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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Pecking Order

I've been out clearing up more space for Spring plantings today. There were a few small Mussleburgh leeks which had overwintered extremely well. You may remember that last year I tried the Bulgarian Giant Leeks? I won't bother with those again, although spectacularly long, they had no taste at all and they were not hardy. At the first sign of frost they bent over and went soft. I tied up a couple of CDs in my plum tree this morning. This time last year a gang of blue tits came down and ate all the blossom and buds from this tree. I hope that a flash of sunlight from these danglers will keep them away.
Good Friday is the traditional day to plant your seed potatoes, but I managed a week early here. One row of Rocket first early, and half a row of Charlotte and Vitelotte (purple) potatoes.
We welcome two new additions to the family. DaVikka has purchased two new point of lay hens from Cotswold Chickens yesterday. This one is a hybrid Sussex Star hen.
The other one is a hybrid Black Star hen. You can see below that she has had the top of her comb pecked off a little. Some inevitable squabbles between the four ladies as the permanent residents Tikka and Korma sort out the pecking order in the hen coop.
These two lovelies are as yet un-named. Can any one make some suggestions that I might forward to DaVikka?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More First Pickings!

I couldn't wait to taste my rhubarb. It has been growing about an inch a day at the moment and each day I went out to pick some, I decided to leave it one more day... till now! This patch is 4 years old this year, and just coming into full productive adulthood. A friend gave me some crowns 4 years ago and I left them without picking any the first year, only a couple of stalks the 2nd year, and moderate picking last year. I stop picking after about June to let the plant grow and feed the crowns.
So I pulled 4 sticks today. They have to be pulled from the base and not broken off. These were cleaned, chopped and microwaved with some sugar and some orange zest. It was fabulous! Not a hint of sour or acid flavours. Just so sweet and delicious this time of year. As the season progresses the flavour will develop more acid, but today was heaven!
My Isle of Wight garlic is going great guns too! This was the last year I was going to try growing garlic because up till now I had failures each time. I have just given them a dressing of blood, fish and bonemeal. These are good seed stock, appropriate for the British climate, and planted in Autumn to get a head start before Winter. I left them completely uncovered all Winter and this apparently, helps them develop a good bulb later on. We shall see!
I planted out the first sowing of my broad beans this week. The neighbourhood cats thought it would be funny to dig them all up last night and poo all over the patch...grrrr. This is the cleaned up version!
A double treat this lunch time because my PSB has started full production. Curious goings-on among my broccoli this year... from the same seed packet 'Rudolph' I have a couple of large heads - like calabrese.
These are much larger than I usually get with purple sprouting broccoli. On the same patch I have two white sprouting broccoli plants which will not be ready for a couple of weeks yet.
And this particular plant is a mystery to me.. look closely between the purple florets and you will see that it has little red-ish yellow knobs. I don't think they are yellow flowers breaking because they have been this colour since the small heads were developing. Every floret on this particular plant has this feature. hmmm
A mystery... anyone have any ideas! Any knowledge of plant genetics?

Monday, March 22, 2010

What are Your Favourite Varieties?

I saw a 'top ten veggies' survey in a gardening magazine last week. A panel of gardeners were asked for their most favourite varieties of veggies. There were clearly some favourites. So Matron is asking you - What are your favourite varieties of Tomato, Potato, Courgette, Squash, Pumpkin, Bean and Brassica>
Mine are;
Tomato - Sungold
Potato - Epicure
Courgette - Defender
Squash - Delicata
Pumpkin - Rouge vif D'etamps
Bean - Blauhilde
Brassica - Early PSB Rudolph
Just one name will do fine! We will see from the comments which ones come on top.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tourist in My Own Town!

It was half day Friday today, time to play Tourist in My Own Town! First stop was only a couple of stops on the tube. Borough Market, a real foodie heaven. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves!

Then I took the tube to Rotherhithe in the London Docklands to visit the Brunel Museum. is where you'll find it (I appear to have lost my facility to link) An astounding engineering feat in the 19th century whereby Marc Brunel and his more famous Son Isambard Kingdom Brunel built a tunnel under the River Thames. The first time this had been done anywhere in the world!

A small museum run by volunteers, lovely cup of tea,home made cake and chats provided!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Warmest Day of the Year!

It was Tshirt weather in London today. Just the psychological boost of sunshine got me out on to the plot to tidy things up.This rhubarb is growing an inch a day at the moment.
Bumble bees and butterflies were flying everywhere!
My tomato seedlings are all up now. They spend their nights in the heated propagator and their days on the bench inside the greenhouse, making the most of all available sunlight.
Peas 'Hurst Greenshaft' and broad beans 'Aquadulce Claudia' are outside during the day and in the greenhouse at night. In a few days I will harden them off completely and plant them outside.
An added bonus today - I went to the RSPCA charity shop and found this RHS encyclopaedia for just £5. I love a bargain! Happy gardening!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mom's Apple Pie!

I couldn't resist any longer! Apples stored in the garage had been calling to me for weeks.This is an amazingly simple recipe from America. A good friend swapped her Mom's (that means her Mother for my English readers!)apple pie recipe. I gave her my spotted dick recipe in return!
Thinly sliced and beautifully spiced. The pastry is as simple as can be.
Cooks like a dream
and doesn't last long!Happy Mothering Sunday - to Mothers everywhere!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Seeds Sown!

This time last year my seedlings were already nearly a month old. This year has been such a cold Spring that I didn't dare sow any seeds until now. I really feel like the season has started now.I have a heated propagator in the greenhouse and I will have to keep these little darlings warm until all danger of frost is past. I use a good quality seed compost and a layer of vermiculite on top. I have sown my lemongrass seeds too, fingers crossed.
My Isle of Wight garlic is looking good too. They stayed out all Winter and seem quite happy.
The rhubarb is bursting its way up over the thick layer of compost I gave them a couple of weeks ago. It's all happening, here down on the allotment!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Pretty Flowers

No! Matron does not do flowers! you can't eat flowers...apart from this wonderful purple sprouting broccoli PSB 'Rudolph' which is in danger of being eaten any day now!
And my first seeds to come up this year are these broad bean 'Aquadulce Claudia'. Given a little bottom heat to start them off, I will keep them in a greenhouse for a couple of weeks then harden them off before planting outside. I find this reduces the chances of them being 'nibbled'. I will plant a second crop in about a month, I find that if the blackfly are busy feeding off the first crop... they sometimes ignore the second crop elsewhere!I will also plant some nasturtiums nearby to confuse them!