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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Edible Garden Show

 More from the Edible Garden Show at Alexandra Palace this weekend. One of the attractions for me was to visit this iconic building in North London in Muswell Hill. I always wanted to go.
 Included in the range of subjects around Edible Gardens was keeping chickens! Lots of chicken stuff there, and quite a few hens, cockerels and a few turkeys in cages.
 This watering system took my interest for a while.  It is powered by a solar pump connected to an automatic watering system.  Great fun!
 An interesting range of pop-up plastic cloches and greenhouses.
 and my favourite find of the day was from Brandy Carr Nurseries in Wakefield, Yorkshire.
 You can grow your own Liquorice plants!!!  Completely hardy, it grows up in Yorkshire quite happily. I am going to find a muddy corner somewhere on my patch to grow Liquorice!!  What fun!
This looked interesting on the Suttons Seeds stand. Not only did they sell grafted tomato plants (that's good varieties grafted on to strong rootstocks)  but they had double stemmed plants, and even 2 varieties grafted on to one rootstock... that's like they do with fruit trees!   I didn't buy one, but I could sure pinch out and prune my own tomato plants to grow with two stems! Simples!

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Perfect Day

 I had quite a remarkable day today.  I went to visit the Edible Garden Show which is on this weekend at Alexandra Palace in North London.  High up on Muswell Hill, that tall antenna is where most of us in North and West London used to get our TV signals from.  More from the show in the next post.
 But they knew I was coming.. so invited a selection of Royalty and celebrity just to make it interesting.  HRH The Prince of Wales arrived the same time I did (we came in separate cars) to have a look around.
 Once inside, it was then apparent that the BBC were recording Gardeners' Question Time at this show.
 So, James Wong, Pippa Greenwood, Bob Flowerdew and Christine Walkden, lined up to meet Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
 So I floated into a side hall at Alexandra Palace and sat down.. a strange man with a beard appeared before us, but when he opened his mouth there was no mistaking the familiar voice of Eric Robson. Isn't it strange that listening to BBC Radio 4 Gardeners' Question Time for most of my life, his voice is so familiar yet his face is not.  Today was a real treat for me.
On the panel today, Chris Beardshaw, Bunny Guinness and Bob (Saint Bob) Flowerdew.  This episode is going out next Friday 5th April and repeated on Sunday 6th April.  Getting to see Saint Bob in the flesh was a real treat, and another tick on my 'Bucket List'. So for now it's 'Goodbye and Good Gardening'

Thursday, March 27, 2014

There is such a close relationship  between growing your own fruit and vegetables, and cooking and eating them in your own kitchen.  I was very keen recently to give a short interview to Womans Weekly magazine about blogging, eating and cooking.  Sadly I have never been into knitting or sewing so they left that bit out!

 Even now, in late March I still have quite a few of these Queensland blue and Crown Prince squash keeping nicely on a warm windowsill.   This picture below is actually a cross between these two varieties.
 This type of Southern hemisphere Winter Squash have a low moisture content and a lovely, thick waxy skin to help give it a long shelf life... or windowsill life.  So long as it remains warm and dry I have kept them for more than a year like this.
 So when Womans Weekly asked me to share a recipe, I thought back to when I made the Original Pumpkin pie recepie.  When the first settlers arrived in the New World it is known that the first pumpkin pie was known as a Norfolk Millions Pie which was only a slight variation on what we know today.  The term 'millions' may have either referred to the fact that pumpkins were highly prolific, or pumpkins were slightly different then and resembled Melons a bit more than they do nowadays.
If some pumpkins can keep on my windowsill for a year, then they must have survived the journey from the Old World to the New World all those years ago.

Monday, March 24, 2014

New Shoots

 I am beginning to plant some tomato seeds in the heated propagator in the greenhouse. One variety I am looking forward to seeing is this new Indigo Rose black tomato.  I wonder if they are truly as black as the photo on the packet suggests, or if it is really just a dark purple. We shall see.
 It is just so exciting to see the growing season beginning again.
These little tomato seedlings are germinating quite well. Varieties here are Harlequin, chocolate cherry, Sungold, Golden Jubilee, Gardeners Delight.  Roll on Summer!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Greenhouse Cleaning

 I took advantage of the warm Spring weather in the last couple of days to clear out the greenhouse.  A good wash, sweep and clean still isn't really enough to get rid of any lingering pests which hide in the cracks and crevices.  So today I bought a Sulphur Candle in the garden centre.
 I cleaned the greenhouse, then replaced some of the empty pots as they may still hide some pests. Red spider mite is a tiny little sand coloured insect which gradually sucks the life out of juicy green plants in the greenhouse.  My cucumbers have been particularly badly effected.  I try to keep the humidity levels high but it just gets worse year after year.
 For the past several years my red spider mite problem has become worse and worse.  I have blogged about it in the past here and have also used biological controls to try to help but I think that poor hygiene and cleaning may also be a factor.
 So.. the tin contains sulphur, with a waxed paper wick.  Just light the paper and the sulphur gradually melts to an amber liquid.
Once the wick is lit, the smoke starts to fill the greenhouse. I made a rapid exit as the smell already tickled my throat.  I will leave the greenhouse completely shut ovenight then will ventilate thoroughly tomorrow before starting my Spring planting.  I hope this helps get rid of these red spider mites for a while.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Leo!

What a brilliant weekend in the garden!  Almost warm sunshine and blue sky really got things going for the first time this year.
 Time to inspect the titbox, clear out rubbish from inside and secure the lid.
These sweet potato cuttings have been in a vase on a widowsill indoors all Winter, time to pot them up to start their growth.
They are very tender, so they will be staying indoors for a few more weeks to put on some more growth before planting out.
 Meanwhile a certain senior citizen has been celebrating his 14th Birthday at home with a sausage cake! Happy Birthday Leo!
 Then a snooze on the sofa!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Tidying up

 I noticed my Japanese Wasabi plant this week, it has started to grow again and has sent out lovely flower spikes.  These flowers really do look like those from brassica plants, say radish, cabbage or broccoli so I can assume that despite the leaves looking different, it is distantly related.  This Wasabi plant is in a pot up against a North facing wall underneath a dripping tap which connects the garden hose. Ideal conditions.
 Meanwhile, elsewhere on the plot I was cutting back the blackberry stalks.  This is really vicious stuff!  Pruning out last year's stems and tie back the new shoots for this year's fruit.  Actually, this blackberry plant was deliberately placed in a gap at the end of the garden to stop my dog Buddy from escaping when we first had him!
 This stuff jumps out and grabs you from behind and it won't let go!  I literally feel like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards and have injuries to prove it.  Do you remember when Steve McQueen was riding his motorcycle in the film The Great Escape?  He tries to jump over the barbed wire to freedom and falls off and gets tangled in the barbed wire when the German soldiers get him?? Well, I felt just like that while pruning my blackberries!
The fruiting buds are just starting to show on the new growth. By Summer this should be a lovely crop of blackberries!