Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: April 2007

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


Thyme and Thyme Again

ThymeThymus Vulgaris

I sowed two pots of Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) today and left them in the lean to germinate. Thyme has always been associated with strength and happiness. In the Middle Ages it was a symbol of courage and sprigs of it were embroidered onto the clothes of crusaders. It has always been valued for its antiseptic qualities which come from the thymol in it.


I also sowed a row of Radish Icicle in the cucumber bed in the lean to. All the runner beans that have been germinated in pots at home are now in place in the bean trench. I am a little disappointed as they had gone very leggy and I think that next year I shall either sow directly in the place they are to grow or sow in pots later and plant when the seedling are smaller. I have tried this with the bean Cobra from seed which I saved from last year. I sowed about ten at the end of the bean trench. Rob planted the very last of our bought seed potatoes, namely Pink Fir Apple and Cara, on plot 18.

pink fir apple

Pink Fir Apple is a waxy potato originally imported in 1850 and kept solely by British enthusiasts for decades, because of its very fine flavour. The tubers are long and narrow and famously knobbly, often with side growths. The skin is part pink/part white. The flesh is yellow. Very good when thinly sliced, and gently fried with butter, garlic and onion until potatoes are soft and golden brown. The waxy texture of Pink Fir Apple makes a perfect salad. Cook potatoes whole, then cool and slice. Mix with spring onions, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.


Holidays Nearly Over :(


rob plot 18Rob’s week off is almost at an end which is sad but we have got a great deal done and the weather has been perfect except for the fact that we could have done with a little more rain preferable during the night. He has to work another five weeks now before his next time off. Today Rob planted more early maincrop potatoes, Desiree and Picasso, on plot 18.

Picasso is a good cropper of medium sized potatoes. They boil and mash very well and make good jacket potatoes for their size. Desiree is said to be the world’s most popular red potato. Pale yellow firm waxy flesh. Versatile for all cooking. A good baker and general purpose potato.



Steady Progress


All the King Edward potatoes are now in on plot 18 and the first earlies are showing lots of growth and have been earthed up. We are hoping we don’t have a frost. King Edward potatoes are a popular variety. They have white skin with pink colouration, cream to pale yellow flesh and a floury texture. They are a Main Crop variety and are excellent for baking, chipping, roasting and mashing. I have sown more seeds on the flower bed, Cornflowers, Columbine, Clarkia and Californian Poppy, Eschscholzia Californica, single orange, plus a small bed of mixed poppies in the main plot over by the sweet pea tepee.


calafornian poppycornflowercolumbineclarkia

We decided to risk it and planted the first of the runner beans, White Lady, as they were getting very leggy in the pots on the window ledge at home. I shall sow them later next year.



Joe gave us five small gooseberry bushes and Rob planted them on the main plot here and there. He also hoed the fruit cage and dug up a lot of the Alstromeria seedlings that had popped up like weeds everywhere. It goes against the grain to dig up healthy seedlings but they seem to be everywhere and I already have some very healthy plants in the flower bed.

Keith gave us five tomato plants that were surplus to his requirements and although we have plenty we found some room for them in the lean to. They are Shirley and Alicante. I potted on the White Aubergine, Mohican, four healthy looking plants, and the cucumber seedlings.

The sprouts, Bedford Fillbasket, are now in their final position. We got twenty good plants from the seeds we sowed in modules early in the year. The red ones in the nursery bed are looking good too. Rob has sown a row of Turnip, Snowball and a row of Beetroot, Boltardy. I have now put in about 120 pea shoots, started at home in the greenhouse, and another two rows of dwarf beans Borlotto.



Busy, busy, busy

Added to the fact that the internet has been down for the last couple of days we have been really busy at the plots so haven’t had time to keep up the weblog. Significantly we have completed laying paths and setting up beds ready for planting. The new brassica cage is now complete and the Jersey Walking Stick Cabbages, various caulis and cabbages have been planted in there. Four rows of Barlotti beans have been sown in two different locations on plot 8. The tomatoes and cucumbers have been potted on in the lean to with one or two in their final large pots. The lettuce and raddish in the lean to will soon be ready to harvest. The black currants over on plot 18 are covered in fruit buds and all the fruit in the fruit cage on plot 8 is coming along really well, even the two yellow gooseberrys that we were sure were dead.

At home the new fruit trees are in blossom.

cherry blossom

Baby Sweetcorn – Zea Mays Baby Corn 2007


I have sowed a dozen or so baby sweetcorn seeds in cardboard tubes. The big corn is just pushing up now in the greenhouse at home.  After today Rob has a week off work so we should be able to get plenty done at the allotment. I am looking forward to having the window ledge clear again as at present it is completely full of seedlings.



Lavender’s Blue

“Give me a land of boughs in leaf, A land of trees that stand;
Where trees are fallen, there is grief; I love no leafless land.”
A. E. Houseman

Today was the first really hot day this year and everyone at the allotments were visibly melting. After watering all the seed beds Rob built a raised bed for the courgettes while I sowed a couple of rows of herbs. First in was cat nip, Nepeta, followed by Lavender Officianalis. We sowed another pot of Leeks, Musselborough, and a full row of Swede, Best Of All. Rob put in the last of the International Kidney potatoes. Grown on Jersey as Jersey Royals they are kidney shaped potatoes with pale yellow skin and flesh which is waxy when young. They are excellent boiled or as a salad potato. The famous flavour is said to be different when grown in England as they are fertilised with sea weed in Jersey. They can also be grown as an early main crop and when left to mature become more floury.

LavenderCat NiplavenderLavender is best planted between April and May as the soil is warming up. It thrives in any poor or moderately fertile, free-draining soil in full sun, On heavier soils lavender tends to be fairly short-lived, becoming woody at the base. To prolong the life of your lavender on heavier soil, add organic matter and gravel to improve the drainage and plant on a mound.


Lemon Balm – Mellisa Officianalis

Today I sowed the first seeds of my herb collection and chose to start with Lemon Balm, Melissa Officianalis, which I am growing in memory of my Dad, who grew it in his garden. It would have been his birthday on the 17th of this month. He died on Good Friday in 1991 so this time of year is particularly sad for me. It will make me smile to see the plant and rub the leaves as he did to get the scent of lemon.

Lemon Balm 2Lemon Balm 2

Lemon Balm is the common name for Melissa officinalis, an aromatic, sweet herb of the Mint Family grown in the herb garden for seasoning, used in liqueurs and historically as a medicine. It grows to 2 feet tall and has small 2-lipped flowers in late summer and leaves with a lemon smell and flavour.