The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: May 2007

New Greenhouse and More Seeds

The second hand greenhouse that we have been given has been dismantled and is waiting to be collected. As Rob is doing two double shifts and working Saturday morning we wont be able to pick it up until Sunday but as my motto is ‘be prepared’ I had ordered more seeds from Alan Romans which have arrived this morning.

courgette jemmerraddish french breakfastcucumber marketmoremelon minnesota midget

I ordered a yellow courgette, Jemmer, broad beans, Witkiem Manita, cucumber, Marketmore, melon, Minnesota Midget, parsnip, White Gem and another packet of raddish, French Breakfast and all for £3.80. Seeds have to be the cheapest fun you can buy.

First Potatoes

Rob sowed another pot of leeks as the second lot he had sown got drowned when there was a leak in the shed roof. He then earthed up the potatoes on plot 18 and dug up a couple of roots that were self seeded from last year. The brothers were lifting their first earlies, Rocket, and gave us a few to add to ours. The last few cabbages remaining in the old brassica cage are looking very sorry for themselves after the attack of cabbage aphids. I cut one to bring home for Sunday dinner with our new potatoes and a few broad beans. Also brought home a lettuce and two onions.

I potted on more tomatoes into their final pots. Only two left now to do. Gordon told us to pot on the peppers even though they are looking really small. He says they may be pot bound. I shall do that job tomorrow. I sowed two pots of basil which I plan to keep in the lean to with the tomatoes. We planted the last of the runner beans that had been put into pots ready to fill in the gaps in the bean trench.

basil2

Basil, Ocimum basilicum, is a popular sweet herb used for flavouring and formerly for medicinal purposes. An annual of the tropics, it is tender and should not be attempted outdoors until the weather is warm. In Romania Basil has a more romantic significance. When a man accepts a sprig of Basil from a woman he is officially engaged. 

 

Pink Jasmine

 pink jasmine

Jasminum Beesianum is also known as pink jasmine. This vine, which can grow up to 15′ high, is native to Southwestern China. Its foliage is evergreen to semi-decidious depending on the climate. This jasmine is not powerfully scented but is slightly fragrant. Flowers can be pink or pink-red. Rob bought one of these for me and we had put it in the lean to at the allotment to come on a bit. It is now at home planted in a display pot with a trellis. We plan to put it at the front of the house.

I am already in the habit of saving all egg shells, baking them and crushing them with a pestle and mortar to feed back to the chickens for added calcium. Now the chickens have to share as I sometimes add the crushed egg shells to compost for seedlings and my latest experiment is encircling the young brassica plants. Slugs and snails don’t like walking on egg shells.

slugsslug

All The Year Round

 

lettuceI sowed a tray of lettuce, All The Year Round, a butterhead variety. The ideal would be to have a crispy lettuce without snails and slugs so if they germinate do we plant them out into the salad bed or try to keep them raised somehow. I have a shallow plastic box. I may drill holes in the bottom of that and fill it with commercial compost and plant them in that. I shall have to think about it.

We have been given a greenhouse by a neighbour of my brother so the next big plan is to clear the old brassica cage and slab a foundation for it. How to get it to the plot will present a problem too. It does come apart so we are hoping we may be able to take it piece by piece in the car.

Chico is home and looking very bruised and sad. She is confined to a cage while her pelvis heals. Neither of her back legs seem much use to her at the moment so we are hoping that time will heal. Poor baby.

We made a quick visit to the plot this evening. It was very peaceful and beautiful and a welcome escape from the sadness at home. The ground, even after all the heavy rain, was incredibly dry so we watered the seed beds and the lean to. There were quite a few fruits on the strawberries but none red yet. The runner beans were picking up at last and almost all the potatoes are showing through now, some with flowers.

Chico Update

My cat, my dear and gentle friend,
As you lay sleeping quietly,
I thank you for the time we spend
In true and happy company.

Following x-rays the fnal diagnosis was a fractured pelvis so poor Chico underwent surgery today to fix a metal plate to hold the fracture together. The injured back leg has been dressed but there is extensive neurological damage which may be temporary but may be permanent so she isn’t out of the woods yet. One thing is guaranteed though, she will have the best care we can give her.

Brassica Massacre

A late visit to the plot today. Rob went straight over to plot 18 to finish sowing his seed bed. He has sown twelve rows of mixed seeds with the peas still at home sprouting and waiting to finish off his masterpiece. On one side of his Marigold he has sown parsnips, cauli, carrots and 2 kinds of  cabbages and in the other half 2 kinds of lettuce, beetroot, spring onions and white raddish.

After a quick check and water in the lean to I took a tour around plot 8 only to find massacre in the old brassica cage. There were only a few cabbages left to harvest any way as the broccoli and the kale that was left had gone to seed but everything was covered with a layer of  black something. I quickly rescued what I could and put everything else into large platic bags. We shall have to dismantle the old brassica cage now. Not sure exactly what happened but perhaps we shouldn’t have left anything that had gone to seed as it could have attracted the enemy which I think may be the cabbage aphid.

I put the first application of feed on the larger tomato plants. 2/3rds of a cap into two gallons of water proved a bit tricky with a 10 litre watering can as I am not too good at converting so in my own inimitable fashion I plumped for half a cap in 10 litres and hoped for the best. There is still no signs of harvest from the potatoes. Can’t wait!!

Chico

No visit to the plot today as Chico, our cat, was hit by a car and we had to take her to the vet. Looks like she has a broken back leg poor girl so she is to stay at the vets for fluids, pain relief and anti biotics then x-rays on Monday to decide what to do next. After a long convalescence Chico survived her accident.

Garden Pea Starlight

The rain subsided for a while so we popped down to the plot to do a few jobs and check on the progress of the slugs and snails in the lean to. Nothing to worry about there as we didn’t find even one. I picked a couple of lettuce that had hearted up reasonable well.

snail

The Cucumber Gherkin plants, although still quite small, had quite a few flowers on. I shall have to read up on them as it seems strange to be flowering when they aren’t even in their final pots. Growing Cucumbers in general is still quite a mystery to me and I have a lot to learn. I transplanted a few brassica seedlings into the new brassica cage. I am very pleased with the plants in there at the moment, only one of them looking a bit weak and, fingers crossed, no slug damage as yet.

 

starlightRob built a trellis for some more peas on plot 18. They are Thompson and Morgan Pea Starlight which are at present in a bowl on damp kitchen towel to germinate. A British Wrinkle (Early Maincrop). Very dark green leaves and paler pods. Mostly double-podded but some treble-podded per node containing tasty dark green peas. Has a high resistance to downy mildew. He also sowed a row of Frech Marigold Bonita Mixed along the middle of his seed bed. He had a third of a bed left after he had planted all the potatoes and he fancied making a mixed seed bed. He has great plans.

The fruit cage was looking very good and after hoeing up the weeds we decided to put a wood chip path down the centre. It looks very smart now and we were both pleased. However whilst in there we noticed one of the redcurrants had red spots on the leaves. I looked it up when we got home and it seems we have Blister Aphids. The prognosis doesn’t look too bad though so we shall remove the damaged leaves and treat the plant in December.

blister aphid

Currants affected by blister aphid still make growth and produce a crop, so treatment is not essential. If desired, plants can be treated with winter tree wash in December to control the overwintering eggs.

Mission Impossible

We popped down to the plot this afternoon to see what could be done with the leeks and the onions. The leeks were well past help so we dug them up and threw them away. The onions looked worth saving so after cutting off the flower stems I bent them over at the neck and we have left them until we have a dry day. Everything else seemed to be holding its own against the torrential rain. Rob did some weeding in the fruit cage and the sweet corn bed while I watered in the lean to. I topped up the compost in the tomato pots and pinched out all the side shoots I could see. I brought a lettuce home for tea, more because I need the space than that it was fully grown. The one remaining courgette that we planted is looking very sickly so I topped up the compost in the raised bed and gave it a friend in the shape of a much sturdier specimen sown to replace the ones we lost. Let’s hope it will buck up its ideas now it has competition.

Statice2

Although we were sure that last years Dahlias were all lost three green shoots have emerged and I plan to buy a few more plants from the garden centre to complete the row. In the bed next to them I planted a row of Limonium Sinuatum Statice which had been given to us by Trevor.

Nadine and The Star Flower

nadineborage star flower

Rob planted the 23 Nadine potatoes given to us by Wayne’s dad. They were shop bought potatoes that had sprouted so we are keeping our fingers crossed that they are ok. He has put them in Keith’s old bean trench along the bottom of plot 18.

Whilst watering in the lean to I noticed that something had been nibbling at the aubergine seedlings so I have moved them and the peppers out into the small plastic greenhouse on a high shelf. I did find rather a healthy looking snail in there. Almost all of the tomatoes have been potted on now and the left hand side of the lean to is quite full. All this heavy rain had shown us how leaky the roof is in the lean to so we shall have to put that right soon. We shall need to harvest the lettuce from the right hand bed as the cucumbers are almost ready to go into their large pots and that was where I wanted to put them.

I sowed a few seeds of Borage, (Borago officinalis) the star flower, into small terracotta pots.

Borage is a hardy annual and is essentially a wild flower. Once established it will self seed and pop up year after year. Borage is a useful companion plant to strawberries and tomatoes as a natural form of pest control. It is also highly attractive to blackfly and can be planted as a decoy close to fruit and vegetables. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A18718824

coriander

I sowed a row of Lemon Coriander seeds in the fourth quarter of the salad bed. Lemon Coriander leaves have a lemon fragrance and flavour. They can be used as a garnish in a salad or in stir fry.