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, April 27, 2011

Matron's Alternative Royal Wedding

Just a few suggestions which a Royal bride might like to consider in her Wedding bouquet? Have you ever seen a Medlar flower? Well you have now! Stunning aren't they?

Amazing white flowers, some as big as 2" across, with lush green foliage.

This year is going to be a glut of a year for strawberries if these flowers are anything to go by. I've never seen so many flowers on my strawberries in all the time I've had them!

Or perhaps a Royal bride might choose these stunning crimson flowered broad beans. Exotic and the most amazing colour.

Or have you seen brussels sprouts flowers before? The bees simply love them.

Or chive flowers? Just the thing for a little posy for a bridesmaid perhaps?

Or how about some purple podded peas? Whatever she chooses, they will be equal to these beauties! I wonder if there are any veggie florists out there? hmmmm a business opportunity perhaps?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Know Your Enemy!

What a fabulous Easter weekend. Sun shine and heat! Although Matron does not do flowers, I like to leave some of my veggies to set flowers and go to seed in order to encourage bees and other pollinating insects. Here you can see my brussels sprouts and leeks just about to flower.

Elsewhere on the battlefield I have been straining my back for hours to weed my plot and get this hard London clay soil into shape for planting. This bindweed is just relentless.

This nasty stuff is everywhere, it always is, every year despite taking every single piece out of the soil.. it returns. When you try to dig it up or pick it out it is so brittle that even if a tiny piece remains it sprouts and continues. This is not just Matron's patch, but everywhere gardeners battle with the enemy be it dandelion, dock or couch grass.

So it made me annoyed last week when my favourite TV Gardener - my telly-welly-totty Monty Don, demonstrated how to grow vegetables. He just put his hands into perfect, friable compost, made a little hole and popped in a seed. Simple! No digging, no sweating, no broken fingernails, no bags, no weeds... just perfect conditions. Grrr! Matron had to sweat for hours on this claggy London clay to make even this much progress.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tomato Leaves

Did you know that there are two types of tomato leaves? There are Regular leaf (RL) tomatoes and there are Potato leaf (PL) tomatoes. This picture above is one of my Japanese Black Trifele tomato seedlings, and you can see here quite clearly that it is not like other tomato plants. A little research on the internet shows that there are many hundreds of tomato varieties which have potato leaves. Big Boy and Brandywine are two with which I am familiar. There are lots more out there.

In comparison this is a regular leaf seedling. Some research has shown that the potato leaf (PL) varieties are slightly darker and thicker than the RL varieties and this is thought that it might make them more tolerant to disease. Interesting. I'll come back to this subject when more leaves have developed.

Lovely bright, hot sunshine in London recently and these tomato seedlings have been spending their days outside, hardening off.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Black Vegetable Garden

It has been a lovely weekend. My lovely four-legged garden helper Leo has been close at hand. Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth until your back is turned.
I suppose being a retriever means that you have to pick up everything and carry it somewhere else! Giving it a chew along the way goes without saying!
I've made some progress with my Buddy Morris Memorial Vegetable Patch this weekend. Here is one of the Shetland Black potatoes that I managed to get into the ground.
I managed to prick out and pot up some tomatoes. This Japanese Black Trifele tomato donated by Dan from his Urban Veg Garden is looking good. The leaves I think, are those of a 'potato leaved' tomato, quite different to others.
These black cherry tomatoes are so tasty, not just a novel thing to grow, but one of the best tasting tomatoes I have grown. Definitely a regular in the garden.
I received a kind donation of a rare Gloucester Black Kidney potato from Nic at Nip it in the Bud. Here starting off in a pot in the greenhouse until it is big enough to go outside.
Some wonderful Salford Black runner beans from Celia at Purple Podded Peas. These are so beautiful to look at and to touch!
Some wonderful Black Croatian climbing beans from Kath at Veg Heaven. I have just the spot for these growing up a trellis against my shed.
And another kind donation from Nic of a courgette 'Black Beauty'. Throughout the Summer and for years to come I will think of Buddy when I see these black veggies!

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Trip to Market

I went for a trip to Borough Market today. This market is just nestled underneath the railway arches near London Bridge Station. I remember growing these Noir du Crimee tomatoes last year, otherwise known as Black Krim. (Krim = Crimea)You can get all sorts of everything at Borough Market.
I just love wandering around here, the produce is first class. The rule of thumb here is that if you don't produce the product yourself, you can't sell it at Borough Market.
so the butchers, fishmongers, bakers, cheesemakers or ostrich farmers have to have produced it themselves.
I wonder if someone nabbed this wild garlic out of a hedgerow somewhere? I hear it makes a tasty addition to stir fries!
A scarey looking monkfish on the fish counter!
Just over the road from the market is Neals Yard Dairy, the most wonderful cheese shop!
Staff in the shop know their stuff. They are happy to give you samples if you look hungry, or if you look as if you might buy. I had lots of free samples!
Bought a big hunk of Stinking Bishop and a strong and very ripe camembert that was virtually escaping from the packet! We sat outside Southwark Cathedral in the sunshine at lunch time and enjoyed a loaf of rustic French Bread and a runny camembert! Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hughenden Manor

Last week I made a special trip out to Hughenden Manor. Hughenden was the home of the 19th Century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Only 20 minutes away just outside High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, I had always wanted to visit to see the newly restored walled kitchen garden. Benjamin Disraeli was one of Queen Victoria's Prime Ministers, and in later life they had much in common having both been widowed and they also shared their love of dogs!
Of course, Matron was interested to see the walled kitchen garden. Hughenden was left to the National Trust after having been taken over during the Second World War as a secret base from which the Royal Air Force planned operations such as the Dam Busters raid.
I was really disappointed by the walled kitchen garden! Too much grass, just a few raised beds and way too many flowers!!
A few small rows of onions and leeks, a few fruit bushes and a few herbs. Quite a nice scarecrow though!
Benjamin Disraeli also started a small graveyard for his beloved dogs! A small space on top of a hill overlooking the vale of Hughenden is the resting place for a variety of working dogs. This one named 'Li Hung Chang - A wire haired terrier - 1899-1901' I hope it lived a full and happy life in its short 2 years (despite the name!)
If the walled kitchen garden disappointed, the doggy graveyard did not!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Matron's Weather Cock

Amazing blue sky over most of the country these past few days. Not a cloud in sight. Temperatures rising. But do you understand how warm it is if someone tells you it is "22"? I don't! Maybe it is a generation thing, but if someone tells me it is 80 degrees today then I know what they are talking about! So here's an easy way of calculating it. A simple rule of conversion from celsius to fahrenheit. Double it and add 28. So if someone told me it was 22 today in London 22+22=44 then +28 = 72degrees! Now you're talking!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Heritage Beans - Sharing

I was going through my seed tins this week, and I have too many bean seeds for my own use this year. These two are much older, lesser known varieties that must be preserved.. so I want to share them to keep them going. This first variety is Mrs Fortunes climbing bean. Saved by the Heritage seed library, originally thought to have been obtained by an estate gardener at Windsor - a Royal connection!
Short, speckled beans, beautiful mauve flowers.
Borlotti type speckled beans.
The second variety I have spares from are Lazy Housewife! An old Victorian variety. A climbing French bean that is a really prolific cropper, beautiful cream flowers and loads of beautiful beans.
Can grow to 9 or 10 inches long if you grow them for seed. (update) I have now given all my spare seeds away. If you have asked for seeds they have been posted, all I ask is that if they grow for you, post a picture on your blog and if you have spare seeds then pass them on and keep these precious varieties going

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Potting Up

Everything is just romping ahead! My rhubarb is at its absolute best at the moment. Sweet and tender at this time of year these are the best few weeks to pull rhubarb. It gets more acid and more fibrous later in the year.
A few weeks ago I planted some broad bean Aquadulce Claudia into these long, thin coffee cups. These make good root trainers, you can see here the roots have gone right to the bottom of the cup. Almost time to plant these out now.
I planted one Rocket new potato in a small pot in January. This has been pampered in a heated propagator and re-potted almost weekly! The growth rate is phenomenal. We've had bright sunsine and warm days for the last few weeks and it has made good growth. I will give it plenty of liquid feed! I am hoping to have a small crop at Easter!
Bishop's Kiss chilli are enjoying the heat and the bright light in the greenhouse too. These have been potted up and are looking good!
Last April I received a present of an ornamental coffee plant. Actually it was about a dozen small coffee seedlings in a pot. Beautiful shiny, dark green leaves but the plants were quickly growing too large for one pot. I re-potted a dozen coffee plants yesterday! Apparently coffee plants enjoy shady, warm and damp conditions. I'll give it a go! If they all survive it looks as if some of them will be making their way to the church bazaar!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Introducing the Dog-Apple

Well, you've heard of crab apples? So now here is the dog-apple! An early Spring variety which overwinters on the tree. Gives off an amazing scent which can be smelled by dogs from miles around! What a useful addition to help fill the hungry gap when there is little else in the garden. Leo loves it!