The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Growing from seed

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.

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.

Lupin Russell Noble Maiden White

I bought seeds of Lupin Noble Maiden White from Seekay and after an overnight soak they were sown into module trays of damp compost and covered in a polythene bag, I sowed two lots about a week apart and germination has been very good, as with most of the seed from this supplier. It looks like I may not see any flowers this year which is sad. This is said to be a robust Lupin that produces densely packed spikes of creamy white flowers in mid summer and often again in early autumn. Lupins are stalwarts of the cottage garden and are perfect for the border. Easy to grow and undemanding they put on quite a show with the minimum of fuss as long as they have enough moisture when actively growing.

A Hardy perennial , Noble Maiden bears pinnacles of White flowers. Sow the seeds from April – July after having soaked them over night. Sow in damp compost and cover in a polythene bag. Germination can take up to 21 days. When large enough to handle pot on into 3″ pots prior to planting out after all risk of frost has passed. According to the National Gardening Institute, all parts of a Russell Lupin plant are toxic. Overwintered plants will flower in the summer but those sown in March may not flower until the next year.  Young plants need to be potted on frequently whenever their large roots stick out of the pot. Wait until they are at least 12″ tall  before putting them out you get a good strong plant. Originally Lupins, Lupinus polyphyllus, were introduced into Britain from North America in 1826. This cottage garden perennial had the plain blue flowered spikes with occasional whiter flowers. In 1937 the RHS awarded its highest honour to a  jobbing gardener George Russell for developing a strain of Lupins that caused a sensation.  George Russell developed his Lupins by selection of seedlings achieving a central spike covered with flowers. Bred for a long flowering period with unbeatable garden performance. He produced one of the most popular plants in history, the ever popular Russell Hybrids.

The Russell Hybrids, Band of Nobles series, have exceptionally bright and strong colours.  Noble Maiden, occasionally called Fraülein, feature soft ivory white buds that open to pure clean white. Stunning in the border or in a vase. Growing to around 3-4ft the plant forms a well established leafy foundation with several flowering stems rising out of a single base. Tall spires of tightly packed flowers rise above beautiful green clumps of palmate foliage. The flowers open from the bottom up making for a longer blooming period.  Lupins are very hardy plants, surviving extreme temperatures withstanding frost and are extremely attractive to bees and other pollinating insects.   Lupinus x Russellii Noble Maiden has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Forget me Not – Myosotis Blue Ball

Although I do have forget-me-not in the garden already I bought a packet of Myosotis Blue Ball seeds from Seekay, 400 seeds for 99p, and have dotted a few seeds here and there around the garden. They may throw up something a little different. I love these delicate flowers with their beautiful blue colour. The fact that they self seed is also a winner in my book. Blue Ball produces dwarf plants with rich blue flowers between April and June. Sow in May on the surface of moist seed compost. Do not cover as the seed needs light and warmth to germinate. Leave about 9″ between plants when planting out.

Myosotis is a genus of flowering plants in the family Boraginaceae. In the northern hemisphere they are commonly called forget-me-nots or scorpion grasses. The common name “forget-me-not” derived from the German Vergiss mein nicht and first used in English in 1398 AD via King Henry IV. Similar names and variations are found in many languages. Myosotis alpestris is the state flower of Alaska.

Pak Choi 2017

I have a few seeds of Pak Choi left. They are quite a few years old now so I am just sowing them all into a flat tray of moist compost. If they germinate successfully I shall pot them on into an oblong planter.

Sow seed in moist compost in small pots or cells. They can be sown direct but young seedlings are susceptible to slug attack. Thin out young seedlings and keep them well watered. Pak Choi should be ready to harvest in 30 days from sowing as baby leaf or between 45-75 days as semi-mature to full-size heads. When seedlings are 5cm tall plant them outside firming in well. Keep them well watered to prevent bolting. Cover the crop with horticultural fleece to provide a barrier to airborne pests, such as flea beetles. 

These leafy green vegetables are similar to Spring Greens. The paddle shaped dark green crispy leaves have a thick creamy stalk and a mild flavour. The leaves and the stalks can be eaten as an accompaniment to meat or fish or used in stir fry. It is best steamed or stir fried with fresh ginger and a little soy sauce. Keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days.