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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy Birthday Blog!

 Matron's blog is 7 years old today! Happy Birthday blog!  What fun I've had growing all these edibles.  I remember when I had an affair with the love apple...
 Or when I grew a giant pumpkin and won a prize from the Royal Horticultural Society.
 Or when I discovered that it wasn't a giant slug that had been eating my climbing beans!
 And I've even managed to meet some fellow bloggers from around the world!
Well it wouldn't have been possible without my blogfather - Stan!  I told him it was a silly idea, and nobody would want to read stuff about my garden..... hmm! Thanks to my wonderful blogger friends out in cyberspace, whoever you are.   Here's to the next seven years!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chelsea Flower Show Part 3

 The avenue of trade stands at Chelsea is one of the first places to go for me.  These are the best gardening gloves that I have found!  Bought a pair 3 years ago and only now needed another new pair. Flexible and tough.
 Mr Fothergill was on duty at his stand too.
 Happy to see lots more veggies on display at the 'flower show'  if you haven't tried growing salsify, I can highly recommend it.  Tastes like a luxury version of parsnip or Jerusalem artichoke.
  I just loved the seed labels at the Kings Seeds stand.
 My friend Celia from Purple Podded Peas would have been happy to see an exhibit on the Robinsons stand named for her!
 Lots of down to earth practical suggestions for growing veggies in containers.  Years ago, the Chelsea Flower Show was part of the exclusive Upper Class London 'Season' where you just had to be seen ...darling...mwah!... yet here we are growing veggies and giving really good, down to earth gardening ideas.  An exciting develpment in the gardening world.  
I particularly loved these paper pots made from pictures in a gardening magazine! It looks like those of us that prefer to dig on an allotment or grow veggies are no longer the poor relations.   Food for thought.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Matron at Chelsea Part 2

 Hallelujah!  Fruit and Veggies are taking more of a part in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  I think it represents a growing interest generally in growing your own food and the clever people at the RHS are reflecting this in their show.  One of the big stands inside the marquee was from Waitrose and the NFU, the National Farmers Union.  This stunning display combining flowers with fruit and veg.
 This beautiful display of asparagus is set on a tray of seeds, in fact many of the displays here were on a tray of different coloured seeds, wonderful!
 Some beautiful colour schemes in the display.
 One of my favourites was this watercress fountain on a gravel bed, lovely!
 The display at the Kings Seeds stand was wonderful too.  Every plant label had the seeds stuck round the edge for effect.
 and a beautiful collage of seeds!
..and some novel ideas for container gardening in a small space.  A few years ago at Chelsea this would have been a Harrods bag... oh how times change!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Matron Goes to Chelsea - Part 1

 I had a wonderful day today at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  In past years at the show I may have been frustrated at the lack of anything other than flowers... but no more!   Well, you should expect flowers at a flower show - but nowadays gardeners' interests are much wider, and many people are embracing the idea of growing their own food.   This year's show is by far the best in that respect.   But first the celebs....
 Star spotting was easy on press day, every type of telly-welly-totty-spotting was possible.  There was a definite buzz around Chris Beardshaw's Arthritis research garden, one of my favourites.
The BBC are showing highlights from RHS Chelsea each evening this week, I look forward to these.

Watch out for Part 2.. lots and lots from this amazing show!

Off to Chelsea

Matron is off to the world famous Chelsea Flower Show today, The RHS are celebrating the Centenary of the show this year. Stand by for Matron's unique perspective....;-)

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Wiggly Wiggly Parcel

 A parcel arrived in the post yesterday,  I wonder what the postman thinks when he sees a sticker marked "Urgent - Live Worms"
 Leo was interested in the parcel so he sniffed the invoice!
 You can buy composting worms from Wiggly Wigglers by weight, they come in a bag of compost by first class post.
 Open up the bag and they are nicely packed and looking healthy.
 Should make all the difference in the kitchen compost bin.
 As I turned this kitchen compost bin last week I noticed that nearly all the worms that are usually in there had disappeared. I wonder if the long, cold Winter killed them off? Anyway, they should get to work straight away.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Flowers for Bees

 I was listening to a wonderful book on Radio 4 last week,  'A Sting in the Tale' by Dave Goulson was read all week by Tim McInnerny.  A lifelong passion for bees and a wonderful scientific study about their behaviour.   As my blog is very nearly 7 years old in a week or so, I thought a change of heart is necessary.  Regular readers will know that "Matron does not do flowers! - you can't eat flowers!"
 Well, it is high time that in the interest of our planet, I do something extra to help the bees.  Apparently the pollen of legumes (peas and beans) contains 8 times more protein than other flowers.  Bees can discriminate at sight or smell whether a flower has been pollinated recently by another bee, then choose another flower.  Bees are highly discriminating in their choice of flowers, in fact the flowers of herbs and vegetables are preferable to common garden flowers.
 Most bedding plants (petunias, lobelia, geranium) are of little interest to bees, but herbs such as rosemary, borage, sage and lavender are favourites. 
So this year in the allotment I am going to leave a few of my vegetables to set flowers and encourage bees.  I am going to plant a few sweet peas in amongst my climbing beans.  I am going to leave some of my overwintered leeks to go to flower.  Just for the bees.  I hope you will consider doing something like this on your patch.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Grafted Cucumber Plants

 I thought this grafted cucumber plant sounded interesting when I was at my local garden centre a few weeks ago.  This variety F1 Iznik is a small snack sized cucumber, and with the more vigorous rootstock that grafting has achieved I hope it will be prolific.  Grafted plants have until now been used commercially, but now it is available to us mortals.  Apparently it gives 70% larger crops, crops earlier and for longer and is more resistant to disease like powdery mildew.  Let's see!
I tried one today, a lovely flavour, crisp and tasty.  I love the convenient size too. Just perfect for a lunch box snack.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Planting Out

 One of my favourite bean varieties is Blauhilde a purple climbing bean.  Really prolific and very healthy.
 I planted a few in a pot just a week ago, and during the warm weather in the last couple of days they just thrived, so I planted them out today.
 I am growing these climbing beans up the same frame as some sweet peas.  I am trying to encourage the pollinating insects nowadays.
 Elsewhere, my broad beans Masterpiece are about a foot tall now. Enjoying the warm weather.  I think I might plant a second planting just to follow them along.  Another reason for a second planting of broad beans is that if the black fly infest this first crop, they will probably leave my second crop alone!
I decided to plant some of my tomatoes outdoors now.  They have been hardening off outside in their pots for a few days now, but I think the time is right.  You must make your own decision as to whether you think all danger of frost is over.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Purple Tomatillo

 Whilst in the USA recently I bought some of these Purple Tomatillo seeds.  A tomatillo is related to a physallis - one of those orange fruit with the paper husk.  In the Southern USA they make a spicy salsa with tomatillos and chillis.   These look like fun to grow.  I have since found out that these plants need several other plants nearby in order to pollinate each other.  In a previous blog post in 2011 I was having problems with pollination, now I know why.
 Meanwhile back in the greenhouse I am planting some of my home saved seed from my prize winning giant pumpkin from last year. I have named it Queensland Giant.   Last Spring I cross pollinated my giant pumpkin flower with a male flower from a Queensland Blue pumpkin.  Just a bit of amateur plant breeding genetics really, but the idea of a giant pumpkin (which can be flavourless and watery) crossed with the tastiest, sweetest pumpkin ever is quite appealing.  Who knows what I will end up with, but it might be fun to find out.  I did save loads and loads of seeds but I am having germination problems with them.  I'm planting a second batch to see how many germinate.
Fingers crossed some of these germinate. xx

Monday, May 06, 2013

Twelve Million Worms!

 After such a wet Summer last year, I rekon there must be a plague of slugs just waking up on my allotment right now.  I bought some Nematode worms to kill the slugs just as they start munching on my veggies.
 This is a live product (not wriggling but has to be kept in a fridge)
 Microscopic little creatures not visible with a naked eye or even a hand lens. 
The directions are to dilute them into a watering can, mix thoroughly and distribute widely over the soil.  In a couple of weeks' time they will start eating slugs!  Fingers crossed.