in the distance and the air was humid. I decided not to do the digging today, but decided to do some planting out. Above is one of the first glimpses of my gooseberry 'Invicta' just about marble sized at the moment. Such a short season, but a really sweet, ripe gooseberry has to be eaten to be believed - a real treat!
The herb garden was enjoying the baking hot sunshine today. I know that every time I tell you all that Matron does not do flowers... you can't eat flowers.. some bright spark pipes up to tell me that you can eat nasturtiums and chive flowers.. well here you are. Satisfied? I'm not eating them. I did however, enjoy a potato salad today with my home grown garlic chives - a superb subtle flavour, highly recommended.
The highlight of the day today for me had to be finding my first purple podded pea. So soon after those beautiful flowers (see below) had gone over, I found this little gem nestling under the leaves. Fantastic!
I set up my automatic greenhouse watering system today. This really saves a lot of hard work and panic during the hot Summer days. A clever little valve system at the bottom of each of these 'autopots' dripsjust a continuous stream of water below the pots. These tomatoes are really taking off now, most have trusses of flowers and the Sungold has a tiny fruit set already!
Here is one of my greenhouse cucumber 'Tiffany'. This is an F1 hybrid all female variety. I am going to plant a later crop in mid July/August to grow later in the season when this one has started to fade.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Taking a chance - planting out

My beautiful purple podded peas have started to flower. Many thanks to Celia who suggested a seed swap earlier in the year. The plants are about 3ft tall now and looking good.
The weather has taken a warm turn the last week or so, the temperature has been up in the 70s most days and fairly warm most nights. I took a chance and planted out my sweet corn today. Sweet corn is wind pollinated so you must plant corn in blocks rather than lines. The pollen falls from a tuft on the top of the plant, and reaches the tassles on the cobs down below.
I also planted out a few more tomato plants, and one of my courgette Defender, in a black plastic dustbin. It is always taking a chance when you decide to plant out. We might be very unlucky and get a late frost... or we might not.
More family news..... my Sister has given her chickens names....
Tikka and Korma.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


My rhubarb this year has been fantastic! I planted some new crowns last January and didn't pick any at all last Summer. I just mulched and watered it and gave it extra special treatment to build up the crowns. I enjoy it cooked in the microwave with some sugar, then eaten cold with a spoonful of raspberries. Another way I enjoy rhubarb is to use the rhubarb juice mixed with champagne!! The most English bucks fizz you can imagine! Thanks to a fellow blogger Greenmantle for that idea.

Friday, May 02, 2008

A New Arrival in the Family..

My Sister took posession of two hens today! Here they are in a cat-basket on the way home. These two are a breed called Bovan Goldline, which is a cross between Rhode Island Red and Light Sussex. Supposed to be easy to keep for beginners. Recent reports indicate that they have been tucking into a treat of squished snails! These point of lay birds were running round a field in the Cotswolds this morning... A bit scarey for them being taken away in a cat-box but I wonder how they feel about living in Cricklewood?
My Crimson flowered Broad Bean gets more spectacular day by day!
Has anyone noticed how much apple blossom there is around this year? It seems that the trees are smothered in blossom at the moment. Let's hope my Bramley does better than it did last year.
Finally, here is Buddy trying to look excited at how much everything has grown in the last couple of days.. Behind him you can just see my purple podded peas. Actually I think he was enjoying getting his paws muddy.