Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Tag Archive: Tips

Gooseberry Jam

Last night we went to the plots and while Rob laid a wood chip path in the fruit tunnel I picked the rest of the fruit. The gooseberries are past their best now really. We have already picked and frozen a lot of the red so I decided to pick some green ones and make some jam.


Put the gooseberries and a little water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently until the skins are soft . They will not soften after the sugar has been added. I always sieve the cooked fruit in the case of berries and currants. This also means that you can leave stems on as they will be left behind in the sieve.  After sieving put the pulp/juice back into the pan and add the sugar. Use fruit and sugar in equal amounts. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved completely. If you boil the jam before the sugar crystals have dissolved you will get crystallisation during storage. Bring the jam to a rapid but steady rolling boil, stirring continually in a figure of eight movement to keep the jam from sticking. Do not leave unattended. It should take about fifteen minutes to reach setting point. Pour the jam into the heat proof jars using a jam funnel. I always stand the jars in the sink just in case of spillage or breakage. Enjoy.

Cabbage Frosty, Kilaxy and Greyhound

Eight seeds each in moist compost in modules covered with a plastic lid and placed on the computer box for a little warmth. As soon as they show their heads they will go outside to grow on in cooler conditions. Cabbage Kilaxy is an F1 Hybrid. These seeds were sent to me free by John Harrison with a copy of his book.

cabbage Kilaxy

Has shown a very high resistance to clubroot in trials and produced an excellent crop.It can be grown at closer spacing and has dense uniform heads of good colour with tender leaves and sweet flavour. The seeds that were in a brown envelope marked Frosty the Cabbage were given to me by Debs, our Sean’s girl, but the only brassica I can find information about is a Kale called Frosty, so I can only assume that that is what they are. Time will tell.

Kale Frosty

Winter vegetables don’t come any hardier than Frosty! It produces plenty of tasty greens even in the harshest of winters. The leaves are delicious steamed and served with a knob of butter and freshly ground pepper. 

Cabbage Greyhound is a tasty pointed cabbage, the seeds of which I bought in our first year at the allotment so they need using up. This early summer pointed cabbage can be successionally sown to give delicious green hearts for many weeks. A reliable performer with a great taste.

Tip – An important point to remember when growing cabbage is that transplanting is necessary. Planting out seedlings from pots or seed beds encourages a stronger root system to be established in their permanent bed.

Cauliflower Snowball

Six seeds of the Cauliflower Snowball went into a root trainer today and will be germinated in cool conditions. I had sown the seeds and was desperately short of an elastic band to secure the plastic root trainer. I had the great idea of looking outside for a couple of those red ones the postman is always dropping in the street. One of my neighbours was taking her daughter to school and I saw them looking over at me scouring the floor so I explained to them what I was up to. Imagine my surprise when a few minutes later the door bell rang and there was little Amelia with just what I needed saying, “I found it for you.” What a sweetheart!

Cauliflower is a cool-season crop it thrives in temperatures between 14°C-20°C. Time the planting of cauliflower so the crop does not mature in hot weather as hot weather will stunt heads. For an Autumn crop sow seed in early to mid-summer. Plant fast-maturing cauliflower varieties in spring or Autumn. Any variety that requires more than 80 days to mature should be planted for Autumn harvest. Purple varieties are both heat and cold tolerant.

cauliflower snowball

Snowball is a heritage variety from the l800’s with compact growth of medium size pure white heads, mild flavour, excellent keeper and suitable cooked, raw or frozen. Sow early Spring Harvest Autumn.

A good link

Tip – Apply a foliar feed during Summer. Cauliflower plants respond very well to this as more nutrients are absorbed than by feeding at the roots

Broccoli Romanesco


Today I sowed six seeds of the Broccoli Romanesco. I have tried them before but only managed to get one to mature. Matures in around 85 Days; late Autumn/early Winter. Romanesco has a taste and texture exceeding the finest broccoli and to really appreciate the flavour it should be boiled or stir fried and served with melted butter. Sow seeds in a well raked, firm seed bed in late spring,½” deep and keep moist. Sowing can also be made under glass at this time. Transplant the seedlings 18″ apart when they have made 2-3 true leaves. For best results grow in a rich, fertile soil and water regularly. Calabrese and Broccoli contain many healthy antioxidants. They are high in Vitamin A and C and are a good source of iron. information from Thompson & Morgan.

Leek – Musselburgh


This morning I have sown the last of my leek seeds in a tall 7″ pot. They are Musselburgh bought from and can be relied upon for a top sweet flavour, Winter hardiness and all round performance. They should germinate in about 21 days and will be left in the pot until they are about 8″ high. We shall plant them out in late April or 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.

Spring Pruning Roses


Pruning a bush Rose – I am a relative new comer to the ups and downs of growing roses. Although we already had a rambling rose, Wedding Day, a climber, Dublin Bay, and a Hybrid Tea, Margaret Merrill in the garden they had more or less been left to their own devices. This year however I have taken a more keen interest in roses and have recently bought another climber, Compassion, a hybrid tea, Helen Robinson, and a few floribunda so I need to read up a bit about care. The first lesson I learned involved Spring pruning. The first four new plants are already in and the last three should be in before the end of this weekend. I have already hard pruned the existing three and found out that one negative aspect is that roses can rip you to pieces if you don’t treat them with care. I hope that future skillful pruning will reduce the risks. The following is an excerpt from Gardeners World Magazine.

“Any old stems showing signs of dieback can be pruned away, and badly positioned and congested shoots can be cut out to shape the bush. Last year’s stems need shortening to prevent new growth developing higher up the bush which may result in flowers with leggy stems. You should prune just above a bud, but remember that the developing shoot will grow out in the direction that that bud points. In most cases you want this to be outwards, keeping the centre of the bush light and open. Prune to an inward pointing bud and the shoot will grow inwards, crossing other stems to create a congested bush.” 

A good link

Growing Nasturtium in The Salad Bed – Allotment 2008

Last year I grew Nasturtium along the edges of the salad bed. I sowed them directly into the ground and was overwhelmed by how vigorously they eventually grew. Unfortunately they stifled the smaller plants and moved over to cover the corn bed too. As the corn was high they survived and may even have benefitted from the moisture that was not lost because the Nasturtium shaded the ground between the corn plants. I saved loads of seed at the end of the season. This year I want to be a bit more in control and so have sown a tray indoors. I shall probably sow some seeds over in the hedge on plot 18 as it is all brambles and hawthorne at present not to mention a fair bit of rubble and bricks so I hope that they will mask it a little.


Sow directly March-May, flowers June-September. Nasturtiums flower abundantly in poor soil and transform hot, dry places into a blaze of colour. Flowers are edible, and ideal for use in salads.