Down on the Allotment

What's happening down on the allotment? An intimate account of a passionate veggie grower.

Friday, August 22, 2014


 These new Indigo Rose black tomatoes look quite stunning!
 I was imagining that they would really be a dark purple, but I must admit this is a really good black colour.
 The trouble is.. they are taking ages to ripen.  I contacted the seed company Suttons about this two-tone effect and they informed me that it must have direct sunlight - so remove the lower leaves on the plant.
 ... which I did weeks ago. These are in full sun, South facing with lower leaves taken off.. apart from growing them upside down, I don't know what to do to ripen the bottom half... just wait I suppose.
 Meanwhile these yellow beans from Seeds of Italy are simply stunning!
 These are Meraviglia di Venezia, a flat, yellow climbing bean that is a really good cropper, it has lovely attractive bright green leaves and they are lovely to look at.
 The best thing of all is that there is absolutely no stringiness, fur, or anything fibrous about these at all. They taste wonderful too. Definitely a keeper!
 I'm afraid I have found the opposite of these Aeron Vale purple star runner beans.  They ripen to this wonderful purple colour from green.
Even as a young green bean I find these were tough and stringy. I picked a few while they were still quite small and green but there weren't that many.... Still... it's great to experiment with wonderful new varieties!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Going to Seed

 Regular readers will know that I always try to leave some of my veggies to go to seed, the bees seem to prefer some veggie flowers like parsnip, broccoli and leek.  But when I left some of my Swiss Chard plants to overwinter and go to seed I had a surprise.  This one is probably a little over 10 feet tall! A Monster Swiss Chard!
 The main trunk (well it is a trunk now!) has a diameter of 5 or 6 inches and it put up huge branches of tiny tiny little green flowers - actually the bees weren't really interested to tell the truth.
 These tiny little green flowers gradually turned into little brown seeds..
 tens of thousands of Swiss Chard seeds!
I'm going to have a lot of volunteers to weed out over the coming months!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Unusual varieties

 Many veggies are really starting to swell and ripen.  These Indigo Rose black tomatoes are gradually ripening to black.  The bottom half of the tomato is still green, but I am assured by the seed company Suttons that with bright sunshine the rest of the tomato will eventually ripen to black.  I have taken some of the lower leaves on the plant so that the fruit has direct sunlight. Looks dramatic, but taste is more important to me. Waiting to find out.
 I picked the first of my Italian melon cucumbers yesterday. This lovely, round cucumber is from Seeds of Italy.
 Just a hint of sweetness to taste, definitely still a cucumber with a lovely crisp, refreshing texture. I love this one!
 I've not grown Oca before,  I have several different colours growing, yellow, white and red tubers were planted.  I'm not sure when they are ready, I am assuming they are a late crop in the same way that artichokes are.  Has anyone grown Oca?  When is it harvested?
 I'm picking lots and lots of these lovely yellow flat beans at the moment. Again from seeds of Italy these are Meraviglia di Venezia.  Tender flat beans that are really tasty with no strings at all.
Cucumbers are doing well too.  These small cucumbers are called Delizia, from Medwyns of Anglesey.  Again, lovely refreshing and crisp cucumbers. Very prolific and I love the small size.

Monday, August 04, 2014

A Volunteer Please!

 A Volunteer in the gardening sense is a plant which grows of its own accord.  Stray seeds overwinter in the soil (or a crack in the patio!) and without any help from us it wants to grow. This tomato is from a dropped tomato last year which fell between the cracks, quite literally!
 Parsley is well known as one of the seeds which is most difficult to germinate - which makes is presence between the cracks in the shady corner of my patio more fascinating.
 But this week I noticed some kind of squash or pumpkin growing on the patio! It won't come to anything but it just seems to have found a little moisture in the moss and dog hair!
 or how about this potato growing out of the kitchen compost bin?
There's even a tomato growing in my tomato patch!  Just amazing when you consider these seeds have been overwintered in the soil during Winter and just find their own way in life.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

National Allotment Week

Matron has been nominated for a blogging award!!  Best allotment blog, please VOTE HERE for Down on the Allotment.

Leo and I thank you.

Allotment Week

Friday, August 01, 2014

The First Tomato

 I picked my first ripe tomatoes today.  Quite late this year. Last year it was early July, and in previous years it has been in June.  These are all outdoor grown Sungold tomatoes.
 One of the best tasting tomatoes ever!
 Meanwhile, I am disappointed in these Indigo Rose tomatoes.
 Launched with flare and a fanfare this Spring... I have plants sent to me by Suttons seeds, and seeds grown by me from Suttons. Well... the top and shoulders are black, but the rest is stubbornly green.
 It looks like the bottom half ripens to red while the top stays purple...Hmmm let's see what happens with the rest.  Not as I had expected.
 Interesting varieties from Seeds of Italy do not disappoint.  This round, melon cucumber from Manduria, Italy is coming along nicely. Lots and lots on the vine. Can't wait to taste this one.
 These lovely gold flat beans from Seeds of Italy are Meraviglia di Venezia. Tender, flat and prolific with really healthy looking foliage. What a winner!
Meanwhile the bucket of comfrey liquid sizzles away in a smelly corner of the garden!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Treats!

 The very first Delizia cucumber was picked today.  This is a lovely, small and pale skinned cucumber which looks as if it is going to be very prolific.
 Freshly picked and eaten this has a really wonderful and refreshing taste!
 Meanwhile I dug some of my Epicure new potatoes which had been left in the ground for a while. No longer small and waxy, these now make great baking potatoes.  The Epicure is an old Ayrshire potato with a light floury texture!
 Meanwhile in London this morning we had such a rainfall that it made national news.  In my back garden the lawn was under 4 or 5 inches of rainwater and all these little chafer grubs were coming up for air!  This grub of the chafer beetle lives under lawns and nibbles away at the roots. This time of year they are fat and juicy!
 Just the ticket for 3 hungry chickens we are looking after for a couple of weeks. This little plate full were gone in about 10 seconds!
Where's the rest?  More please!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Comfrey Tea

 I found a lovely big patch of Comfrey when I was out and about last weekend.  Comfrey tea is a wonderful plant feed if you don't mind a bit of a pong around the garden. 
 Pick a bag full of Comfrey leaves and submerge them in a bucket of water and hold them down with a brick or a stone.  The leaves will break down in a couple of weeks into a foul-smelling but nutritious plant food.  Provides nutrients for growing fruit, veggies and flowers at this time of year. The concentrated liquid feed has to be diluted before use. I use 1 cup full in a watering can of water.
Oh... and I have to find a safe place for this bucket of rotting comfrey... Leo drinks out of anything during this hot weather!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Triumphs and Disasters

 Lots happening at the moment. These beautiful Purple runner beans Aeron Purple Star from Gwilym at the Aeron Vale Allotments are looking great! A real triumph!  Very fleshy but completely stringless!
 This is my first time at growing Oca too. Different coloured tubers were planted and it seems as if the stems are different colours too. Oca is a small tuber growing under ground. Awaits.
 Sad to say, I think all of my lovely leeks are being nibbled by leek moth :-(  Despite buying a pheromone leek moth trap this is the worst year ever. Disaster..

Way back in the Spring when I planted my climbing courgette 'Black Forest'  some nibbling slug munched away at the entire growing point in the middle of the plant.  Just 3 leaves were left and no shoots at all.  There was a good root system developing and the plant had started to grow well.  So... I left it to see what would happen.
 Well, just look at it now!! Pinching out the growing tip has resulted in 4 different growing points for this climbing courgette instead of just one.  I am supporting all these leaders and see just how many courgettes will grow on one plant.  This makes sense really when it is well known to pinch out the growing tip of plants to make them send out more side shoots.  I'm building a big stick tripod over this courgette to see what happens.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Growing Pumpkins

 My lovely Queensland Blue Squash are really enjoying the heat at the moment.  Once the flowers have been pollinated the pumpkins grow rapidly with the right care and attention.
 On a warm sunny day, this female flower will open for pollination.  You can assist nature here by hand pollinating with a fully ripe male flower. Gently touch the pollen from the centre of the male flower on to the female.  If female flowers are not pollinated then this little fruit will just turn yellow and die.
 Don't forget that along the pumpkin vines as they trail along the ground are these little roots. 
 They make their way down into the soil, so you can feed and water your plants at this location as well.
Pumpkins are greedy feeders, so keep them well fed and watered while the weather is warm.