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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tomato Glut!

This is one of the days that every gardener works towards all year. I can barely remember way back in February when I planted my first seeds in a heated propagator in the greenhouse. All that careful attention for weeks and months. For this! Each year I learn what works well in my allotment and what does not. Every gardener has different soils, different climate and aspects. The joint star prize this year goes to the large purple beefsteak Noir du Crimee and to the Chocolate Cherry.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Giant Courgettes!

Everyone knows what happens to courgettes when you go away for 2 weeks on holiday! They turn into marrows! Someone told me a story last week as we discussed gardening over the breakfast table. In their small town they grow so many courgettes (zucchini) that they just can't get rid of them. If you leave your car unlocked anywhere, instead of having something stolen from inside... you return to find your car filled with zucchini!.. While I was sailing across the Atlantic ocean,
Strolling down Broadway,
Looking out from the top of the Empire State Building..
My garden was growing! This beautiful crop of Noir du Crimee beefsteak tomatoes were just perfect! We enjoyed them this afternoon sliced thickly and drizzled with good olive oyl, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper! yum!
This is by no means all that is going on down on Matron's allotment, but this is just a taster of things to come..
Yellow squash, squash Delicata, black forest courgettes, Noir du Crimee tomatoes, and chocolate cherry tomatoes.

Bilbo goes to Cumbria

Bilbo has moved on! If you want to catch up with his latest adventures in Cumbria, then hurry over to The View From Bag End and leave a message. He might be visiting you next!

Monday, August 24, 2009

From the New World

Walked my socks off in Manhattan yesterday! Up the Empire state building, lunch in Grand Central Station and more views from the top of the Rockerfeller tower. Walked down Broadway to Times Square and refreshed myself at Starbucks! More when I get back!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sweet Sweet Corn

I had to take a chance this morning that my sweetcorn would be ripe enough to pick before I go away on holiday. This variety 'Conqueror' is specifically suited to our unpredictable British climate. These three were just perfect, we enjoyed them with melted butter and black pepper!
I had to pick some corn today because Matron is going away for her holidays tomorrow.
Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary 2.
Buddy is going into kennels. Be a good boy, we won't be long! Back on the 29th

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bilbo's next Host..

Now this is going to confuse you.. Bilbo is now going to stay with BilboWaggins at The View From Bag End in Cumbria. He has taken a liking to English beer down here, let's see what he makes of a strong Northern Brew!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where in the World is Bilbo?: London

Welcome to London Bilbo! Bilbo arrived safely from Ireland this morning, no time to lose so off we went to explore London together. Big Ben and Bilbo! Bilbo at Buckingham Palace!
Bilbo having tea and chocolate cake in the garden at Buckingham Palace. He never dreamed last week when he was kissing the Blarney stone in Ireland, that this week he would be having tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace!
Here he is enjoying the palace gardens from the terrace.
Next stop, New Scotland Yard!
And finally, Bilbo had always wanted to see the London Eye - here he is!
And a ride home on the London Underground. Here he is at Baker Street! but sadly no sign of Mr Sherlock Holmes!
Safely back home now inspecting Matron's tomatoes.
Taking a ride on Matron's sweetcorn!
Sitting on Matron's Pumpkin!
It has been hard work today, Bilbo was getting thirsty so time for a pint of the best beer in the world!
Bilbo and Buddy are now good friends.
If you want Bilbo to visit you, please leave a comment on this post by Saturday 15th August when I will make the draw to see who will have him next. If successful I will need to know your postal address on Sunday 16th August at the very latest. I will post him to you at 9am Monday morning then I am going away on holiday for 2 weeks!

Bilbo - Rules

RULES#1) COPY & PASTE these rules into your post on Bilbo if you receive him. The post must be titled WHERE IN THE WORLD IS BILBO: (your city). If everyone copies the rules, then the person you send it to will know what to do. If each post is titled the same, we can keep track of Bilbo and follow him on his adventure. PLEASE do not forget to copy and paste these rules into your post if you receive Bilbo.#2) In order to participate you MUST leave a comment on the post about Bilbo with the blogger that has him. That blogger will draw names from the people who left comments on that post. Once the winner is selected Bilbo will be on his way to see your garden.#3) When you receive Bilbo please take a photo (or photos) of him in your garden as well as a photo of yourself with Bilbo.#4) Rules are linked to . Please leave a comment on The Dirt Princess' page so she can keep track of him and let other bloggers know where Bilbo is, and post where bloggers can see his latest travel.#5) Please try to get Bilbo out the door as quickly as you possibly can. If at all possible please try not to keep him more than 7 days. We want to get him to as many places as we can in 6 months.#6) Bilbo will travel for 6 months, April 21, 2009- October 21, 2009. If you have Bilbo at the end of this 6 month time frame, you will ship him back to the Dirt Princess at When Bilbo arrives back with the Dirt Princess, there will be a great post letting everyone know where Bilbo has been, when he visited as well as links to the bloggers posts that had Bilbo.#8) There will be a list enclosed with Bilbo for each blogger to sign once they receive Bilbo. That list will be sent back to the Dirt Princess.#9) Should anyone have any questions please contact Dirt Princess at The blogger that has possession of Bilbo is responsible for shipping him to the next blogger. Please handle him with care. He is ceramic.#11) Bilbo may be shipped to countries outside the United States. We want everyone to join in on the fun!#12) If you would like to throw in a little something with Bilbo to ship the next blogger, please feel free. Add to the excitement. See what Bilbo brings you when he arrives at your door step.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Dreaded B Word!

I suppose it was inevitable really, that due to the amount of warmth and moisture on the plot over the last few weeks, it looks as if my blight resistant potatoes may be starting to show signs of Potato Blight. This is not good news for veggie growers and early preventative measures should be taken. Blight is a fungus which thrives in these warm, damp conditions and if left un-treated will wash itself down into the soil and destroy all your potatoes underground as well. These dark brown patches are indicative of the early stages of blight. They are only appearing on a very few of the potato leaves and the vast majority are strong, green and healthy - but they won't stay that way. I dug up one plant and the potatoes are perfect and of a good enough size for a maincrop. My solution to this issue - was to remove all green growth from the plant and leave short stalks to show where the potatoes are underground. I made sure all green leaves were taken away and not put on the compost heap, they must be destroyed.
I hope that because this was a blight resistant variety Sarpo Axona, they may stand a better chance of surviving. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the plot, some good news. This heritage variety of climbing bean 'Lazy Housewife' is working hard. Healthy green leaves and masses of lovely beans which look like they are half way between a runner bean and a French bean. Superb taste, and very tender.
My sweet corn looks as if it might be starting to think about to prepare to get ready to eat. The tassles on the end of the cob have turned brown which indicates that pollination has taken place successfully. I opened the cob just a few inches and see that the corn kernels need just a bit longer to swell up and ripen. This variety is Conqueror which is bred to be more suitable to our cooler Summers!
This morning I carefully inspected every single leaf of every single broccoli plant. Here is an example of the eggs of the dastardly cabbage white butterfly. It is fiddly and time consuming but these must be squashed between thumb and finger if you don't want to spray.
Finally, you might remember that in the Spring I planted groups of White Lisbon spring onion seed in modules. I think they are called scallions in the USA? They were planted out in bunches so that they could be picked in bunches. Well, I didn't get round to eating many of them...
So they grew up!
Now I have bunches of large white onions - and boy are they strong!

Tomato Library - Part 3

The final part of my tomato library for this year contains my last two varieties of 2009. This spectacular yellow beefsteak tomato Dixie Golden Giant was sent to me in a seed swap with Dan from his Urban Veggie Garden in Canada. Only this one seed germinated and I nursed this plant to full health in the greenhouse. What a spectacular colour. I will be saving seed from this one for sure! This beefsteak tomato probably needs a few more days of sunshine to achieve it's full, dark colour. This is Noir du Crimee, I swapped seeds with Mas du Diable back in the Spring. The name translated means it is a black tomato from the Crimea, I assume this is related to varieties with names such as 'Russian Black'. I have several plants which are all doing exceptionally well in the British climate. I look forward to growing other varieties which hail from Russia and Eastern Europe. It seems that they do well in our climate too.
I can't wait till this one is really ripe, in fact, I might just layer slices of this black tomato with slices of the Dixie Golden would that look?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Bilbo is Coming to London!

At last Bilbo is coming to visit me here in London. If you haven't heard of Bilbo then go and find out on Dirt Princes's blog. Bilbo has been travelling around the world courtesy of garden bloggers. Keep watch here for Bilbo's adventures with Matron in London!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tomato Library - Part 2

At last my Cream Sausage tomatoes have ripened! I wasn't sure what to look for because they have been hanging around on the plant just looking green for ages. These have been fun to grow, I was hoping that they might look a bit more 'sausage like' but we'll see what the rest do. Great flavour too. These are Black Cherry tomatoes . The seed was sent to me in the Spring from Kath at Veg Heaven. I love the size of these tomatoes - two bites! The flavour doesn't disappoint either. They look specacular in a bowl with other coloured tomatoes. Definitely a keeper!
I just love the colour of these Golden Gem tomatoes. This seed was liberated from West Dean gardens last Autumn. This photograph almost doesn't do the colour justice, it is more vibrant than you can imagine. I have grown this as a bush in a hanging basket and as a straight cordon. It swings both ways!
I just have to show you how the Ildi tomatoes grow. Each of the trusses must have at least 100 tomatoes on it. The fruit are about the size of a gooseberry.
I am lucky enough to be able to compare different varieties of tomatoes in a 'taste test'. I put a pile of different coloured tomatoes in a bowl and we compare notes. In my mind, these are every bit as good as Sungold!! That is saying something because everyone raves about Sungold. The taste of these Ildi tomatoes is fantastic - but you get loads more for your money!
The Royal Horticultural Society must agree with this verdict as they have awarded Ildi a prestigious Award of Garden Merit - AGM.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tomato Library

It dawned on me the other day that I should take notes and photos of some of the tomato varieties I grow. This one is from a tomato which was from seed brought back from the Great Wall of China. I have swapped seeds from this variety, it certainly is prolific. This one is from seed taken from a greenhouse tomato purchased in Quebec, Canada. There is a genetic breeding programme in Canada for suitable glasshouse varieties. It has performed brilliantly under glass for me. I think the name is something like Den de l'or (French Canadian accent was hard to understand)
I'll definitely keep seed to grow this one again. The picture below is a tomato shape called Oxheart. I bought the seed in the Azores, it is called Coracao de bois. Has done fairly well under glass, it is a lighter pink colour. Not done well outdoors at all. Probably a paste/cooking tomato.
And finally, my beloved Sungold tomato. This is the earliest and sweetest tasting tomato for sure. It is an F1 hybrid and new seed has to be bought every year.
More varieties to come. These are the earliest greenhouse tomatoes. The others outdoors are still green.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Fresh London Pineapple!

When I walked into my greenhouse this afternoon the sweet aroma of ripe pineapple told me it was time. Anyone who has grown fruit, particularly melons or peaches will tell you that they give off a heavenly fragrance when they are ripe. So the table was prepared.
This pineapple top was prepared below, by pulling off a few layers of leaves to reveal the vestigial roots of the next plant. I will leave this pineapple top in the greenhouse for a few days to dry off and ripen.
The sweet flesh inside was juicy and golden yellow.
The final product was absolutely wonderful. Sweet, fragrant and juicy.
It has been my ambition to grow a pineapple since seeing a documentary about the pineapple pits at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. It is possible to grow a pineapple in London. The secret??.....heat, warmth and more heat!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Yellow Squash Pie

About this time of year, gardeners can sometimes be at a loss to know what to do with a glut of courgettes or squash. Matron has in-laws from the Southern United States (Alabama) and it is a Southern favourite to make Yellow Squash Pie . These are yellow straightneck squash, but you could use any sort of yellow squash, courgette or pumpkin. I slice and cook the squash in the microwave so as not to add more water than necessary. For this 9" pie crust I used the two squash in the top left corner of the picture above. Feed them through a potato ricer, or mash them up. It is quite nice to leave a few lumps in the final pie.
I drained some of the excess moisture from the squash. To this add, 2 tablespoons sugar, one tablespoon flour, 2oz melted butter, juice of 1/2 lemon, vanilla essence, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons single cream, salt. (Some traditional recipes use shredded coconut, or essence but I did not.)
Spoon the sloppy mixture into a 9" pie crust and bake.
This is a close relative of the pumpkin pie. Best eaten warm or cold.
Changing subjects...

There's a frog in my hosta, dear readers, dear readers,
There's a frog in my hosta, dear readers... a frog!
Yet another clear signal that if you decide not to spray unwanted critters out of your garden, eventually mother nature will find a way to do it for you. Hopefully Jean-Luc here will rid me of the slugs and snails! Bon Apetite Jean-Luc!