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, July 30, 2011

Fairy Eggs!

On the subject of these tiny little eggs that Chicken Patty has been laying. A little internet research on the subject has shed some light. Sometimes known as Witch eggs, or Fairy eggs, or even Cock eggs (Matron likes that one!) these tiny eggs are sometimes laid by hens when some sort of stress has interrupted their reproductive cycle. The egg starts to develop and the shell is made before the yolk has a chance to develop. Patty's eggs are now returning to a more normal size now. She is an adult hen and has been laying well for more than a year now. Perhaps the stress of a temporary home and close observation by a yellow Labrador hasn't helped!
I dug up a few blubs of Elephant Garlic today. These were planted out of curiosity from a supermarket bulb. I didn't expect them to grow at all really. Supposed to be quite mild.
My blackberries are about a month early and ENORMOUS this year. When tying back the new leader shoots last year, I shortened each one down to about half its length which was about 6ft long. Fewer trusses of fruit, but many more and much larger than usual.
Tomatoes in the greenhouse are beginning to ripen now. These are Gardeners Delight.
I am delighted with these Japanese Black Trifele tomatoes. Grown for the first time this year, as part of my Buddy Morris memorial vegetable garden. All of these plants are fully laden with huge, pear shaped tomatoes. One plant was so heavy that the bamboo cane supporting it snapped. They still need to ripen a bit more, but the productivity of this variety is amazing.
These Discovery apples are also about a month early. This is from a family fruit tree I bought from Ken Muir a few years ago. 3 varieties grafted on to one root stock. These look spectacular, though they are a bit soft and not acid enough for my taste. The thinning out of the early fruit has really paid dividends. There are some large ones to come. Matron does like a large one!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pink Berkeley Tie Dye Tomato

This year I have grown a spectacular looking tomato called Pink Berkeley Tie Dye tomato. Seed kindly sent to me by Dan at this Urban Veggie Garden in Canada. These lovely pink purple tomato have green stripes which turn to silver.
A lovely beefsteak tomato with a superb texture. I am growing these in the greenhouse this year and their growth habit is to grow as a bush.
Such a beautiful slicing tomato! Thanks Dan!
Meanwhile back in the garden, the chickens continue to lay an egg each day, but it looks as if Chicken 'Patty' the white Sussex hen is laying tiny little eggs. Chicken 'Jollof' the black hen continues to lay slightly darker brown eggs.
I have heard that these little eggs are known as 'witch eggs' can any hen keepers out there shed light on this phenomenon? Does it have anything to do with being harrassed by a yellow Labrador?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The New Forest Show

I spent the day yesterday at the New Forest Show in Hampshire. About 2 hours' drive South of London you are well and truly in the countryside.
Who has the handsomest sheep? or the prettiest pig?
And then there was a display of terrier racing! Boy did I love that almost as much as these feisty little terriers did. They are loaded up into little starting crates and a fake furry animal on a long string is waved in front of them.
Then when the gates open someone moves the lure as fast as they can, you can just about see it in a blur here! Completely wonderful seeing dogs happy doing what they were bred to do. Sheer enjoyment!
Then after all that walking around Matron decided to try a fish pedicure!! Strangely wonderful!


Saturday, July 23, 2011


I picked my first cucumber Delizia today. This is a new F1 hybrid available for the first time this year. A handy size for a lunch table. Pale green, thin skin.

Fantastic taste and texture. And like all freshly picked fruit and vegetables.. I could smell it from the moment it was picked! Highly recommended.

I picked my first crop of Royalty dwarf beans today. These are amazingly prolific, there are hundreds more to come! These were from seed saved (borrowed...) from the productive gardens at the Lost Gardens of Heligan a number of years ago. An old Victorian variety, tender, prolific and quick to mature.

And Leo has had a busy day too! We have my Sisters chickens staying with us for a couple of weeks over the holidays. Leo was amazed! barking and running around!

Intrigued, fascinated, excited. Wagging tail all afternoon!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The bees just LOVE vegetable flowers! I always try to leave a couple of whatever I am growing to go to seed and flower. The most spectacular success a couple of years ago was leaving a parsnip in the ground to grow and flower the next year. 6 ft tall and masses of yellow flowers covered in bees! These chive flowers are no exception! Pretty in a pot on the patio!

The 3 Sisters planting is looking rather good at the moment. I had to put in some bamboo canes for the beans to climb up, but the runner beans, sweetcorn and pumpkins are attracting yet more bees on to the patch.

This is one of my Queensland Blue pumpkins which has started to grow. Blink once or twice and it will have doubled in size! This is the time that, should you wish to do so, you get a needle out of your sewing kit, and you carefully scratch a smiley face in your pumpkin!

Courgettes are in full flood at the moment too! We've had quite a bit of rain in the last few weeks, and I've been picking a new batch of these Defender courgettes every few days. Again, blink twice and you have a monster pumpkin on your hands!

One veggie I am particularly looking forward to is this new Delizia cucumber. New this year from Medwyns of Anglesey, this F1 hybrid cucumber is a very pale green, small straight cucumber. Very thin skinned and with a flesh almost like a melon. Incredibly prolific, a cucumber at every leaf joint as well as side shoots establishing. Looking good!

These long beetroot Cylindra have enjoyed the wet weather (so have the weeds!) I love these long beetroot, they are just brilliant for slicing!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Week in the Life of a Tomato

This is a California Pink Berkeley Tie Dye tomato!

All gone!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Growing Turmeric - update

A wonderful surprise greeted me in the greenhouse this week! I had almost given up hope on this turmeric growing! The cultural instructions were to keep it warm and wet and I didn't think it was going to make it. The Dim Sum Gardener very kindly sent me a piece of fresh turmeric root. This is a member of the ginger family. I look forward to watching this grow.

These Salford Black Beans are really prolific. After bad germination problems I have 4 plants which are really making up for it now. Kindly sent to me by Purple Podded Peas, these black beans are part of my Buddy Morris memorial vegetable garden. Any veggies with a 'black' theme.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Big Butterfly Count

I've certainly noticed fewer butterflies in the garden this year, have you? This time of year the butterflies should be all over the place. If you live in the UK why don't you help scientists discover just how many butterflies are around by joining the Big Butterfly Count. All you have to do is go to and print out a sheet identifying British butterflies you are likely to see. Then choose a sunny day from 16-31st July and sit in your garden (or your allotment!) for 15 minutes and see how many you can see. Simply go to the website and add your findings.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


Our plums are ripe at the moment. It has been a really great year for plums, plenty of large, sweet plums that are completely free of maggots this year. This year, I just didn't get around to setting a sticky plum moth trap in the tree, but it seems it didn't matter! These will be eaten quickly!

Just have a look at the effect that the shortening days have made to these onions. On 20th June they were straight, as above.

and as the plant senses that the days are getting shorter, they start to store energy for the Winter. These Bedfordshire Champion onions were planted as seeds on Boxing day!

The Bishops Kiss chillis are just starting to set. Lovely, big, healthy plants in the greenhouse.

These are a brand new variety of cucumber which I am growing in the greenhouse. Delizia cucumbers are new this year from Medwyns of Anglesey. A short, pale green cucumber which is closely related to a melon. I look forward to seeing these grow.

These Crimson Flowered Broad Beans are in full production at the moment. A brilliant crop without a single infestation of blackfly. As with the lack of maggots in the plums above, I wonder if the very cold Winter has knocked back a lot of the pests? I've not known a year like it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

This week sees Britain's largest flower show at Hampton Court. It is ENORMOUS! You are hard pushed to go all the way around in just one day. A stout pair of walking boots and regular refreshments are called for. Matron stopped for afternoon tea at the Palace Tea Rooms.

I was thrilled to see so many talented artists and sculptors a the show. I dare not buy anything precious for my London garden, thefts in suburban gardens are frequent and brutal. I would have loved this little robing sitting on a fork! The Grow Your Own area at the show demonstrated how you can position colourful vegetables in your flower border!! grrr. Certainly very pretty and ingenious. But I am left wondering whether there is a class issue here? Perhaps having a beautiful mixed border in your garden is seen as the preserve of the middle and upper classes, and the productive allotment is seen as the preserve as the working class man! Am I raising a contentious issue here?

You can pop in a few cabbages, swiss chard, pak choi or purple climbing beans in your flower border. I wonder if this is what new gardeners aspire to when they make the decision to try and grow their own veggies at home? The GYO Marquee however was fantastic!

My old friends from The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight were appropriately rewarded with a RHS Gold Medal for their display.

A beautiful display and demonstration on how to string garlic. If you ever find yourself on the Isle of Wight, be sure to take a visit and try their unusual 'garlic ice cream'....

Experienced visitors to the Hampton Court show came prepared with these wheeled boxes to carry home their purchases! They were a bit of a nuisance among the crowds, I very nearly tripped over several times.

Anyway, Matron kept her purchases to a minimum. A wonderful selection of stalls and shops on display here. Tasteful and interesting.

This purchase was right up my street! I saw it and knew straight away I had to have it!