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Green Tomatoes

September 15, 2014


I’ve been willing my allotment tomatoes, all 2.5 kilos of them, to turn red but gave up when someone arrived with a huge quantity of ripe red plum tomatoes (she does have a greenhouse). I set to and made green tomato chutney and added a Madras spice which gave it a fantastic flavour.


600 g  green tomatoes

1 large onion

250 g of sultanas

250 g brown sugar

1 tblsp Madras curry powder

half tsp of chillie flakes

500 ml malt vinegar

Wash the toms and discard any with blips and roughly chop them. Put in a heavy-based pan with the chopped onion and the rest of the ingredients. Cook gently till the sugar has dissolved then simmer for an hour-it may take longer and should not be too wet – a thickish chutney consistency is what you are after. I started with these quantities to experiment with the Indian spice and will now make more.




My other succesful recipe this week was a thinly sliced cucumber pickled to eat as a relish with an Indian meal. I peeled a large cucumber and a shallot and sliced them both on a mandolin on the finest setting.  Then I added 2 tblsps of rice wine vinegar, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar. Memorable.



I rather liked these huge and bold green nasturtium leaves mixed with Sedum ‘Autumn Glory’….


…and the flowers look very pretty in a short cream pot.

Onions and Garlic

September 8, 2014

Cool temperatures are required in the early stages of growth for onions so I find mid- October is the best time to plant sets but you can get ahead and order them in now.  Keep the bulbs in a cool dry place and discard any that are soft or damaged. Plant too early and there’s a risk they’ll bolt in the spring and form fat necks that prevent them growing into decent sizes.garlic

Garlic can be sown mid-October too and does best in an open sunny position in light soil with very low levels of nitrogen. Best to avoid the beds that beans were growing in since their roots have nitrogen forming nodules and avoid the bed that grew tomatoes because of high nitrogen feeds.

This year my onions were medium-sized but a good enough crop to take me up to Christmas. If you have an abundance of onions or garlic then you could follow the instructions below and plait them to store.

Filling-1A crop of Borlotti beans Lingua di Fuoco have turned from a dramatic mottled cream and pink to a crisp papery brown shell and are ready to make into a favourite River Cafe recipe ‘Fresh borlotti with rocket’.


Place 200g podded beans in cold water with 2 crushed garlic cloves and 4 sage leaves. Bring to the boil and cooked until soft about 20 minutes.  After draining cover the beans with a French dressing and toss together with a handful of rocket leaves.

DSCN3158A small vase of Japanese anemone the pink hybrid A x hybrida ‘Max Vogel’ and the white A ‘Honorine Jobert’. Both are good late summer plants happy at the back of borders where they may need support to keep them upright.




September 1, 2014

This is my first year growing dahlias and I love them and want many more varieties next Spring. Even if picked at the tight bud stage they open when in water and this weekend I filled several vases with dahlias, Cosmos ‘Sensation’ and French  marigolds for a big family celebration.


I also picked a vase or two of the last of the Hydrangea….



There are some serious dahlia growers on my allotment site and several of them claim to leave the tubers in the ground over winter. I’ll do the same with my first row covering them with a deep mulch in December.

Ruby chard and Swiss chard bought as small plugs five weeks ago are doing well and will crop until Christmas and beyond.  A tray of six modules each contained at least five small plants at the four-leaf stage and these are now filling a bed. Sowing at this time of year can be a bit hit and miss with seeds slow to germinate and buying plugs is a really great option to fill the ground fast.


If you are anywhere near Bovey Tracey in S. Devon next weekend don’t miss a festival starting on friday 5th September. There will be concerts on friday and saturday, craft for sale both in the town hall and in the gallery at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and food stalls filling the streets. This part of the South West has some of the regions best food producers plus some very talented craftsmen, painters and print makers.

For more details check it out here:



Late-Summer on the Allotment

August 20, 2014



After a huge weeding session this week a green manure Phacelia tanacetifolia was sown into three small empty beds edging the paths. It’s very pretty and winter hardy and should flower this autumn to be dug in next spring.  It’s good for adding humus to poor soils and will keep the weeds down.DSCN2501


Flat-leaf parsley can be sown now for a winter supply and will crop for two years. Coriander also does well sown in late summer and is less prone to bolt than from a spring sowing.



I have a row of very healthy plum tomatoes T. San Marzano with no sign of blight- they just need more sun to fully ripen.



A  blackberry ‘Merton Thornless ‘ planted against the allotment shed is producing enormous juicy fruit.

DSCN3095 Dahlia ‘Night Queen’ with African marigolds was picked for a crazy patterned jug.  I’m saving as many dahlias as possible for a family event in ten days time.

Clerodendrum trichotomum

August 13, 2014


DSCN3070The Clerodendrum trichotomum has been stunning this year and on warm days the garden is flooded with an intense perfume from the flowers. I pruned it hard last autumn to restore the shape and it seems to have loved the cut back. Next to it is a huge shrub rose Rosa rubrifolia with the grey-green leaves set off by the huge pale orange rose hips and the two together look lovely.


In a neighbour’s garden Japanese wineberries are extremely decorative with their arching stems covered in soft bright red bristles. The fruit is sweet but rather bland but they look very lovely against an old stone wall.


Seeds of White Nigella ‘Love in a Mist ‘ sown four weeks ago has come through in the cutting bed and when the flowers have dried out the seeds will be re-sown. As a hardy annual these will survive the winter and be ready to bloom early summer next year.



My experiment with the compost activator has worked.   This was the full bin six weeks ago before pouring on the mixture …


And here it is last weekend albeit with a few egg shells and twigs still visible but worthy of using….



I guess the hot weather helped spur it on and the fact that I resisted adding new kitchen waste for the last six weeks allowed it to fully break down. I repeated the trial on a large conical bin on the allotment which was full to the brim and it has halved in quantity so the same excellent results.



My four dahlia plants are smothered in buds and will be ready to pick over the next week or two.




I rounded up the last of the purple sweet peas, cerise cosmos and a few mustard flowers from the dill plant.

Cutting Back Perennials

August 6, 2014

nepeta six hills-001

For ten weeks this summer Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ was one of the best plants in the garden. It sprawled over paving and glowed in the evening light and was buzzing with bee activity for much of the day. The flowers faded dramatically three weeks ago so it’s now been cut back to 10 cm in the hope that it will flower again.


The Achillea ‘Moonshine’ were also lovely all summer softly distracting throughout June and July whilst waiting for the Sedum ‘Autumn Glory’ planted behind it to flower.  These too have been cut back less in the hope of re-flowering more to get a sturdy root system going for next summer.


On the allotment I’ve pruned the gooseberry and black currant bushes cutting back the side shoots that were produced on the leader this year to 15 cm.  A good guide is to have 4 or 5 leaf buds remaining on the side-shoots and to remove very old branches at the base and any that cross over others. With the currants I’ve cut the centre of the bush into a goblet-shaped space to provide more ventilation. A thorough weeding in the fruit bush bed was necessary after Nigella ‘Love-in a Mist’ colonised the ground and a sack of well-rotted manure will be applied over winter at the base of each bush.

pruning fruit bushes


With the gooseberries I plan to net them late winter rather than leaving it till the fruit forms in spring.  I had a poor crop this summer and have been told that finches in particular attack the buds which produce next year’s fruit.



The first lot of sweet peas are over and have started to form seed pods as have the marigolds and ‘Love in a Mist’ so yesterday in the sun I gathered them to store in paper bags to sow at a later date.





The cut flowers this week are Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’, Hydrangea ‘Madam Mouillere’ and white Cosmos.


July 28, 2014

I love seeing Buddleja davidii on waste ground it feels optimistic that even in a neglected area with no one weeding or watering- plants still manage to thrive and scent the air.  But if space is limited it’s best to choose from dwarf cultivars especially those that  sit comfortably in borders making an effective backdrop to other summer-flowering shrubs and perennials. Below is B.’Buzz Sky Blue’ which is bred to suit small gardens and is compact enough for a pot. In a large mixed border in S. Devon it sits surrounded by fennel and has been planted beside a window where the owners regularly watch  Hummingbird Hawk moths, Jersey Tiger moths (most commonly found in S. Devon), Large Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Small Peacock butterflies. DSCN3011

Two of my own favourite buddlejas are B. davidii ‘Black Knight’  which has the darkest purple flowers and is a manageable size growing to 3 m and below the white B. davidii ‘White Profusion’.

white buddleja All  respond well to a hard prune in March which keeps them compact and stops them getting straggly and buddlejas are best planted in sun and in well-drained soil.

I recently spotted Astrantia major in a country garden growing in profusion and self-seeding in almost total shade. I love the off-white,  pin- cushiony flowers and that they last well when cut for a vase. DSCN2981

This week my cut flowers are Dahlia ‘Karma Naomi’ with Cosmos ‘Sensation’ and a purple sweet pea that I sowed rather late so it’s only just started flowering. DSCN3028


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