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, June 28, 2011

Strawberry Jam

There is nothing Matron likes better than home made strawberry jam. Matron also likes a bit of crumpet.. providing that it is covered in home made strawberry jam.

It has been such an amazing year for strawberries that I couldn't resist making a batch. Not the easiest fruit from which to make jam, they have a low pectin content and a low acid content. Both of these elements are needed to get a good set. Here I used jam sugar which already has extra pectin added. I soaked the fruit in sugar for 24 hours. After this time the bowl was full of liquid as the sugar had drawn lots of water out of the strawberries. No added water was needed at all, though I did add some lemon juice to up the acidity.

So after some gentle boiling for a while the jam reached the setting temperature and was bottled up.

And labelled! Anyone for crumpets?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Salford Black Beans

I've had some germination problems with these Salford Black BeansWith three separate attempts only 3 have germinated out of about 30 sown. The good news is that these three plants are healthy and vigorous. They have just started to set as well.

These beautiful jet black runner bean seeds were sent to me by Celia at Purple Podded Peas as part of my Buddy Morris memorial vegetable collection this year! Happily, these plants have a wonderful, deep bed of compost to grow in. I look forward to eating these, and saving seed for next year.

Meanwhile I'm still munching through some home grown strawberries. Have you ever tried Eton Mess? This can be made either with strawberries or rasberries, partially crushed, then folded gently with whipped cream and crushed meringue. A taste of heaven!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Fruits!

You can just smell the vitamins in this little lot! Gradually all my top fruit are starting to ripen.

This is Gooseberry 'Invicta' a variety that is quite resistant to mildew, but sadly not sawfly attacks. These gooseberries were completely ripe and as sweet as sweet can be. Truly one of the most wonderful sweet fruit you can grow! If you can make room for a gooseberry bush in the corner of your plot, it will repay you abundantly!

This is another lovely, sweet gooseberry 'Hinomaki Red' these start green then ripen to a deep red colour. Not quite there yet, but I'm looking forward to them.

Blackcurrants are another of the top fruit that are wonderfully sweet when they are fully ripe. If you buy them unripe (which you will from a supermarket) they are horrid and sour. These are sweet and lovely!

Same here, redcurrants are generally quite acid and do better when mixed with other sweeter fruit, yet if you get them really ripe, they are lovely.

And I am not the only one enjoying the fruits of the garden! I had to keep my eyes wide open because he was sneaking around helping himself when my back was turned! The lovely Leo!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Soaking up the Rain

A combination of bright sunshine and heavy rain has really brought things on in the last week. These Croatian Black beans are climbing inches every day up the trellis on the garden shed.

These Epicure new potatoes have doubled in size in just a week. They are perfect just now. I always try to dig up new potatoes while they are still new. In a couple of weeks' time they will just be ordinary potatoes... not the same!

In the greenhouse these Pink Berkeley Tie Dye tomatoes are going nicely. They should ripen to a miriad of tomato colours. Very special tomatoes, I can't wait to see them ripen.

Japanese Black Trifele tomatoes have a different shape and habit altogether.

In fact, I've been having real problems when I nip out the side shoots on these Trifele tomatoes. They don't seem to grow in an upright cordon method like other tomatoes. This is probably because they are a Determinate tomato. They prefer to send shoots up wherever! I just have to choose a side shoot to grow!

The rain has certainly got through the hole in the black plastic to help these courgettes grow. The plastic has warmed up the soil and kept some of the weeds at bay. A good way to grow courgettes as long as they get enough water.

These Kent Blue Peas are ripening nicely. The flowers mature from pink and purple to a lovely blue. Peas are quite small but make excellent mangetout peas. Just as we are getting to the longest day here in the Northern hemisphere, just stop to take a look at your veggies. Almost immediately the days start to shorten, if only a minute at a time, your plants and flowers will start to store energy for the Winter. Within just a few days of the longest day, these will start to swell into Bedfordshire Champions! watch this space!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Anyone for tennis?

I picked three and a half pounds of strawberries yesterday! They are coming thick and fast at the moment with these alternate days of bright sunshine followed by rain showers. There is a fear that because the strawberry harvest has been so early this year, that when the tennis at Wimbledon starts next week all the British crop will have gone and we will be importing strawberries from Europe! Shame! It has been an exceptional year for strawberries, I think the long, hard Winter was good for the developing crowns. Many soft fruit varieties benefit from long, cold Winters to enable them to form lots of fruit buds.

I have also been maintaining and attending to this strawberry bed for a few years now. I do not allow the plants to flower or fruit at all in their first year, I nip out the flowers in order to develop the crowns. The second year is usually quite good, the third year is spectacular with a good number of large fruit. Thereafter the berries just get smaller and more numerous. These plants are not a good use of space so I mark them with a plastic tag to note which plant to dig up when they have finished fruiting.

This one is getting past its best so I have marked it for removal. I have quite a good succession of plants of different ages now.

Elsewhere these lovely leek flowers have been doing what nature intended! The bees have been all over them and there are many more to come.

I hope they will keep going for several more weeks so that the bees will be encouraged into my allotment to pollinate the squashes and pumpkins. I must also re-iterate that Matron does not do flowers! Just in case you had forgotten - these are veggies!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June is busting out all over!

You know it is June when you are picking strawberries and broad beans! This year I am growing Crimson Flowered Broad beans. They are an old variety which is seeing a bit of a comeback at the moment. The plant is a little smaller than the new varieties, and the pods are definitely smaller containing 3 to 5 beans in each one. I am pinching out the growing tips of all the plants now so that it can concentrate on maturing the beans.

The pods grow vertically up the stem.

We've had a bit of rain in the last few days and these pods have ripened quickly.

Crimson flowered beans cross-pollinate readily with the conventional white flowered varieties, and every now and then I will find a pale pink hybrid among the crimsons.

I am noticing this year however, an amazing lack of blackfly! In fact, I've never had a year like it! These plants are virtually spotless! I wonder if the cold Winter knocked them back? Last year I decided to be a bit greener and did not spray at all. I did not have a single bean last year, the entire crop was eaten by blackfly.

Only the tip of one plant showed any infestation at all. I will be taking this tip off and disposing of it. Has anyone else noticed a lack of blackfly on broad beans this year?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tatties and Toms!

I dug some of my first Epicure new potatoes yesterday! You can see from the photo that the shape of these is quite distinctive. They also have quite deep eyes which to some supermarkets and commercial growers makes them unsuitable for general sale. Well shame on them! This is, in my opinion, the tastiest potato you can get.

An old variety, an Ayrshire potato described in the catalogues as 'floury' (I strongly disagree) when these are newly dug and just washed over you will never get a tastier potato! Add it to your list for next year.

These tomatoes are doing well in pots on a sunny patio. You can see here the difference between the two different types of leaves that tomatoes can show. On the left is the Potato Leaf type tomato, this variety is Japanese Black Trifele. On the right is the Regular Leaf type, this one is Black Cherry.

Potato Leaf

Regular Leaf.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Rich Pickings!

The strawberries are coming thick and fast now! I went out yesterday and it looked as if there would be just a couple of bowls full, yet when I took the netting off and explored under the foliage there were pounds and pounds. I always think it is a bit of a shame to have to make jam (though I do like it) these are fresh and sweet and divine. I have to report that 24 hours after this photo was taken... there are none left!

This leek flower is colouring up nicely. There are a couple of dozen of my Winter leeks which I left to go to flower as a prezzie for bees on my plot. Just under the leeks my Summer pumpkins and squashes will be rambling in a couple of weeks, so I will be welcoming bees onto my patch with open arms!

Sue sent me these lovely old heritage variety Kent Blue Peas which have just started to come into flower. Although the flowers start with this beautiful pink and purple colour, when they ripen and get a bit older they turn to this lovely blue. It is wonderful!

Just a joy to go out into the garden at the moment!

Crimson flowered broad beans are perfect at the moment. The bees love these broad bean flowers, and particularly so these lovely crimson flowers.

A couple of the plants have started to set pods. This older variety has much shorter, smaller pods with an upright growing habit. Each of the pods contain between 3 and 5 small green beans.

The Three Sisters = squashes, corn and beans. Early sweetcorn Swift was started out in modules in the greenhouse. They are growing nicely here, so I have planted a second crop of sweetcorn at the end of this patch, direct into the ground. These should make for a later crop. The climbing beans are a home grown variety which I think is a cross between a climbing flat bean Eden (smooth beans) and a traditional runner bean. The seeds produced were the shape and colour of a runner bean, but the small size of a French bean. Lets see what this crossbreed produces!

Tomatillos are outside and hardened off nicely. Quite a lot of flowers on this plant. I look forward to some hot, green Mexican salsa!

I have had a few germination problems with these Salford Black Beans. Twelve were planted in modules and only 3 came up. One was nibbled then there were two (these two). Another dozen were planted direct in the soil and one came up and was nibbled. Last week I have started another final 8 in modules in the greenhouse. Fingers Crossed. These two plants are really sturdy and healthy.

I have given these Salford Black beans a wonderful richly prepared bed, so they have the best of everything. Seeds were kindly donated by Celia at Purple Podded Peas for my Buddy Morris Memorial Vegetable Patch. Black coloured veggies of all sorts.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

A New Blogger on the Plot

There's a new kid on the plot! I know I appreciated some comments and encouragement when I started all those years ago. These continuing blogger problems are still making it impossible for me to comment on other blogs so why not go over to Growth Spurts and leave a comment. And while you're at it why not visit my other blog Matron's Dogblog and take a peek!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

First Raspberries

Raspberries are masters of disguise! To look at the raspberries from a distance you can just see green leaves. I suppose this might fool a passing blackbird from a distance, but this is why I missed these beauties ripening underneath. Only three today, but there are more ripening every day. There is nothing on earth like a freshly picked raspberry straight off the plant! They didn't make it anywhere near a bowl or a spoon.

Meanwhile, neatly tied up to a fence these loganberries are a few weeks away yet. Their super abundance is the first ingredient in a Summer Pudding. I love this time of year, and the time is drawing near.

Hot sunshine on these past few days has brought my leek flowers nearer and nearer to opening. I can almost see the bees queuing up around the corner!