The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Duck Egg Blues

After getting quite a few soft shelled eggs from Jemima, our white call duck, we have now collected five good ones which should be fertile as Puddles has definitely been doing his duty. After a very unpromising start and a couple of broken eggs Jemima now seems ready and has been installed in the broody pen under the window here. Day one will probably be 6th March if the eggs are still viable. (update 9th March – Jemima is leaving the eggs for long periods of time – I only have experience with chickens so not sure about this – doesn’t look too promising to me)

Brussel Sprout Bedford Fillbasket

Twenty seeds and a few for good luck planted in modules in damp compost and covered in clingfilm. We only have six stems of sprouts left from last season and I can only hope that the produce from these seeds is as tasty as they have been.

We popped to the plot at lunch time just to take the daily chicken poo which we raked over the new brassicca bed. It was very cold and windy. Cut a Brocolli head and a few leaves of Kale for tonight’s meal. I covered the carrot bin with plastic to warm the soil a little in readiness for sowing the early carrots. Saw signs of the peas and broad beans coming through the cold soil.

At home the peas, sprouted and sown in a pot in the greenhouse,are showing through as are the courgettes, which I brought back inside. One melon seedling, sown on the 17th of February, is pushing through and one lonely yellow tomato seed is making a grand effort.

Primo and Offenham ll cabbages are through but no sign of white ballhead. A bit of a pattern emerging here. No sign of seeds purchased from ‘Packetseeds.com’ germinating. All those from Alan Romans have proved good so far.

Viola Freckles

viola seedhead2viola freckles

Today I sowed eight seeds of Viola Freckles collected from a seed head which I had kept from last year. I also sowed Parsnip Gladiator seeds in cardboard tubes (16). These had already been sprouted on some wet kitchen towel. I had to bring the courgette and the aubergine pots in as it has been much too cold out in the greenhouse for them. I must remember next time to germinate them indoors or wait until later in the season to sow them.

Courgette and Aubergine

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Today I sowed four Courgette, Black Beauty, into modules and put them in the cold greenhouse at home. Hopefully they will make four good sized plants and I can put them out in pots in May at the allotment. Despite what the name implies they are dark green and not black at all. I have also sowed four Aubergine, Violette, which will eventually be in the lean to with the tomatoes and cucumbers.(message to myself: next year sow courgette seeds in a bigger pot, the modules just aren’t big enough for these sturdy seedlings. Both courgette and aubergine need heat to germinate. Treat aubergine seeds like tomato seeds) Update on the seeds planted on the 15th. The red cabbage and the Jersey walking sticks have germinated but no sign at all of the others yet.

Plotting and Planning Ahead

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We spent a good three hours this morning at the plot. The sun was shining and it was very busy. We dug up the two minarettes to plant back at home as Trevor and Jim weren’t too happy with them being on the allotment. I hoed the nursery bed to a finer tilth and Rob weeded the fruit cage. Everything in the lean to is coming on nicely so all we needed to do there was a little gentle watering.

We popped up to Wickes and picked up some bark chippings, then went back and finished off the sitting area and the path along the bean trench. We ordered some shallots from Mick Market and he will deliver them to us next Sunday morning. We gave in to temptation and ordered a bag of Winston and a bag of Rocket seed potatoes as well. Good job we have taken on plot 18 too.

path along bean trench We have filled the blue metal bin with the wood chip from the top of the chicken run as it was made up of pine tree bark and the girls had given it a good going over. We are hoping to plant two Blueberry bushes in there soon. Rob picked them up from a cheap shop in Dudley for £1.49 each. They need ericaceous soil and peat, a little more acidic than the soil on the plot, so what we put on should suit. Finally I did a little weeding around the beetroot and we came home tired and hungry. After a drink and a bit of dinner we went out and planted the minarettes in the garden. Tipped yet another bag of sharp sand on the waterlogged lawn and took another four bags off the top of the run. We shall put this into the blue bin and fetch more wood chip from the wood yard soon so the chickens will be more comfortable again. We may have to think about covering the run before next Winter.

Signs of Life

The cucumber seedling are through already. It is only five days since I sowed them. Just a glimmer of life from the tiny tomato seeds. I almost missed them as the seedlings are so small. This morning I have sowed seeds of two more tomatoes. Oxheart, a large red beefsteak and a big golden yellow one. I have put a few melon seeds into a module as an experiment. I collected them from a yellow melon I bought from Sainsburys. I have read that they are quite difficult to germinate so put a few rather than just one. I saved some lemon pips and put two in each of two paper pots, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Also put a layer of sprouted peas in a bigger paper pot just to see what happens. I may plant them out or use them for pea shoots. I have never tasted them but have read that they taste good.

Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Peppers

gardeners delightThis morning I have sowed seeds of Tomato Gardeners Delight, Sungold, Dombito (Beefsteak), Alicante and Totem. Cucumber Burpless, Lemon, Sunsweet and Gherkin. Peppers Californian Wonder, Yellow, Green and Red. They were sown in modules with the tomatoes covered with damp newspaper, for damp darkness, and the cucumber and peppers under clear polythene for damp and light. Hope that is right. We should know in 7-10 days when they should have germinated. I am keeping them in the house for the moment and will put them in the cold greenhouse later on.

Goodbye Willow

A quick visit to the allotment this morning. The weather was bright after the overnight rain with no sign now of the heavy snow of the last few days. There were signs of new growth everywhere with brassicas getting bigger and seedlings showing through in the lean to. We dug up a couple of leeks for the lamb casserole.

Our beloved cat, Willow, died at 3.45 am this morning. She was well over twenty and had been a good girl and a good mother in her time. Rob buried her in the garden amongst the fruit trees.

Willow2  Willow

A Touch of Frost….Lost

We spent a few hours at the plot on Sunday. Everything was white with frost and we took some brilliant photographs. However when we got home we lost them. Rob thought I had saved them and cleared the memory card but I had only put them on view for a quick look before I started the dinner. We were both gutted as they looked good ones. Today it has been snowing all day and I have taken a few shots in the garden so I will add some of those on here to compensate.ducks in snow The white call ducks and our beautiful grandaughter Libbie.lib

Not Long Now

Although it is still cold with the threat of lower temperatures to come the garden is showing signs of Spring. Brave spring bulbs are defying the calendar and pushing spears of green up through the frosty soil. Spring fever of a different sort is showing its face down at the allotments. Plot holders are busy planning, mending and building. There is much discussion about what to grow where on our very windy site. The dregs of last years plants are being dug up to make room for the new. There is an atmoshphere of excitement and anticipation that is hard to explain to anyone not involved in the strange world of the allotment.

chitBack at home the seed potatoes, sitting in egg boxes in the garage, are starting to show signs of what is to come.