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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Growing Pineapples!

I would never have dreamed to get my pineapple through the Winter and fruiting! I kept the plant wrapped up in a heated propagator all Winter.. and here you are! I will wait a couple of days till I can smell it, just to be sure of perfect ripeness. I will post later when I pick it and eat it!
I am also thrilled with some tomato seed which I obtained from a large beefsteak tomato purchased in a market in Quebec. Some research has shown that there has been genetic research into improving varieties of tomatoes which can be grown under glass in the Canadian climate. It seems to suit London pretty well too. These are incredibly prolific, tasty and remarkably early for a beefsteak variety. Definitely a keeper for next year.
Finally, here are Tikka and Korma enjoying a little TLC. Both of them jumped up on my lap when I opened a box of dried mealworms!
No luck on the beetroot project I'm afraid! They have been devouring handfulls of chopped up cooked beetroot every day, but not a single sign of pink eggs, eggshells... or pink poo! What an interesting life I lead!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dog Beans!

Buddy was out on the patch this afternoon inspecting the Dog Beans! I was fortunate to do a seed swap with Alexandre from Jardim com Gatos in Portugal. He sent me some of his precious Dog Beans - I had been after them for quite a while.
Buddy does love eating green vegetables with his evening meal. His first preference is courgettes, but he does like spinach and cooked beans. These dog beans have a white flower and the beans are green.
My Yard Long Beans are only a foot tall at the moment. I have been assured by the seed company Dobies, that they do grow in our climate but most research I have done suggests they prefer a more tropical climate. Let's hope Summer comes soon! It has been miserable here.
My Runner Beans Enorma are not quite up to size yet. I have sown a few sweet peas amongst them to encourage bees to pollinate. I have been meaning to mention that here in England we refer to runner beans or climbing beans whereas in the USA I believe they are pole beans. We also refer to dwarf beans or French beans whereas in the USA they are bush beans.
Here below are some of my old heritage variety of climbing beans Lazy Housewife. They are not quite ready yet, but they have a wonderful cream to white flower and are already 7ft tall.
Another climbing bean on the plot is this flat bean, Eden. I love these because no matter how big they get they never get stringy! Of course it is best to pick them small and there are so many of them.
Growing with the flat beans I am growing the purple climbing bean Blauhilde. These purple beans cook to green, they are amazingly prolific and trouble free. These are one of my favourites.
How have your beans been?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yellow Mirabelles?

There is a dense thicket at the end of my patch. This year one tree has been overloaded with these yellow plum-like fruit. They are sweet, oval shaped and in all respects they are a small yellow plum. I have looked up on Google images and I think they are either a Bullace, or more probably a Mirabelle. Does anyone have an idea what they are? Meanwhile elsewhere on the patch, I have been pruning and clearing up my soft fruit bushes. It is much easier to prune redcurrants and harvest the berries whilst sitting comfortably at a table!
Finally, this activity takes me back to my childhood...
Just for a laugh, get a sharp needle and gently trace a pattern in your tiny pumpkins or squashes. As the pumpkin grows bigger and bigger, so will your shape. My fondest memory down on the allotment with my Father when I was a small girl, was to secretly deface his marrows in this way. I remember one such occasion when I had written "Silly old Daddy!" on one of his prize marrows! Happy memories!

Tikka & Korma have come to stay!

Tikka and Korma have come to stay for a Summer holiday! First stop was a trip to the salon, for a little trim! Taking a couple of inches from the end of their flight feathers will ensure they cannot hop over the garden fence! Tikka is sporting her new look here!

I am starting an experiment... I wonder what will happen to the egg yolks if I feed them cooked beetroot?? Watch this space!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Curcurbit Family Reunion!

Blog readers may remember last Friday I posted about hand pollinating my pumpkins in order to save true seed for next year. Just look at the difference one week has made! This is the same Queensland Blue squash, you can see how much bigger it is and the flower and string have just fallen off. This indicates that pollination was successful and the fruit is growing. You can see below the same has happened to this Rouge Vif D'Etamps pumpkin which I hand pollinated in the same way. They have doubled in size in a week.
In the greenhouse I have a good crop of this all female F1 Cucumber Tiffany. If you see All Female on a packet of seeds this means that you do not have male and female flowers. All the flowers on this plant will bear fruit.
You can see below my climbing courgette Black Forest. This is a wonderful plant for growing if you don't have much space. I am amazed at the productivity of this plant. A courgette is growing from every leaf joint! I just tie it up regularly and at the end of the season it will reach over 8 feet tall.
One of my favourite courgettes is Defender. I grow this bush courgette every year as it has a remarkable tolerance to the mosaic virus - a disease which turns the leaves a mottled yellow colour. This plant grows in a black plastic dustbin.
Another good do-er on the patch is the Yellow Straightneck squash. These are seeds I bought in the USA and the veggies can be used just like courgettes, or you can make Yellow Squash Pie. A recipe favoured in the Southern United States which is similar to pumpkin pie.
This time of year all these curcurbits are growing fast. Don't forget to feed and water yours!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Zealand Spinach

I snapped this butterfly sitting on my Lazy Housewife beans a couple of days ago. I looked it up on a website of British Butterflies, and have come to the conclusion that it might be a Comma. The wing shape is a little different, but maybe it has just flown in from Africa and is a bit ragged! I've taken my first crop of New Zealand Spinach this week too. It is a succulent plant with fleshy leaves, and the texture when cooked is reflective of this. Quite a pleasant flavour but I don't know if it tastes like spinach or not.
The beans are just starting to crop as well. One favourite is the flat bean Eden and the lovely purple bean Blauhilde. These are my two favourite climbing beans.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Matron's Multi Coloured Tomato Show

I am being rather adventurous in my choice of tomato varieties this year. Almost any colour except red seems to be the flavour. These are just the very earliest greenhouse crops, with loads more on the way. Red - Great Wall of China, Yellow - Ildi, Orange - Sungold, Purple - Black Russian. I have a few more exotics in the pipeline, such as Cream Sausage and Chocolate Cherry.
I nipped out of work yesterday and went to Borough market. They have a wonderful display of tomatoes too. I bet they aren't half as tasty!
Someone else I spotted at the market... looked rather hungry! A butcher's dog perhaps?
Then I decided to play tourist in my own home town!
I play tourist in everyone elses home town..
So why not mine?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hand Pollinating Pumpkins

I am fortunate to have obtained some special pumpkin seeds in the past couple of years. Unfortunately pumpkins and squashes are famous for cross-pollinating with any other related family member. Unless I take special measures, if I save seed from any of my pumpkins and squashes this year, I will probably get strange, hybrid fruit next year. The female flower above is from my Rouge Vif D'Etamps pumpkin.
The slightly different shaped pumpkin is a female flower from my Queensland Blue pumpkin which Scarecrow sent me from Australia. (G'day mate - you're hammering us in the cricket eh?)
So this is what a male flower looks like. He has no little baby pumpkin behind his flower, and inside the flower he contains the pollen which is the male part of the plant (think sperm...)
So if you want to collect seed for next year you must obtain pollen from a male flower of the same speceis (preferably from another plant) and deposit it in the female flower. You must keep a vigilant watch on your pumpkin patch, staying there all day if necessary to do this at exactly the right time. Both male and female flowers have to be fully open, but they must not have been pollinated by any flying insects - who might bring in other pollen.
Now here comes the sex. Look away if you are squeamish, or if you are of a sensitive disposition! Take the petals off the male flower to expose the pollen at the base of the flower and make it easier to insert right down the bottom of the female flower and brush the pollen all over the female parts of the flower. You can do this with a very fine paintbrush if you can get the pollen on to that.
Now to avoid any further insect pollination of the female flower you must prevent insects from getting in there for a few days more. A fleece bag, pair of stockings lightly tied over the female flower will do.
Just to be sure you have the timing right (let's face it girls, they have problems don't they?) You may have to repeat the exercise tomorrow and the next day just to be sure that enough pollen has been produced. When fertilization has taken place, the female pumpkin will start to swell and the flower will drop off.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Welcome to Matron's Worldwide Veggie Show 2009

I've had an amazing response from many bloggers to Matron's Worldwide Veggie Show 2009. THANK YOU! So many pictures, I would love to have posted them all but I would be here all night! So I chose my favourites so I chose a variety of edibles.

To get us off to a wonderful start, this fantastic plate of peas from Dan at Urban Veggie Garden in Canada. Fantastic Dan!

What a wonderful picture of six perfectly sized veggies from Amanda in Ontario, Canada at Someone Elses Kitchen. It is a bit early in the season there, but she made a fantastic entry! Maureen at My Lottie Heaven sent me this wonderful picture of her Siamese Courgette! (should this be conjoined courgettes?...)This brings back memories of lots of rude shapes vegetables I used to smile at as a child. Actually I still do! Thanks Maureen! These are Loganberries from Rob at A Plot Too Far. I have also had a great crop this year, they make a wonderful addition to Summer Pudding! Yum! From my dear blogmentor Stan at Naive Zebra who grew these at the end of the runway at the airport at Farnborough! These are Sicilian Long White and Yellow Crookneck squash. ..Can I book my place for this year's airshow please Stan? What a wonderful display of peas from Carrie at Grow our Own. You can see the bloom on these, they are so fresh! These lovely broad beans are red epicure grown by Cat of Stripes in France. This is a variety I must try to grow next year. I shall look out for some seeds. This beautiful photo is from Michelle at Veg Plotting. It looks like you could turn it into an apple sundial! I just love featuring unusual or slightly less common veggies. We should all give them a try! Here are some Rats Tails Radish from RR in Neulichimgarten in Germany. This lovely Kale is from Emily at Greens and Jeans. I just love brassicas! This entry is from Stephen at My Veggie Patch at the Bottom of the Garden - this must be one of the longest blog titles! These are Kelvedon wonder. Hey! that's weird.. I was driving through Kelvedon this afternoon - it is in Essex (not Suffolk)! Matron's SMILE award goes to two bloggers. This is from Karen at Greenwalks in Seattle. These Cascadia sugar snap peas show imagination and appeals to my vanity! M for Matron! Matron's SMILE award also goes to Kath from Veg Heaven. These red epicure broad beans are smiling at me! *******************
The very special MATRON'S JUDGE'S DISCRETIONARY AWARD goes to a junior entry, little Sweetpea from Washington State. Sweetpea is the daughter of Catherine from A gardener in Progress. It really warms my heart to see the next generation of veggie gardeners enjoying themselves with veggies! Atta-girl! The BRONZE award goes to KitsapFG at the Modern Victory Garden. A lovely plate of carrots, beautifully presented!

The SILVER award goes to Gintonio from Jardim com Gatos in Portugal. Evenly sized and coloured and beautifully photographed.

Finally the GOLD award for spectacular veggies, beautifully photographed goes to Celia at Purple Podded Peas. Simply stunning!
Once again, a HUGE Thank You to everyone who sent me photographs. I am sorry I can't post all of them (there were about a hundred in all!!!)