Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Baby Sweetcorn – Zea Mays Baby Corn 2007


I have sowed a dozen or so baby sweetcorn seeds in cardboard tubes. The big corn is just pushing up now in the greenhouse at home.  After today Rob has a week off work so we should be able to get plenty done at the allotment. I am looking forward to having the window ledge clear again as at present it is completely full of seedlings.



Lavender’s Blue

“Give me a land of boughs in leaf, A land of trees that stand;
Where trees are fallen, there is grief; I love no leafless land.”
A. E. Houseman

Today was the first really hot day this year and everyone at the allotments were visibly melting. After watering all the seed beds Rob built a raised bed for the courgettes while I sowed a couple of rows of herbs. First in was cat nip, Nepeta, followed by Lavender Officianalis. We sowed another pot of Leeks, Musselborough, and a full row of Swede, Best Of All. Rob put in the last of the International Kidney potatoes. Grown on Jersey as Jersey Royals they are kidney shaped potatoes with pale yellow skin and flesh which is waxy when young. They are excellent boiled or as a salad potato. The famous flavour is said to be different when grown in England as they are fertilised with sea weed in Jersey. They can also be grown as an early main crop and when left to mature become more floury.

LavenderCat NiplavenderLavender is best planted between April and May as the soil is warming up. It thrives in any poor or moderately fertile, free-draining soil in full sun, On heavier soils lavender tends to be fairly short-lived, becoming woody at the base. To prolong the life of your lavender on heavier soil, add organic matter and gravel to improve the drainage and plant on a mound.


Lemon Balm – Mellisa Officianalis

Today I sowed the first seeds of my herb collection and chose to start with Lemon Balm, Melissa Officianalis, which I am growing in memory of my Dad, who grew it in his garden. It would have been his birthday on the 17th of this month. He died on Good Friday in 1991 so this time of year is particularly sad for me. It will make me smile to see the plant and rub the leaves as he did to get the scent of lemon.

Lemon Balm 2Lemon Balm 2

Lemon Balm is the common name for Melissa officinalis, an aromatic, sweet herb of the Mint Family grown in the herb garden for seasoning, used in liqueurs and historically as a medicine. It grows to 2 feet tall and has small 2-lipped flowers in late summer and leaves with a lemon smell and flavour.


Brussel Sprout Noisette

brussel sprout noisetteAnother fine warm day and no sign of rain so we went down to the plot to water the seed beds. While we were there we sowed thirty Brussel Sprout Noisette. This old French variety produces small tight red sprouts with a nutty flavour. The warm weather was causing everything to burst into life and it was encouraging for us to see so many green shoots and seedlings.


Climbing Beans Blauhilde and The Prince 2007

Today was the turn of the dwarf beans and a couple of unusual climbers. I sowed Dwarf French Bean Tendercrop, purple climbing bean Blauhilde and the french bush bean The Prince. Also a few black Delinel and yellow Beurre de Roi.

the prince

A Call For Freedom?

We had a scary hour or so last night when I went out to put the ducks to bed and Puddles was missing. After thoroughly searching the garden and the house we extended the search to outside the perimeter of the garden fence. We had given up hope of ever finding him and Rob and Glenn were knocking on doors in the neighbouring streets. Adam and Glenn even drove down to the local canal and lake and came back empty handed. Adam had not long left in his car when suddenly he returned with a stranger in the passenger seat holding a very scared duck. Adam had spotted the chap carrying the duck and knocking on doors to find the owner. Just at that moment Rob and Glenn arrived home looking defeated and were overjoyed to see the wanderer returned safely home. Adam gave the puzzled stranger a lift home and we shall pay him a visit this morning with a present of a few eggs. Panic over.

duck duck2

This morning was warm and we went early to the plots. After watering all the seed beds I sowed a row of Nasturtiiums along the outside of the salad bed.

nasturtiumlobelia crystal palacecosmos

Next I sowed a bed of Lobelia Crystal Palace along the one edge of the flower bed. The seed was like fine dust and the instructions were to just place it on top of damp soil. It should be through in two weeks as should the Giant Cosmos I sowed at one end of the nursery bed after Rob had made it into a raised bed with some white blocks.

The sweet peas are now outside around a fine teepee Rob built from some Hawthorne poles. We built a protective wall around them with some orange plastic netting until they get established.

runner beansrunner bean white ladyrunner bean scarlet emporor

Back at home I have put the runner beans in 3″ pots to start them off before they go to the plot. About fifteen each of White Lady, Kelvedon Stringless and Scarlet Emporor.

Easter Sunday – Roseval Potatoes and Swiss Chard

“If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author and everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page” — Mark Houlahan

RosevalIt’s Easter Sunday and we had an early start and a fine day. The allotments were busy and Rob made a start by planting the next potatoes. They were Roseval, a second early, small red skinned salad variety. The tubers are long oval, very red and smooth. The flesh is yellow but can have an attractive pink blush. Cooking quality and flavour are said to be excellent. We are looking forward to striking foliage with ruby red stems. Roseval is popular in France but rare in the UK. I went over and pinched a couple to put in a big terracotta pot at the edge of the nursery bed.


rainbow chardspinach matador

I dug over one of the salad beds and sowed a row of Rainbow Chard, Bright Lights, a row of Swiss Chard, Lucullus and a row of Spinach Matador. I covered them with a plastic cloche for a bit of warmth to help germination. Rob laid a path alongside the nursery bed with some concrete blocks Frank had given us. Then after weeding the fruit beds he cut a pointed cabbage for tonights meal and we went home for a well earned rest.




Officially Ours – Plots 8 and 18

On Friday Rob paid the rent on the two plots so now we feel that they are officially ours. He also re-built the runner bean trellis, dug new beds and generally made the plots ready for the new season. He even organised the shed. He’s really getting into this allotment business.


Today I sowed broccoli Packman and Romanesco in the nursery bed alongside the cauliflower seeds. The seedlings in the carrot bin are coming along nicely as are the leeks and peas. We can’t wait for the weather to warm up.

charlotteRob planted the Charlotte potatoes on plot 18. Charlotte potatoes are a second early and are oval with light yellow skin and yellow flesh, the skin texture is smooth with shallow eyes. I prefer to cook Charlotte in their skins. They boil quickly and steam well. They produce a few purple flowers with white tips. This variety is excellent for boiling, steaming and salad use.

Cut our first spring cabbage today and cooked it for dinner.