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 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Ted!

Happy Birthday Ted! Eighty six years old today so I thought I would bring him out for a day-trip in the garden.
Inspecting the sweetcorn, not quite ready yet. Maybe another couple of weeks.
Lovely sunflower, ripening well in this hot sun.
Ted doesn't come out much these days.
Happy Birthday!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pumpkin Update

What a difference one week can make! Last week I was sharing with you my pumpkin problems, And each day since then they have doubled in size.
From a golf ball,
To a football! These are going to turn into beautiful dark orange pumpkins, Rouge Vif D'Etamps.
This week in London the heat and sunshine has really turned up, culminating yesterday in the hottest day so far this Summer. Obviously this has really suited my pumpkins. As I speak however, 2240hrs I am listening to torrential rain and flash-bang thunder and lightening outside. That will save me having to water tomorrow then!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Good year for Blackberries

Has anyone noticed how many blackberries are around this year? It seems to me as if there is a real glut this year, the hedgerows are loaded with them, and the blackberries in my garden are just fantastic.
It is fortunate therefore that it also looks to be a good year for my Bramley apple tree which I have had to thin out considerably. Apple and Blackberry are two flavours that just melt together perfectly. Anyone for crumble?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Fruits of my Toil

OK, OK so Matron doesn't do flowers.... but here is one very rare exception to the rule. You see, a friend gave me the seedlings and he wouldn't take no for an answer... so as not to avoid hurting his feelings... I grew them. 8ft tall and still growing - beautiful aren't they?
Here is Fort Knox, Stalag Luft Hillingdon, Colditz.. whatever you call it here is my latest construction to keep the pests off my broccoli. Let the battle begin!
Above is an Acorn Squash - Table Queen.
And here is a squash Delicata - which I understand is also known as a sweet potato squash.
These are a bush tomato I am growing in a hanging basket - variety Garden Pearl.
Just a couple of snaps to illustrate some of the watering problems that exist.. above has split due to overwatering.
And here is a classic case of blossom end rot.. due to erratic or underwatering when the tomato was small. I think I have had some blockage problems in the tubing in my automatic watering system in the greenhouse. I have just undone it all, flushed it through, cleaned it and put it together again. Lets see what happens.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Pumpkin Dilemma

This is what I am aiming for this year! A beautiful big, round, red pumpkin. This is the variety I am growing this year Rouge Vif D'Etamps - seed kindly donated by Petunia (the shoes on the left! And so far it looks like all I am getting is this!

Here's the dilemma - I realise that my wonderful trailing pumpkin leaves cannot support an infinite number of mature pumpkins, but most of my little yellow pumpkins are just withering and rotting. A few weeks ago I counted a total of about 10 female flowers on one vine - I know they will not grow into 10 giant pumpkins, but who decides?
I've been watering and feeding the plants and the leaves and stalks look fantastic, but the little pumpkins nearest the root are withering and dying, the ones at the end of the growing tip seem to be OK. Are there rules to this phenomenon? Should I thin them out?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Sex life of Plants

This is my climbing courgette 'Black Forest' I have t be pretty regular with tieing the stem up a trellis every couple of days but it has been quite prolific, and by far the best so far. It is 5 foot tall and still climbing now. My sweet corn is going great guns... now down to the sex part... at the top of the corn stalk is the flowering part. From this falls the male pollen...
This male pollen is blown by the wind, hopefully downwards until it reaches....
The female parts.. her silky bits are just showing from the top of the growing corn cob. The male pollen has to fertilise the female silks, then at the end of each silk will grow a lovely sweet corn kernel. This is why sweetcorn must be grown in blocks together and not in rows. A block of sweet corn will enable all the female cobs to be fertilised in an orgy of pollen.
The photo above is a male pumpkin flower. His pollen will have to reach....
The female pumpkin flower.. it usually does! Some times if you are growing crops indoors or you want to be sure of good pollination you can artificially pollinate a female flower with a male flower. This one is my lovely 'Rouge vif D'Etamps' pumpkin. This is what my blogging friend Hx called 'pimping my pumpkins'

Day by Day

Day by day these tomatoes are getting riper and riper. I don't think these will last much longer than today. Thickly sliced on a plate with fresh basil, good quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper and sea salt.... bon apetit!

Monday, July 14, 2008

News from the Greenhouse

Just look at these! Over the past couple of days I noticed that my tomatoes had changed from a green colour, to a paler green, and now for definite there are signs of ripening. This is phenomenally early for a beefsteak type tomato which usually fruit later in the Summer. This is a new variety this year from the Thompson & Morgan catalogue, it is 'Country Taste' - I will leave it to ripen really well, apparently the lycopene levels in tomatoes rise substantially the longer you leave them to go really ripe on the plant.
Meanwhile elsewhere my potted sweet pepper seems to be making an effort too!
You can see that her little Sisters are not far behind either!
Going great guns in the greenhouse are these Moneymaker tomato. Still no signs of red spider mite following my treatment with a natural pest control a few weeks ago. Awaits the acid test in August when things really heat up in there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

An Amazing Day!

Today was amazing! please excuse for going off topic for a moment. I took Buddy to the RSPCA Annual Rescue dog show today... and he walked off with the top prize!
The dog show was in the grounds of Pinewood Studios where all the James Bond films were made, here you can see the famous 007 Sound Stage.
The theme of the day was K9-007 fancy dress, so to get in the spirit Buddy donned a collar and tie and walked away with the top prize! I am so proud!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Food for Free

Let me introduce you to a book which I have used and owned for about 30 years. If you are sick and tired of those pesky weeds which just grow and grow in the garden this time of year, then this book will give you a fresh way of thinking about them. For example, you can pick and steam chickweed, shepherds purse, nettles and even ground elder! Loads of exciting new ideas for hedgerow searching. See if you can find a copy.
And I couldn't resist showing you my new shoes!!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

International Kidney

Note to self.... must grow International Kidney new potatoes next year! I have not tried this variety before, they are a second early potato which came out of the ground today, a wonderful milky white colour. If I lived on the island of Jersey and grew this potato I would be able to call it Jersey Royal.. because that's what it is. But I don't.. so I can't. You don't need to put butter on this hot new potato, it is just the most wonderful, wonderful ,waxy, delicious potato hot or cold.
Had some time on my hands this last couple of days and made strawberry jam. This might be one of the most popular flavours but it is not straightforward to make as strawberries have a low pectin content and a low acid content.. both of which are required to set a jam. You must use added pectin one way or another. Either by using jam sugar which already has pectin added, or by using a liquid or packet of pectin, or by using a pectin-rich fruit such as apples or plums with it. I have never found a recipe which accurately tells you how long you should boil jam for. I use the 'saucer in the freezer' method to tell when my jam is set. Never fails.
Visited the RHS Garden at Wisley, Surrey on Friday with my blog-mentor Stan. Captions please!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fourth of July in London

Things are hotting up in the greenhouse! The tomatoes need daily watering and weekly feeding. These are my new variety of beefsteak tomato Country Taste.
My banana Musa Basjoo is putting on a new leaf each week!
Sweet corn is about 3ft tall at the moment and growing each day. I have planted a climbing French bean Blauhilde under each stalk.
The pumpkins Rouge vif D'Etamps are starting to crawl everywhere! There are plenty of female flowers and lots and lots of little pumpkin-lets! I am really looking forward to seeing these beautiful red, heritage variety. Seeds given to me during a visit to the USA last year where I met fellow blogger Petunia.

Lots and lots of little baby pumpkins!

The purple podded peas are really fat and ripe. I have hung the peas and the vine up against a fence to dry off properly. Saving seed for next year.

I let one of my parsnips go to seed from last year! What a fantastic, beautiful plant now more than 6 feet tall and covered in yellow flowers followed by attractive seed heads. I will try to save some seed for next year.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

More from Matron's Trugblog!

More late entries greatfully received for Matron's TRUGBLOG. I am so pleased to present this offering from Scarecrow's Garden down there in South Australia. Of course it is Winter down there in the Southern Hemisphere, so this Winter trug makes a welcome change of scenery. *****
One last look at those tomatoes before I nab them! *****
Another late entry from the Weekend Farmer who sent this lovely basketful from the USA. Wishing you a happy July 4th Celebrations this week. *****
Stan my blog-mentor was bemoaning the fact that I hadn't included the photo of his raspberries.. well here you are! *****
Finally, a wonderful selection from Our patch of earth in beautiful Bedford. Such wonderful colours, beautifully arranged.