Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: March 2017

Iberis umbellata Dwarf Fairy mix – Candytuft

Iberis Dwarf Fairy Mix is an easy to grow variety that grows to a height of about 10″ and has large fragrant flower heads suitable for cut flowers. Flowers appear from March to September. Sow seeds indoors from mid March. Cover the seeds lightly. Germination will take between 14 – 30 days. Plant young seedlings out when the weather warms up a bit. Candytuft will not require very much care. I have had these pretty flowers before but have always bought them as young plants. This is the first attempt at growing from seed.

Today 26th August I am collecting seeds from these rewarding flowers. They have been a joy to watch and have surprised me with their show of lovely pink, violet and white blooms. I tried sowing as directed in pots and had no success so I sowed directly into the borders and like magic, in about three weeks, they popped up everywhere. I know that lots of seeds have already fallen into the soil and may survive the winter but I am covering my back and collecting some to sprinkle around next spring. Altogether a positive experience. I bought the original seeds from Seekay at 99p for 750, but don’t think I will ever need to buy more. A very rewarding plant.

The candytuft plant, Iberis sempervirens, hails from Europe. This stunning performer is a flowering evergreen perennial with a few rules for appropriate care and performance. Plant in well draining alkaline soil in a sunny location. Growing candytuft is worth the effort as the delicate flowers appear in early Spring through Summer and often again in Autumn. Once blooms are spent cut the entire plant back to ground level. This should be done at least every other year to prevent this beauty from becoming tall and spindly.

Night Scented Stock – Matthiola longipetala

I love these wild looking flowers and they bring back good memories for me because my Mom always used to sprinkle a packet of Night Scented Stock along the strip of garden under my bedroom window in the prefab when I was growing up. The prefabs had really large windows with two side opening ones and of course being a prefab the window was very close to the ground. No upstairs for us. When they were in flower the scent rising up when you opened the window was amazing and I can still recall it now. I can’t wait to go into the garden on a warm summer night and breathe in that perfume and remember, 30th March, a little early, I know, but I have sprinkled a bit of this seed here and there in sheltered spots around the garden.

Sow directly where they are to flower. Position plants around seating areas and along paths in the garden so their scent can be enjoyed in the evenings.  A sunny situation should be chosen making sure that drainage is good. Wait until the weather warms a little before sowing. Sow thinly, Water the soil regularly, especially in dry periods. Light spring frosts will not harm the plants.

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 – Pastinaca sativa


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. Complete disaster. No sign of seeds or seedlings.

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.

Well that’s twenty of my new Parsnip seeds completely wasted as there is no sign of anything in the bag. I am so glad I didn’t put them all in. Attempt two was the damp kitchen towel in a plastic box method. Two weeks on and no sign of chitting. Looks like no parsnips this year. Either my methods are rubbish or the seeds are. Either way it is getting too late to sow now.

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 a 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.

This variety has 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.

 

Group 2 Clematis, sometimes known as Group B, include all the early, large flowered hybrids which will produce their first flush in May or very early June. Prune in February or early March. By then their buds will be swelling and green and easy to see. If the winter has been very cold growth will be delayed in which case you can prune in early to mid March instead as it is easier to see what you are doing. The exercise really involves a tidy up of the plan. Start at the top of each growth and work down. Once you reach the first pair of good, strong buds prune just above that.

Sweetcorn Wagtail and Incredible

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. All of these seeds germinated, grew to about two inches high, then keeled over and died. I have no idea what happened but today, 5th May, I have sown 25 seeds of Sweetcorn Incredible. A main season variety that produces medium sized sugar enhanced cobs. 12th May and the corn is looking good. I am confident of having 25 good plants to go out in June.

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 Blueberry 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. 11th April – there are signs of fresh growth but not looking promising for this year.

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. Update 5th May. The Purple Cascade have suffered from the cold spell and I have replaced the seeds today. The other beans, Blue Lake and Borlotto are still in modules awaiting a decision as to where to plant them. Update 5th May. These Blue Lake and Borlotto have also been reseeded.

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. 29th March and the peas are germinated and have been put in the plastic greenhouse outside to grow on a bit. Laura and Glenn went to the pound shop today and bought three packs of seed potatoes. Two were early, Maris Piper and Pentland Javelin, and one Charlotte, was a second early. They seem good value at £1 for eight decent sized seeds in each bag. The Charlotte and the Maris Piper were planted at the allotment today, 2nd April, and the Pentland Javelin have been put into a raised bed at home.

 

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 .