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 30, 2015

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

I had a brilliant day yesterday at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show - actually it's not JUST flowers I am glad to say. There is much more to see.
 It is just enormous!  Highly recommended for a brilliant day out, even if like me, you are not that in to flowers or gardening, there is plenty for the allotment grower, outdoor living, garden design or for the history buff.
 I rekon you could design a beautiful show garden using vegetables and fruit alone!  Someone should make an edible show garden.  Any volunteers?
 Certainly more attention to edible gardening at the show this year. Growing your own fruit and veg is a serious business and lots of people are seeing and tasting the benefits of traceable, healthy and very fresh food.
One of the most beautiful gardens was from the Turkish Tourist Board.  This garden was lined with pomegranate trees!  I have seen these growing quite well in the UK, If you can get a plant established they might do well in a sheltered spot.
Pomegranate trees have wonderful orange flowers that look a bit like a carnation - they die back and develop into a fruit.
And Monty was there as well! The weather is set to be really hot this week, up into the 90s so keep watering!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Second Early New Potatoes

I have not grown Ratte potatoes before this year.  What a little star!  A second early new potato which is a long shape with a wonderful, waxy texture and full of flavour.  Not quite up to the standard of my all time favourite variety Epicure, but it is getting there.  Just simmered gently with some fresh picked Aquadulce Claudia broad beans and they didn't even need a knob of butter - they were that good! Bon Apetite!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Perfect for Pollinators

 It is not just decorative flowers that the bees and pollinating insects adore.  I have noticed that the simple nature of fruit and vegetable flowers are actually preferred.  I saw lots of different types of bees and wasps on my blackberry flowers yesterday.
 We must all encourage pollinators into our allotments and gardeners, perhaps you could leave a vegetable to go to seed for a few more weeks and it will flower.  Have a look at the RHS scheme Perfect for Pollinators to see other ways you can encourage beneficial insects to your patch.
 Meanwhile elsewhere on the patch these Tayberries are just ripening nicely.  This is the first year for this new plant,  A Tayberry is a hybrid between a raspberry and a blackberry.  The taste is exactly that! Quite nice.
And I'm not the only person who thinks they are quite nice....

Monday, June 22, 2015

Shooting Star Courgette

 I like to try something different every growing year.  This time I have found a new varitey of Yellow climbing courgette called Shooting Star.  I find that climbing courgettes can really save space in a small patch.  My old, reliable favourite is a climbing courgette called Black Forest.  Let's see if this new one from Thompson & Morgan lives up to expectations.,
 Meanwhile in the greenhouse my Dalizia cucumbers are enjoying life.  This is a small, light green cucumber with a lovely taste.  If I can keep the red spider mites at bay - these should be good.
 These lovely Grandpa's Butterhead lettuce have a beautiful red colour on the leaves.  If I can keep the slugs (and the neighbourhood cats) away - these are hearting up nicely.
and finally, not everything that grows is something that I planted.  This potato is growing out of an opening in my kitchen compost bin.  I will give it a few more weeks to see what develops.  It should have some lovely, fertile compost in there so I am making sure it is watered well.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Solstice Allotment

 Everything is coming up roses down on the allotment!  My broad beans Aquadulce Claudia are coming along nicely.  Still quite a few blackfly troubling them, I have tried just leaving them for the ladybirds to deal with, but to be honest the ladybirds waited until all the plants were completely ruined before doing their job.  Pinching out the tops can help, successional planting is quite a good way of getting a crop.  I plant a second crop a few weeks behind this one.  Blackfly crowd on to this crop and don't really bother the later crop.  This seems to be working.
 I planted melons this year for the first time.  This is a midget melon, about the size of a tennis ball and can be grown in a pot or in a planter.  Minnesota Midget melon was given to me by Sue at Wyatt's Garden blog when we met last year at RHS Wisley.
Cucumbers and tomatoes are also doing well in the greenhouse.  The lovely, long days are helping them to grow inches each day.  Happy Summer Solstice everyone!  except if you are in the Southern hemisphere, then it's Happy Winter Solstice!

Friday, June 19, 2015

More New Potatoes

I dug one of my potato plants today.  This variety is Red Duke of York.  Stunning to look at, but not quite as good in the flavour department.  Very floury potatoes that fell apart with even the gentlest of simmering.  Probably better as mash.  Let's see if the other plants are the same.  I prefer the Epicure new potatoes you see in the background here.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Blind Tomato Plants

 Over a number of years I have noticed an occasional problem with some tomato plants.  Every now and then they develop 3 or 4 leaves normally and then lose their growing point. There is no lead shoot to grow upwards.  This phenomenon is known as coming up BLIND.  It is still not known for sure what causes these blind tomato plants, there has been a little bit of research here. 
 Some of the research suggests that environmental factors are to blame, this might be lack of watering, temperature or being pot bound.  There is also certainly a genetic factor which determines which varieties are more prone to this problem.  I have certainly found this to be the case,  I have at least 6 plants which have suffered this blindness, all of which are a beefsteak variety called Quebec.  My own seed saved from a Canadian variety.  These genetic problems are also more common in beefsteak varieties. The 'determinate' or bush varieties are also more prone than the 'inteterminate' or cordon varieties.
 One possible solution is to look out for these side shoots and if the plant comes up blind, then allow any side shoots developing to grow.
 This 'indeterminate' variety here is Sungold. You can see that I have pinched out the side shoots and the normal, healthy growing point here is fine.
So this side shoot could be allowed to grow up on one of my blind plants.  I suspect many of you out there have also experienced these 'blind' plants?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nearly, Nearly

 With these lovely, long June days everything on the allotment is coming along quickly now, but we are not quite there yet.  These Sungold tomatoes in the greenhouse will be there in a couple of weeks but not yet.
 My Aquadulce Claudia Broad Beans are just about there.  Some people actually eat them in their pods while they are this small.. I have never tried it - I think it would be like eating cotton wool! The inside of the pod has a white fur protecting the beans.  Perhaps the young ones don't - but I would rather wait a few more days for the real thing. A real gourmet treat.
 This variety of strawberry is called 'Buddy' I bought them a few years ago when my beloved black dog Buddy was still around.  These I have allowed to spread via runners.  It looks as if it is going to be a wonderful year for strawberries, and all soft fruit this year. The bushes and plants are loaded.
 A Tayberry is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry.  It has the size of a big raspberry with the sweetness of a blackberry.  They have a restrained growing habit, and do not get out of control like blackberries.  Tayberries originated in Scotland, they are really healthy and they are completely hardy.  This year will be my first harvest, I planted this one 2 years ago.
These raspberries are looking amazing this year too.  I dug up my previous plants as they were getting old, so I have not really had a good crop while these Tulameen raspberries were establishing.  This is the first year I have allowed them to fruit. Tulameen is a Summer variety, Tadmor is an Autumn variety, and Erika is a variety which will fruit in both Spring and in Autumn depending on when you prune them!  Just look at these!   I'm going to have a fantastic crop!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Minnesota Midget Melons

One of the great pleasures in writing about growing my fruit and veggies is that once in a while I get to meet fellow bloggers from all sorts of places.  Last Summer I met up with Wyatt's Mom when she came over to the UK from Oregon for a garden tour which included the Chelsea Flower show.  As well as swapping dog toys and treats for Leo and for Wyatt, Sue gave me a little selection of seeds.  This year I am growing these Minnesota Midget Melons.
They are looking great in the greenhouse, and I am going to start to harden them off outside now that the weather is warming up.   These are a midget melon which can be grown in a pot or on a patio.  I shall do just that!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

How to Make Comfrey Tea

 Comfrey tea is not a drink!  It is one of the most wonderful home made natural plant fertilizer and it is FREE!  Just find yourself a good carrier bag full of comfrey leaves.  Be careful because the furry leaves can cause skin irritation.
The roots of the comfrey plant go down deep into the soil so they draw up many valuable nutrients into the leaves which are broken down into the liquid when you make comfrey tea.   The nutrients in comfrey tea are comparable and even superior to other fertilizers such as Tomorite, or even garden manure.  Have a look at this fact sheet about Comfrey Tea and see why making your own is such a great alternative.
Weigh the leaves down in a bucket with a brick and completely cover them with water, right up to the rim of the bucket.  That's it!   It is a good idea to cover the bucket with a loose lid, partly to stop rain diluting the liquid feed, and partly to stop insects laying eggs.   Leave the comfrey in the liquid for at least 3 weeks.. possibly up to 5 weeks.

At the end of 5 weeks your whole garden or allotment will smell like a sewer!! This means your comfrey tea is ready.  DO NOT PUT THIS ON YOUR PLANTS WITHOUT DILUTING.  This is a powerful and concentrated liquid feed. Dilute this before feeding your plants.  I usually dilute one mug full into a watering can filled with water.   

First New Potatoes

 One of the signs that you may have potatoes under the ground is the presence of flowers at the top of the plant.  The first new potatoes dug is just one of the most exciting events in the allotment growing year.
 I couldn't resist having a little poke around the soil to see if anything was there, and here I found the buried treasure!  The best, first new potatoes are just about golf ball size and best eaten as fresh as possible.  So I went back to the kitchen and started to boil a saucepan of water.
 I can't describe just how exciting this is.  Something very primal about digging up buried treasure, or foraging for food.  Growing your own food is amazing!
 This variety is called Epicure.  I remember planting Epicure potatoes with my Father when I was growing up on my allotment years ago.  This is one of the most tasty varieties.  An old Ayrshire potato which is described in the catalogues as 'floury'.. but I disagree.  They should be more popular in my opinion, but they do have quite deep eyes which is not desired commercially.
 Someone has decided that the British public want smooth, safe, blemish free, attractive looking oval shaped potatoes regardless of taste.  This is the tastiest potato ever! (in my humble opinion).  So with the addition of some fresh picked mint leaves...
and a generous coating of butter... I enjoyed my lunch! Bon Appetite!