The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Tag Archive: Tips

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.

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 – Sept. Sow seeds indoors from mid March – April. 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.

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)

 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.

Phacelia Tanacetifolia – Fiddleneck

I’m having another look at the free seeds, Phacelia, sent to me by Higgledy. They sound very interesting. Today, 2nd February, 20 seeds sprinkled onto moist compost and covered lightly. They don’t need much heat so I shall pop the tray on to the window ledge and cross my fingers. These seeds are sold at £1.95 for 1000.

Lavender-blue, bell-shaped flowers, which are laden with nectar, form in densely-packed clusters on sturdy stems and attract bees and other beneficial insects. The flowers will last well after being cut. The fast growing foliage will help suppress weeds and makes an attractive groundcover. Scorpion weed can also help to enrich the soil. They self-seed freely. From early spring, sow into small pots filled with good seed compost and initially protect with a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. Pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushier growth and harden off before planting out. Alternatively sow direct in autumn into a sunny, well-prepared seed bed. Easy to grow, if you do not want the plants to set seed, remove the spent flowers as they fade.

Phacelia is often called by its common name of Scorpion Flower due to its drooping ‘tail’, our cousins across the water refer to it as Fiddle Neck for the same reason. I rather like this name but sadly we have a weed of that name so in the interests of clarity I will avoid its use. It is an annual flower and an easy one to grow at that. The flower itself is a cracking lavender colour and also, unusually for an annual, has a sweet scent. Couple these wonderful qualities with the fact that it seems to flower all summer long…lasts ages in the vase and has good strong stems, then you can see why I think it makes a fabulous cut flower worthy of a coveted place in the Kingdom of Higgledy. Benjamin from Higgledy’s words and pictures. I’m sold.

 

Lobelia Cascade Mixed

This morning, 27th January,  I am sowing the Lobelia seeds bought from Seekay (99p). When I saw that there were 3000 seeds I was surprised but now I’ve seen them I understand. They are really tiny dust like seeds and impossible to separate. I have sprinkled some on top of a seed tray of compost in which I have buried the tiny modules that my perennials arrived in from T&M last year. I did buy a packet of Lobelia seeds years ago and sprinkled them directly onto the soil on the flower bed at the allotment but they never grew. I shall probably use these half hardy annuals in containers and around the pond when it is done. I do prefer single colours and didn’t realise that I had bought mixed. If I am successful with them this year I shall buy them annually as they are  a pretty space filler.

Sow indoors, January-April. A warm kitchen windowsill is all you need for starting these seeds. Sow thinly on the surface of a small tray of pre-watered compost. Place in a warm, light position. Keep the compost moist. The tray can be covered to preserve humidity, but remove when seedlings appear, usually in 14-21 days. Transplant them, in tiny clumps, 2″ apart, to other trays when large enough to handle. Grow on in cooler, but not cold conditions. Gradually accustom young plants to outside conditions , before planting out, May-June, 15cm (6″) apart, into well-drained soil, when frosts are over. Flowers: June-October . Information from Fothergill Seeds.

Antirrhinum Majus Maximum Mix – Snap Dragon

This morning I’m having a look at sowing some Snap Dragon seeds early. It’s still only late January so it may be too early. I bought the seeds from Seekay and paid 75p for 3500. I did a bit of research and learned that the seeds need to be put in to the fridge overnight before sowing, having done this I have prepared a seed tray with damp compost ready to sow tomorrow. It seems that this herbaceous perennial doesn’t need heat to germinate but does need light. Seeds are now sown in a tray of moist compost, enclosed in a plastic bag and set on the window ledge for decent light. 28th Jan. I will try to remember to sow some seeds directly into the garden in July.

Surface sow in March in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 10 – 21 days at 18°c. Cool nights assist germination. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in July/August and will produce larger and more floriferous plants the following summer.

 

Gypsophila Paniculata Covent Garden – Higgledy Seed

Sow Gypsophila seeds on the surface of the compost in spring. Make sure that the compost is moist but not wet and seal in a polythene bag until after germination which usually takes ten to twenty one days. Do not exclude light which is beneficial to germination. Transplant when large enough to handle and grow on in cooler conditions. Later plant out in a sheltered spot. Plant out at about a foot apart. They may need staking against the wind if in an exposed position.

I have tried to grow these beautiful, herbaceous perennials before without success. This will be my year with them. These seedlings grow a deep tap root so need starting in a deep pot. They prefer not to be disturbed though. In March I may sow some seeds directly into the white border.

26th January 2017 about thirty tiny seeds sprinkled onto moist compost in a pint pot and enclosed in a polythene bag. All my seed pots are in the computer room and I try to keep the light on during these short Winter days. It is -4 outside this morning. 30th January and it looks like 100% germination already after only 4 days. I have taken them out of the polythene bag and moved them to the window ledge for light,

Well done Higgledy, 1000 seeds for £1.95 and 100% germination. I can’t wait for them to mature. Twelve weeks from germination I believe.

Verbena Bonariensis Lollipop

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Like its parents, Verbena bonariensis Lollipop ,boasts the same tight clusters of floating purple flowers but has short, compact stems that reach only half the height. Well shaped, uniform plants with an open airy habit that attract butterflies to their glowing blooms from June to September. This hardy dwarf verbena is perfectly proportioned for patio pots and the front of borders where it creates a wonderful delicate airy effect. Seedlings and information from thompson-morgan.com.

Three of these seedlings have survived the winter but look quite straggly with only one strand each. I will research and see whether I should pinch out the growing tip or not. I have potted them on all together in a pint sized pot for now.