Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Vegetables

Swiss Chard White Silver

Swiss Chard White Silver

I have sown seeds of white swiss chard today, May 1st, as I came across them whilst looking for herbs. Swiss Chard is a favourite of mine that we grew every year at the allotment. It is a very giving plant and needs very little maintenance once established. It is a member of the beet family. When we visited the allotment after being away for a whole year the chard was still there looking as healthy and inviting as ever. Day 7 and a few green shoots have appeared in the Chard pot. Potted on today 24th of May.

The variety of chard that I had seeds of is White Silver which has wide white stems. The early leaves can be used in salads. Later, use the tops as you would use spinach. Treated as a separate vegetable the stems can be sliced and cooked in boiling water and eaten with butter, salt and pepper – simple, tender and tasty.

I prefer to chop the whole stem and leaf and toss it in the pan with a little oil and lemon juice. Put the sliced stem in first and cook a little before adding the leaf as it takes a little longer to soften whereas the leaf wilts very quickly. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Perfect beside fish or steak.

Swiss Chard White Silver

White Silver is a classic Swiss Chard with thick white stems and glossy, rich green leaves. With an RHS Award of Garden Merit, this robust leaf beet is a versatile addition to the vegetable plot or even the flower border. Baby leaves can be used in salads while the juicy, mature stems can be chopped and steamed, or used to add a sweet crunch to stir-fries. Mature leaves can be used as a delicious spinach substitute. Sow Swiss Chard ‘White Silver’ up until August for cropping into the New Year. Thompson&Morgan.

Swiss Chard

Finally, Swiss Chard is very good for you being naturally low in calories and carbohydrates but very high in Vitamins K, A and C. A diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits has been shown to lower heart disease risk factors, Swiss chard is an excellent source of potassium, calcium and magnesium, minerals that help maintain healthy blood pressure. There is also current research that indicates that these leafy greens can actually lower LDL cholesterol.

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.

My Sungold from 2008

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.

Overwintering Cabbages 2018

Overwintering cabbages

Overwintering cabbages is a method whereby spring cabbages are late summer sown. by doing this they  produce small tender cabbages or spring greens in April and May. Confusingly, late spring sowing of Durham Elf can ensure earlier crops in autumn and winter so I may try those next Spring..

Overwintering cabbages

Overwintering cabbages

To over winter cabbages sow mid July to August ¼” deep in a seed bed or in trays of seed compost. Keep moist. Transplant to their final position when plants can be easily handled which should be in about 5-6 weeks.

Allow 18” between plants. Plant firmly and water well until established. Harvest in April and May for good firm hearts.

The four varieties that I am sowing today are Durham Early, Durham Elf, First Early Market and  Offenham 2 Flower of Spring.

Update – The seeds I sowed on 13th August have not all germinated. Today 4th September I have potted on 12 First Early Market.  Nothing else was big enough to transplant but I shall leave them a little longer.

I am hoping to get these in at the allotment in the middle of October and hope to harvest in April and May 2019. They will be protected by a tunnel as we have lots of hungry pigeons down there..

 

 

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. The jury is out as to whether this corn is edible. Beautiful? yes. Unusual? yes. A talking point? yes. But edible hmmmm.

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.

 

 

 

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.