Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Gardening Hints And Tips

How to do stuff around the garden

Trying Second Early Salad Potato Jazzy and Old Favourite Maris Piper 2018

It’s well into April and we are only just starting our potatoes. First In the allotment were some Maris Piper bought from Lidl. 20 seed potatoes were put into the allotment on 1st April, after chitting at home. We have another 12 waiting to go into black buckets. Maris Piper are a Main Crop popular English potato grown since the 60s, They are purple flowered and are one of the most well known and most popular varieties on sale today. More Maris Piper potatoes are grown than any other variety in the UK. This variety has a golden skin and creamy white flesh with a fluffy texture.  This makes it a versatile all rounder, great for chips and roast potatoes, but also good for mash and wedges.

Today we bought Second Early Salad Potato  Jazzy. This is new to us and looks very good. 29 seed potatoes cost £3.99 from Highdown Nursery  in Sugarloaf Lane, Norton. The producers guarantee 35 potatoes per plant when grown in an 8 litre bag. However there are reports of up to 80 potatoes per plant. The small waxy tubers are said to be more versatile than Charlotte with good flavour. Good for boiling, mash, roasting or steaming, this new second early variety has been awarded an RHS AGM for its superb garden performance. Second early crops can be harvested approximately 13 weeks from planting when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back.

Plant potato crops from March. Prior to planting, chit the seed potatoes by setting them out in a cool, bright position to allow them to sprout. When growing in the ground avoid planting in soil where potatoes have grown for two years in succession to reduce the risk of disease. Prepare the planting area in a sheltered position in full sun on moist well drained soil. Dig in plenty of well rotted manure. Place the seed potatoes 4″ deep.  When shoots reach 8″ earth up the soil around the shoots leaving just a few cm of green growth showing. Repeat this process after a further as required.

Where space is limited, try growing potatoes in potato bags on the patio.

  • Fill an 8 litre potato bag to just below the top of the bag with good quality compost mixed with some well rotted manure.
  • Carefully plunge a single chitted potato tuber into the compost with the shoots pointing upwards at a depth of 5″ from the soil surface.
  • Place the bags in a sunny position and water regularly to keep the compost moist.

 

Rob and I have been watching a chap on YouTube whose channel is called ‘Home Grown Veg’. He recommends growing potatoes in plastic shopping carriers inside black cut flower buckets. We are definitely having a go at this this year.

  • Making sure that the containers are clean and have sufficient drainage holes fill the carrier bag, which should be inside the bucket, one third full of multi purpose compost.
  • Put one seed potato in and fill the bucket up to one inch from the top.
  • Water well at this stage.
  • Leave in a draught free sheltered place outdoors for ten weeks.
  • After ten weeks, lift the carrier bag, roll down the sides, the soil should hold together by the roots, then harvest what potatoes you can find.
  • lower the bag back into the pot.
  • Repeat this at 13 weeks.
  • The third lift will probably be the last one.
  • Remember to keep the used compost, revitalising it with fish, blood and bone, and use the same bag and pot to grow some leeks in the same way.

 

Sowing A Colourful Variety of Climbing Beans for 2018

I have quite a few old favourites amongst the Runner Beans in my seed box and this year have added a few new varieties just for fun. The first seeds to be sown were Climbing Bean Yard Long. on 5th April, I have started 16 seeds in toilet roll tubes with 100% germination. These are an unusual variety of climbing bean that produce pods that grow up to 3′ in length. The pods can be harvested from when they are 1′ long and make a tasty addition to any meal. 

Climbing French Bean Cosse Violette, pictured in the header of this post, is a strong growing variety of Purple French bean that can be harvested over a long period. Sow the seeds directly outside from May- June in rows 12 ” apart. Cover the seeds lightly with soil and water them in. These plants will require support as they grow. To prolong the harvest crop the plants regularly. A fortnightly feed with a tomato type fertiliser will result in better crops. Keep well watered in dry weather. 15 Sown indoors on 11th April.

Surprise Bean from Philippines. These are beans given to me with no label and no explanation other than that they were posted from the Philippines so we will have to wait and see. Sown 17th April.

Climbing Bean Blue Lake – I have grown this variety successfully before and have been very pleased both with how prolifically it has grown and the taste of the beans  when cooked. Considered one of the gourmet varieties, these are a prolific producer defying the driest of summers, whilst remaining sugar sweet, stringless and tender with medium length beans. Excellent and easy to deep freeze. Can be grown against a trellis, on poles or up netting and require little or no maintenance. A white seeded variety. growing to 5′ or more.  Beans are hungry crops that require ample organic matter dug in prior to sowing. Sow in pots undercover in April for an earlier harvest or directly outside when all danger of frost has passed. own 17th April.

 

 

Echium Plantagineum White Bedder – Viper’s Bugloss

Echium or Viper’s Bugloss – This pretty flowering plant came here from the Mediterranean. Its flowers are a great food source for beneficial insects. Grown easily from seed they will give masses of pure white bell like flower clusters along stems covered with bristly grey hairs. Bees and butterflies love this bountiful white flowered bloomer. I have loosened the soil in the border and scattered a few of these seeds today.

It is recommended to sow Echium seeds directly outdoors once frost danger has passed. In a prepared seedbed with loosened soil that is free of weeds. Scatter the seeds on gravelly soil. Keep area moist until germination occurs. Deadhead regularly to encourage more flowers. At the end of the season allow seed heads to form and collect some for next year. Viper’s Bugloss will re-seed itself for next year. It is recommended to wear gloves when handling Echium plants as it can be a skin irritant.

This is a beautiful variety that produces clusters of bell shaped white flowers from June – Sept and reaches a height of Appx 12″

If indoor sowing is preferred:-

Sow seeds thinly onto the surface of a good quality moistened seed compost at min 18 deg C Mar – April

Lightly cover the seed with fine compost or vermiculite to just cover the seed.

Once large enough to handle the young plants can be transplanted into either 3″ pots or tray cells

A fortnightly feed with a potash based fertiliser, Tomato fertiliser, will encourage good growth and plenty of flowers.

Transplant to final position once all risk of frost has passed

 

Growing Armeria Maritima – Sea Thrift From Saved Seeds

In October 2016 I bought 72 tiny perennials from Thompson and Morgan. I had the job of growing them on to become useful plants for the garden. Amongst them were three tiny Thrift plants. They came on beautifully and I was able to collect some tiny fluffy seed heads in Autumn 2017. Today, 7th April 2018, I am sowing the seeds onto some damp compost and hoping for more of these pretty little plants to put around the pond. I have read that they need cold and that they may take quite a while to germinate.

Thrift or Sea Pink is too well known to need much description other than saying it is one of the most perfect, perennial, hardy rockery or border edge plants. Tufts of tiny pointy leaves form the base for long stems bearing pink fragrant flowers which appear over a long period during spring and summer. Seeds can be sown at any time but are best sown in winter or early spring to benefit from a cold spell in the wet compost to break their dormancy. Cover seeds very thinly with sand or fine grit. If the seeds do not come up within 6 to 12 weeks the damp seed tray can be given cold treatment in a fridge for about four weeks. They may still take very many months to appear though.

Growing Cleome From Seed for 2018 Colour

Today I sowed seeds of Cleome Spinosa indoors in moist compost. I have white Helen Campbell, Violet Queen and Rose Queen and hope to have all of these striking plants in the back of the borders this year. Although I have put some seeds to start indoors my main plan is to sow the seeds directly into the garden at the end of this month and in early May. Last year was the first time that I grew Cleome and I was blown away by the beauty of the spidery flowers. I only had Violet Queen last year and regretted not having the other colours. Another thing I plan to do this year is to pinch out the central shoot. This happened accidentally last year when the first tall spike snapped off in a strong wind and I was amazed at how many new flower heads grew as a result. Another advantage of this plant is  how easy it is to collect seeds. Last Autumn I scattered quite a lot of seeds, saved from the Violet Queen, around the garden so I am hopeful of new seedlings come May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am hoping that I will never need to sow any more seeds as if this years plants self seed as they should this tropical looking herbaceous plant will become a permanent feature of my summer borders. As this flower is extremely attractive to beneficial insects I shall tell Rob to get some going at the allotment too. Grow Cleome in groups rather that rows or make a big splash of colour with container grown plants.

Nasturtium Jewel of Africa – Tropaeolum

Although last year I grew these seeds from a direct sowing and they performed really well, I have decided to pop some into a plastic egg box today as the weather is extremely cold for the time of year. They are Tropaeolum Jewel Of Africa from Seekay and at 99p for a hundred seeds a good buy. Another plus is that they self seed and so, unless you fancy a different variety, you don’t have to buy seeds more than once. This is a tall growing variety of Nasturtium that produces an abundance of mixed coloured flowers held clear above very attractive variegated foliage. An easy to grow variety that gives a mass of colour.  Eventual height eight feet. This plant caught me by surprise last year by how high it climbed. Laura rigged up a bit of a frame for it by the shed and it romped away. Leaves and flowers are supposed to be edible but I have never risked it. Apparently the flowers and leaves add a peppery taste to salads and are a great garnish. Update 9th April 2018 – These seeds went in on 1st April and are showing through now on the 9th.

Sow seeds in April in cells or pots and cover lightly with compost.

Germinate best with a little heat and should take 10 days.

Harden off prior to planting out after all risk of frost has passed.

Like a light sunny position with well drained soil.

 

 

In my opinion no garden should be without Nasturtium as they carry on and on giving and the bees love them too.

 

 

California Poppy – Escholtzia Californica 2018

I had no flowers from these seeds last year at all but I have persevered and scattered more seeds into the garden this year. I have sown both white and orange and am hoping for more success this time. 

Escholtzia californica was named after Dr Johann Friedrich Eschscholz, a Russian physician who was one of a party that discovered and described the plant in 1815 while exploring the Pacific coastline of what is now California. It would have been hard to miss, as great sheets of yellow and gold clothed the rocky hillsides. Technically a perennial but often grown as an annual, owing to its ability to go from seed to flower in a matter of weeks. A single plant can flower profusely over a long period before eventually setting seed and producing new flowering plants in the same season. These Poppies thrive in dry, gravely, well drained soil. Once established it will seed itself around. The most successful and cost effective way to grow the California poppy is by sowing directly into prepared gravelly ground during spring. Work your topsoil into a reasonably fine tilth before applying a 2″ thick layer of gritty sharp sand or pea gravel. The seed can be broadcast directly on to this free draining layer before being watered in. A succession of sowings from early April to May should result in a succession of plants over the Summer.

 

Sweet Pea – Lathyrus – 2018

Last years Sweet Peas were very disappointing with very few flowers. I have put all the seeds left from last year, Mammoth Mix,  into a deep pot of moist compost and my plan is to buy some fresh seeds too for another go this Summer. The Fresh seed is on order and should arrive tomorrow, weather permitting.

 

The old seeds are showing signs of germination with five green shoots trying to emerge at 6 days. I found a few more Mammoth mixed today, Monday  5th March, and have put them into a deep pot. I want to start a really good amount this year using all my old seeds and some new. New seeds arrived this afternoon so I sowed about twenty of the Spencer Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill is a slightly scented Spencer type that has the most beautiful deep crimson. well ruffled petals. Update 17th March – Both the old and new seeds are up and the first pot have been pinched out above the second leaves. The Spencer variety germinated very quickly and I am already thinking that I may stick to these in future. Easter Sunday 1st April and after soaking them overnight I have sown 25 more of the Spencer Mixed seeds. The original sowings are outside now and about 2′ tall. I have placed an obelisk around them. Fingers crossed for a good year for Sweet Peas.

 

How To Grow Sweet Peas

  • Growing sweet peas is supposed to be easy. Sow into compost in autumn and overwinter or wait until spring and sow in pots or sow into the ground. Before I sow them I soak the seeds in tepid water to rehydrate them. It helps them get off to a quicker start but it isn’t essential as they will still germinate well in moist compost. I usually soak overnight, use a good quality compost and sow several seeds about half an inch deep to a pot. Place in a bright position.
  • As the seedlings grow they tend to become tall and leggy. Encourage them to produce side shoots by pinching out the tips. Simply nip off the top of the stem just above a set of leaves. This will make each plant much bushier and more robust. And the more shoots there are the more flowers will be produced.
  • Sweet peas climb by twining their tendrils around whatever they touch so help them to cling to the support you have  provided.
  • Throughout the season you will need to keep them well watered as dry soil will make them go to seed quicker, also deadhead regularly.
  • Towards the end of the season leave the seed pods to mature for collection towards next years flowers.

The Sweet Pea is a flowering plant in the genus Lathyrus in the family Fabaceae and is native to Sicily, Cyprus, southern Italy and the Aegean Islands. It is an annual climbing plant growing to a height of 1–2 metres where suitable support is available. A perennial variety is also available but although these plants are stronger the flowers are smaller. However, they do have a place in the garden as do the knee high and basket varieties. I feel the annual Sweet Pea is best for cut flowers and scent.

 

Sowing Saved Bell Pepper Seeds – Capsicum

Bell Peppers from saved supermarket seeds:

I hate to be negative but last  year I raised loads of pepper plants but didn’t harvest any edible fruits. I saved lots of seeds from bought peppers over the year and having had successful germination with saved seeds before I am once again sowing seeds of green, yellow and red bell peppers. I have obviously been doing something wrong when it comes to producing edible peppers so its back to researching the internet for growing tips for me. I have had good germination, potted on some good strong plants but sadly rarely got to eat the fruits of my labour. Below is a list of points that I gathered from my research.

Update on 17th February – One 7″ pot of moist compost sown with about 30 seeds of red, yellow and green peppers wrapped in a plastic food bag and put on the computer box for a little bottom heat. Fingers crossed.

Update Easter Sunday 1st April 2018 – The germination was amazing and today I am potting on the best twelve of the Bell Peppers grown from saved seed.

New sowing of bought seeds 1st April – I bought  new seeds of a yellow, sweet long chilli pepper. The variety is Sweet Banana from Seekay. I have sown four seeds today along with another pot of four saved seeds of a long red chilli pepper that I bought from Lidl. They were packed with seeds so I couldn’t resist saving them.

Important points to remember when growing peppers.

  •  Pepper plants are slow growing and need plenty of time to produce fruit before frost.
  • They are an ideal plant for container growing.
  • They need rich well draining soil with added calcium and regular watering.

Facts

  • Germination is 10 to 15 days
  • Harvest should  be 65 to 100 days
  • Require full sun.
  • Regular and frequent watering.
  • Rich soil with added calcium.
  • Ideal for containers.

Tips

  • To promote growth place a mat of tinfoil around the base of the plants to help the plant benefit from direct and reflective heat and light.
  • Sweet bell peppers are known for their high vitamin C, A and B6 content.
  • Plants should not be outside until the soil is warm, so start your seeds indoors in order to get a harvest before winter.
  • Find your expected last frost date and sow pepper seeds eight weeks before.

Bell peppers are some of the most versatile vegetables in the kitchen. They can be sautéed  with onions, sliced or diced in salads, soups, and casseroles. They can be stuffed, grilled, used on sandwiches, or simply sliced for a fresh, flavorful, and crunchy snack. These colourful vegetables  have a high vitamin and mineral content. Regular consumption of green peppers, which contain more than twice the vitamin C of an orange, helps protect against disease, boosts the immune system, lowers inflammation in the arteries that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and cholesterol build up. Other nutritional benefits of bell peppers include thiamin, niacin, folate, magnesium and copper. 

Trying To Grow Agapanthus Africanus From Collected Seeds

I have never grown Agapanthus before. The first time I became aware of them was when my son Sean and his partner Deb came to Adam’s house to create an instantly beautiful garden when Adam received his new wheelchair and wanted to spend time outside. The Agapanthus arrived big and beautiful and smothered in vibrant blue flowers and were put in at eye level for Adam to enjoy along with many other hardy perennials. As Adam became more and more poorly and Winter arrived we spent most of the time indoors. When Adam passed away in February 2016 I came home and eighteen months have passed.

On 20th August I went to the house for the twins fifth birthday and went out into the garden to see it very neglected but there were the Agapanthus with a few seed heads still containing very ripe seed. I brought a few seed heads home and was very pleased to find 80 seeds just waiting for me to sow. As I had no growing experience of these plants I had a bit of research to do. The name is derived from the Greek for Love Flower apparently.

I have 80 seeds and today, 26th August 2017, I have sown 20 into a module tray of sandy compost with a covering of horticultural grit. Germination should be around 30 days. I have just read another article which advises sowing in March so if the first 20 don’t survive I can try again in Spring. Thursday 15th March 2018 and still no signs of life from last years sowing. Today I have sown two more seeds into individual 3″ pots for another try. 8th April – no sign of life so going for the hat trick and sown another ten seeds in a 7″ pot of damp compost. If I can only get one good plant to maturity I shall have them in the garden forever as they self seed so well.

Apparently there are seven Agapanthus species possibly because they freely hybridise. They are magnificent bulbous plants which produce an unrivalled show of blue when grown well. Their large umbels of blue trumpets are quite unlike anything else. Easily grown in well drained sunny positions. It is essential that the roots do not become waterlogged in Winter. Remember that plants grown in pots are at a risk of freezing whereas the ground usually stays above freezing point especially if the crowns are well protected with a deep mulch. Agapanthus will tolerate being overcrowded which suits them to growing in pots. If they need dividing do this in Spring and do not bury  the plants too deeply. Feed tub specimens liberally from Spring until flower bud are seen. All require full sun so the heads will naturally lean towards the sun. . In New Zealand Agapanthus grow particularly well, so well in fact that they are classified as a pernicious weed whose sale is prohibited.