The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Swiss Chard

We went to the allotment today and did a bit more tidying up. I was pleased to see three good roots of Swiss Chard just waiting to be picked for dinner. We also brought home a couple of leeks just to check on the quality really as they had been growing over the winter. They were brilliant and are now cut up and in the freezer and we are planning to harvest the rest of the crop and clear the bed for new planting. I came home a bit more optimistic about keeping the allotment plot. I had a load of wood chip dropped and Rob has tidied a few beds and covered them with manure and woodchip giving the whole place a visual lift. We have also  cleared the site of bits of plastic and empty bags that had been blown about after storm Doris. Back at home we put a bag of manure on the side garden plus two bags of wood chip. It is almost built up to the right level now another five bags should do it. Laura came home with a wooden raised bed knocked together by a friend of Bryans at his allotment site. We have painted it with green preservative and put it ready to be filled with soil and planted up.

Germinating Parsnip Seed


I found this method of germinating parsnip seed online on the Gardeners World site and decided to have a go. Not with all my seed but just twenty as a test. I bought the seed from Seekay in a bag of 250 seeds. They are a variety called Guernsey.

Mixing the parsnip seed in the bag of seed compost

Part-fill a plastic bag with moist seed compost and empty your seed packet onto the surface. There is no point in successional sowing as you don’t need to harvest them all in one go. What’s more, parsnip seed stays viable for only one year, so saving seed could lead to wasting it. Mix the seed and compost together so the seed is evenly distributed in the bag. Tie the top of the bag together and place in a dark, warm spot such as your airing cupboard. Leave for around four days. After around four days, remove the bag from the airing cupboard and check on your seeds. They should have germinated, and small seedlings will be poking out of the compost.Make a shallow trench in well-prepared soil with stones removed. Remove the seedlings from the bag and place them 10cm apart in the trench. Cover with a thin layer of soil and water with a watering can with a fine rose attached. The seedlings should continue to grow in their new growing positions.

Parsnips are ancient vegetables that have been cultivated in Europe for over 500 years with the French recording named varieties as far back as 1393.  Guernsey dates back to pre 1826 and, even though the name suggests otherwise originated in France. It has been cultivated in Guernsey for generations where it is considered by farmers to be the most nutritious root known, superior even to the carrot and the potato. 
The roots of this heritage variety are shorter than many of today’s long hybrids, they are often called Guernsey Half Long because of this. The stumpy roots have broad shoulders and attractive smooth white skin and even without the vigour of an F1 hybrid the flavour doubly compensates. They are easy to grow once germinated they need little maintenance and can be left in the soil until ready to use. Plant in early spring, and harvest from autumn to the following spring. The parsnip tops are large and need a good 30cm room in each direction. The more room you give them the larger they will grow. Guernsey is a firm favourite with many. it is considered to be one of the very best roasting varieties, this reliable, sweet root vegetable is making a come back, with crop numbers  increasing all over the country. Info Seedaholic.com.

Clematis Miss Bateman Group 2

I bought this Clematis yesterday from Lidl for £3.99. It looks very good with lots of new growth and large root. I have bought Clematis from Lidl before, the Hagley Hybrid and it has been flowering for years so I am looking forward to adding it to the garden. I bought it to replace Miss Christine which I loved but which died on me after once being replaced by Crocus.com the replacement died also. That one was £17.99. I would like to place it in the same spot but think that may be too risky so I am opening up a new border behind the trellis and I shall place it there.

White early summer flowers initially striped green with contrasting chocolate centres. This compact  large flowered clematis is excellent for growing in a large container or through a shrub or tree. Coping well in full sun or partial shade, it produces a second flush of satiny flowers from August to September.

Sweetcorn Wagtail


I bought seeds of Sweetcorn Wagtail from Seekay at 32 seeds for 99p. Today I have put 24 in a modular propagation tray. They should germinate in 7 days. I had pre-soaked them.

Sweetcorn Wagtail F1 performs well producing cobs of sweetcorn that are super sweet. This is a late season variety that produces a high yield of cobs per plant.  When growing Sweetcorn it is considered best to not grow more than one variety to avoid any cross pollination which can harm yields and the quality of the crop. On larger sites it is possible to grow more than one variety.  Sweetcorn should be grown in blocks to help pollination.

Blueberry Patriot – Vaccinium Corymbosum

I have bought two roots of Blueberry Patriot from Lidl. They were two for £3 so worth a risk. I have a bush that is quite a few years old that I think I got from Wilkos for a couple of pounds and it has paid me back over and over with fruit. This early season variety is said to have large berries and be a reliable and heavy cropper. I am going to plant them tomorrow in a large pot with a mix of all purpose and ericaceous compost. I am a bit doubtful about them as they look quite weak but let’s see what a bit of tender care can do.

Patriot is an early season variety. It has been developed as a cold hardy variety that will bear consistent crops of large sized fruit, fruits can sometimes reach the size of a 10p coin. Cropping is high, ranging between 10 and 20 pounds when the bush is mature. The berries are dark blue and highly flavoured. Patriot is a low growing, spreading bush reaching a height of around 4 feet. It is adaptable to many soil types and will perform better in moist soils than many other varieties. Patriot looks fabulous in the garden with its showy white blooms in the spring, dark green summer foliage, and fiery orange autumn colours.

Beans and Potatoes

22nd March and I have put some seed potatoes, Maris Piper, into a growing bag in the garden. We shall probably grow in a small way this year as the allotment needs a lot doing to it to get it ready. It has been quite neglected whilst we have been looking after Adam so this year may be spent just getting it back up to normal. I also sowed just nine broad bean stereo seeds in modules. We bought an oblong planter from Wilkos and I have sown Carrot Early Nantes into it and put it in the garden. The bean seedlings are also in the garden in a large 50cm pot. They are Climbing French Bean Purple Cascade and I have popped a few French bean Dulcina around them. The other beans, Blue Lake and Borlotto are still in modules awaiting a decision as to where to plant them.

Update The Blue Lake and the Borlotto are also in a large planter and we have put in a silver obelisk bought from Wilkos for a little support. 24th March and the last four Maris Piper potatoes plus one Vivaldi are now in a big growing pot. First batch of Peas Ambassador have gone into a tray today after being soaked overnight.

 

Honesty – Lunaria annua alba – Hardy Biennual

Today, 22nd March, I have sown seeds of this beautiful plant in damp compost and expect them to germinate in 21 days. It is described by Seekay, where the seeds came from, as a quick growing variety that will produce a profusion of fragrant white flowers that appear from May to June of the following year. Once the flowers go over the seed heads that are produced can be used in dried flower arrangements. The plants will reach an eventual height of approx 3′. Advice is to sow the seeds from April on the surface of a good quality damp seed compost. Cover with a light sprinkle of compost then enclose in a polythene bag to retain moisture. With a little heat the seeds should germinate in up to 3 weeks. Transplant into 3″ pots when they are large enough to handle Gradually acclimatise to outside conditions Finally plant into final positions late May onwards appx 12″ apart.

Although you can start your seeds off in pots you can direct sow from mid May until June and I plan to do this for flowers next year. I have started a couple of batches indoors already as I was impatient and still hope for flowers this summer. Lunaria flowers in late May

Deutzia Scabra

I bought this shrub on impulse from the pound shop knowing nothing about it at all. I have planted it into the back garden. It already has a few pale green shoots and having inspected the root system am wishing that I had bought another couple. There were Philadelphus and Spiraea.

Deutzia Scabra is an upright, deciduous shrub with arching branches, peeling, pale brown bark, dark green leaves and dense panicles of fragrant, single, star-shaped, white or pink-flushed flowers from early to mid summer. The shrub can grow up to six feet .

Anemone de Caen Corms

Let the Anemone Mr Fokker be attendants to the Bride. Her simple pure-white beauty will shine even more when surrounded by their dramatic shades. Anemone Coronaria’s exquisite poppy-like flower emerges from a bridal wreath of golden stamens round a green centre. This alone sets her apart from her companions with their big black cup centres. All these showy varieties are among the extremely popular French cultivars that originated in the De Caen area of Normandy. Often called florists’ anemones, they make extremely good cut flowers, with Anemone Coronaria Bride, obviously, a wonderful choice for weddings in late spring or early summer. So say the people at Farmer Gracy where I bought these knobbly corms. They look very strange now soaking overnight and waiting to be planted into a large patio pot. https://www.farmergracy.co.uk/products/anemone-mr-fokker-bulbs-uk

I already have a few Anemone planted here and there around the garden which have accumulated over the years but this time I intend to keep them a bit more protected. Previously they have just been popped in amongst other things but compared with the number planted they are very few and far between. I am hoping for a good show from these 40 corms. The new corms went into their pot this morning 15th March.