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, July 31, 2013

Eating Colours

 Everything is full steam ahead down on my allotment. No excuse not to get my 5 a day at the moment. Those lovely Blauhilde purple climbing beans are just going crazy at the moment.
 These lovely little squashes are now beginning to identify themselves.  They were a gift from my Blogfather Stan.  These do look like Yellow Scallop squash! Yum!
 I am really looking forward to trying these Delica squash from Seeds of Italy.  An early F1 climbing squash that grow to about 2lbs each. I always grow for flavour and it sounds as if this is the bees knees!
 Now can someone please help me?  I would like to give these squash some extra support as they are grown up a trellis.  Any suggestions? shall I try to tie a raffia basket? old stockings? an old bra?  what would work best?
Good news about my Purple Tomatillos.  Growing really well in this heat, and because I now understand that they need several plants with which to pollinate, it looks as if it has worked this year. Stand by for some more colour!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy Families

 This is the time of year when any of the curcurbit family are just loving life and putting on tremendous growth every day. I think the leaves of all these family relatives are beautiful. This one above is a Defender Courgette, I love ths silver mottling on the leaves.
 This one is a Queensland Blue squash, trailing about a foot a day across my patch, lovely rounded leaves with a blueish green colour.
 This vibrant green leaf is from one of my Scallop squash plants.
 The cucumber vines are in the greenhouse, but you can see from the sandy patches beginning to appear that I have an infestation of red spider mite in there.  Trying to deal with it without using sprays but it is getting worse and worse.
 Speaking of family, Chicken Balti and Chicken Bhuna have come to stay again for a few days. They had a little explore on to the patio today, pecking up pieces of grit and searching for creepy crawlies.
These are hybrid hens, Bovans Goldline, which are remarkably calm and placid. Happy to be picked up and cuddled (so long as the big yellow barking furry monster is locked indoors!).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beauregard Sweet Potatoes

 This female squash flower has been sitting closed for a few days now, but this morning it was wide open waiting to be pollinated.  Just to be sure I took a male flower with wide open petals and started to hand pollinate the female flower.  Just as I dipped the male flower with its pollen down into the bottom of the flower trumpet... I felt a buzzing sound from inside the flower... a bee had beat me to it!
 Meanwhile inside the greenhouse this Beefmaster tomato is doing well.  I have some lovely specimens outside too.
 Cucumbers inside the greenhouse are loving the heat too. Don't forget, if you don't want to pick a whole cucumber you can just cut the bottom half of the cucumber and leave the rest on the stem for a couple of days!
 One spectacular success story of this heatwave are my Beauregard sweet potato plants.  I planted two in the top of this black plastic dustbin and they have just gone crazy! The instructions state that they prefer to grow under cover in our climate but can do well in a warm Summer.
They love the heat, and particularly good as the heat is retained by this black plastic bin. They are sending out long shoots all over the place!  Really looking forward to harvesting these in September or October.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Squashes and Courgettes

 Still haven't had any rain yet!  We were promised a heavy downpour, thunder, lightning and floods and there was just a 30 second sprinkle this morning.  Meanwhile my Defender Courgettes are loving the heat.  I always grow Defender because they are really resistant to the cucumber mosaic virus.
 Now these lovely little squashes were given to me with a plant label saying Patty Pan.. obviously not, but they do look like one of the Italian squashes Tondo di Nizza from Seeds of Italy.
From the same gift these should be Lebanese squash.  They are all coming along nicely.

Monday, July 22, 2013


 Most of the UK is sweltering in a heatwave at the moment. Today is the hottest so far,  about 92degrees in old money. That's about 150 in dog years!
 My allotment is on lovely London clay, but because it hasn't rained in weeks and weeks, big cracks in the ground are beginning to appear.
If you don't hear from me in the next few days it is probably because I have fallen into one!  Thunderclouds looming on the horizon now, so expect flood reports.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Making Summer Pudding couldn't be easier.  So many commercially bought foods nowadays are sickly sweet.  I did add sugar to the blackcurrants and loganberries but this sweet sharpness was heavenly!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Pudding

 Yes! Summer is here. We've waited long enough for it and I'm definitely not complaining.  It has been up in the 90s for a couple of weeks or more and the fruit and veggies are loving it.  These lovely Blackcurrants had a good, cold Winter to develop fruiting buds, and now some bright, warm weather to ripen the fruit.
 You can make Summer Pudding with any soft fruit you like in any proportion.  Here I found a few ripe Loganberries as well.
 Line a pudding bowl or a deep dish with sliced white bread.
 Heat the fruit in a microwave with some sugar, but  NO WATER.  There will be plenty of juice.  Just about 3 minutes until the fruit is soft and the sugar has disolved.   Pour the fruit and juice into the breaded bowl and make a lid with another slice of bread.  Weight the top down with a plate and something heavy. Leave in the fridge for 24 hours.  Don't worry if you think it is too wet, the bread will absorb most of the juice, and the starch will thicken the rest of the juice.   More to follow tomorrow.
 You may remember that I left some of my Winter leeks to go to flower, well the bees are all over them at the moment.  This flower head consists of many hundreds of separate little flowers, so the bees don't have to go far to find the next flower.  Bees and butterflies are loving this.
In fact, a couple of the leek flowers are developing PIPS.  Yes PIPS!  These are little leek seedlings that can be potted up and grown on for next years' crop.  Yum!

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's a Jungle Out There!

 The UK has been basking in high temperatures for a couple of weeks now and it looks to continue for a while yet.  Lots of plants on my allotment have been LOVING IT!  Squashes, corn and tomatoes have been having a serious growing episode.
 My outdoor tomatoes have been running rampage.  I really do try to pinch out the side shoots almost every day, but some just escape me and I find I have some full sized plants with 4 or 5 main stalks.  All of these I have tied to separate canes and supported with string cages.
 It's a jungle out there!  Fortunately I have a lovely bag of raffia (a sort of natural straw string) so I can cut lengths and tie in stems and shoots all over the place.
 It is looking a bit tidier out there, flowers have set well and  I am looking forward to a bumper crop this year.
 By the way, if you are growing Runner Beans this year you might find that flower set is very poor unless you keep the flowers damp.  Runner beans pollinate better in rain or wet conditions, so I have been spraying or misting the flowers regularly as well as watering and feeding the roots.
Leo has been keeping cool in the back garden with his own paddling pool!  Poor boy really doesn't cope with the hot weather too well, but seems to be much much better when he cools down like this.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Sunshine

 We have had more than a week of glorious Summer sunshine here in the UK, everything on the allotment has just taken off!  I've been keeping my Runner Beans nice and well watered, but this heat is making them very happy.  I've also planted a few Sweet Peas among my climbing beans this year just to encourage the pollinating insects to come over and do their job.
 Chicken Balti and Chicken Bhuna have come to stay for a while for their Summer holidays.  They enjoy eating kitchen scraps, dandelion leaves and chick weed... and they convert it into eggs for the kitchen and manure for the compost heap!
 Elsewhere these Hinomaki Red Gooseberries are ripening in the bright sunshine.  They should make it to a deep purple colour before too long.  A really good crop of soft fruit this year, I think they all enjoyed the long, cold Winter to form their flowering and fruiting buds.
 Isn't it marvellous the way that climbing beans just know what to do?  Sometimes I feel that if I stay too long in one place I might get wrapped up too!  These are my lovely Blauhilde climbing beans.
 I planted two Beauregard Sweet Potatoes in a black plastic bin.  They get lots of heat, light, warmth and feed here, they seem to be doing well.
Quite a few female flowers on all my squashes and pumpkins at the moment.  The flowers all open during the hot days, and the bees seem to be pollinating everything all over the place!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

More from Hampton Court

 The shopping opportunities at the Hampton Court Flower Show were amazing.  I found a stand selling vintage ironmongery and gardening tools.  The second fork on the left now belongs to me!  More quality, strength and ergonomic handling-ness than anything you could buy nowadays - and at a fraction of the price.
 And just so many garden statues and ornaments to choose from.
 But back to the serious business.. the UK Horticulture stand shows the quality and breadth of produce from members of the National Farmers Union.  Stunning display of fruit and veg.
 Had to hold myself back from just pinching the exhibits.
 Another purchase I made was from Sea Spring Seeds, a nursery specialising in Chillis.  This wonderful Apricot Chilli (photographed at the RHS Autumn show last year) is a mild, and fruity Habanero chilli with virtually no heat at all.  I have a beautiful plant potted up in my greenhouse, will let you know how it comes along.
 But Matron had a giggle at the Plant Heritage stand,  I just love the sound of the 'Dwarf Nun's Bellybutton bean' I was wondering if the Nun was a Dwarf, or if the bellybutton was rather small..
Or how about a 'Drunken Woman' Lettuce?  I wonder if it just falls about all over the place...  Don't you just love some of these variety names from the past?

Matron goes to Hampton Court

Summer has finally arrived! temperatures of nearly 30degrees in London and a glorious day at the Hampton Court Flower Show.  Nowadays, growing fruit and vegetables is becoming an integral part of these established shows. The RHS are now reflecting the needs of gardeners out there.
The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight are masters at creating beautiful show stands and I learned a new thing yesterday.
Do you know what 'Grapping' is?.. I didn't
so that is different to 'Plaiting'...
One of my favourite places is to visit Seeds of Italy, the lovely Paolo Arrigo is the 7th generation in this family firm which dates back to 1783.  There are some wonderful varieties of veggies on sale here.
And the lovely Monty Don was there too... minus his dog Nigel...