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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Apples and Strawberries

I picked a bowl of strawberries yesterday. The smell of the strawberries as I was picking them was divine. This is one thing that people who grow their own fruit and veggies understand. So ripe and so fresh there is nothing to compare. You would never get this quality from any supermarket.

It is a really good year for fruit. I think the long, hard Winter ripened fruit buds on fruit bushes and trees. Look at all these apples on the end of one branch. If left like this, I would end up with a large number of really small apples.

A difficult job to rub off most of these little apples but in order to get much bigger apples they must be thinned.

So I thinned out each bunch to just one or two apples. I chose the best one on the branch and discarded the rest.

A strange phenomenon in my greenhouse as I look at these tomatoes developing in the greenhouse. This variety is Pink Berkeley Tie Dye, an American beefsteak variety sent to me by Dan on his Urban Veggie Garden. It looks as if 3 tomatoes are developing from this one flower. It also looks like they are all joined together! Siamese triplets! I wonder what will develop?

Finally, I managed to get most of my courgettes and squashes into the ground. I have Black Beauty and Defender courgettes. This year for a change I am trying to grow them through black plastic. These are just compost bags split open. I hope this will warm up the soil a bit more and keep some of the weeds at bay. Fingers crossed.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blogger Trouble

Is anyone else having Blogger trouble? When I navigate round some other blogs and try to comment I am shown as not signed in. I sign in and I'm still shown as not signed in. The only way to my own blog is through the dashboard. Is it just me?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Matron's Swag

It rained and rained and rained yesterday! Hooray! We haven't had rain like that for months. Everything has just perked up and looks a lot happier. Here is one of my leeks which is sending up a flower spike. Any day now and it will be a mass of flowers, covered in bees!

Whilst at the Chelsea flower show, I made a few purchases! I bought myself a new trug. Just the thing for bringing back fruit and veggies from the allotment.

My eyes were drawn to a stall selling hand made, carbon steel gardening tools. This is a right-handed hand hoe. Hand made by De Witt in Holland. Just the ticket for weeding between delicate plants!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Matron at Chelsea - Part 2

Cheering to see this exhibit of a programme by the RHS to encourage children in schools to grow fruit and veggies in a garden or in a growbag. Matron herself started her allotment career planting Radish 'French Breakfast' on my Dad's allotment. It looks as if the next generation of allotmenteers are well on their way if the photo above is anything to go by.

You could still catch a glimpse of Alan and Joe up in their BBC studio, high above the showground.

What a stunning display from Trinidad and Tobago here. If you love chocolate, then you will love these cocoa pods on their amazing stand.

One of the main show gardens was the M&G Garden designed by Bunny Guinness (the only Bunny safe to be let loose round these lettuces!) Mostly edible fruit and veg, but I was left thinking that in order to grow lovely big veggies, you have to get your spacing right. In the real world you would never be able to grow such lovely spinach, chard, black kale in such cramped and confined spaces. These plants were obviously raised in the right conditions then crammed into this show garden. In the real world, I don't think this would work. But hey! it's only a show garden and I should be thankful that veggies are getting their share of the limelight at last!

The B&Q sponsored garden built a big tower block to illustrate how you can be self sufficient if you live in a tower block in London. Yeah! if all you needed to eat in 12 months was a handful of cherry tomatoes! Great idea! But again, if it inspires people to make the effort to have a go for themselves then why not!

Toys for the Boys! just look at the body language!! legs apart, groin thrusting forward leg raised to claim his trophy! (sorry... Matron the psychologist at work)

I was moved and thrilled at the amazing talent of some of the garden sculptors on show at Chelsea.

Matron kept finding doggy friends all over the place!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When Matron went to Chelsea!

What?? Matron actually went to a flower show?? Whatever next! Worry not gentle readers, Matron was in search of fruit and veggies at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show today. It just seems to me that fruit and veggies are still the poor relation, the underdog when it comes to horticulture. Things do seem to be changing slowly however, and here's what I found.

Ken Muir had an amazing stand of ripe strawberries. You should have smelled them!

Lots of favourites on display, but this variety Chelsea Pensioner caught my eye.

Matron found a friend among the garden statues! Not sure I'd have room for these two though!

Lots and lots of gardening goodies to buy there. Matron will be displaying her swag in an upcoming blog. Watch out for part 2.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Growing Turmeric

Blog readers will know that from time to time Matron likes to try growing something exotic. I have tried lemon grass, pineapple and sugar cane, and now I am seeing if I can grow turmeric.
Today in the post I received a gift from the DimSumGardener . This is fresh turmeric, a relative of ginger which is the yellow powder commonly used in Asian cooking. These little roots have quite a few good growing points so I am hopeful that they might grow for me under the right conditions.

A quick check on google for propagation tips, then I planted them in a pot of seed compost in a heated propagator loosely covered with a plastic bag to keep some of the moisture in. I am really looking forward to seeing these grow.

Another kind gift from a fellow blogger last year was these Colossal leek seeds. A heritage variety from the heritage seed library at garden organic. I am a bit late sowing these, but they should be big enough to go into the ground in the Summer.

Here is the latest update on my sugar cane. I repotted the shallow tray into a larger container this weekend. The roots had developed really well and were well and truly ready for potting on. Looking good!

I spent some time this weekend clearing out the greenhouse and potting up my indoor tomatoes. I think that tomatoes do better for me in large pots in the greenhouse rather than in a growbag or an automated watering system. Pots or ring cultures give the tomato much more room to grow.

In one growbag I have put 3 ring cultures on top so that these tomatoes have a bit more space. Both growbag and pots are placed in a plastic tray to catch spare water. These tomato plants have their first truss of flowers, so I am beginning to feed them with a diluted high potash feed to help the fruits develop nicely.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ripe Strawberries

The pictures say it all!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Turning Colour

I've been out every day to look at my strawberries. Today here is the first sign that they are starting to ripen. Only a couple of days now and I will be eating my first fresh strawberry.

I must get the net over them now because if I have noticed them, then you can be sure that the birds and the labradors have noticed them too!

The fine weather has brought on my lovely Royalty dwarf beans. They are fully hardened off now and planted out. Unfortunatlely the local cats have also decided that they will take advantage of the newly dug soil and have dug several of them up already and used the bed as a toilet. Grrrrrr!

I have also taken the plunge and planted out some of my Queensland Blue pumpkins. They are covered at night with a plastic cloche to keep a little of the warmth overnight. Another squash I have planted out are the Hunter Butternut squash. These have been specially bred to withstand the British climate, so they will compliment the Queensland Blue that prefer the warmer climate.

It is always worthwhile leaving some veggies to go to seed. These are some of my Oarsman Leeks which I left to flower and go to seed, alongside some brussels sprouts and broccoli. These beautiful blue Alium flowers will break open soon. The bees will love them.

Meanwhile in the greenhouse these Bishops Kiss chilli plants are enjoying the heat and the light. Very good going in the greenhouse for the heat loving plants.

These Mexican green Tomatillo plants are romping away too. I think they have doubled in size in nearly a week. You can see the benefits of these long days now!

And finally, Leo went for another swim today. I couldn't hold him back, he loves it! He even took a few jumps off the side of the pool into the water to go retrieve his toys! He just swam round and round without much encouragement. Brilliant exercise!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Growth Spurts!

Leo had his first hydrotherapy session today! Swimming will build up muscle around his joints to help with the arthritis. What a star! A canine physiotherapist showed him round the pool for the first circuit, then he discovered that tennis balls float!! He was like a torpedo after that, zooming up and down the pool like a shark! Fearless! my hero! He loved it - we are definitely going again. You can see some more photos of Leo's swim on Matron's Dogblog.

Anyway, back to the veggies. Gooseberries are developing nicely after all this lovely warm sunshine. I just hope I can keep those pesky sawflies at bay for long enough.

It is going to be a bumper year for strawberries this year. I've never seen so many, I have put down the straw to help keep them clean and dry. Out with the netting so that hungry blackbirds and labradors don't steal them.

Only a few days ago these were just flowers waiting to be pollinated. Again the bees have enjoyed this warm, sunny weather and they have done their job.

Pumpkins and squashes have been romping away. They really put on a growth spurt in the past couple of days. I am hardening them off outside during the days and they might be ready to plant out soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Buried Treasure

It was on February 17th that I planted one first early seed potato 'Rocket' in a pot in a heated propagator in the greenhouse. It was potted on several times and put on an amazing growth spurt. In the last week it looks as if the leaves were starting to fade, and yesterday I decided to see if my experiment had worked.

So I tipped out the pot, to see what just 11 weeks of Spring growth had done for me.

I dug deeper into the potting compost and more buried treasure began to emerge. I was only expecting a few golf balls for a bit of an early treat.

But I had 7 lovely new potatoes for lunch.

So I cooked them, and ate them with nothing on ;-) (the potatoes - not me!) Delicious!