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, June 30, 2010

My Black Dog

It has finally happened! Years of studying and preparation and my business website finally went live this week! spread the word if you need a DNA test on a mixed breed dog. Go to the Blackdog website and have a look around. All inspired by my very own black dog, Buddy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Seasonal Veggies

I love growing old heritage varieties of peas and beans...but Most of the old varieties don't give you a sweet, tender and prolific crop. This year I decided to grow Hurst Greenshaft peas and they are just starting to crop. Most of these pods have 10 or 11 peas inside. Sweet and tender!
Beautiful hot weather in London again today. Up in the 80's and these wonderful cirrus clouds were on show in my back garden. Every so often I like to visit the Cloud Appreciation Society website to look at their gallery.
These old pea and bean varieties have a beautiful show of flowers. This is a climbing bean variety called Mrs Fortunes. Look at these beautiful pink flowers.
The pumpkins and courgettes are enjoying the hot weather and the trailing varieties are growing about a foot a day at the moment. This is a variety of squash called Tromba D'Albegna - it should bend round when it is ripe to resemble a trombone!
And finally...... do we really need Brussels sprouts in the supermarket? Flown all the way from South Africa?.... in June?.. I think not. What about you?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

First Pickings

OK, back to veggies! My various courgette plants have just started to produce babies. Above is an assortment of Black Forest, Defender and Soleil. This time of year the small plants do not have the energy to produce anything bigger than this so it is a good idea to pick them small so as not to stress the plant. These were absolutely delicious! Buddy adores courgettes too, so he was sitting close as they were being eaten. He would eat a whole plateful if given the chance!
This bright sunshine has brought on my strawberries. They need sunshine to ripen them from white to red and each morning I have a new bowlful to enjoy. Some of these actually make it back to the kitchen, but most are eaten in situ, straight from the plant, au naturel, naked with nothing on (the strawberries - not me!)
The raspberries are beginning to ripen too. The weather has been so dry for the past few weeks I leave the garden hose on the raspberries for a couple of hours to enable them to swell and ripen. This is truly one of the great garden treats! They do not make it to civilization, they are scoffed there and then!
Meanwhile back in the greenhouse these beefsteak tomatoes Country Taste are growing well. This year I am pinching out many of the tomato flowers in order to grow extra large fruit. I just leave one or two flowers per truss to see if I can grow a whopper. Watch this space!
I have more lettuce than I know what to do with at the moment. I was never very disciplined at successional sowing so I have all my crop all at once! This is just one leaf from the Labacher Ice lettuce. You can see it is about a foot across. Who would have thought that a single lettuce leaf could make a substantial salad?
One lettuce leaf, fresh Hurst Greenshaft peas and simple vinaigrette. Bon Appetite

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Salmon Flowered Peas

Here is a bit more detail on these wonderful old Salmon Flowered Peas. They are just about perfect at the moment. You can see in the picture below they have a different growing habit from most modern varieties. The flowers all come in a spray at the top of the stem, all in a bunch.
Celia from Purple Podded Peas sent me these seeds to grow, but unfortunately her own patch seem to have some sort of disfiguring disease. A silver lining to that cloud, and a brilliant example of why we should share these rare and unusual seeds, is that I can repay the favour next Spring by giving her some seeds back!
The plants grow to about 4ft high and have dense, bright green foliage. For a more detailed history and botanical description of this variety go and search on Rebsie's blog Daughter of the Soil where she has posted some wonderful details of this variety.
A really sturdy stem.
Much thicker than you would find on newer varieties.
Compare the colour of the foliage with these Hurst Greenshaft peas. This is a glaucous blue-green in comparison with the Salmon peas.
Lovely lovely flowers which will be followed by some edible pods. More later!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Salmon Flowered Peas

I was fortunate to obtain some heritage pea seeds from Celia at Purple Podded Peas last year. Some of the first flowers from the Salmon Flowered Pea have just come out in the last couple of days. The foliage is bright green with thick sturdy stems. The flowers are appearing at the top of the stems in big sprays. Watch this space as they develop, it is going to be quite a show.
I cleaned up my Early Purple Garlic and they are drying on a bench in the shed at the moment. This is the earliest ripening garlic, and it has thick, hard stems which are still quite wet and will need a thorough drying off if they are not to rot while keeping.
Now this is a bit of a success story. I planted a seed from a hibiscus flower in Spring. This is the red, succulent flower which is dried and used in the Caribbean and Africa as a refreshing drink. Also known as Sorrell or Roselle, I have been re-potting this plant almost weekly in the greenhouse it is putting on a tremendous growth spurt. Does anyone know how large this shrub will grow before I might get flowers?
Another success in the greenhouse is this lemongrass which I grew from seed. Again I have been re-potting this every couple of weeks as it seems to enjoy the warmth in the greenhouse. I look forward to using it perhaps in a Thai curry, or using the leaves for a warm drink.
Finally, just look at these awful broad bean plants! There is so much pressure from everyone, everywhere not to spray blackfly but just look what happens when you don't! I will have to look round for some sort of veggie friendly plant spray. The ladybirds, the nasturtium sacrifice plants, the flowers to encourage beneficial insects just haven't worked. Grrrrrr!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Success at Last!

This was going to be my last ditch try at growing garlic! So after a visit to the Isle of Wight garlic farm last September I bought some bulbs of seed garlic. This is the result of the 8 cloves of Early Purple garlic I planted. I am going to dry these out thoroughly in the sun for a few days. This is a hardneck variety so I will probably string them together with a needle and thread.
Strawberries are just starting to ripen. I have no idea what variety these are, they are a lovely light, more orangey colour with a superb taste!
These Courgettes Soleil F1 are growing bigger every day. We are just lacking in a really good downfall of rain everywhere at the moment. Watering with a hose just isn't the same.
My poor neighbour lost his pet bunny to fly strike a couple of weeks ago. I let some appropriate amount of time pass before I asked to take his rabbit run as a brassica cage!! He was just about to take it to the dump! This looks just the ticket to protect my lovely brussels sprouts and broccoli from the pests!
I have a fantastic crop of Hurst Greenshaft peas developing at the moment. Each pod seems to have at least 12 peas inside, they are just fattening up nicely now. I just need that downpour of rain to help them along!
Grateful thanks to Petunias Garden for sending me these Bush Delicata squash seeds from Kent, Washington. These are one of my favourite squashes, just a small hand sized squash filled with the sweetest, driest flesh ever. I planted some seeds straight away and they are almost ready to go outside now.
Raspberries are ripening too. It seems that on the first day one raspberry is ripe. I eat it. The second day two are ripe. I eat them. The third day four are ripe... and this increases exponentially each day. I was up to 8 today! I usually don't bother picking them into a bowl and taking them indoors, washing them and serving with cream.... they get eaten, piggy style, right from the plant.. there and then!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Signs of Things to Come

It has been a long, hard old Winter and finally I can see light at the end of the gardening tunnel. Here is a tiny little courgette 'Soleil' just visible on the plant.
These heritage climbing beans 'Mrs Fortunes' are looking splendidly healthy in a big pot on the patio.
In the greenhouse, one of my surviving tomato plants 'Sungold' has started to set fruit. Any day now they will be turning yellow.
And these broad beans 'Aquadulce Claudia' just came out of nowhere! One minute I was admiring the flowers on top, then yesterday I realised these little beans were hiding at the base of the plant.
And what better taste of Summer can there be than fresh raspberries. These are only weeks away now.
These gooseberries are doing well, but sadly you can see the leaves have been eaten off by the dreaded gooseberry sawfly. I will have to be vigilant and try to get rid of them before I lose the whole plant this year.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

It's Springtime for Ladybirds!

It is always preferable in my book to avoid using harmful chemicals in the garden wherever possible. It is inevitable each year that my broad bean tips will be infested with blackfly and it would be tempting to spray. But look closer and see these harlequin ladybirds preparing to take advantage of the easy supply of food. In fact, these male and female ladybirds appear to be getting excited over this abundant supply of food and decided to take advantage of the situation.
Doesn't it make sense to lay your eggs where the ladybird larvae will have an instant meal just half an inch from where they hatch?
So these little critters were 'at it' all day today, wiggling around and enjoying the warm Spring weather.
These yellow eggs are ladybird eggs, and just look how near they are to the blackfly. Isn't nature wonderful?
Meanwhile elsewhere on the plot, my frostbitten tomatoes have grown lots of side shoots and I have decided to experiment with a couple of plants. Above you can see that two new sideshoots grew out of the base pair of leaf axils on this chocolate cherry tomato. I couldn't chose which one to chop off, so I wonder if I support both stems it will grow up as a twin? Has anyone tried this?
Another tomato plant just grew shoots everywhere after the frosting. Although this Ildi tomato is supposed to be trained as a 1 stem cordon tomato, I am growing this one in a hanging basket to see what happens. It's great to experiment.
Elsewhere, do you remember I took side shoots as cuttings? well here they are just a week later already putting down root systems.
I have been brewing my own nettle and comfrey plant food at the end of the garden. This warm weather has ripened it off a treat. The stench is amazing. Just one cupful of this liquid feed in a 2 gallon watering can will be the right dilution for a great liquid tonic!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Mystery Tomato

I went to my local hardware store and bought a couple of tomato plants to fill the gaps in my frost bitten plants. This one was called 'Elisir' - so I bought it home and looked it up...not much known about this variety. Has anyone grown Elisir? All I found out was that they were red, an F1 hybrid and resistant to splitting. Lovely hot weather here in London at the moment, so everything is growing up leaps and bounds.
The sweetcorn has grown inches a day at the moment, and the second sowing of seeds that I planted the day after the frost...have caught up with the original survivors and are nearly the same size! I planted out my pumpkins and corn together today. Queensland Blue squash from Scarecrow, and Tromba D'albegna from Mas du Diable.
You can just see above my brussels sprouts and leeks settling into their new home. I am searching around for something to protect them with at the moment.
I was never any good at successional planting, especially when it comes to lettuces! it just doesn't seem right to plant 6 lettuce seeds then wait a month. Matron has to go the whole hog straight away. Here I have rows of Winter Density, Labacher Ice, and the red one is a variety I bought on the North coast of Norway at Nordkapp. The packet said something like 'Americanischer Braun'.. well, at least they are hardy. I am going to pick these lettuce a leaf at a time.
Finally, I thought my banana 'Musa Basjoo' had bitten the dust after I forgot to cover it this Winter, but half a dozen little banana plants have started to grow from the base. Today I pulled them all up - with lovely masses of their own roots - and potted them up.