Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

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. 

Plum Jam

This morning I made three jars of jam from some of the fruit collected from my Victoria Plum Tree bought from Lidl. They are really tasty straight from the tree but lovely made into jam so that we can have the taste right through the winter too.

I usually cook large stoned fruit quite well in a little water and lemon juice then when the stones are floating on the top I put the whole lot through a seive and combine it with a little preserving sugar. There is pectin in the stones so no need to add more. Stir the fruit pulp and the sugar until the sugar is melted in then turn on the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Keep stirring until the setting point is reached, not long with plums, and then pour into your jars using a funnel.

Late Autumn Harvest

We surprised even ourselves when we came home with two trays of goodies on our last visit to the plots. I gathered a few tomatoes from the lean to and have left the plants intact as they have quite a bit of fruit still green. I don’t suppose they will ripen but we will give them a chance. The last of the cucumber had shrivelled so those plants are ready to come down.

We brought home three cabbages, a Savoy and a Ballhead plus one red for pickling. One of the sprout plants had fallen over so we pulled it and harvested the sprouts. They were quite small but made a tasty meal. Brussel sprouts are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. They contain iron, fibre, potassium, and B vitamins. They also contain folate, protein, and beta-carotene. Next I pulled four leeks which were ready to eat and a few sticks of Chard. The surprise find was a beautiful if small Romanesco. We are bringing the pumpkins home one at a time as they are heavy and they should make some tasty soup for us over the Winter with the left over flesh and seeds going to the chickens and ducks.

Signs of Autumn

We spent a couple of hours at the plots this afternoon. The weather was warm and sunny and the ground was workable so we did a lot of weeding. Still back breaking work but easier than when the ground is dry or heavy with rain. Rob dug up a few rows of potatoes and we emptied three bags too so we came back with quite a haul. They seem ok as far as the Blight is concerned so lets hope they store ok. This evening I cooked some Charlotte and they were very good.

cucumber carmen

We cut another cucumber from the Carmen plant and though they are few and far between the quality of them is brilliant. We also cut one of the Butterhead lettuce. Pity the tomatoes are still not big or red enough to eat. The outdoor tomatoes seem to be getting the first signs of Blight with the young fruit turning black. Very sad. The runner beans were loaded and I picked a large box full as well as giving Frank and his wife quite a few as his were a bit late going in and are only just starting to produce. I pulled a few of the Rainbow carrots too. There seem to be plenty of snails, earwigs and wood lice having a go at everything, especially the brassicas and the white fly is starting to show itself again. We brought home a couple of cabbages and found one that was so nibbled we had to throw it on to the compost heap. The pumpkin plants are rampant and covered in yellow globes of varying sizes and are a reminder that Autumn will soon be here.

jenne20st20pumpkin20field.jpg

Blight Warning Blues 2009

Today we have received a warning of Blight in our area. As Rob is working all day today we wont be able to get down to the plots to rescue the potatoes and tomatoes. The weather today is dry and sunny for a change. The past few weeks have been miserable with loads of torrential rain which is not too bad for the allotment but terrible for the back garden as it sits on clay and the water just collects and takes ages to dry out so keeping the chickens and ducks clean has been an ongoing slog. After Saturday Rob has two weeks off work so we shall be able to catch up on jobs at home and at the plots. It will be mostly harvesting and weeding and getting the beds ready for the Winter. We have quite a few brassicas coming along nicely to harvest now and hopefully over the Winter. The runner beans are producing like mad and we have beetroot and carrots to harvest too. The last time we were down there we saw a row of lettuce which will probably be ready by the weekend.

Rhubarb

There is a lot of Rhubarb ready to pull and I think we shall be giving some away as I am running out of freezer space. I have made Rhubarb jam and a couple of crumbles already. However it is very tasty and I think another crumble is on the cards for tonight.

I think we have come to the conclusion that working the allotments is hard work and that everything seems to come at once. Whether an extra freezer is the answer or getting rid of one of the plots next year. It is probably just bad organisation on our part. At the moment it seems like its all or nothing as far as produce goes. Oh dear I think this Blight warning as put me into a negative mood.

School

As for a lot of families this week has been special for us. Our Nephew Matthew started in his last year at Senior School, my Great Neice Lily started college, Rob’s Son Lee took his first driving test, Glenn got started on his degree course and our Grandaughter Libbie started at her new playschool. It’s all happening here.

Not so much has happened down at the plots, however. Rob has been working all hours and I have not been too well so what with the continuous rain I dread to think what will be waiting for us when we do get down there. I just know that there will be a multitude of beans to pick and thats if they haven’t spoiled already.