Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Gardening Hints And Tips

How to do stuff around the garden

Sowing A Colourful Variety of Climbing Beans for 2018

I have quite a few old favourites amongst the Runner Beans in my seed box and this year have added a few new varieties just for fun. The first seeds to be sown were Climbing Bean Yard Long. on 5th April, I have started 16 seeds in toilet roll tubes with 100% germination. These are an unusual variety of climbing bean that produce pods that grow up to 3′ in length. The pods can be harvested from when they are 1′ long and make a tasty addition to any meal. 

Climbing French Bean Cosse Violette, pictured in the header of this post, is a strong growing variety of Purple French bean that can be harvested over a long period. Sow the seeds directly outside from May- June in rows 12 ” apart. Cover the seeds lightly with soil and water them in. These plants will require support as they grow. To prolong the harvest crop the plants regularly. A fortnightly feed with a tomato type fertiliser will result in better crops. Keep well watered in dry weather. 15 Sown indoors on 11th April.

Surprise Bean from Philippines. These are beans given to me with no label and no explanation other than that they were posted from the Philippines so we will have to wait and see. Sown 17th April.

Climbing Bean Blue Lake – I have grown this variety successfully before and have been very pleased both with how prolifically it has grown and the taste of the beans  when cooked. Considered one of the gourmet varieties, these are a prolific producer defying the driest of summers, whilst remaining sugar sweet, stringless and tender with medium length beans. Excellent and easy to deep freeze. Can be grown against a trellis, on poles or up netting and require little or no maintenance. A white seeded variety. growing to 5′ or more.  Beans are hungry crops that require ample organic matter dug in prior to sowing. Sow in pots undercover in April for an earlier harvest or directly outside when all danger of frost has passed. Sown 17th April.

 

 

Echium Plantagineum White Bedder – Viper’s Bugloss

Echium or Viper’s Bugloss – This pretty flowering plant came here from the Mediterranean. Its flowers are a great food source for beneficial insects. Grown easily from seed they will give masses of pure white bell like flower clusters along stems covered with bristly grey hairs. Bees and butterflies love this bountiful white flowered bloomer. I have loosened the soil in the border and scattered a few of these seeds today.

It is recommended to sow Echium seeds directly outdoors once frost danger has passed. In a prepared seedbed with loosened soil that is free of weeds. Scatter the seeds on gravelly soil. Keep area moist until germination occurs. Deadhead regularly to encourage more flowers. At the end of the season allow seed heads to form and collect some for next year. Viper’s Bugloss will re-seed itself for next year. It is recommended to wear gloves when handling Echium plants as it can be a skin irritant.

This is a beautiful variety that produces clusters of bell shaped white flowers from June – Sept and reaches a height of Appx 12″

If indoor sowing is preferred:-

Sow seeds thinly onto the surface of a good quality moistened seed compost at min 18 deg C Mar – April

Lightly cover the seed with fine compost or vermiculite to just cover the seed.

Once large enough to handle the young plants can be transplanted into either 3″ pots or tray cells

A fortnightly feed with a potash based fertiliser, Tomato fertiliser, will encourage good growth and plenty of flowers.

Transplant to final position once all risk of frost has passed

 

Growing Armeria Maritima – Sea Thrift From Saved Seeds

In October 2016 I bought 72 tiny perennials from Thompson and Morgan. I had the job of growing them on to become useful plants for the garden. Amongst them were three tiny Thrift plants. They came on beautifully and I was able to collect some tiny fluffy seed heads in Autumn 2017. Today, 7th April 2018, I am sowing the seeds onto some damp compost and hoping for more of these pretty little plants to put around the pond. I have read that they need cold and that they may take quite a while to germinate.

Thrift or Sea Pink is too well known to need much description other than saying it is one of the most perfect, perennial, hardy rockery or border edge plants. Tufts of tiny pointy leaves form the base for long stems bearing pink fragrant flowers which appear over a long period during spring and summer. Seeds can be sown at any time but are best sown in winter or early spring to benefit from a cold spell in the wet compost to break their dormancy. Cover seeds very thinly with sand or fine grit. If the seeds do not come up within 6 to 12 weeks the damp seed tray can be given cold treatment in a fridge for about four weeks. They may still take very many months to appear though.

Growing Cleome From Seed for 2018 Colour

Today I sowed seeds of Cleome Spinosa indoors in moist compost. I have white Helen Campbell, Violet Queen and Rose Queen and hope to have all of these striking plants in the back of the borders this year. Although I have put some seeds to start indoors my main plan is to sow the seeds directly into the garden at the end of this month and in early May. Last year was the first time that I grew Cleome and I was blown away by the beauty of the spidery flowers. I only had Violet Queen last year and regretted not having the other colours. Another thing I plan to do this year is to pinch out the central shoot. This happened accidentally last year when the first tall spike snapped off in a strong wind and I was amazed at how many new flower heads grew as a result. Another advantage of this plant is  how easy it is to collect seeds. Last Autumn I scattered quite a lot of seeds, saved from the Violet Queen, around the garden so I am hopeful of new seedlings come May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am hoping that I will never need to sow any more seeds as if this years plants self seed as they should this tropical looking herbaceous plant will become a permanent feature of my summer borders. As this flower is extremely attractive to beneficial insects I shall tell Rob to get some going at the allotment too. Grow Cleome in groups rather that rows or make a big splash of colour with container grown plants.

Nasturtium Jewel of Africa – Tropaeolum

Although last year I grew these seeds from a direct sowing and they performed really well, I have decided to pop some into a plastic egg box today as the weather is extremely cold for the time of year. They are Tropaeolum Jewel Of Africa from Seekay and at 99p for a hundred seeds a good buy. Another plus is that they self seed and so, unless you fancy a different variety, you don’t have to buy seeds more than once. This is a tall growing variety of Nasturtium that produces an abundance of mixed coloured flowers held clear above very attractive variegated foliage. An easy to grow variety that gives a mass of colour.  Eventual height eight feet. This plant caught me by surprise last year by how high it climbed. Laura rigged up a bit of a frame for it by the shed and it romped away. Leaves and flowers are supposed to be edible but I have never risked it. Apparently the flowers and leaves add a peppery taste to salads and are a great garnish. Update 9th April 2018 – These seeds went in on 1st April and are showing through now on the 9th.

Sow seeds in April in cells or pots and cover lightly with compost.

Germinate best with a little heat and should take 10 days.

Harden off prior to planting out after all risk of frost has passed.

Like a light sunny position with well drained soil.

 

 

In my opinion no garden should be without Nasturtium as they carry on and on giving and the bees love them too.

 

 

Growing Peas – 2018 – Canoe & Ambassador, Waverex.

These two varieties of pea are seeds left from last year and need using up this year. I shall sow the Canoe now and the Ambassador a little later in the year. I intend to grow some peas at home in containers this year as well as at the allotment as quite a few were lost last year when Rob couldn’t get down to harvest.

Pea Ambassador – Pea  Ambassador is a Maincrop variety of pea which is ideally suited for sowing later in the season.  It is a robust growing, short-vined pea with good resistance to downy mildew.  A high yielding variety producing masses of large, blunt-ended pods containing up to nine sweet and tender peas of great quality. Ambassador is one of the only Peas that can be sown in July for an October crop and is ideal for successional sowing. I am swishing a few more of these seeds today, 2nd August,  and hoping the weather will help us get a late crop.

Pea Canoe – A well named and highly productive variety producing long slightly curved pods with pointed tips that each contain up 12 peas. With such full pods, Pea Canoe is set to become an ideal variety for exhibition. The heavy crops are carried on semi leafless stems for easy picking and plants become virtually self supporting if grown in a block. Surplus crops of this wrinkle seeded pea freeze particularly well. Useful for Spring and Autumn sowing. I am swishing a few more of these seeds today, 2nd August,  and hoping the weather will help us get a late crop.

Pea Waverex – These tiny plants produce masses of pods filled with tiny sweet peas. Peas are a good source of Vitamins A, C, B1 and folic acid and also contain soluble fibre. These seeds were an afterthought, ordered from Premier Seeds Direct, they are a petit pois variety and didn’t disappoint. I swished the seeds in a jar of water and they sprouted after a few days. Rob sowed them at the allotment and this week, 11 weeks later,  we harvested them. Not one pod let us down. I shall be focusing on these peas next year as both of the other varieties were no shows. We have had weeks of sweltering weather and we thought we had no chance of getting a good harvest but every tiny pod was full to bursting of tiny sweet peas. Our only regret is not sowing more at fortnightly intervals. Note to self for next year.

 

Peas are a cool season crop well suited to the UK climate. Peas can be direct sown outdoors from March to June once the soil has warmed up. Using cloches will help the earliest crops to germinate. In milder areas some hardy early maturing cultivars can be sown in late autumn for overwintering and producing particularly early crops. For a continuous crop it’s a good idea to sow a new batch of peas every 10-14 days. Alternatively, try growing different early and Maincrop varieties that will mature at different times throughout the growing season. Water regularly once pea plants start to flower to encourage good pod development. You can reduce water loss by applying a thick mulch of well rotted manure or compost to lock moisture into the soil. Don’t feed peas with nitrogen rich fertilisers as this can create leafy growth instead of producing pea pods. In most cases peas won’t require any extra feed.

Peas should be harvested regularly to encourage more pods to be produced. The pods at the bottom of each plant will mature first so begin harvesting from low down and work your way up as the pods mature. Peas can be frozen but they are sweetest and tastiest when eaten freshly picked from the garden. Early varieties can be harvested 11-12 weeks from sowing while Maincrop varieties need 13 -15 weeks to mature.

  • Plant where peas have not been grown for 2 seasons, digging in well rotted organic matter.
  • The distance between the rows should equal the expected height of the variety.
  • Avoid sowing during any cold or very wet periods
  • Protect immediately from birds. Keep weed free.
  • Provide support when 3″ high.
  • Pick regularly to maintain yields.

Peas are legumes which take in nitrogen from the air and store it in small nodules along their roots. When growing garden peas don’t be tempted to pull the plants up from the roots at the end of the season. The leaves and stems can be cut off at ground level and added to the compost heap before digging the roots into the ground. As the roots break down they release nitrogen into the soil. 

California Poppy – Escholtzia Californica 2018

I had no flowers from these seeds last year at all but I have persevered and scattered more seeds into the garden this year. I have sown both white and orange and am hoping for more success this time. 

Escholtzia californica was named after Dr Johann Friedrich Eschscholz, a Russian physician who was one of a party that discovered and described the plant in 1815 while exploring the Pacific coastline of what is now California. It would have been hard to miss, as great sheets of yellow and gold clothed the rocky hillsides. Technically a perennial but often grown as an annual, owing to its ability to go from seed to flower in a matter of weeks. A single plant can flower profusely over a long period before eventually setting seed and producing new flowering plants in the same season. These Poppies thrive in dry, gravely, well drained soil. Once established it will seed itself around. The most successful and cost effective way to grow the California poppy is by sowing directly into prepared gravelly ground during spring. Work your topsoil into a reasonably fine tilth before applying a 2″ thick layer of gritty sharp sand or pea gravel. The seed can be broadcast directly on to this free draining layer before being watered in. A succession of sowings from early April to May should result in a succession of plants over the Summer.

 

Sweet Pea – Lathyrus – 2018

Last years Sweet Peas were very disappointing with very few flowers. I have put all the seeds left from last year, Mammoth Mix,  into a deep pot of moist compost and my plan is to buy some fresh seeds too for another go this Summer. The Fresh seed is on order and should arrive tomorrow, weather permitting.

 

The old seeds are showing signs of germination with five green shoots trying to emerge at 6 days. I found a few more Mammoth mixed today, Monday  5th March, and have put them into a deep pot. I want to start a really good amount this year using all my old seeds and some new. New seeds arrived this afternoon so I sowed about twenty of the Spencer Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill is a slightly scented Spencer type that has the most beautiful deep crimson. well ruffled petals. Update 17th March – Both the old and new seeds are up and the first pot have been pinched out above the second leaves. The Spencer variety germinated very quickly and I am already thinking that I may stick to these in future. Easter Sunday 1st April and after soaking them overnight I have sown 25 more of the Spencer Mixed seeds. The original sowings are outside now and about 2′ tall. I have placed an obelisk around them. Fingers crossed for a good year for Sweet Peas.

 

How To Grow Sweet Peas

  • Growing sweet peas is supposed to be easy. Sow into compost in autumn and overwinter or wait until spring and sow in pots or sow into the ground. Before I sow them I soak the seeds in tepid water to rehydrate them. It helps them get off to a quicker start but it isn’t essential as they will still germinate well in moist compost. I usually soak overnight, use a good quality compost and sow several seeds about half an inch deep to a pot. Place in a bright position.
  • As the seedlings grow they tend to become tall and leggy. Encourage them to produce side shoots by pinching out the tips. Simply nip off the top of the stem just above a set of leaves. This will make each plant much bushier and more robust. And the more shoots there are the more flowers will be produced.
  • Sweet peas climb by twining their tendrils around whatever they touch so help them to cling to the support you have  provided.
  • Throughout the season you will need to keep them well watered as dry soil will make them go to seed quicker, also deadhead regularly.
  • Towards the end of the season leave the seed pods to mature for collection towards next years flowers.

The Sweet Pea is a flowering plant in the genus Lathyrus in the family Fabaceae and is native to Sicily, Cyprus, southern Italy and the Aegean Islands. It is an annual climbing plant growing to a height of 1–2 metres where suitable support is available. A perennial variety is also available but although these plants are stronger the flowers are smaller. However, they do have a place in the garden as do the knee high and basket varieties. I feel the annual Sweet Pea is best for cut flowers and scent.

 

Sowing Saved Bell Pepper Seeds – Capsicum

Bell Peppers from saved supermarket seeds:

I hate to be negative but last  year I raised loads of pepper plants but didn’t harvest any edible fruits. I saved lots of seeds from bought peppers over the year and having had successful germination with saved seeds before I am once again sowing seeds of green, yellow and red bell peppers. I have obviously been doing something wrong when it comes to producing edible peppers so its back to researching the internet for growing tips for me. I have had good germination, potted on some good strong plants but sadly rarely got to eat the fruits of my labour. Below is a list of points that I gathered from my research.

Update on 17th February – One 7″ pot of moist compost sown with about 30 seeds of red, yellow and green peppers wrapped in a plastic food bag and put on the computer box for a little bottom heat. Fingers crossed.

Update Easter Sunday 1st April 2018 – The germination was amazing and today I am potting on the best twelve of the Bell Peppers grown from saved seed.

New sowing of bought seeds 1st April – I bought  new seeds of a yellow, sweet long chilli pepper. The variety is Sweet Banana from Seekay. I have sown four seeds today along with another pot of four saved seeds of a long red chilli pepper that I bought from Lidl. They were packed with seeds so I couldn’t resist saving them.

Important points to remember when growing peppers.

  •  Pepper plants are slow growing and need plenty of time to produce fruit before frost.
  • They are an ideal plant for container growing.
  • They need rich well draining soil with added calcium and regular watering.

Facts

  • Germination is 10 to 15 days
  • Harvest should  be 65 to 100 days
  • Require full sun.
  • Regular and frequent watering.
  • Rich soil with added calcium.
  • Ideal for containers.

Tips

  • To promote growth place a mat of tinfoil around the base of the plants to help the plant benefit from direct and reflective heat and light.
  • Sweet bell peppers are known for their high vitamin C, A and B6 content.
  • Plants should not be outside until the soil is warm, so start your seeds indoors in order to get a harvest before winter.
  • Find your expected last frost date and sow pepper seeds eight weeks before.

Bell peppers are some of the most versatile vegetables in the kitchen. They can be sautéed  with onions, sliced or diced in salads, soups, and casseroles. They can be stuffed, grilled, used on sandwiches, or simply sliced for a fresh, flavorful, and crunchy snack. These colourful vegetables  have a high vitamin and mineral content. Regular consumption of green peppers, which contain more than twice the vitamin C of an orange, helps protect against disease, boosts the immune system, lowers inflammation in the arteries that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and cholesterol build up. Other nutritional benefits of bell peppers include thiamin, niacin, folate, magnesium and copper. 

The Pond! At Last

We finally managed to get the old plastic pre formed  pond liner out and replace it with a heavy duty flexible liner and an under liner to protect it from any sharp stones. Rob did a good job of first lining the shape with sand too. It looks much better now and I have planted it up with the Lobelia Cardinalis Queen Victoria for now. I have also dotted a few creeping phlox and other low plants around plus planting a few Iris Riculata bulbs which I hope will survive the squirrels and the chickens and give us a bit of colour come next spring. Update –  22nd April 2018 – Although the Iris were few and far between this Spring, the creeping phlox are a great success and I have added Sedum and Aubretia this year.

 

Laura gathered a few seeds of Golden Eye Grass when we were in Devon at the end of September. This plant is said to be happy in a rockery and around a pond so I have just sown the seeds into the garden in the hope of raising a few plants. Update 22nd April 2018 – No sign of this grass yet so I have sown 24 seeds into a module for another try. Golden Eye Grass – Sisyrinchium californicum is a rhizomatous perennial herb producing a pale green stem which grows up to about 60 cm. The flat, narrow leaves are grass like. The flower has six tepals. They are bright yellow with brown veining. 

Sisyrinchium californicum, Golden Eye Grass produces a small clump of grass like foliage with a yellow star shaped flower. Usually this six petaled yellow flower blooms from April until the end of July. Its not actually in the grass family but is a member of the iris family. It grows well in rock gardens, cottage gardens, at the front of borders and along pathways.  It will naturalise and look good with other low-growing ground cover plants like creeping thyme or sedum.

Saxifrage Touran White – A new addition to the area around the pond. A beautiful plant which I love and so, unfortunately, do the new Silkie chickens. Saxifraga x arendsii ‘Touran White saxifrage is a low-growing evergreen perennial forming a neat cushion of green leaves topped in mid and late spring by masses of pure white flowers with bright yellow centres. 

By next Spring we should have a few more plants that can be placed around the pond. On the whole I am very happy with it and my hope is that it will attract wild life like frogs and newts into the garden.

Pond Update – 7th June 2018 – The pond is now well established and I have added a few oxygenating plants including duckweed that floats on the top. We had no luck with attracting any frogs so I have been given a couple of gifts of frog spawn and tadpoles to give it a kick start.

Pond Update –  22nd June 2018 – We have frogs!!!!!