What a lovely pair you have, Matron!

I was strolling round the fruit orchard at the RHS garden at Wisley today. This is one of my favourite places to be at this time of year. The fruits of nature laying all around me in the form of windfall apples and plums. There are thousands upon thousands of apple varieties in the world, but the supermarkets just prefer 2 or 3 that store well. Today I found apples the size of pineapples! As you can see here, I airbrushed in a couple of extra chins as well....
Here is one of my 'Jubilee' tomatoes which were sent to me from the USA earlier this year. I planted these seeds at the beginning of April, but I find it wonderful that they are ripening at the same time as the other beefsteak tomatoes which I planted under glass back in January! Nature has a way of finding a norm.

Crabapple Jelly

Yesterday, I couldn't resist any longer! A neighbour has the most wonderful crabapple tree in her front garden. Crabapple trees are useful for pollinating fruit trees as they have a long flowering period which covers a longer period than most apple trees. You will usually find a crabapple tree at the end of an orchard row.

Crabapple jelly is really easy to make. Wash and cut up the crabapples, then cover them with water, add the juice of a lemon and bring to the boil for about 30 minutes. Then put the apples and juice into a muslin or cheesecloth bag and leave to drip for several hours. Do not squeeze the bag or the jelly will end up cloudy. For each pint of juice you get, add one pound of sugar. Boil up the jelly until setting point is used. Put one spoonful of the jelly on a cold plate and leave in the fridge or freezer for 5 minutes. A finger pulled through this will tell you if the jam has set enough. When ready, seal into warm, sterilized jars. Enjoy!

More good stuff

This photo is living proof of my endeavours to encourage beneficial wildlife on my allotment. 2 years ago I laid some membrane down and covered it with a ton of wood chips. Not only was this a method of getting to my compost heap with more ease, it was my intention to encourage beetles and the like, who enjoy woodpiles and wood chips. You can just about see a brown substance on its legs and head. I am assuming that these are eggs being carried. I am also assuming that this is a stag beetle. It is about 2" long. Can anyone shed light on this please?

This photo is to illustrate how easy it is to make your own liquid feed. These are comfrey leaves. Scrunch up a bunch of comfrey leaves down the bottom of a bucket and put a brick on top.
Fill the bucket with water and then wait for about 2 or 3 weeks, I usually 'kick the bucket' every day or so to allow the methane gas to bubble up. You will be able to smell when it is ready! I must stress to blog readers that this feed is very strong and must be diluted about a cupful to every gallon. My dear friend recently poured neat liquid feed on his plants.... and phoned me up asking why they went brown and crispy! (so now you know, Stan!)

So here is my second crop of courgettes. My first plants are showing signs of slowing down production over the past few weeks after a splendid harvest this year. This courgette 'defender' has been put in a black plastic dustbin.

This picture is of my brassica enclosure, I have named it 'Guantanamo Bay'. I have also electrified the netting, put up machine gun towers at each corner, and dug in landmines all round. No critters are getting in here. Left row January King cabbage, centre row broccoli, right row protovoy cabbage.

I left one plant of my Vermont cranberry beans to go to seed. I shelled them yesterday. Can anyone with scientific knowledge please explain how 3 pods on the same plant as all the rest, produced red beans with white flecks, while the rest of the pods on the same plant have white beans with red flecks? I would love to know the scientific name for this phenomenon if anyone can help?

Finally, it's Matron's DOGBLOG!

Well here it is folks! Many, many thanks to all who sent me photos, especially to Skippy, Crispy, Sampson, Jake, Freddy, Luna, Kodi, Luckydog and Buddy for allowing their photos to be posted. Any others you might care to send me will be added to this blog.

This is Kodi, he is a 2 year old Maremma (look it up!) who lives in sub-tropical Queensland, Australia with Rhonda Gay, at My Little Patch. Kodi is enormous and is currently working towards a PhD in goat-herding. Let's hope he's not lonely, high up on that hill... (think about it)

This is Skippy. He is a Portugese Water Dog who hangs out in Skippy's Garden in Massachusetts in the good ole US of A. Skippy actually has a blog named after him. Here he is digging potatoes! Now wouldn't it be cool if someone could teach him to use a fork?

This is Luckydog. She is 13yrs old and she lives with Scarecrow down under in OZ. These days she pretends to be a little deaf, but has a 'supernose' her hobbies include sniffing and snoozing. Goodonya Luckydog!!

This is Luna. She lives with Scrappybadger. Luna doesn't care for any dirty work down in the garden, instead she prefers to be the 'comic relief'. Who could resist those eyes?

This is Freddy. He lives with Lilymarlene on the Isle of Wight. Now this is my idea of a smart dog! We could all learn a lesson from Freddie.. After all your hard work digging and planting, don't forget to lie back in comfort on your favourite chair and enjoy just looking at your garden.

This is Jake. He lives with Katie in California at Gardenpunks. What a handsome fellow he is! Jake is clearly the leader of the pack, he is a wonderful guard dog (when he isn't trampling over Katie's pumpkins!) Hey Jake! Where's your surfboard - dude?

This is Sampson (left) and his Sister Crispy. These doggies live in Austria with Sarah . They had been hard at work helping with the building of a raised bed in the garden, but just had to take a quick nap.

Well finally, here is the chap who inspired me! This is my Buddy. 11 years old and a rescue dog from Battersea Dogs Home here in London. He is as smart as they come. His hobbies include walking and hunting for pieces of cheese. His favourite food is sardines!

What's in the trug today?

The tomatoes have all finally started to ripen with a vengeance today! It must be the shortening day length, combined with the bright sunny weather that has made them go for it. At the bottom of the trug is my first 'Crystal Lemon' cucumber, a lovely clean tasting cue. The purple dwarf beans 'Royalty' are just coming thick and fast, as are the runner beans.
Dont' forget to email me your doggy pictures featuring your happy hounds helping! My best pal Buddy is not looking very interested here, but he livens up when the leash comes out. He is 11yrs old and we rescued him last year from the dogs home at Battersea. He had been neglected and was in a bit of a state. See my post on 5th August for details.

Cross-Pollination in Squashes

One of the varieties of vegetables that easily cross-pollinates, is the pumpkin and squash family. If you have planted several varieties close together in one patch, you will probably find that it does not always resemble what you saw on the seed packet! This photo is a good example of one of my later butternut squash. The first squash I picked earlier in the Summer was a wonderful butternut beige colour. This had obviously been pollinated by male flowers on the same plant. This one pictured is from the same plant, but you can see the stripey markings indicating to me that the insect which pollinated this female flower may have hopped over from ... perhaps a nearby courgette flower. I will await to find out if the flesh is orange or white!

Tomatillo Salsa

I picked my first crop of Tomatillo today. These are a vegetable which are commonly used in Mexican cooking, most often to make salsa:

1lb green tomatillos, 4 chillies, 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp salt, black pepper, 3 spring onions, 1 bunch parsley.

Remove the husk from the tomatillos and wash thoroughly. Boil them in a pan of water until soft and drain them. Allow to cool, then place all ingredients and chop in a blender, leaving a few chunks. Allow to refrigerate for several hours.

Still plenty of time for anyone to contribute to my forthcoming DOGBLOG on or around 20th August. I will be posting a special blog dedicated to our canine friends who supervise, assist or guard our gardens, water our veggies, carry our trowells, chew our flowerpots. See blog on 5th August for details. If you know of any garden blogger who might like to enter, please let them know.

Famous at Last!

I spent the day at RHS Wisley, Surrey today. Throughout the Summer I spend time in the fruit orchard..... er... "liberating" some of the windfall fruit there. There were a few early apples and some plums to be had. They look like they will be fully ripe in about 3 weeks' time, I will set a date in my diary. As you can see, the Royal Horticultural Society has named a plant after me!!!
No trip to Wisley would be complete without a visit to the Mecca of all vegetable gardens.
Meanwhile back on the ranch, my tomatoes are in full throttle. Honourable mentions must go to the outsider "Ildi" for their spectacular display of yellow cherry tomatoes.
It looks like it is going to be an excellent year for blackberries. My local hedgerow is teeming with the blighters! I have just downed a very nice plateful of my Mum's blackberry and apple pie! A true taste of Summer.
Finally, a reminder to all garden bloggers with canine helpers. Don't forget to email me your photos of your faithful fido helping round the garden, watering, digging or supervising - I care not what! See previous blog for further details, entries to me by 20th August for inclusion in my forthcoming DOGBLOG!

Purple Hyacinth Beans

This year, among my many varieties of climbing beans I am growing 'Purple Hyacinth Beans'. In true Matron fashion, I 'liberated' some seeds last Autumn from a garden in Virginia. Actually this picture was taken there last Autumn. My plants this year are growing well amongst the other runner beans, they appear to have an attractive purple veined leaf, I think they will be a late variety. There are signs of the beautiful purple flower buds, which I will be sure to post on the blog when they arrive. The question I want answered is..... are they edible? I've looked up several blog sites, many people have eaten them without incident (after all they are beans), but the colour is alarming. Having said that, my Vitelotte potatoes were an alarming purple colour and they didn't kill me !!... Does anyone know if they are edible?

Calling all Dog Owners!

I have just come up with a cunning plan! As there seem to be a number of bloggers out there who have canine assistants, or even 'supervisors' in the vegetable garden, I thought I would make a feature of as many as I can find. So if you could please take a picture of your hound helping out in the garden - carrying a hosepipe, watering can, digging a hole.... email your best one to me at Ahhmatron@aol.com along with your blog name and address, then I will make a feature of them and put in a link to your blog as well. Contributions to arrive by 20th August or sooner.

One Week's Growth

It amazes me that in just one week so much can happen down on the Allotment. One week ago these 'Vermont Cranberry Beans' had a slight pink rash on them....
Now with one week's sunlight and attention the red spots are becoming more pronounced.
Again, just one week ago I planted this little 'Defender' courgette as a late Summer successional planting and......
Look what a difference a week makes. At last we are getting some warm sunshine. It was 84 degrees in West London today.


Now is the time of year when all the ingredients for this lovely, Summer pickle are in season.
3 pints white vinegar
3 teaspoons ground ginger
6 teaspoons mustard powder
9oz sugar
6lbs chopped, beans, carrots, cauliflower, courgette, small onions, soaked in brine overnight.
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon turmeric.

Mix the vinegar, ginger, mustard and sugar and boil up to a syrup. Add 6 lbs of vegetables cut into about 1 inch sizes, depending on how you like your pickle. Boil the vegetables in the vinegar syrup for 20 minutes. Drain these vegetables and pack into warm sterilized jars. Set aside the vinegar syrup. Mix together the flour and turmeric into a paste with some cold water and gradually add the hot vinegar. Boil this for 3 minutes until it thickens slightly. Pour this over the veggies in the jars and tap out all the air bubbles. Seal the jars while still hot.