The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Growing from seed

Over Wintering Spring Cabbage

It’s time to sow seeds of overwintering cabbages. They are my favourite cabbages and should be ready from early Spring onwards. Sow: mid-July to August ¼” deep in a seed bed or in trays of seed compost. Keep moist. Transplant to their final positions when plants can be easily handled in about 5-6 weeks. Allow 18” between plants. Plant firmly and water well until established. Harvest: April-May for good firm hearts. The four varieties that I am sowing today, 22nd July,  are, Spring Hero, Durham Early, Offenham 2 Flower of Spring and Cabbage First Early Market. The  last one is new to me this year but the others are tried and tested favourites. Today, 29th July, all the seedlings are through except for the Durham Early, which haven’t shown at all. Seven days is quite good though so I will give the no showers another week.

Aubrieta Royal Blue and Red

Earlier in the year I bought some seeds of Aubrieta from Seekay and the instructions say to sow from June to July. They are very tiny and I don’t want to lose them to insects but I am planning to sow a few directly into the side garden in the hope that they will grow into some strong plants to use around the pond.

Aubrieta is a genus of about 12 species of flowering plants in the cabbage family Brassicaceae. There are six European species and take their name from Claude Aubriet (1688-1743), a French botanical artist. All are found on limestone but some appear on open scree, others in crevices while some crop up in coniferous woodland.  The genus originates from southern Europe east to central Asia but is now  common throughout Europe. It is a low spreading plant, hardy, evergreen and perennial, with small violet, pink or white flowers that grow well amongst rocks and banks. It prefers light, well-drained soil, is tolerant of a wide pH range, and can grow in partial shade or full sun. The technique to keep Aubrieta going year after year is to shear them hard as they finish their display so that they develop a new cushion of tight foliage. Cuttings can be taken, and ideally these need to have three inches of brown stem below the rosette of foliage. The technique is to tug them away with a heel rather than cut them. This can be done in September and October when the cushion of foliage is dense, or in late summer. A cold frame is ideal as it keeps the root cool. Sow seeds in spring.

Arabis Spring Charm – Rock Cress

Arabis is an attractive evergreen perennial which forms a low-growing mat of jagged, hairy grey-green leaves. It produces masses of stunning, sweetly-scented, pure white flowers in March and May. Ideal for using as an edging plant or growing around the base of shrubs, it requires good drainage and will thrive in sun or shade. It can be used to clothe a bank and looks excellent when set off against a backdrop of large rocks making it a great choice for the rock garden. Best cut back after flowering. I scattered a few seeds in the side garden in May and they have already formed nice little plants so I have sown a few more today.

Coleus Wizard Mix Merlin – Lamiaceae

I bought seeds of Coleus Wizard Mix from Seekay. There are 50 pelleted seeds in a tiny plastic tube and cost 99p. I have had them in the fridge for a week and now plan to put them onto a tray of moist sandy compost in a flat tray and keep them in the light. Wizard Merlin is said to be a good mix of foliage colours with single and double coloured leaves. It is a little late to sow but nevertheless I am going to have a go. Sowing advice says January to May. I will use half and try the other half next January.  I may use some of these in my pots but planned to use them as house plants in the main. The advice is to pinch out growing tips to promote a bushy plant. Coleus are a greenhouse Perennial but are often grown as an annual. The plants prefer a site with deep moist well drained soil in full sun.  My first job is to get them to germinate and make a few decent plants. I have put ten of these seeds to germinate today 12th May. Friday 17th May update…I can see tiny seedlings coming through already at five days.

Coleus is a former genus of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae. The genus is no longer recognized and the species are instead placed in the genera Plectranthus and Solenostemon. Coleus is regarded as a synonym of Plectranthus. The term “coleus” is often used as a common name for the species that are cultivated as ornamental foliage plants . Wiki.

Sweet Pea Cupid Mahogany – Bush Type

Sweet Pea Cupid Mahogany is a bush type ideal for hanging baskets and tubs. It is said to have beautifully perfumed flowers. I have grown Sweet Peas many times before but have never tried an everlasting one or a basket type. It will be interesting to see how these turn out. The Cupid are soaking in tepid water for sowing tomorrow. These seeds are in compost now. They should germinate in seven to fourteen days. Seven days on ands no sign of the seedlings yet. Three out of eight germinated. They will be potted on today 28th May.

It was in Sicily, in Palermo, that a Franciscan monk named Father Cupani first took an interest in what became known as “the scented pea”. He grew it in his monastery garden and in cultivation, its flowers grew half as big again as those that grew wild. In 1699 he sent seed to England and Holland. The flower’s ease of cultivation and willingness to set seed, coupled with its perfume and colour, guaranteed that it was in popular demand and it became widely distributed. information from Carol Klein.

Lathyrus Latifolius Red Pearl – Everlasting Sweet Pea

An everlasting Sweet peas, Red Pearl, is a reliable, easy to grow perennial plant. It will scramble up trellis or through a shrub and give cut flowers all summer. Cut back in autumn and they will shoot up again in the spring. Being leguminous they provide nitrogen to the soil.  Best in a well drained position against a trellis or wall in sun or part shade. Hardy perennial. I have soaked ten of these seeds overnight and they are now in a module tray.

Lathyrus latifolius, the perennial pea vine, perennial pea, broad-leaved everlasting-pea, or just everlasting pea, is a robust, sprawling perennial in the Pea Family Fabaceae. It is native to Europe but is present on other continents, such as North America and Australia, where it is most often seen along roadsides.

Lathyrus latifolius keeps its roots in a tidy clump, is easy to raise from seed, and is wonderfully fresh at a difficult time of year. Plant it next to something that dies down after midsummer or put it under a shrub and let it climb through the branches. It is best to sow indoors and put out when you get a strong plant.

 

Ammi Majus – Bishops Flower

I sowed a few of these seeds around the garden earlier in the month and they have already grown some vibrant ferny foliage. Today I have sown a few seeds in a 7″ pot with a view to eventually creating a large mixed container of Ammi and white Cleome and other tall white perennials. At present its just a plan but it’s something to look forward to.

Ammi Majus is among the best white filler-foliage plants available, lacy, elegant and splendid arranged in a great cloud on its own. Ammi is easy for beginners and perfect for attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. Ammi Majus seed can be sown from March to May or from late August to September. Seed is best sown in deep pots as it has a long taproot which is sensitive to disturbance and can be damaged when transplanting so care must be taken. Sow 6 to 8 weeks before planting out. When first true leaves appear transplant into larger containers. Harden off and plant out after last frost.

 

Alternatively seeds can be sown where they are to flower once temperatures are around 15 to 20°C . Surface sow thinly  around 12″ apart and cover lightly. Keep moist. Germination normally occurs within 7 to 21 days. When large enough to handle thin out 8″ apart and provide support in exposed areas.

Tomato Tumbler F1 – Ildie, Roma and Aubergine Mohican

I have sown a tray of Tomatoes and Aubergines to replace my lost seedlings. The last of the Aubergine Mohican, some fresh seeds of Tomato Ildie, Tomato Tumbler and some old Roma seeds. I lost all my biggest plants by putting them outside too soon and being punished by a severe drop in temperature.

Tomato Tumbler F1 is a vigorous, trailing British-bred tomato ideal for hanging baskets and containers. One plant can produce up to 9 lbs of cherry-sized fruit in a single season. Grow one plant in a 14″ hanging basket. This is a bush variety and is very easy to grow as trusses do not require support and fruits without side shoots being removed.

The Roma Tomato is a plum variety that I have grown before and is good for cooking. Ildie is a tried and tested old favourite producing lots of grape sized fruit.

A Sudden Turn In The Weather

It’s 25th April and it’s snowing. Last night the temperature dropped drastically. The reason? I had potted on the Tomatoes and courgettes and planted some outside. Going against everything that I preach and paying the price. Also the Butternut Squash were  screaming to get out of their small pots and I was short of pots and compost so I risked putting some of them out too. I don’t think that I will get away with this mammoth mistake. Watch this space.

Regional Forecast for West Midlands. Cold and windy with wintry showers and some sunny spells. A strong northerly wind will make it feel cold for all of us. There will be sunny spells and scattered showers, locally heavy with hail and thunder possible. Some sleet or snow is also possible, mainly over higher ground.

Californian Poppy – Eschscholzia Californica

Eschscholzia californica is a species of flowering plant in the Papaveraceae family and native to the United States and Mexico. It is an ornamental plant and it is used medicinally and in cooking. It became the official state flower of California in 1903. I love these graceful wild orange poppies. I had an abundance of them both in the garden and at the allotment but they seem to have vanished while my back was turned. This year I have bought seeds of both the orange King and the white, Ivory Castle, variety. I am planning to introduce both of them back into the garden in the hope that they will naturalise. I have scattered the seeds here and there around the garden.