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, August 28, 2010

Matron's 2010 Dogblog!

Gosh! it's nearly September! where did the Summer go? I've not grown plum tomatoes before, but these San Marzano tomatoes are a spectacular colour. Just right for making sauce, or for breakfast tomorrow morning..with sausages...fresh eggs...mmm
Such a lovely range of spectacular colours in tomatoes, especially the chocolate cherry tomato, but all of them just go together perfectly displayed in a fruit bowl indoors!
This was an Ildi tomato that was badly frosted back in Spring. The plant grew back with 5 or 6 main shoots, so I decided to see if it wanted to grow in a hanging basket. Not too bad at all.
These are an American variety Golden Jubilee. They are a very late maturing beefsteak variety, but spectacular to look at and very tasty.
Elsewhere on the plot these yellow straightneck squash (from the USA) are just right for picking to make a 'Yellow Squash Pie'.
These climbing courgettes Black Forest are really wonderful. Very prolific, climb easily up a wall or trellis so ideal for a small garden where space is at a premium.
Finally. It has been just over a year since my last Dogblog, so I am inviting readers to email me a photo of their canine garden helpers, supervisors, consultants or dogsbodies for inclusion in Matron's 2010 Dogblog! Please remember to include your name, your dog's name, and your blog address so that I can put in a link to the post. All entries to me by 29th September.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Season of Fruitfulness

Gosh it was windy here in London yesterday! So of course, I was watching the 'windfall' apples fall from the Bramley tree on to the grass. Not a mark on them, so they were scooped up almost perfect!
I picked my heritage climbing beans 'Mrs Fortunes' yesterday too. I'd left them on the vine for as long as possible, but they were ready for picking and drying yesterday. But I noticed a funny thing as I opened some of the pods to look inside.
Most of the beans were white with purple flecks.
Some of them had mirror image beans on either side of the pod.
And some were purple with white flecks. Is there a scientific name for this phenomenon? I think I've come across it in the past, anyone out there with genetics knowledge?
Elsewhere on the patch, I have been defoliating my tomato plants after reading a very useful blog about late tomato blight by Mr Tomato King. Lots of useful pictures on information on how to spot late blight, how to hold it back for as long as possible. A really interesting post. Above are some Alicante tomatoes.
Above are an F1 variety called Elisir. I bought this plant from a local hardware store after I suffered a bad frost in the Spring. I'd not heard of this variety, but I am seriously impressed. Lovely clean, round, heavy tomatoes. Ripen to a deep red colour.
I love the way that these Gardeners Delight tomatoes hang down in double strings, like pearls. They have a wonderful flavour and they produce a nice sized tomato, just a bit bigger than a cherry tomato. Defoliating the lower plant like this allows air circulation around the plant which helps prevent or slow down blight. It also allows sunlight on to the fruit to ripen it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Extra Tender and Sweet

This variety of sweetcorn does exactly what it says on the tin! This variety is 'Extra tender and sweet'. Many of these new improved varieties have similar names. A new generation of plant breeding has come up with a range of 'supersweet' sweet corn which grows well in our changeable British climate. Years ago you used to have to test a kernel with a fingernail to see exactly when the right time to pick them was. Too late and you had a hard, dry inedible corn cob. They also used to demand a long-hot Summer. No longer!
I have found that they can stay on the plant for weeks without spoiling! Whenever you pick them they will be perfect.
They are so tender and sweet in fact, that you are supposed to be able to eat them raw like this as if you were eating an apple! I haven't tried them because the thought of them cooked and eaten with butter is too tempting!
So that is exactly what I did!
Of course, I had an audience!
And even the leftovers were pecked over by the chickens!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Planning Ahead

Such a dry Summer, this is the sum total of my purple potato harvest! These are a French variety called 'Vitelotte' - I assume a crossbreed with Charlotte and something else?
So many blogs are featuring pictures of courgettes at the moment. Gluts of courgettes and no one knows what to do with them. My answer is to try to pick them small! Only trouble is that if you miss one for a couple of days then they grow and grow!
I managed to get some Winter and Spring seeds planted today. It is easy to forget to do this because the allotment is just bursting with fresh produce at the moment, but when it all starts to slow down in November and December it will be a long few months with nothing to show for it. Planning ahead is the thing to do at the moment. Here I have planted perpetual spinach, hardy Winter Lettuce and Swiss Chard Bright Lights.
As a result of a comment from Cath at Veg Heaven, I sliced up one of my overgrown courgettes and the chickens loved it!
Buddy just loves eating courgettes as well! He just doesn't take his eyes off me when I am sitting down to eat courgettes.
In his 14 years he has finely honed the art of pitiful stares! Who could resist this one?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer Holidays

The first of Ollie's Sunflowers have just ripened. This time I managed to save one before the squirrels stole them! You might notice that the bottom side of this flower has a few bites out of it already! So I decided to save a few seeds for next year and wondered if the chickens might like the rest?

Chicken Pattie and Chicken Joloff are coming to stay with me for their Summer Holidays while DaVikka is away on business in Kenya and Uganda.

These chickens will eat anything! They polished off a small handful of blackberries!

A bit curious at first about the sunflower head, but soon started pecking away!

Meanwhile elsewhere on the plot.. I'm not really that impressed with my F1 courgette 'Soleil'. In my opinion, their texture is much more dense, hard even and they are not particularly prolific either. The skin is actually quite tough when compared with my usual green courgettes 'Defender' and 'Black Forest'. Worth trying new things all the time because new improved varieties are sometimes better.... but not this time!

San Marzano plum tomato seems to be ripening well. I've not grown a plum tomato before, but as some of them end up as sauce anyway I thought I might try a drier, meatier cooking tomato for a change.

We had our first good downpour of rain a few days ago. London has been as dry as a desert for months, and despite the ocasional watering with a garden hose, it is not really ideal for leeks. I gave them a little weeding, attention and watering to give them a boost. These are an F1 variety called 'Oarsman'. I have not grown these before but they were recommended to me by a nice man from the National Vegetable Society... so he should know!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Furry Cucumber!

This Spring I was fortunate to obtain some cucumber seeds from Mas Du Diable in a seed swap. The origins of this variety of cucumber are little known, but they are supposed to have been grown by one family in Bari, Italy for many generations. The old man in this family said that this variety had been handed down through the generations but he was afraid that he now had no-one in his family who were interested in keeping it going. Thus, these seeds were handed over.
It is believed to be from the genus cucumis melo - which is a cucumber which is more related to a melon, hence this furry jacket that you sometimes feel on melons.
After picking you just gently rub the furry jacket off under some water...
And you are left with a beautiful, pale, lunch-box sized cucumber.
That tastes wonderful! Mild, crispy and refreshing. The texture is just a little bit wetter and less dense than a usual cucumber - I can see where the close relationship to the melon family comes in here. So far, this is the only one on the plant this year. Fingers crossed for a couple more, they were delicious.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fruit and Veg

I'm having lots of gluts at the moment! Piles of courgettes, tomatoes and runner beans accumulating on the draining board in the kitchen! My blackberries are amazing this year, so are the apples. I suppose this is a result of the long, cold Winter that they need in order to develop fruiting buds.
This blackberry was actually an unwanted weed in the corner of my plot for years. Then when we re-homed Buddy I decided to use it to fence in a gap in the garden so that he didn't escape! I've never looked back!
Last blog I was trying to identify my black furry caterpillar, here is a black and yellow one. Does anyone know what it is?
Thrilled with this furry cucumber. The seeds were sent to me by Mas du Diable, they are a variety of 'cucumber melon' cucumis melo from a family in Bari, Italy. This one looks about ready to pick. Apparently you just peel off the fur!
These are Scotch bonnet chillis. I just planted some seeds from a Chilli I bought in my local West Indian grocery store. We've had such a hot, dry Summer so far, they have done well in the greenhouse!
I've been trying to find fresh turmeric for months! At last I found some this week in a Chinese supermarket. It is a bit late to grow them, but I might try making some turmeric tea, a relaxing healthy, milky drink. Hopefully if I find some more next Spring I will try growing them in a pot in the greenhouse. They are a close relative of ginger.
Another glut at the moment comes from my Runner Bean St George. Earlier in the season I had some pollination problems when none of the flowers were setting in the dry weather. A few wet sprays each day and a couple of rain showers has done wonders!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Last Spring you might remember that I left my tomatoes outside overnight during an unexpected late frost. Most of these tomatoes have made a full recovery. This was a new variety I bought as a small plant in a local hardware store. The variety is Elisir . I had never heard of it before or since, I am quite impressed!
Couldn't resist snapping this lovely red-bottomed bumble bee yesterday!
Doing a bit of weeding and clearing yesterday I found this hairy caterpillar underneath the old lettuce bed. I just can't remember what sort of butterfly it grows into. Is it a peacock?
Such a dry, dry Summer so this frog has been living in my automatic watering system in the greenhouse!
And it looks as if it is going to be a great year for apples too. My bramley tree is overloaded!