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, December 31, 2008

Early PSB

Over the past few weeks I have been watching my early PSB (purple sprouting broccoli) just develop day by day. Nature is truly fascinating because since the Winter solstice 21st December the days have been getting longer and the plants are definitely reacting to this! In the past 10 days the lead shoot on my early broccoli has doubled in size!! It amazes me that plants are just so sensitive to brightness and daylength. This variety is an extra early PSB called 'Rudolph' which is usually ready to harvest in January (that's tomorrow!) I also have a few plants of standard PSB which should be ready in March so I should have a good succession of fresh Broccoli until Summer now!
Even the side shoots are starting to show now. I am thinking that when I do decide to cut off the lead shoot then the side shoots will start to grow more quickly.
I am salivating at the thought of a plate full of freshly steamed PSB !! Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mid Winter Veggies

So, Christmas day came and I was out on the patch to see what I could dig up for Christmas dinner. You can just see the neck of this parsnip 'hollow crown' peeking up above the surface of the soil. Excitement builds... what will it be like? Not that bad! I grow my veggies on heavy London clay soil which I have worked and enriched for the last 25years. Not really light enough for really good root vegetables, they prefer sandy soil. My parsnips were shallow and forked, but enough for a satisfying feed.
Other veggies I picked were some leeks. Quite small this year, not really a good Summer and I think I planted them a bit late, but still very tasty. And Jerusalem artichokes 'fuseau' which made a great addition to the plate.
Boxing day was a fantastic sunny, cold day so I went out and enjoyed a whole day's digging and tidying up! Isn't it great to get out there and blow out the cobwebs. I turned over my compost heap and mulched my rhubarb with a thick layer of compost! So satisfying to get a good day of work done down on the allotment!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone out there in blogland a Merry Christmas! On Christmas Day I will be digging up a few parsnips, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes. Christmas dinner wouldn't be Christmas dinner without fresh veggies! Bon Appetit!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Traditional Caribbean Christmas Drink

Gosh! I love new experiences and new discoveries along the fruit and veggie line! I was visiting my usual West Indian fruit and veggie shop this week when I saw these strange red fruit for sale. I was told that it was 'Sorrel' - hmmm. A discussion then followed, I know sorrel to be a green leafy herb like spinach that you make into a sauce and serve with fish... er no, not this one! This sorrel is prepared from the red sepals of the Roselle plant (hibiscus sabdariffa). Traditionally available at Christmas it is used all over the Caribbean to make a Sorrel Drink. From the recipes I have found, it looks as if you pour boiling water over them, adding spices such as ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and oranges and lots of sugar. Leave this mixture to steep for a couple of days. This sweet drink can be drunk chilled with ice, but can also be laced with quantities of Caribbean rum.... looks like I might be having a merry Christmas after all!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lifting and Dividing Rhubarb

It is at this time of year that you can maintain your rhubarb plants. Under the soil you will find a hard woody mass which contains the crowns, or buds for next year's crop. Rhubarb needs a good frosty period in order to ripen the crowns and produce a good crop. A good hard frost is just what it needs. Rhubarb is a greedy feeder and needs lashings and lashings of compost and manure. Here you will see that I have dug up a clump of about 4 or 5 crowns to give to my friend Stan for his veggie garden. Rhubarb does tend to get a bit tired and congested if you don't lift and divide your crowns every few years or so. It gives them a new lease of life.
This variety is Timperley Early. Once you have lifted and separated some new crowns and re-planted them, you must allow the plant a whole year to recover and you must not pick any rhubarb the following Summer. Then after one year you can start to pick sparingly. After about 3 years it will be in its element and producing a great crop. If you are not dividing your rhubarb this year, then take the time over the next few weeks to mulch a good few inches of well rotted manure on top of your rhubarb. It will pay you back in pies and crumbles next year!
And here is my crown of rhubarb being planted at its new home at Stan's house today. All I asked in return was a bowl of homemade parsnip and apple soup, and some freshly cooked chocolate brownies. A fair exchange, don't you think?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wet Winter Veggies

It is just so dark and gloomy out there at the moment, it was a pleasure to see my Ruby Chard making an effort to show some beautiful colour. These were planted back in June from seeds which I purchased in Warsaw, Poland. They really love their hardy Winter veggies over there! Despite the gloomy weather the colours are wonderful. This time of year spinach and chard do not look very impressive and it might be tempting to pull them up and throw them away.. but please don't! They will start to grow again in Spring and you will have a great harvest right up till early Summer (isn't it great to look forward to gardening pleasures next year?) I've not grown this variety before, I look forward to picking some in the Spring. Normally I grow Swiss Chard Bright Lights or Rainbow Lights for spectacular colour.
I took a peek inside the greenhouse as well today. Inside a heated seed propagator and under several layers of fleece are my pineapples from the Azores. They rooted well this Summer and I am trying to keep them alive over Winter to see what I can do with them next year. The secret is to keep them as warm and as dry as possible over Winter. Start feeding and watering when it gets warmer next year.
Just to give you an idea of the awful conditions in the garden at the moment. Everything is under at least 8" of water - only some of the raised beds are poking out.
Perhaps I should start growing rice!!
Oh well, out with the wellies!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas Photo Shoot!

Well, there's nothing in particular going on down on the allotment today so we had a photoshoot in the back garden. Howz this for a Bearded Collie ??

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bulgarian Giant Leeks

I couldn't resist something I saw in the Dobies 2009 seed catalogue. This picture caught my eye, and I thought I would have to get some Bulgarian Giant Leeks. From this photo it looks as if they might reach about 2 or 3 feet long! Has anyone tried them? Seed packet arrived in the post this morning.
I might try growing batches in succession throughout the Summer and see how hardy they are. I just love leeks because they are the only thing still standing on the allotment right the way through the Winter.