Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Brassica Massacre

A late visit to the plot today. Rob went straight over to plot 18 to finish sowing his seed bed. He has sown twelve rows of mixed seeds with the peas still at home sprouting and waiting to finish off his masterpiece. On one side of his Marigold he has sown parsnips, cauli, carrots and 2 kinds of  cabbages and in the other half 2 kinds of lettuce, beetroot, spring onions and white raddish.

After a quick check and water in the lean to I took a tour around plot 8 only to find massacre in the old brassica cage. There were only a few cabbages left to harvest any way as the broccoli and the kale that was left had gone to seed but everything was covered with a layer of  black something. I quickly rescued what I could and put everything else into large platic bags. We shall have to dismantle the old brassica cage now. Not sure exactly what happened but perhaps we shouldn’t have left anything that had gone to seed as it could have attracted the enemy which I think may be the cabbage aphid.

I put the first application of feed on the larger tomato plants. 2/3rds of a cap into two gallons of water proved a bit tricky with a 10 litre watering can as I am not too good at converting so in my own inimitable fashion I plumped for half a cap in 10 litres and hoped for the best. There is still no signs of harvest from the potatoes. Can’t wait!!


No visit to the plot today as Chico, our cat, was hit by a car and we had to take her to the vet. Looks like she has a broken back leg poor girl so she is to stay at the vets for fluids, pain relief and anti biotics then x-rays on Monday to decide what to do next. After a long convalescence Chico survived her accident.

Garden Pea Starlight

The rain subsided for a while so we popped down to the plot to do a few jobs and check on the progress of the slugs and snails in the lean to. Nothing to worry about there as we didn’t find even one. I picked a couple of lettuce that had hearted up reasonable well.


The Cucumber Gherkin plants, although still quite small, had quite a few flowers on. I shall have to read up on them as it seems strange to be flowering when they aren’t even in their final pots. Growing Cucumbers in general is still quite a mystery to me and I have a lot to learn. I transplanted a few brassica seedlings into the new brassica cage. I am very pleased with the plants in there at the moment, only one of them looking a bit weak and, fingers crossed, no slug damage as yet.


starlightRob built a trellis for some more peas on plot 18. They are Thompson and Morgan Pea Starlight which are at present in a bowl on damp kitchen towel to germinate. A British Wrinkle (Early Maincrop). Very dark green leaves and paler pods. Mostly double-podded but some treble-podded per node containing tasty dark green peas. Has a high resistance to downy mildew. He also sowed a row of Frech Marigold Bonita Mixed along the middle of his seed bed. He had a third of a bed left after he had planted all the potatoes and he fancied making a mixed seed bed. He has great plans.

The fruit cage was looking very good and after hoeing up the weeds we decided to put a wood chip path down the centre. It looks very smart now and we were both pleased. However whilst in there we noticed one of the redcurrants had red spots on the leaves. I looked it up when we got home and it seems we have Blister Aphids. The prognosis doesn’t look too bad though so we shall remove the damaged leaves and treat the plant in December.

blister aphid

Currants affected by blister aphid still make growth and produce a crop, so treatment is not essential. If desired, plants can be treated with winter tree wash in December to control the overwintering eggs.

Mission Impossible

We popped down to the plot this afternoon to see what could be done with the leeks and the onions. The leeks were well past help so we dug them up and threw them away. The onions looked worth saving so after cutting off the flower stems I bent them over at the neck and we have left them until we have a dry day. Everything else seemed to be holding its own against the torrential rain. Rob did some weeding in the fruit cage and the sweet corn bed while I watered in the lean to. I topped up the compost in the tomato pots and pinched out all the side shoots I could see. I brought a lettuce home for tea, more because I need the space than that it was fully grown. The one remaining courgette that we planted is looking very sickly so I topped up the compost in the raised bed and gave it a friend in the shape of a much sturdier specimen sown to replace the ones we lost. Let’s hope it will buck up its ideas now it has competition.


Although we were sure that last years Dahlias were all lost three green shoots have emerged and I plan to buy a few more plants from the garden centre to complete the row. In the bed next to them I planted a row of Limonium Sinuatum Statice which had been given to us by Trevor.

Nadine and The Star Flower

nadineborage star flower

Rob planted the 23 Nadine potatoes given to us by Wayne’s dad. They were shop bought potatoes that had sprouted so we are keeping our fingers crossed that they are ok. He has put them in Keith’s old bean trench along the bottom of plot 18.

Whilst watering in the lean to I noticed that something had been nibbling at the aubergine seedlings so I have moved them and the peppers out into the small plastic greenhouse on a high shelf. I did find rather a healthy looking snail in there. Almost all of the tomatoes have been potted on now and the left hand side of the lean to is quite full. All this heavy rain had shown us how leaky the roof is in the lean to so we shall have to put that right soon. We shall need to harvest the lettuce from the right hand bed as the cucumbers are almost ready to go into their large pots and that was where I wanted to put them.

I sowed a few seeds of Borage, (Borago officinalis) the star flower, into small terracotta pots.

Borage is a hardy annual and is essentially a wild flower. Once established it will self seed and pop up year after year. Borage is a useful companion plant to strawberries and tomatoes as a natural form of pest control. It is also highly attractive to blackfly and can be planted as a decoy close to fruit and vegetables.


I sowed a row of Lemon Coriander seeds in the fourth quarter of the salad bed. Lemon Coriander leaves have a lemon fragrance and flavour. They can be used as a garnish in a salad or in stir fry.

Rain Stopped Play

weed seedlingIt seems to have been raining solidly since my last post. Last night we made a quick visit to the plot and I could be seen making three visits to the water butts with my watering cans, waterproofs on and still getting soaked, in order to get some water into the lean to for my precious plants. All the plants were loving the rain and the Barllotti beans were practically fighting their way through the soil to get out. There was a lot of top growth on the potatoes but no flowers as yet. A great many weeds were coming through too so we shall have some work to do when the rain stops. It will be difficult to tell the weed seedlings from the vegetable plant seedlings.

Spring Rain

I got up this morning at 6.30 and everything was fresh and green after some long awaited rain. Our plan today is to build a cage for the sprouts with some netting that Rob bought from B&M in Dudley. We fetched some strong canes from the Allotment shop on Saturday and have loads of plastic ties. We also plan to bag up a load more wood chip both for the plots and for home. At home Jemima is once again nest building so after the disaster of her last attempt I have taken two eggs and put them under our beautiful black silkie broody Velvet. Jemima will now be left to her own devices with not even a peep in the nest to put her off. We spent a good four hours at the plot and stayed in the shed drinking coffee during the one and only heavy shower. After the rain I sowed a couple of rows of Parsley, plain and curly, in the salad bed, and three rows of cabbage, Red Rubra, Primo II and Offenham Flower of Spring, in the nursery bed. We built the cage around the sprout bed and finished getting up the weeds from the paths on plot 18 and putting down a thick layer of wood chip.

parsley plain

Kev and Angie Come To Visit

Ken and Ange got the guided tour from Rob and went away with a leek and a cabbage plus some eggs we brought from home. We had a load of wood chip delivered so we cleared the paths round the black currant bed and put some down there. Still some work to do but it looks tidier. We also brought some home to put on to the side garden. We put the last of the peas in around the brassica cage and gave everything a good watering. It is supposed to rain every day this week and everyone at the plots will breathe a sigh of relief if it does. I put the last few sweet pea plants around the tepee to fill in the gaps as we had lost a few of the original ones. The sweet corn is now planted in an 8×8 bed and the baby corn has been planted in the salad cage. I did a bit of work in the lean to, potting on and watering mostly. The lettuce plants are hearting up well now and we have eaten quite a few of the raddish. I shall have to sow more seeds. I think I shall put them in the lean to again as they grew so well there.

Butternut Squash and Red Melon

butternut squashBecause of work and other commitments we haven’t been able to go down to the plot for a couple of days and we are both having withdrawal symptoms. A few days ago I sowed seeds of Butternut Squash and already a strong looking shoot has emerged. All I have to do now is nurture it until it is a good strong plant. I have never grown, bought or eaten this vegetable before so I have a lot to learn. Butternut Squash has an elongated pear like shape. The skin is gold in colour with deeper orange flesh. They mature in late autumn.

Another little miracle is the emergence of two seedling from a couple of black seeds I fished out of a piece of red melon in a bought mixed fruit salad. It will be interesting to see what comes of them, if anything. I already have a small seedling from a yellow melon seed saved from a fruit I bought and I have sowed a couple more. I love melon but think they may be difficult to grow and need more expertise than I have.

A Mild Sunny Evening

Rob was back at work very early this morning and came home tired so after a late breakfast he went to bed for a couple of hours. The evening was mild and still sunny and the chickens looked like they were planning a late night so we decided to go down to the plot. The place was deserted by all but the birds who were darting about thinking they had the place to themselves. Rob did a bit of weeding and I tried a bit of a rescue mission on the beans. There has been no rain worth mentioning for weeks now and the ground was dry, too dry I think for planting the leggy bean plants, and to prove the point they had flopped over and some of the leaves were dried out by the cool wind cutting across the site. I put my plan into action, namely to sow a few more beans seeds in pots in the lean to and also to push a few in alongside the sad looking plants. The lean to is looking very productive at the moment and I added the Aubergine Violette plants, which I had started at home, to the rest.

In the lean to