Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: April 2020

Zinnia Elegans – Sowing Seeds

Zinnia is a genus of plants of the sunflower tribe within the daisy family. They are native to scrub and dry grassland in an area stretching from the Southwestern United States to South America, with a centre of diversity in Mexico. Wikipedia

For early flowers Zinnia seeds can be sown under glass in early spring. Fill a seed tray or pot with compost and cover with a sprinkling of vermiculite or compost. Water moderately and when the seedlings are large enough to handle pot on and harden off before planting outside.

Alternatively, sow seeds thinly a quarter of an inch deep in a sunny bed in the garden. Wait until after all risk of frost has passed. Germination should take place in 7-14 days.

Zinnia are perfect for cut flowers. They should flower from early June until the first frost. I am going to try to sow them directly into the border this year. They like a sunny but sheltered position and once germinated don’t like to be moved. I have seeds of both Green Envy and Polar Bear.

Green Envy – The colour of this summer blooming annual Zinnia is a bright chartreuse green and acts as a wonderful foil to richer shades.

Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’

Polar Bear – A bright white double flower that shines out in the border.

Zinnia Polar Bear

Save seeds at the end of the season and in a couple of generations of seeds you will have developed your own strain of zinnia naturally selected to perform well in your conditions. Simply clip off a dried flower head from each flower type that you want to save. Pull the flower apart and remove the seeds inside or simply put the whole blossom full of seeds into an envelope. Seal and identify the flower colour. Keep the seeds in a cool, dry place until it is time to plant next year.

Changes In The Garden

Our modest garden is split into three sections. The woodland garden. A strip along the side of the house which is shady and is planted up with trees, climbers and woodland plants. The garden at the back of the house and the chicken area.

Shady Garden

The Back Garden

The main back garden, and the area that I can see from the big window in my office, is the main area where the growing goes on and has been reinvented many times over the forty-eight years that my family has lived here. At the back of this garden, there is a shed that, up until today, housed the chickens that I bought last Spring as day olds, but as from today they have been moved to the chicken area. We now have seventeen chickens. seven Silkies; three Pekins; two Araucanas; three Welbars; and two Wybars.

Chickens

2 Araucanas and 3 pekins
Wybar Cockerel Jack
Black Pekin Jet
Silkie Chick

The next big project for us will be to renovate the shed. Clean out all the bedding, varnish inside and weatherproof the outside. Sean fixed the roof last year for me so that should last a while. Laura’s plastic greenhouse is adjacent to the shed and in front of the greenhouse is the area where the pond is.

The Pond

The pond has really come into its own now and is teeming with life. I lost quite a few of the plants that I had planted around the pond last year so we need to do a bit of planning and improve the planting.

The pond has come on a lot since this photo
Elephants Ear
Viola Sororia Freckles
Baby Frog

Spring Bulbs In Pots

At present many of our plants are in pots and containers and I would like to increase the depth of the borders and get some of the plants into the ground instead. I have enjoyed the spring bulbs in pots so I shall do that again next year as they are easy to place around when they are at their best then move away when they go over.

Honey Bells
Allium
Tete-a-Tete
Tulip
Crocus Purple King

Perrenials

This year I have bought in some perennials and we have grown some from seed too so I am hoping to stock up the borders with them and cut down on maintenance.

Wax Flower
Japanese Anemone Pink
Erysimum Yellow Bird
Spectabilis
Kafir Lily
Astrantia Shaggy
Peony

Wild Bird Visitors

We have quite a few wild birds visiting the garden. There are a pair of Blue Tits nesting in Laura’s nest box again this year and as its right outside my window, I have a good view of the coming and going.

This baby fledgling lost his way

“This is War”

Richard J. Hatchett, MD, is Chief Executive Officer of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a partnership of public, private, philanthropic and civil organizations that will finance and co-ordinate the development of vaccines against high priority public health threats and vaccine platform technologies to respond rapidly to emerging infectious diseases with pandemic or epidemic potential.

UK March 6th 2020. The CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, CEPI, Dr Richard J Hatchett MD, explains the long-term dangers of the COVID-19 coronavirus, saying it’s the scariest outbreak he’s dealt with in his 20-year career.

This man warned the world on the 6th March and here we are on the 23rd of April. Personally, I decided to go back and have another look at this and having listened again, I am wishing that he was Scientific Advisor for the UK. ‘War is an appropriate analogy‘ to quote Dr. Hatchett and, based on the evidence so far, it makes sense to me. Over eighteen thousand deaths in the UK since the 6th March. He says that he thinks COVID-19 will be endemic on our planet forever. If the long awaited vaccine works maybe we can live with it but I think we shall have to adapt our lives according to COVID-19.

On 23rd February the UK government pledged 20 million pounds to CEPI to support them in their endeavour to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

Update on 6th May from Dr Hatchett. “We have said from the very beginning when we started our programs back in January that we thought if things went well that we could anticipate vaccines becoming more broadly available potentially within 12 to 18 months. Obviously, several months have passed since then. We are seeing progress with our programs. Three of the vaccines that we’re supporting are in clinical trials right now. I think the timelines that we laid out then are still realistic. Possibly by the end of the year we might see some small amounts of vaccine becoming available but it’s hard to see how those timelines could be advanced much more quickly than that.

Today’s death toll is 616 hospital deaths reported in the UK in the last 24 hours making a total of 18,730 lives lost between the 6th March and today the 23rd April.

How long, I wonder, will I be reporting the daily deaths before it becomes the norm.

Our Woodland Garden

No, I haven’t won the lottery and moved house. I still live in a 70’s semi on a suburban estate. I do, however, have a shady bit of garden alongside the house that I have had several failed attempts to plant up. For the last two years, I have been planting with woodland shade loving plants and today I am feeling very pleased with how it is looking. We already have two established fruit trees, an apple and a plum, also some old, tall shrub roses plus a climber that have survived from my rose bed attempts in the past.

Primrose

Last year my son Sean came over and removed an enormous fir tree and an old silver birch from this area and the difference it has made to the number of flowers popping up is incredible. There was a pink Clematis Montana already there and Deb bought me a mile a minute vine and both have romped away with all the extra light and moisture that is there now the big trees are gone.

For the last two years, I have been underplanting with shade loving plants such as primroses, cyclamen, foxgloves, bluebells and whitebells, lily of the valley, hostas, forget-me-nots, marigolds, cranesbill, epimedium and aubretia. Its 19th May and there is a lot of growth. I am very pleased.

Whitebells
forget-me-not
Epimedium

The story so far….

847 people have died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours

Before the arrival of the Pandemic that is COVID-19, most of the news coverage was related to our exit from the European Union. Great Britain had been part of the union since the early 70s and a democratic decision had been made to leave. It had become a long ponderous process but we were coming to the end of the negotiations. I personally was optimistic about the future of my country. I was hopeful that things might revert back to what I had seen in my youth. It wasn’t all roses but work was plentiful and life, on the whole, was good. We did import some food from the commonwealth but mostly our farmers grew what we needed seasonally and most of our commodities were produced in factories here. We had thriving industries and improving commerce. We were close to being a self-sufficient country.

The welfare state and the NHS were born more or less with me. In my lifetime they have always been there. A trusted cushion that my generation has taken for granted. I had the privilege to spend a large chunk of my working life in the NHS both in a hospital setting and in general practice. After retirement, I had a couple of years of respite before I was thrown into the heartbreak of caring for my youngest son, Adam, who contracted MND in 2011. Adam died on the 20th of February 2016. Adams’s death hit me very hard both mentally and physically. My life was on hold.

Suddenly this crisis happened, it happened all over the world and has made everyone sit up and take notice. As soon as the pandemic started the cracks in the British way of life began to show. The NHS was on its knees after years of cutbacks. Unemployment was rife. Our shops were full but most of the goods were sourced from abroad. When we suddenly needed increased supplies of medical equipment and medicines our government ordered it from abroad. First big mistake.

The country hadn’t had time to put things in place. Promises made by our government about massive improvements to our way of life following the exit from Europe hadn’t even been realised yet. This is a global problem. Each country was having to look after its own people. It seems that the impetus to source what we need has had to come from the people. Manufacturers, engineers, scientists, private labs and so on have stepped up and the government has had to be prompted to take advantage of the many skills that we have available here.

The people of my country have shown that they can adapt and produce the goods needed and adapt quickly. Precious time has been lost and as a result, many lives have been lost. I hope that from here on our government will learn from their mistakes. There is no end in sight as yet but we are nothing if not resilient.

I live in hope that we can eventually recover from this and make the country the exceptional place that it could be. Thriving and productive, self-sufficient, no jobless, no homeless, a good welfare system for sick and vulnerable, free education and health, clean and efficient buildings, good housing with gardens for everyone. A country to be proud of again. It will take a long time and I may not live to see it but we can do it. Our people deserve it.

A vaccine may be a long time coming

COVID-19 where will it end?

Today’s deaths are reported as 778 in the last 24 hours bringing the total deaths recorded in hospitals in the UK from 6th March to 12,107.

ONS – More than one in five deaths in England and Wales is linked to coronavirus, figures show. The Office for National Statistics data showed the virus was mentioned on 3,475 death certificates in the week ending 3 April. It helped to push the total number of deaths in that week to more than 16,000 – a record high.

So many families of victims are grieving as a result of the virus. We were repeatedly told way back in February that younger, fitter people would only get a mild illness as the virus affected mainly the elderly and vulnerable. We know now, in April, that this vicious virus is relentless. It attacks and kills people from any age group. From neonates to a hundred and four years old. Sick and well. weak and strong. It is heartbreaking to read the news every day. The whole world is grieving.

Many more NHS and Health Care Workers are also losing their lives to COVID-19. Every day brings news of another family coping with the loss of another dedicated nurse, doctor, surgeon, health care worker.

They have had to go out there and do their job. Add to these an army of postmen and women, bus drivers, shop workers, farmers and many other key workers who have no choice but to go into work and risk theirs or their family’s lives.

Just at the moment, I can see no end to this crisis.

Courgettes Peppers and Tomatoes – Summer Salad

This morning I am sowing seeds of a variety of courgettes, bell peppers and tomatoes. They are all late going in so I am being very optimistic when I dream of Summer Salad. The only things I am confident of are the Sungold Tomatoes.

Green, Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

I already had saved seeds of Bell Peppers. I have put a generous amount of seeds in a large pot to allow for some of them not to germinate as they are quite old. This large capsicum form is known as bell pepper. The only difference between bell peppers and capsicum is the presence of capsaicin which is a lipophilic chemical that produces a burning sensation in the mouth. Bell peppers do not contain this chemical.

My other tall black pot contains seeds of both Long Sweet Red Chilli Peppers and Yellow Sweets Banana Pepper. Banana pepper seeds need high soil temperatures to germinate. Start them indoors 40-60 days before transplanting time. You can grow banana peppers from seeds or buy young plants.

Tomato Sungold

There are three substantial plants of Tomato Sungold sitting on the window ledge. They were purchased last year from thompson-morgan.com and delivered a week ago as posti-plugs. They have come on well since I repotted them so I have high hopes of a good harvest from them. I have grown these tomatoes from seed before and was amazed at how tall the plants grew and how many fruits we had from them. The taste was perfect.

Tomato Sungold F1 is a cherry tomato firmly established as one of the sweetest and tastiest available. Produces an abundance of golden coloured fruit throughout the summer. A cordon tomato that is suitable for growing in the greenhouse, allotment or garden. Tomato Sungold will produce small orange, tasty tomatoes that are perfect for salads.

Easter Bank Holiday Monday – Sowing Seeds of Courgette and Squash

COVID-19 News Update

Deaths in UK hospitals rose to 11,329 – up by 717in 24 hours

Our Prime Minister has been thanking the NHS for saving lives for weeks. Today he has thanked them for saving his life as he has left the hospital following his own personal fight against COVID-19

Courgette Zephyr F1 Hybrid

As promised yesterday I have made a start on sowing the squash this morning .I have sown the last three seeds of the Courgette Zephyr, an F1 Hybrid variety purchased from thompson-morgan.com. I have grown these successfully before. I have placed three seeds in a 7″ pot of moist general purpose compost. These seeds are best sown vertically I have found. I have enclosed the pot in a polythene bag and put it on the window sill. They should germinate in about 7 days and hopefully be flowering in June for an Autumn harvest.

This distinctive variety produces attractive, creamy-yellow cylindrical fruits with an unusual pale green tip. The strong, bushy plants of Courgette Zephyr produce fruits with a firm texture and a delicious nutty flavour if harvested regularly when no more than 6″ long.

Butternut Squash Hunter F1

Next seeds to be sown are six Butternut Squash Hunter, an F1 hybrid bought from Premier Seeds Direct. These fruits are a family favourite and I have treated them the same way as the courgette seeds.

Bred specifically for the UK and Northern European climate this variety delivers outstanding crops over a variety of UK summer conditions. Ready for harvesting up to four weeks earlier than other hybrids with fruits averaging 1kg with very high yields per plant.

Saturday 16th May 2020 – Update on the Courgettes and Squash – Laura bravely went and begged an old tyre from next doors skip and we have made a little garden for the squash and courgettes. There is a group of seven plants and I have high hopes for them. The seeds grew into very healthy plants and they lived on the window ledge until today.

Fingers crossed that we have seen the last of the frost but I have built up a protective surround of plastic covered netting with polythene bubble wrap. My only worry is overcrowding. I am hoping that the plants head for the skies and cling onto the netting.

Easter Sunday 12th Apr 2020

The number of people who have died in hospital with COVID-19 in the UK passes 10,000, after a daily rise of 737. (10,612)

Its the time of the year to sow seeds of Courgette and Squash. I have quite a few seeds in the seedbox and this morning’s plan was to get them sown into 3″ pots of damp compost. I plan to sow some Hunter Butternut Squash, Courgettes Tromboncino, Black Beauty, Zephyr, Tuscany and All Green Bush. Its a little late in the year but I am also planning to sow Green Bell Peppers and Pepper Sweet Banana.

Queuing to lay their egg

The chickens in the garden are absolutely oblivious to the virus and are laying happily. All queueing up for the same nest box with no thought of social distancing.

The death toll, combined with a busy day trying to order an online food shop plus cooking an Easter Sunday Roast, has meant that I am sitting here at the computer, dinner has been cooked, eaten and washing up done, the shopping is ordered for Wednesday at 7 am, My Herculean task for the day. ‘Herculean task’ seems to be the latest, constantly repeated phrase on the news at the moment. The government’s description of their continuing struggle to find PPE for the front line workers in the NHS.

I am now sitting looking at the seed packets but no sowing has been done. I feel weary so the sowing will have to be postponed until tomorrow.