Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Tag Archive: Tips

Roses – Black Spot

I was very disappointed with the Roses this year as all but two were blighted with Black Spot. I was aware of this fungal disease and have removed infected leaves as I saw them but I didn’t use any spray at all. Some of my bare root roses didn’t flourish at all and I put this down to the very cold wet winter. I also decided that I had made a mistake by mixing spring bulbs in the pots with the roses. Death by Tulip. I intend to try and tackle the problem early next year.

Rose Blackspot is best prevented with an anti fungal spray early in the season before the foliage starts to show through. To be extra cautious spray the ground around the bush too. Most garden roses are prone to this disease and much depends on cleanliness for successful control. With roses that are susceptible to blackspot spraying every two weeks may be necessary. Hard pruning in the spring and burning all pruning material is best with any rose plant that regularly get blackspot. A feed with a high potash content will also help to allay the disease. This should be carried out early in spring in order that the rose plant may take the potash in as a preventative.

Make your own anti fungal spray with baking powder and washing up liquid mixed  with water and put into a spray bottle. Spray both sides of leaves. Add one box of baking powder to water and add baby shampoo. Mix well before spraying. Spray every two weeks. This mixture changes the ph to kill and prevent fungal growth. Shampoo acts as a coating agent to maintain alkaline ph.  Respray after rain.

Seed Collecting and Bulb Planting

I have quite a lot of bulbs already in the garden both in the ground and in pots. However I couldn’t resist a few more and have bought some single snowdrops, Russian Snowdrops and Iris bulbs. Now I have to decide where to plant them. My other hesitant purchase was English Bluebells. I already have some very old Bluebells in the garden so I must be sure not to plant them too near to each other I think. My garden is quite small but my appetite for flowers is enormous. Laura has also caught the bug and has bought Glory of the snow and Honeybells, a new one to me. Update – Most of the new bulbs are now either in the garden or in pots.

Our other passion has been seed collecting. As well as collecting as many as we can from flowers in the garden, which is very rewarding, we have been known to steal the odd seed head from friends. Whilst watching Gardeners World last week I saw something that made me smile and think, why didn’t I think of that. There was a couple who had dedicated their garden to perennials and wildlife. The lady shocked me when she said when my flowers have gone to seed I simply cut off a stem that has seed heads forming and push it into the ground where I want the flower to grow next season and let nature take it’s course and the seeds gently fall exactly where I want them to grow. Well, it’s so simple I just had to try it out. I tried it with Japanese Anemone, Black Eyed Susan and Verbena Lollipop. I will update this post next year with results.

The Science – A mature seed typically consists of a mature plant ovum containing a minute, partially developed young plant, the embryo, surrounded by an abundant supply of food and enclosed by a protective coat. Plants that seed are divided into two main groups: the gymnosperms, primarily cone bearing plants such as pine, spruce, and fir trees, and the angiosperms, the flowering plants. The gymnosperms have naked ovules which, at the time of pollination, are exposed directly to the pollen grains. Their food supply in the seed is composed of a female gametophyte, rather than the endosperm found in angiosperms.

In angiosperms, seeds develop from ovules that are enclosed in a protective ovary. The ovary is the basal portion of the carpel, typically vase shaped and located at the center of the flower. The top of the carpel, the stigma, is sticky, and when a pollen grain lands upon it, the grain is firmly held. The germinating pollen grain produces a pollen tube that grows down through the stigma and style into the ovary and pierces the ovule.

Two male sperm nuclei are released from the pollen grain and travel down the pollen tube into the ovule. One of the sperm nuclei fuses with an egg cell inside the ovule. This fertilized egg divides many times and develops into the embryo. The second male nucleus unites with other parts of the ovule and develops into the endosperm, a starchy or fatty tissue that is used by the embryo as a source of food during germination. Angiosperm seeds remain protected at maturity. While the seed develops, the enclosing ovary also develops into a hard shell, called the seed coat or testa. 

Kaffir Lily – Schizostylis – Mrs Hegarty

My Kaffir Lilies came from Sean and Deb. A couple of pots of green that I had no idea about. This Autumn they have thrown up the most amazing pink flowers and on asking Deb found that they are called Kaffir Lilies. I am very keen to divide these and also to try growing more from saved seed. What an unexpected treasure. Schizostylis is Latin for Divided Style.

A bit of research on line and I find:- The flowers are generally a delicate pink or orange red. The flowering clusters look very delicate.  It is a member of the Iris family Iridaceae. The variety that I have is Mrs Hegarty. Schizostylis can be planted anywhere in moist well drained soil and are particularly suited to the front of perennial borders. They prefer full sun but will also tolerate a degree of shade especially below deciduous trees or shrubs. Schizostylis are striking in any garden owing to their delicate flowers at a sometimes colourless time of year. Peeping up through early leaf litter, the flowers stand out well against other more conventional autumn and winter shades. The Kaffir Lily which originates from South Africa is evergreen but with slender leaves that will not be too invasive. They will form clumps over the course of a year or so and are splendid in large drifts. Schizostylis also make admirable container plants and if moved to a cold greenhouse during early winter will provide a succession of flowers for several months. The flowers are well suited to cutting. As Schizostylis are evergreen rhizomatous perennials they are normally bought as pot grown plants.  When planting add plenty of compost to the planting hole and mulch after planting. Schizostylis can be grown from seed. Be aware that the seedlings may be of different colour to the parent. Save the seed until spring and sow in gentle heat. Schizostylis can be propagated by dividing the rhizomes during early spring.

Schizostylis  plants such as Kaffir lilies can be grown from tubers or seeds. Tubers should be buried at about 5cm deep in the spring. Seed should be sown before the last frost of spring lightly covered with topsoil. They can grow in either sunny or partially shaded conditions and requires an area of the garden that has good drainage. Ideally the soil that the lily grows in will be rich, moist and have a PH that is neutral to slightly acidic. If you plan to start off indoors then start about two or three months in advance  as they need to be transplanted just after the last frost of spring. It should take from one to three months for seeds to germinate at a temperature of 12-15 degrees centigrade. Once ready transplant outdoors at about 25cm apart.

Lavandula Stoechas Anouk – Lavender

I bought a couple of pots of this Lavender from Lidl. I think they were £2.79 each. One is here in the garden and one has gone to live with Sean and Deb. I have repotted it for now as it seemed a bit pot bound but it will go into the garden later in the year.

Lavandula stoechas is a species of flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae, occurring naturally in Mediterranean countries. An evergreen shrub, also called French or Butterfly Lavender. Anouk is a compact variety and does well in mixed containers as well as a hot, sunny border. Hardier than other forms but also easily wintered indoors. Drought tolerant once established. Flowers are attractive to butterflies. It  was developed in the Netherlands.

Prune the lavender plant in spring or early summer just after new growth begins. Pruning in autumn can cause the plant to waste energy on new growth leaving it vulnerable to frost. Do not prune lavender plants in the first year when they are establishing roots. Lavender plants, unlike many perennials, do not handle division well so cuttings is the way to go. Softwood cuttings – use only soft, new-growth material from this year that has not yet become brown and woody. These cuttings will grow fastest but are only usable if the soft material is at least 5″ long and includes at least two leafy nodes. Prepare a seed starting tray or small flowerpots to place the cuttings in for the first few weeks after cutting. Because plants without roots are sensitive to both drought and excessive moisture use a good draining compost. Use terra cotta pots due to their breathability and soak overnight before continuing to the next step. Using a clean sharp knife and  slice off the selected branch just below a leafy node, removing a cutting at least 5″ long, including at least two leafy nodes. The longer the cutting is, and the more nodes it has, the more likely it is to be successful. Leave the top cluster of leaves on as they will provide energy for the new plant. Cut all the other leaves off the cutting so that it directs its energy to root development. Plant the cuttings in the containers you prepared earlier just deep enough to keep them steady. Give them a generous quantity of water immediately after planting.  After three to six weeks strong roots will have developed in the small pot. 

 

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. These seedlings have been potted on twice now 25th May, and are producing some good roots.

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 then you will  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.

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. No sign of these seedlings at all so the seed must have been too old. I shall try again next year though with fresh seeds. 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.

Iberis umbellata Dwarf Fairy mix – Candytuft

Iberis Dwarf Fairy Mix is an easy to grow variety that grows to a height of about 10″ and has large fragrant flower heads suitable for cut flowers. Flowers appear from March to September. Sow seeds indoors from mid March. Cover the seeds lightly. Germination will take between 14 – 30 days. Plant young seedlings out when the weather warms up a bit. Candytuft will not require very much care. I have had these pretty flowers before but have always bought them as young plants. This is the first attempt at growing from seed.

Today 26th August I am collecting seeds from these rewarding flowers. They have been a joy to watch and have surprised me with their show of lovely pink, violet and white blooms. I tried sowing as directed in pots and had no success so I sowed directly into the borders and like magic, in about three weeks, they popped up everywhere. I know that lots of seeds have already fallen into the soil and may survive the winter but I am covering my back and collecting some to sprinkle around next spring. Altogether a positive experience. I bought the original seeds from Seekay at 99p for 750, but don’t think I will ever need to buy more. A very rewarding plant.

The candytuft plant, Iberis sempervirens, hails from Europe. This stunning performer is a flowering evergreen perennial with a few rules for appropriate care and performance. Plant in well draining alkaline soil in a sunny location. Growing candytuft is worth the effort as the delicate flowers appear in early Spring through Summer and often again in Autumn. Once blooms are spent cut the entire plant back to ground level. This should be done at least every other year to prevent this beauty from becoming tall and spindly.

Arenaria Montana – Mountain Sandwort

Arenaria Montana is a classic little alpine or rock garden plant. The plant has narrow, glossy green leaves that form prostrate mats of foliage that are evergreen. In mid-spring, Mountain Sandwort is blanketed by relatively large, white flowers.  Whilst it does best in full sun to partial shade, it is considered to be drought-tolerant. It is not fussy as to soil type or pH and is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. Plants will grow to be only 2″ tall at maturity. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense to the ground and is slow growing. Their ground-hugging habit means that this useful plant can be used at the front of the border or, it can be used as a lawn substitute for low foot traffic areas. They are at their loveliest spilling over edges of walls and will quickly fill in spaces between stepping stones or trail down the sides of walls. RHS award 1993.

Sow in spring or in autumn. Prepare pots or trays with good free draining seed compost; moisten by standing in water, then drain. Surface sow two seeds per pot or cell and press them gently down to firm them in. Cover the seed with a fine layer of vermiculite if you have it.  Seal pots in a polythene bag or cover trays with clear plastic lids until after germination. It is important to keep soil slightly moist but not wet. Remove the covering once the first seedlings appear. Germination can take up to 30 days. If seeds do not germinate by 4 weeks remove pots/tray to a cool shaded area. Seedlings are usually large enough to handle after 4 weeks. Transplant the seedlings into 3½” pots. Two seedlings can be planted to one pot. Place the pots in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse to grow on.  Before transplanting outdoors, harden off gradually. They do best in moist but well draining soils.

Arenaria Montana has a shallow root system and can dry out very quickly. Cover substrate with vermiculite or mulch to retain water and keep your eye on small plants until they establish themselves. A relatively low maintenance perennial, simply remove damaged foliage in spring and fertilise with a complete balanced fertiliser, don’t fertilise after mid September. It should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season’s flowers.

Arenaria Montana is native to mountainous regions of south-western Europe from the Pyrenees of France to Portugal.

The genus name Arenaria is taken from the Latin arena meaning sand referring to the sandy habitats of many species. The species name Montana means simply ‘of the mountains’. Arenaria Montana is a member of the Caryophyllaceous family, a cousin of the popular Dianthus genus.

Today, 6th February, I sowed all twenty seeds received from Seekay at a cost of £1.22, I put them two to a module. Now I must wait for thirty days for germination. From past experience I know that Alpines aren’t easy to grow. We are planning on rebuilding the area around our old pond this year and these were  something I thought would be good there. Update 16th Feb – three green shoots showing after ten days.

White Cucumber – Cucumis Sativus

This year I am going to try and chit Cucumber seeds. I have put four each of White Wonder from Seekay and Long White from T&M in some damp kitchen towel and into a plastic food box. It is sitting on the computer box for a little warmth. They don’t usually take long to germinate any way, about 7-10 days. I have grown the Long White before and have yet to see a white Cucumber. Last year produced the best plants but they were destroyed following the torrential rain that we had here. I have prepared a 7″ pot of moist compost ready for the germinated seeds. The White Wonder are new seeds. Well, no luck with chitting so I have put them directly into pots. I’m worried now that I may have spoiled the seeds. Hope not as they are quite expensive as seeds go. The T&M Long White were £1.99 for 15 seeds. Seekay White Wonder were 20 for 65p. 10th February – all of the White Wonder are about two inches high but only one of the Long White through yet. (7 days) Having got to the end of April and only two seedlings left I have sown another pot of the long white today. The best plant, the Long White, got killed off by a frost when I put it out too soon and the other two, White Wonder, which are still inside, look very feeble even though one of them is already in flower. Well, at the end of the season we had no harvest from the Long White and though there were two strong looking plants from the White Wonder we only had two very small fruits. I’m not sure that I shall have another go next year. Time will tell.

This Half-hardy Annual, Greenhouse type Cucumber Long White is not just a novelty. The firm flesh is sweet and juicy with a pleasant tang that will add flavour to your salads. The tender, white skins are so thin that they won’t need peeling. This attractive variety is a good cropper when trained against supports in the greenhouse. Height 9′
The White Wonder are described as an excellent variety that produces creamy white fruits that reach approx. 20cm.
http://www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-grow-cucumbers

Eryngium Planum Blue Hobbit – Sea Holly

Eryngium Blue Hobbit  is a dwarf Eryngium, which can be grown in a patio pot. The 12″ plants become top-heavy in midsummer, with sprays of nearly 100 inky-blue flowers. Blue Hobbit is a herbaceous perennial with spiny edged leaves and spiky, cone-like, bright blue flowers on strong stems throughout summer and autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four of the six seedlings survived and are now potted on into five inch modules. I hope that they make it through to May for planting out in the garden.