Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

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Tomato Seeds – To grow or not to grow 2018

I have twelve different varieties in my tomato seed box. They are all old seeds. I have just read my post from last year and my message to myself was don’t grow any tomatoes next year. However, I have sown a selection of last years seeds to test germination. They are sitting on the computer box for a little bottom heat. The photographs are of previous success for inspiration. I have sown a few varieties including Gardeners Delight, Ildi, Black Opal, Black Cherry and Tigerella.

 

Tomato Gardeners Delight – Cordon/Indeterminate. The true tangy flavour of tomatoes. Bite sized fruit. A greenhouse or outdoor type. High in vitamins.

Tomato Ildi – Small, sweet, yellow, pear shaped cherry tomatoes with up to 80 fruits per truss. A cordon variety that naturally stops growing at 6′. 

Tomato Black Opal F1 Hybrid –  A very juicy cherry variety with deep purple black fruit. Sweet with a touch of acid. 

Tomato Black Cherry – An Heirloom cordon variety. still quite rare they are the only truly black cherry tomato.

Tomato Tigerella – A medium sized red fruit with green and yellow stripes.

  • For greenhouse culture sow seeds late winter to early spring 1.5mm (1/16in) deep. Germination usually takes 6-14 days at 24-27C (75-80F).
  • To grow outside, sow seeds in early spring and grow as above.
  • Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle and plant out into growbags or pots when large enough.
  • Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions before planting outside.
  • Provide support and tie in regularly. Remove side shoots as they appear and restrict the plant to one main stem.

 

How to sow seeds

  • Fill a 3″ pot with moist compost
  • Sow seeds thinly and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite
  • Enclose the pot in a polythene bag
  • Germination should be within two weeks and plant should be large enough to move into separate pots in about eight weeks

Potting On

  • When the roots start appearing through the drainage holes pot on into next size pot making sure to bury the stem as roots will grow out from the stem
  • Continue to pot on until in the final pot, growbag or directly in the ground

Growing tips

  • If  the aim is to create a single stemmed plant remove side shoots from between leaf joints.
  • When four sets of flowering trusses have formed pinch out the growing tip
  • Water plants daily and once flowers have started to appear feed with tomato fertiliser every week

 

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.

 

Herbs and Spices 3 – Cumin – Cuminum Cyminum

This morning the postman bought me a parcel of twelve packets of seeds, ordered from my favourite supplier of the moment, Seekay. Amongst them was a packet of Cumin seeds. Another new spice to me and one I intend to learn how to grow and cook with. This is number three of my posts about herbs and spices. I am sowing a few of these this month in moist compost and sealing in a polythene bag. Germination should take up to 14 days. These seeds went in on 24th February and today, 10th March, after 14 days, six very spindly seedling are through. I have moved them on to the window ledge but think they may need more light than nature is giving to us at the moment.

Sow the seeds in April – May where they are to flower or indoors from February. For Apr / May sowings sow the seed where they are to flower 10 mm deep. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Germination should occur within 10 -14 days. Thin out once the plants are large enough to handle. Harvest the seeds after flowering. Seekay

Number 3 – Cumin

Cumin is an aromatic spice native to eastern Mediteranean countries and Upper Egypt. This warm, flavoursome and slightly bitter spice derives from the seed of the Cumin plant and is traditionally added to curries, Mexican dishes and Moroccan lamb dishes. White cumin seeds are the most commonly available variety whilst black cumin seeds are slightly smaller and sweeter in flavour. The aromatic seeds are the part of the plant that is utilised. Cumin seeds are brown, oblong-shaped and are ground to make cumin powder. Seeds may be used both whole and ground. 

Every time spices are added to a dish they boost nutritional content without adding calories. Cumin is appreciated not only for its versatility but also because of its many health benefits. Thought to be the second most popular spice next to black pepper, cumin is harvested from an herbaceous member of the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, which includes parsley and fennel.

Cumin is highly valued in different cuisines. Mexicans, Indians and North Africans love using it to add color and flavor to their dishes. Cumin is also a primary component of curry powder. Cumin adds a nutty and peppery flavor. Cumin seeds strong flavor adds a warm perception on your taste buds, mainly due to the essential oils they contain. Dry frying cumin before grinding it brings out its flavour and softens its very spicy punch. Heat a frying pan, do not add oil, and add cumin seeds and toss until they expel a warm, rich aroma. Leave seeds to cool slightly, then grind and add to curry mixtures, soups and stews.

Cumin’s uses as a culinary spice have been well known ever since the ancient times but there are other uses for it too. Ancient Egyptians used cumin to mummify pharaohs, while in the Bible, it was mentioned that the spice was given to priests as tithes. Cumin even became a symbol of love and fidelity. Guests attending a wedding carried cumin in their pockets while wives sent their soldier husbands off to war with cumin bread.

The most popular use for cumin is as a seasoning or condiment adding a deep flavor to various recipes. This spice is a mainstay in curries and rice dishes. Cumin powder can be used in sauces and soups, rubbed on meats prior to grilling or roasting or for pickling. Cumin seeds are best gently toasted or roasted before adding to dishes. Grind the seeds when you’re ready to use them to keep its fragrance and flavor intact. Remember that ground cumin is spicy and peppery so don’t use excessively. If you have the seeds on hand make your own cumin powder by grinding them with a mortar and pestle.

Sowing the Seeds

Cumin doesn’t transplant well so start the seeds in 7″ deep pots. Using seed compost sow three seeds about 1/4″ deep in each pot. Place each container in a plastic bag to preserve moisture. Cumin seeds need heat to germinate. Check pots daily to aerate them and check soil moisture. Cumin can take 7-14 days to germinate.

After Germination 

The moment the seeds sprout they need light. Without enough light the seedlings can become leggy. After removing the pots from the plastic bags place them on a sunny window ledge and rotate them periodically so the seedlings grow upright and don’t have to reach for light. Alternatively suspend a daylight 40 watt bulb about 6″ above the pots. Keep the lamps on for 16 hours a day and move them up as the seedlings grow so they’re always 6 inches above the pots. Thin the seedlings to one strong seedling in each pot and continue growing the plants indoors. If you want to transplant them outside wait until after the frost when the plants are about 2″ tall and the temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant 1′ apart in a sunny area of the garden with well-drained, fertile soil. Although cumin is tolerant to drought it benefits from moderate water during dry, hot spells.

Aubergine – Mohican and Black Beauty

Today I have sown all of the Aubergine seeds left in my collection. Aubergine Mohican and Aubergine Black Beauty.  The Mohican is a dwarf white variety while the Black Beauty produces a standard sized dark purple fruit. This is another experiment in grow them or throw them using up old seeds. Aubergine have a five month growing season and require full sun and as much heat as possible as they originate in hot countries. I have grown these vegetables successfully before but they are difficult and when I harvested them I didn’t know what to do with them.

After sowing on the 17th February, there are five healthy looking seedlings through today 25th, 8 days. Update 18th March 2018 – About twenty healthy looking seedlings through now. Its a month on and seedling are forming their second leaves.

 

 

How to Grow Aubergine From Seed – Gardeners World

  • Fill pots with seed compost and lightly firm the surface. Place up to seven seeds on the surface of the soil, spacing them evenly.
  • Cover the seeds with a fine layer of vermiculite. Place pots in a heated propagator set at a temperature of around 21°C. Water sparingly but keep the compost moist.
  • Seeds should germinate within two to three weeks. Keep plants warm and avoid letting the compost dry out.
  • Once the seed leaves have fully expanded prick out individual seedlings into 7cm diameter pots. Handle the seeds by the leaf to avoid crushing the stem. Feed with a general liquid feed such as seaweed once a week.
  • When the roots emerge from the bottom of the pot transplant the aubergine into a slightly larger pot. Repeat the process until the plant is in a 30cm pot. Use multi-purpose compost.
  • Remove the main tip of the aubergine plant once it is 30cm tall to encourage branching. Tie stems to canes. Encourage flowering by feeding weekly with a high potash tomato fertiliser
  • Encourage fruit to set by tapping the flowers to release the pollen or spraying lightly with tepid water. If plants are growing indoors, open windows to encourage bumblebees to pollinate the flowers.
  • Pick the fruits when they are still shiny. Dull fruit suggest that seeds have started to develop and the fruit is past its best.

 

 

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. 

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.

 

Felicia Amelloides Marguerite – Blue Kingfisher Daisy

This year Laura has introduced a new little gem to our flower collection in the form of a South African,  groundcover Marguerite. As well as being a pretty blue flower, the foliage is attractive and seems sturdy. Apparently although Felicia has a somewhat fragile appearance, this durable, pest-resistant plant requires little maintenance. Once the plant is established and shows healthy new growth an occasional watering is sufficient. Water deeply to saturate the roots then let the soil dry before watering again. Deadhead regularly to prevent the plant from going to seed for as long as possible. Prune the plant lightly when it begins to look tired in midsummer. The fluffy seed heads appear as late as November and can be collected or left to self seed. The common name of this little beauty is the Blue Kingfisher Daisy. I like it.

 

Update 8th April 2018 – Today I have sown seeds collected last Autumn from this pretty Marguerite. I am hoping to produce a few plants to place around the pond this year.

 

Favourite Flower 2017 – Didiscus

The growing season is at an end and after long consideration I have chosen my favourite flower from the new seeds that I have never grown before. I have gone for Didiscus for its beautiful form and colour. It is still in flower now at the end of October. This plant is aptly named as it is indeed disc shaped and both flower and foliage are lacy. The seeds I bought are mixed colours but the only one to perform for me was the beautiful blue. This years flowers are still blooming and although I scattered a few seeds in the pot I think the chickens have already taken them. I have brought the pot indoors and sown a few more seeds. After a long chicken less interval I have introduced five chickens into the garden and so must now learn to think differently about seedlings. I had sown a pot of Cerinthe too and they should be showing through but as there is no sign of life I can assume that the chickens ate those tasty new seedlings too. I look forward to many years of enjoying this self seeding gem.

 

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. 

Japanese Anemone – Honorine Jobert

I have quite a large established group of white Japanese Anemone, which have developed from a couple of cuttings given to me by my Sister Cath about ten years ago. They are a bit crowded in now with a hibiscus tree and a climbing rose so I will try to propagate a few more in pots so that I can tidy up the group. The one I have is a single pure white flower with golden stamens and dark foliage. It looks like the variety called Honorine Jobert.  According to Carole Klein the variety has been around for about 150 years. It was a sport, spontaneous offspring, from the more widespread pale pink Anemone x hybrida, which was raised at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Chiswick in 1848. The white-flowered sport occurred 10 years later in France on a plant that had been imported from England. Soon afterwards, Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ made the trip back across the Channel.

I planned to collect seed heads but even though these plants have been in my garden for so long I had never registered the seeds so I googled to find that the lovely green seed heads evident now will turn to fluffy seed which disperse themselves around the garden. I asked myself why then isn’t my garden covered in these beauties. So, I am now on seed alert as I have read that the transformation happens quickly. Update: I have collected  the seeds today 14th November. I have dropped some here and there in the garden and saved some in a brown paper envelope.

Propagation by division should be done as they start into new growth in the spring. Most nurseries raise more plants by taking roots cutting. Lift the plant in late Autumn and remove some of the thin brown roots. These are cut into sections and laid onto compost before being lightly covered. These can take months to begin to grow. These thread-like roots not only allow the plant to spread, they make it hard to eradicate a plant once it’s established. So make sure you plant your Japanese anemones where you want them as, like oriental poppies, they are difficult to eradicate. Japanese anemones can also be divided as they start into new growth in the Spring. As well as rounded white flowers it also sets seed readily. Each seed head is a little sphere held at the end of a stem. As the heads ripen they expand and their outer surface becomes soft. Eventually they erupt and each seed is carried in its own woolly overcoat to pastures new.