Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: March 2009

Runner Bean Kelvedon Stringless & White Lady

white ladyThe runner bean seeds went in today; one tray of Kelvedon Stringless and one of White Lady. All the seeds were saved from last years crop. Runner beans seem to be the easiest crop to collect seeds from and so after the first year don’t cost a bean as it were. Both varieties are prolific and you have to keep an eye on them at harvest time. They are best picked young and tender and they do freeze well so don’t let them grow too big, except of course those that you want to collect next years seed from. White Lady – Generally reckoned to be one of the best available runner beans producing a heavy crop of tasty, stringless pods with white seeds. The white flowers are not prone to bird damage and the variety sets well, even during periods of hot weather making it ideal for late sowings. info from kelvedon stringless 

Kelvedon Stringless – Disease resistant, early and high yielding, producing delicious stringless pods about 10″ long.  Maturing 12-16 weeks from sowing. info from Dobies

Pulsatilla Vulgaris – Pasque Flower


pulsatilla vulgarisThis morning I have potted on the Pulsatilla plants which I received free from J Parker with an order for Clematis. There are six little plants and they all look quite healthy so far. The pasque flower is said to be a sign that Easter has arrived. The pretty spring flowers are followed by fluffy seed-heads. Pulsatilla takes a while to get established and then does not like being disturbed, so plant it in the right spot and leave it alone. If happy, plants will self-seed, so leave the seed heads to allow colonies to build up.

White Faverolles Bantam

Today I have received twelve hatching eggs of the White Faverolles Bantam from Benjamin Shepherd, a breeder from Lancaster. The link to his website is on the sidebar under friends. They will go into the incubator tomorrow along with six replacement eggs of the Buff Plymouth Rock as only one of the first batch of eggs was fertile and the breeder very kindly replaced them. I have bought a ‘Brooder Hen’ from P&T Poultry Supplies. It is an electrically heated plate that hangs above chicks in a broody box to supply them with constant body heat for the first few weeks of life.

White Faverolles BantamPictures courtesy of Benjamin Shepherd

Faverolles originate from the village of Faverolles in Northern France and were created from a mix of several different breeds. They have a broad, square body with small wings, a single upright comb, short neck, a striking beard and muffing. The head is broad and round and the eyes are reddish bay. The pinkish legs are sparsely feathered with the feathering concentrated on the outer toe. They have five toes. They are quiet, friendly, gentle birds that can actually become very affectionate towards their keepers and are an ideal breed for children. They are alert, active birds and the hens make very good broodies and mothers. The hens will actually lay prolifically over winter. They are not good fliers. Information from


Charlotte Potatoes

charlotte potatoes

It has been another beautiful day today and we popped to the plots to put in the first of the potatoes. We planted the Charlotte potatoes in the green bags bought last year from the £1 shop. We brought back the final four stalks of last years sprouts. There are four lovely Savoy cabbages almost ready so we left those for a little longer. I dug over the lean to borders and tried to dig up the mint that has taken over in there. We couldn’t  stay long as Rob was at work really early and needed a rest. There is so much to do and we have so many plans. Roll on his next holiday.

Courgette Black Beauty

Today has been a sad day as I have had to cull the two lame Apenzeller chicks. The remaining three cockerels are strong and will be going to a new home soon as we can’t keep boys here. On a more positive note the first of the Buff Plymouth Rock chicks has hatched and it looks very healthy.

courgette black beautyI have sown my last single seed of Courgette Black Beauty which has done very well for us in the past three years. Germination should take 7-14 days and it should be ready to plant out in early May. It is a very prolific plant amd fruits need to be picked when small for the best taste. If we have had problems getting to the plot in the past we have found some fruit to have reached 1′ in a very short time.

Cucumber Carmen F1

I42-17828040.jpgI am determined to have a more successful crop from this cucumber this year. I plan to put the plants on the least draughty side of the lean to with some extra protection as I have read that draught can be a killer for cucumber. I have read somewhere that John Innes number 3 compost is the best mix so I shall put three mounds of that in readiness along the lean to border. I shall bury an upturned plastic bottle with the bottom cut off alongside the mound so that water goes directly to the roots in order to avoid neck rot. I am sowing the first seed this week and then one in April and one in May. I have three seeds left only. The first seed will be sown in a small pot of moist John Innes seed sowing compost and given a bit of bottom heat. Germination should be within 7-10 days. Update – seedling through today at 4 days and on Libbie’s fourth birthday. She sowed the seed so I hope she brings it some luck.

Leek – Musselburgh


This morning I have sown the last of my leek seeds in a tall 7″ pot. They are Musselburgh bought from and can be relied upon for a top sweet flavour, Winter hardiness and all round performance. They should germinate in about 21 days and will be left in the pot until they are about 8″ high. We shall plant them out in late April or May leaving a gap of about 6″ between them and with rows about 1′ apart. We have grown this variety before and had varying results so fingers crossed for this year.

Tip – When planting Leeks, choose a well drained bed and apply a general fertiliser a week before. Water the bed the day before if the weather is dry. Make a 6″ hole with a dibber, drop in the leek plant whilst at the same time gently filling the hole with water to settle the roots. Do not backfill with soil at this point. Keep ground moist and earth up when the white base starts to show.

Spring Pruning Roses


Pruning a bush Rose – I am a relative new comer to the ups and downs of growing roses. Although we already had a rambling rose, Wedding Day, a climber, Dublin Bay, and a Hybrid Tea, Margaret Merrill in the garden they had more or less been left to their own devices. This year however I have taken a more keen interest in roses and have recently bought another climber, Compassion, a hybrid tea, Helen Robinson, and a few floribunda so I need to read up a bit about care. The first lesson I learned involved Spring pruning. The first four new plants are already in and the last three should be in before the end of this weekend. I have already hard pruned the existing three and found out that one negative aspect is that roses can rip you to pieces if you don’t treat them with care. I hope that future skillful pruning will reduce the risks. The following is an excerpt from Gardeners World Magazine.

“Any old stems showing signs of dieback can be pruned away, and badly positioned and congested shoots can be cut out to shape the bush. Last year’s stems need shortening to prevent new growth developing higher up the bush which may result in flowers with leggy stems. You should prune just above a bud, but remember that the developing shoot will grow out in the direction that that bud points. In most cases you want this to be outwards, keeping the centre of the bush light and open. Prune to an inward pointing bud and the shoot will grow inwards, crossing other stems to create a congested bush.” 

A good link