The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: February 2017

Mirabalis Jalapa Marbles Mix – Marvel of Peru


Mirabilis Jalapa is an outstanding plant that will produce flowers that are marbled in colours of red, white and yellow. The flowers open in the early morning and evening , Sow seeds between February and April on the surface of a good quality seed compost and cover lightly,  Seeds can take up to a month to germinate. DO NOT EXCLUDE LIGHT as this helps germination.  Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged.  Once large enough to handle transplant into 3″ pots and grow on. When all risk of frost has passed plant out in Sunny well drained site with rich soil. Info, seeds and pictures from Seekay. Four-o-clocks are bushy annuals with colourful flowers and a sweet lemon or orange fragrance. They grow equally well in part shade as well as full sun. They begin flowering in midsummer when sown directly as seed, but will flower earlier if grown as transplants. The individual flowers open early in the morning and late afternoon and are also called four o clock flowers for that reason. They often will stay open until the following morning then close and die.  A single plant may contain different coloured flowers depending on the mix.

I received these seeds today and am looking forward to growing them. They sound very interesting. I plan to soak a few seeds overnight with a view to sowing in modules. I was pleased to learn that they have a  citrus scent too. I have sown these seeds today Wednesday 1st February and apparently they can take up to thirty days to germinate. Update – 12th March and there is one two inch seedling standing alone like a Meer cat on guard and quite a few seeds showing signs of growth. It was worth the forty day wait. 20th March I have potted on six strong seedlings.

 

 

Polygonum Baldschuanicum – Russian Vine

Yesterday Sean an Deb brought along a mile-a-minute vine that they had picked up for a pound. It had been reduced from £6.99 but there are a few green shoots showing so maybe it will turn out to be a bargain. I have planted it in the side garden where the two big trees used to be but shall keep a close eye on it  as it can be as naughty as Ivy in it’s destructive habits. I plan to cut it back severely each Spring.

Russian Vine is grown for its flower-laced vines and as it is a fast growing plant it is grown as cover for unsightly fences and other garden structures. However, it has the capacity to become invasive by spreading beyond its intended limits. The white flowers are decorative and provide nectar and pollen for bees. wiki

 

Adam – 20th February 2017

I find it hard to accept that a whole year has passed since I lost Adam. I miss him more than ever. He should still be here with his family. I know that if he could he would be telling us all to enjoy life. He used to say “Life is great” but it will never be the same for us without him. This weekend has been very difficult.  Adam died on Saturday 20th February 2016 and I’m sure that in spite of how difficult life was for him at that time he would still have chosen to live. Love you and miss you my lovely boy.

Borage – Borago officinalis – Star Flower

I have grown this interesting plant before when we first took on the allotment. I sowed Borage seeds directly into the end of the bean trench and it grew and grew and grew. Personally I liked it so I have bought new seeds from Higgledy. Rob didn’t like it as it tried to take over the allotment. It is a big plant that attracts bees and other pollinators which is why I think it should have a place in both the garden and the allotment. It does need managing though. Direct sow into the ground in mid April and through May. You can also sow in August for flowers the next spring. It’s 26th April and I am sowing some Borage seed in the side garden today.

Borage, also known as a starflower, is an annual herb in the flowering plant family Boraginaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and has naturalized in many other locales. It grows satisfactorily in gardens in the UK climate, remaining in the garden from year to year by self-seeding. The leaves are edible and the plant is grown in gardens for that purpose in some parts of Europe. The plant is also commercially cultivated for borage seed oil extracted from its seeds. Starflower Oil is taken from the Borage officinalis seeds,

 

 

Butternut Squash – Cucurbita Moschata

To date I have fifteen Butternut Squash seedlings potted up. These seeds were saved from a shop bought squash, left to dry out and then chitted between damp kitchen towel kept moist in a plastic food box. They germinated really quickly and by the time I potted them up they were already showing secondary root hairs and searching for nutrients. I may pot a couple of these up at home but the majority are destined to go to the allotment. Sown another fifteen germinated seeds today 15th Feb. I can’t see them all reaching maturity but there are still many chitted seeds left. I wish I knew  someone who needed some.

Butternut squash also known as gramma is a winter squash that grows on a vine. It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin.  It has tan-yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp with a compartment of seeds in the bottom. When ripe, it turns increasingly deep orange, and becomes sweeter and richer. It is a good source of fibre, magnesium and potassium. It is also a source of vitamins C, A & E.

Cornflower – Centaurea Cyanus

Centaurea cyanus, commonly known as cornflower, is an annual in the family Asteraceae, native to Europe. In the past it often grew as a weed in fields of grain. It is now considered to be endangered in its native habitat by over use of herbicides.  I am very familiar with these flowers but haven’t grown them from seed before. I have sown twenty each of Blue Ball and Black Ball, into a tray of moist compost. They shouldn’t need heat but do need light. These Annuals are usually sown directly into the garden in September but I am trying to start a few now. We shall see. 11th Feb – All of the seeds have germinated already after five days. 16th Feb – All potted on. Update = All of these seedlings have keeled over and died. I shall try direct sowing later.

Arenaria Montana – Mountain Sandwort

Arenaria Montana is a classic little alpine or rock garden plant. The plant has narrow, glossy green leaves that form prostrate mats of foliage that are evergreen. In mid-spring, Mountain Sandwort is blanketed by relatively large, white flowers.  Whilst it does best in full sun to partial shade, it is considered to be drought-tolerant. It is not fussy as to soil type or pH and is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. Plants will grow to be only 2″ tall at maturity. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense to the ground and is slow growing. Their ground-hugging habit means that this useful plant can be used at the front of the border or, it can be used as a lawn substitute for low foot traffic areas. They are at their loveliest spilling over edges of walls and will quickly fill in spaces between stepping stones or trail down the sides of walls. RHS award 1993.

Sow in spring or in autumn. Prepare pots or trays with good free draining seed compost; moisten by standing in water, then drain. Surface sow two seeds per pot or cell and press them gently down to firm them in. Cover the seed with a fine layer of vermiculite if you have it.  Seal pots in a polythene bag or cover trays with clear plastic lids until after germination. It is important to keep soil slightly moist but not wet. Remove the covering once the first seedlings appear. Germination can take up to 30 days. If seeds do not germinate by 4 weeks remove pots/tray to a cool shaded area. Seedlings are usually large enough to handle after 4 weeks. Transplant the seedlings into 3½” pots. Two seedlings can be planted to one pot. Place the pots in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse to grow on.  Before transplanting outdoors, harden off gradually. They do best in moist but well draining soils.

Arenaria Montana has a shallow root system and can dry out very quickly. Cover substrate with vermiculite or mulch to retain water and keep your eye on small plants until they establish themselves. A relatively low maintenance perennial, simply remove damaged foliage in spring and fertilise with a complete balanced fertiliser, don’t fertilise after mid September. It should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season’s flowers.

Arenaria Montana is native to mountainous regions of south-western Europe from the Pyrenees of France to Portugal.

The genus name Arenaria is taken from the Latin arena meaning sand referring to the sandy habitats of many species. The species name Montana means simply ‘of the mountains’. Arenaria Montana is a member of the Caryophyllaceous family, a cousin of the popular Dianthus genus.

Today, 6th February, I sowed all twenty seeds received from Seekay at a cost of £1.22, I put them two to a module. Now I must wait for thirty days for germination. From past experience I know that Alpines aren’t easy to grow. We are planning on rebuilding the area around our old pond this year and these were  something I thought would be good there. Update 16th Feb – three green shoots showing after ten days.

Cerinthe Major Purpurascens – Honeywort

I haven’t grown these plants before and they first came to my attention whilst watching an episode of Life in a Cottage Garden. Carole Klein was extolling their virtues and showing us how to start them from seed. The plant, fully grown in her own garden, looked enormous but I decided then that I musts give them a try. I have put just two seeds into a little tepid water to soak and plan to sow them tomorrow, 6th February. The individual seeds are quite big. I bought mine from Higgledy at £1.99 for 10 seeds. There were actually 12 in the packet. Germination should be about two weeks. First seedling through after 8 days.

Cerinthe is a beautiful hardy annual. It has oval, fleshy blue-green leaves, mottled with white, and rich purple-blue, tubular flowers held inside sea blue bracts. Bees love it. For early blooms sow in pots indoors in early spring. Alternatively sow outdoors in April. Once introduced into the garden, self-sown seedlings will mean that it rarely disappears. information from BBC site.

Honeydew Melon – Try Try Try Again

Six chitted seeds from a shop bought Honeydew Melon have been placed into a module tray and covered in polythene. Germination was super quick, they had quite a long shoot emerging after two days.  4th Feb. If I can grow them on into a decently strong plant they can be put into the ground at the allotment. Apparently they need three months of growing time after this point. I have tried many times over the years but always directly into the ground. Second batch sown today 7th Feb.

White Cucumber – Cucumis Sativus

This year I am going to try and chit Cucumber seeds. I have put four each of White Wonder from Seekay and Long White from T&M in some damp kitchen towel and into a plastic food box. It is sitting on the computer box for a little warmth. They don’t usually take long to germinate any way, about 7-10 days. I have grown the Long White before and have yet to see a white Cucumber. Last year produced the best plants but they were destroyed following the torrential rain that we had here. I have prepared a 7″ pot of moist compost ready for the germinated seeds. The White Wonder are new seeds. Well, no luck with chitting so I have put them directly into pots. I’m worried now that I may have spoiled the seeds. Hope not as they are quite expensive as seeds go. The T&M Long White were £1.99 for 15 seeds. Seekay White Wonder were 20 for 65p. 10th February – all of the White Wonder are about two inches high but only one of the Long White through yet. (7 days) Having got to the end of April and only two seedlings left I have sown another pot of the long white today. The best plant, the Long White, got killed off by a frost when I put it out too soon and the other two, White Wonder, which are still inside, look very feeble even though one of them is already in flower. Well, at the end of the season we had no harvest from the Long White and though there were two strong looking plants from the White Wonder we only had two very small fruits. I’m not sure that I shall have another go next year. Time will tell.

This Half-hardy Annual, Greenhouse type Cucumber Long White is not just a novelty. The firm flesh is sweet and juicy with a pleasant tang that will add flavour to your salads. The tender, white skins are so thin that they won’t need peeling. This attractive variety is a good cropper when trained against supports in the greenhouse. Height 9′
The White Wonder are described as an excellent variety that produces creamy white fruits that reach approx. 20cm.
http://www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-grow-cucumbers