Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Allotments

An account of our work and progress on the allotment at Bobs Coppice

Sowing and Growing Sweetcorn in 2018

 

I’ve gone from saying that I am not growing any sweetcorn this year to sowing three different varieties. This morning I have sown 16 seeds of Sweetcorn Fiesta, a colourful, edible variety that I have never grown before and 30 seeds of Sweetcorn Mini Pop. I have sown them into a flat seed tray, side by side and hope to grow them on a little before they are planted at the allotment. Although we are into May the temperatures are very low so I decided to start them at home. The other variety is Sweetcorn Incredible, an F1 variety that we have grown before. These Rob wants to sow directly into the ground at the allotment.

Fiesta is an incredible multi-coloured variety was developed from traditional Indian corn with kernels of yellow, red, black, purple, pink, even marbled! A Traditional Indian Corn, that produces long cobs with multicoloured grain. Fiesta is a large, annual, cereal grass with erect, leafy, dark purple stems bearing dark purple ears containing sweet, edible, multi-coloured seeds, ready for harvest as early as late summer. This cultivar is suitable for cooler climates.

Sweetcorn Mini Pop Has been specially bred to be small. Each plant produces 5-6 long pale yellow cobs witch have  a sweet crunchy taste. They are useful in stir fry, curries or just on their own.

Sweetcorn Incredible is an F1 main season variety that produces medium sized sugar enhanced cobs producing a high number of  average sized cobs.

 

 

 

Growing Leek Musselburgh From Seed For 2018

This morning I have sown the last of my leek seeds. They are Musselburgh bought from alanromans.com and can be relied upon for a top sweet flavour, winter hardiness and good all round performance. It is a variety with good disease resistance and an excellent flavour. This year I have gone for sowing the seeds individually in toilet roll tubes just eight at a time for staggered planting at the allotment.  The seeds should germinate in about 21 days and will be left to grow on until they are about 8″ high and pencil thick. We shall plant them out in  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. NO MANURE. 

Cooking with Leeks. Leeks are part of the onion family but have a sweeter, more delicate flavor. Leeks contain good amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making the vegetable a wise addition to a healthy diet. You can cook leeks by poaching them in chicken broth, pan-frying them in a little oil, or boiling them until tender or you can include them in a variety of other recipes. I use Leeks mainly in soups, stews and casseroles but they are equally useful as a side vegetable or in a pie.

 

 

Trying Second Early Salad Potato Jazzy and Old Favourite Maris Piper 2018

It’s well into April and we are only just starting our potatoes. First Into the allotment were some Maris Piper bought from Lidl. 20 seed potatoes were put into the allotment on 1st April, after chitting at home. We have another 12 waiting to go in. Maris Piper are a Main Crop popular English potato grown since the 60s, They are purple flowered and are one of the most well known and most popular varieties on sale today. More Maris Piper potatoes are grown than any other variety in the UK. This variety has a golden skin and creamy white flesh with a fluffy texture.  This makes it a versatile all rounder, great for chips and roast potatoes, but also good for mash and wedges. Update 22nd April and the last 12 Maris Piper have been planted at the allotment.

Today we bought Second Early Salad Potato  Jazzy. This is new to us and looks very good. 29 seed potatoes cost £3.99 from Highdown Nursery  in Sugarloaf Lane, Norton. The producers guarantee 35 potatoes per plant when grown in an 8 litre bag. However there are reports of up to 80 potatoes per plant. The small waxy tubers are said to be more versatile than Charlotte with good flavour. Good for boiling, mash, roasting or steaming, this new second early variety has been awarded an RHS AGM for its superb garden performance. Second early crops can be harvested approximately 13 weeks from planting when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back. The first single potato was planted into a black flower bucket on 18th April. Two more black buckets prepared today Friday 27th April.

Plant potato crops from March. Prior to planting, chit the seed potatoes by setting them out in a cool, bright position to allow them to sprout. When growing in the ground avoid planting in soil where potatoes have grown for two years in succession to reduce the risk of disease. Prepare the planting area in a sheltered position in full sun on moist well drained soil. Dig in plenty of well rotted manure. Place the seed potatoes 4″ deep.  When shoots reach 8″ earth up the soil around the shoots leaving just a few cm of green growth showing. Repeat this process after a further as required.

Where space is limited, try growing potatoes in potato bags on the patio.

  • Fill an 8 litre potato bag to just below the top of the bag with good quality compost mixed with some well rotted manure.
  • Carefully plunge a single chitted potato tuber into the compost with the shoots pointing upwards at a depth of 5″ from the soil surface.
  • Place the bags in a sunny position and water regularly to keep the compost moist.

 

Rob and I have been watching a chap on YouTube whose channel is called ‘Home Grown Veg’. He recommends growing potatoes in plastic shopping carriers inside black cut flower buckets. We are definitely having a go at this this year.

  • Making sure that the containers are clean and have sufficient drainage holes fill the carrier bag, which should be inside the bucket, one third full of multi purpose compost.
  • Put one seed potato in and fill the bucket up to one inch from the top.
  • Water well at this stage.
  • Leave in a draught free sheltered place outdoors for ten weeks.
  • After ten weeks, lift the carrier bag, roll down the sides, the soil should hold together by the roots, then harvest what potatoes you can find.
  • lower the bag back into the pot.
  • Repeat this at 13 weeks.
  • The third lift will probably be the last one.
  • Remember to keep the used compost, revitalising it with fish, blood and bone, and use the same bag and pot to grow some leeks in the same way.

 

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.

 

 

Broad Bean Grano Violetto

Broad bean Grano Violetto from Premier Seeds is an unusual winter hardy, early maturing Heritage variety with an excellent flavour. The freshly harvested beans are green drying to a deep violet colour. I am sowing one large pot full at home and the rest are going to the allotment. As its already March these seeds are late going in but I live in hope of a harvest of young beans at about the same time as the peas.

Broad beans probably originate from the area of the southeastern Mediterranean coast and started spreading over the entire Mediterranean area 5000 years ago. Earlier forms have relatively small seeds and are mainly found in Arabic cuisine.

 

 

 

Cucumber Long White T&M – Cucumis Sativus

I bought the seeds of this Cucumber, Long White, from T&M way back and have had several attempts to grow them without any success. They were £1.99 for 25 seeds and there were ten left in the foil packet so I have put them all into some damp compost, enclosed the pot in a polythene bag and sat it on my computer box for a little bottom heat.  This is my first sowing of the year. I have not been enthusiastic this year about seeds and sowing but I have nothing to lose with this as the seeds are here and its either sow them or throw them. I think it will be the same story with most of my seeds as I have only bought parsnip seeds for the allotment this year as these are well known for not staying viable over time. The allotment is now Robs domain any way as I will probably concentrate on the house, the garden and the chickens. Update 18th February – One seedling through at 8 days.

 

Over Wintering Spring Cabbage

It’s time to sow seeds of overwintering cabbages. They are my favourite cabbages and should be ready from early Spring onwards. Sow: mid July to August ¼” deep in a seed bed or in trays of seed compost. Keep moist. Transplant to their final positions when plants can be easily handled in about 5-6 weeks. Allow 18” between plants. Plant firmly and water well until established. Harvest: April-May for good firm hearts. The four varieties that I am sowing today, 22nd July,  are, Spring Hero, Durham Early, Offenham 2 Flower of Spring and Cabbage First Early Market. The  last one is new to me this year but the others are tried and tested favourites. Today, 29th July, all the seedlings are through except for the Durham Early, which haven’t shown at all. Seven days is quite good though so I will give the no showers another week.

These seedlings have come on well but are still sitting in their 7″ pots in my plastic greenhouse as I haven’t put them into their final place on the allotment. I hope that they will survive the winter. I may pot them up into larger pots. I gave a tray to a friend who has an allotment and who hadn’t sown any seeds in time himself.

Swiss Chard

We went to the allotment today and did a bit more tidying up. I was pleased to see three good roots of Swiss Chard just waiting to be picked for dinner. We also brought home a couple of leeks just to check on the quality really as they had been growing over the winter. They were brilliant and are now cut up and in the freezer and we are planning to harvest the rest of the crop and clear the bed for new planting. I came home a bit more optimistic about keeping the allotment plot. I had a load of wood chip dropped and Rob has tidied a few beds and covered them with manure and woodchip giving the whole place a visual lift. We have also  cleared the site of bits of plastic and empty bags that had been blown about after storm Doris. Back at home we put a bag of manure on the side garden plus two bags of wood chip. It is almost built up to the right level now another five bags should do it. Laura came home with a wooden raised bed knocked together by a friend of Bryans at his allotment site. We have painted it with green preservative and put it ready to be filled with soil and planted up.

Germinating Parsnip Seed – Pastinaca sativa


I found this method of germinating parsnip seed online on the Gardeners World site and decided to have a go. Not with all my seed but just twenty as a test. I bought the seed from Seekay in a bag of 250 seeds. They are a variety called Guernsey. Complete disaster. No sign of seeds or seedlings.

Mixing the parsnip seed in the bag of seed compost

Part-fill a plastic bag with moist seed compost and empty your seed packet onto the surface. There is no point in successional sowing as you don’t need to harvest them all in one go. What’s more, parsnip seed stays viable for only one year, so saving seed could lead to wasting it. Mix the seed and compost together so the seed is evenly distributed in the bag. Tie the top of the bag together and place in a dark, warm spot such as your airing cupboard. Leave for around four days. After around four days, remove the bag from the airing cupboard and check on your seeds. They should have germinated, and small seedlings will be poking out of the compost.Make a shallow trench in well-prepared soil with stones removed. Remove the seedlings from the bag and place them 10cm apart in the trench. Cover with a thin layer of soil and water with a watering can with a fine rose attached. The seedlings should continue to grow in their new growing positions.

Parsnips are ancient vegetables that have been cultivated in Europe for over 500 years with the French recording named varieties as far back as 1393.  Guernsey dates back to pre 1826 and, even though the name suggests otherwise originated in France. It has been cultivated in Guernsey for generations where it is considered by farmers to be the most nutritious root known, superior even to the carrot and the potato. 
The roots of this heritage variety are shorter than many of today’s long hybrids, they are often called Guernsey Half Long because of this. The stumpy roots have broad shoulders and attractive smooth white skin and even without the vigour of an F1 hybrid the flavour doubly compensates. They are easy to grow once germinated they need little maintenance and can be left in the soil until ready to use. Plant in early spring, and harvest from autumn to the following spring. The parsnip tops are large and need a good 30cm room in each direction. The more room you give them the larger they will grow. Guernsey is a firm favourite with many. it is considered to be one of the very best roasting varieties, this reliable, sweet root vegetable is making a come back, with crop numbers  increasing all over the country. Info Seedaholic.com.

Well that’s twenty of my new Parsnip seeds completely wasted as there is no sign of anything in the bag. I am so glad I didn’t put them all in. Attempt two was the damp kitchen towel in a plastic box method. Two weeks on and no sign of chitting. Looks like no parsnips this year. Either my methods are rubbish or the seeds are. Either way it is getting too late to sow now.

Sweetcorn Wagtail and Incredible

I bought seeds of Sweetcorn Wagtail from Seekay at 32 seeds for 99p. Today I have put 24 in a modular propagation tray. They should germinate in 7 days. I had pre-soaked them. All of these seeds germinated, grew to about two inches high, then keeled over and died. I have no idea what happened but today, 5th May, I have sown 25 seeds of Sweetcorn Incredible. A main season variety that produces medium sized sugar enhanced cobs. 12th May and the corn is looking good. I am confident of having 25 good plants to go out in June.

Sweetcorn Wagtail F1 performs well producing cobs of sweetcorn that are super sweet. This is a late season variety that produces a high yield of cobs per plant.  When growing Sweetcorn it is considered best to not grow more than one variety to avoid any cross pollination which can harm yields and the quality of the crop. On larger sites it is possible to grow more than one variety.  Sweetcorn should be grown in blocks to help pollination.