Chitting this year’s Runner Beans

As I am finishing up last year’s seeds as opposed to buying fresh, I have decided to chit the runner bean seeds this year.  I have started runners both ways (by chitting and by putting the seeds straight into the ground and I must admit that both ways work equally as well.  But I am aware that the seeds are not ‘fresh’ so I am doing everything possible to give them a good start.  To `chit’ the bean’s, I simply lay them on wet kitchen towel and pop the lid on the container and leave them ontop of the cupboard.


Hopefully by the weekend these will have sprouted roots so that I can put them in pot’s of soil and grow them on. I will take pictures and show you.

On plot, we had our first pick of the Rhubarb on Saturday.  I made a lovely crumble to finish off our Sunday lunch and took some stems in for a colleague at work.

and took some photo’s of the horses that are in the field behind the allotment.  I love the way that the hedgerow parts in places, making picturesque windows into what lies beyond the boundary.

Easter Sowings

The weather on Good Friday was glorious for seed sowing, so I took advantage of the day off work to have a mass sowing session: for the minigreenhouse – 3 types of calendula including wilkinson’s trusty ‘Art shades’, 2 types of nasturtium, wilkinson’s sweet peas – ‘Royal mixed’ (never fails me), cornflowers and for the windowsill 3 types of pumpkin, 2 types of squash (seeds left over from last year but no `Buffy balls’ as I fancied a break from them) a yellow courgette, `Hispi’ cabbage and black magic sunflowers. I had already sowed my sweetcorn and yellow tumbling toms on the windowsill mid march – these are coming along nicely now, especially the sweetcorn.

It all starts with clean pots

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Chilli's ready for potting on

The chilli’s are ready to be potted on now, as space is always in short supply, I usually put two or three plants in a medium size pot and let them grow on until they are ready to be planted out. I had a look around the garden the other day and saw these beauties:


Last years sowing of wallflowers is starting to bush up, even though when I planted them here last year they were very spindly looking where they had been neglected. I did not expect them to amount to much but I think that I might be lucky enough to get them to flower with a little encouragement

Wallflower plants from seed last year

My Mum passed away on the 7th March. She absolutely loved this time of year for all the bright yellow daffodils and Forsythia, so I decided to plant a Forsythia bush instead of the traditional remembrance rose, and I will look forward to seeing it’s beautiful colour each and every year.

Mum's Forsythia

On plot, potatoes are in already, and `Rondo’ Peas went in this afternoon. I always moan about not having enough pea’s so I have planted 5 rows this year (2 packets worth). We went up to the plot one evening last week and I took some lovely photos of the silhouettes of the huge trees that border the allotment grounds. There was a Song Thrush perched high in one of the biggest trees and his song was so loud, beautiful and varied that I found my self wandering towards him to record it on my phone. The allotment is such a lovely place to go and be close to nature, the birds, bees and butterflies all go toward making time spent there so special.

Trees on the allotment

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Jazzy Potatoes and windowsill update

second earlies - potatoes

My potatoes arrived last weekend and are now on top of the kitchen cabinet, hopefully chitting well so that they can be planted out mid march if the weather is OK. The seeds on the windowsill are doing great, the chilli’s are up and it seems the first few months of the year have flow by. I can’t believe that in just 3 weeks time I will be sowing the tomato seeds on the windowsill as well.

windowsill feb 16

I have made a note on the calendar for next weekend to give the mini greenhouse a bit of a clean up and to wash my seed trays ready for the early March sowings outside under cover. I wanted to share some pictures of my Hellebores which self seed freely in the shady back section of the garden. I am sure that there are better examples out there but I look forward to seeing these plants every year as they never fail to impress me with their simple colouring and charm.



Flower Seeds are up!

On the warm windowsill with plenty of natural light to encourage growth, the first of the flowers seeds took less than a week to germinate.  The Helichrysum were the first to come through.  There were 450 seeds in the packet (so we’re told) and it seems as though every single one of them are determined to come through.  The soil has lifted in the tray with the force of so many little seedlings still trying to push their way through the soils surface.  The Rudbekia and Gypsophilia have only just poked through one tiny seed head each.  Of course no sign of the chilli’s yet, they usually take 15/16 days to come through.


Flower and Chilli Sowings

It felt good to rip open some seed packets today. With the help of my 9 year daughter, I sowed this year the first of this years flowers and 2 types of chilli. As usual, I spent the first couple of weeks of January looking through seed catalogues and placed my yearly seed order last weekend. I ordered my potatoes from Thompson and Morgan but they will not arrive until end feb.

I had a few seed’s left from last year, there is still half a packet of Wisley Runner Bean so I decided to use these up rather than just automatically order new. My chosen varieties for 2016 Flower and vegetable seeds are as follows:

Flower Seeds
Calendula – Pot Marigold
Cornflower – Blue Ball
Cosmos – Sonata mixed
Helichrysum – Mixed
Marigold (French) – Naughty Marietta
Wallflower – Siberian mixed
Sunflower – Black Magic
Rudbeckia – Cherry Brandy
Gypsophilia – Gypsy

Veg Seeds
Cabbage – Hispi
Chilli Pepper – Loco
Kale – Pentland Brig
Sweetcorn – Lark
Chilli Pepper – Apache
Courgett – Easy pick Gold
Pumpkin – New England Pie
Tomato – Tumbling Tom Yellow
Pea – Rondo

2016 seeds</a>

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Today’s windowsill sowings are:
Helichrysum, Gypsophilia, Rudbeckia and chilli’s – Loco and Apache. My daughter did a very good job of writing out the labels for me and separating the chilli seeds on the surface of the soil so that the seedlings come up with a bit of room between them. We were both shocked at the size of the tiny Gypsophilia seeds which literally looked like a small pinch of dust in the bottom corner of the seed packet. At first I thought T&M had made a mistake and forgot to fill the packet. Good job no-one sneezed whilst we sowed them! The other two flowers I have grown from seed before with good success. I thought I would give gysophilia a try this year as my mum loved this delicate flower and often used it in her flower arrangements. I couldn’t find the white one that I am familiar with, `Gyspy’ is actually a pink dwarf variety so I can;t wait to see how it turns out.

I kept to just types of chilli this year as I often end up growing to many and then of course it is more potted plants to take care of. I have learnt the hard way that if I have too much growing in pots I struggle to give everything the attention it deserves. I think it will be best to have just 4-6 plants and do a really good job of feeding and watering them.

Windowsill Sowings Feb 16

2015 Growing highlights

Looking through my photo’s this afternoon, I started to remember all the wonderful things that we grew on plot last year. My growing year got off to a slow start and I was late sowing both my chillies and tomatoes on the windowsill. The tomatoes (tumbling tom – yellow) didn’t seem to mind, but the chillies did not get enough growth to make a success of their time on the patio. I got a small crop – just enough to pickle and fill one jar. I have decided to write my key sowing dates on my family calendar this year so that I do not forget or put things off.

I was really pleased with a new second early potato called Jazz. 20 tubers provided enough for us, they had a good flavour and I would like to grow them again this year – although I note that they are now called Jazzy for some reason.

I grew just 2 rows of low grow peas – I got the seeds from my mother in law. We did get a couple of small plastic tubs full but I never seem to grow enough peas. I’ll have another go this year.

I did not make my usual yearly sowings of sweet Williams or wallflowers. I did grow some gorgeous sunflowers on plot and a nice row of sweet peas. Like my other windowsill sowings my Rudbeckia were late and did not get the attention they needed (potting up etc) to reach full glory last year. They did start to flower but did not seem to get the chance to open out fully before it was all over.

The best things for me last year were the amazing crop of blackberries – the largest we have had from these plants to date and a runner bean variety called `Wisley Magic’ from T&M. The seed catalogue promised an old fashioned runner bean flavour. When I was little mum used to top and tail the runner beans and I remember a really strong runner bean smell. I can’t remember smelling that again when I picked my own beans this year but they definitely tasted good on the plate. I will grow them again this year and then try something different next year.

A bumper year for the Buffy ball squash. I still have some left in the shed now. Pumpkins also did well, we got some knobbly on side ones this year which I think was due to the lumpy soil? I tried a new squash – `Potimarron’ I only got one squash but it had a lovely taste. Can’t beat my previously tried and tested `sunshine squash’ which i had to order off the internet last year as i could not find it in the garden centre.

I made a very runny red gooseberry jam and also had a go at chutney in september to try to use up the last of the tomatoes – which are grown at home in containers every year.

I have not made my plan for this year’s growing yet, but I am determined to get the most out of my hobby this year. I spent parts of last year feeling miserable as my mum is not very well. She has dementia and was admitted into a care home end of December last year. I know that my Mum was happiest in her garden, she loved growing things but sadly has lost this part of her life now. Everytime I get pleasure from growing anything, whether it be a veg plant or some flowers from seed, I get comfort from feeling close to what my mum loved. This was a love we shared and when she is no longer here with me, I will remember her in every beautiful flower I see.

sweet peas



Jazz potatoes

potato crop


The plot

Container garden


Pumpkin and Squash patch

Potimarron squash

Buffy Ball


Sunshine squash

Wisley Magic

Runner Beans


Strawberry bed


Tumbling Tom - Yellow




Blackberry flowers

Runny Red Gooseberry Jam - delicous

2014 Growing Year – highlights

Looking back at this years growing, I can see that we have had a very successful year. The time that I have spent down on plot has been limited to say the least but with Hubby’s help we have still managed to produce plenty of fruit and vegetables and have made the most of our freetime with the kids on pleasant sunny evenings and some weekends.

First Year for the new strawberry bed went well. We had more fruits than anticipated, although, obviously the size of the fruit was nowhere near what it will be next year.

I decided to only have a small wigwam of peas and mangetout, but regretted the peas, as there really was not enough to say we had a good crop of them. Next year I will go back to previous method of a whole row, wrapped in chicken wire protection, and definitely do what I considered doing for this year, which was grow the mangetout in a container at home.

The Whitecurrant bush fruited well, even though I moved it over from plot 2 last autumn. I was expecting better things from my Blackcurrant bush ebony, as this is it’s second year, but fingers crossed that next year it will be more productive, otherwse I will buy another bush to go alongside it.

Runner Beans were nothing special this year, probably did not receive enough attention, but the pumpkins and squash had a fantastic year – The pumpkins grew much bigger than last year and the Buffy Ball and Sunshine squash also did well. The Buffy’s did more than well – I have supplied the whold office at work and still have plenty left over in the shed – they crop prolifically. Shall definitely grow those again next year and would recommend them to all squash lovers. I managed to grow a small Turks Turban (I never have done well with this variety).

An amazing year for the chilli’s from seed. It must have been all the hot weather but the Hungarian Hotwax and Jalapeno’s were the best I have ever grown. A very colourful display from the Numex Twilight, and I was given a pretty purple chilli by a friend which was just gorgeous – shiny round chilli’s, I have not seen this one in the seed catalogues but I shall definitely keep my eye out for it in future. I even managed to grow some small orange habanero chilli’s in the mini greenhouse. They were small but packed a punch! I was using only half a chilli at a time.

Flowers from Seed

I loved the marbled leaves on the nasturtiums this year. I plan to try a different variety for tubs at home each year. I already have my eye on some pink ones. Not a great performance from the wallflowers I sowed last year and planted out in the garden. The Sweet Williams performed as expected, always a reliable show from them.

Really pleased with the Rudebekia, I had them falling through a gateway which we do not use, it’s visible from the drive. Everytime I pulled the car in arriving home, I was greeted with the most cheerful display of colour – it’s amazing how much joy flowers can bring.

On Plot I grew my Sweet Peas and tried a new sunflower – teddy bear. Missed out on the Marigolds this year, as the one’s I grew from seed never did well – too late planting them out I think. Still, there’s always next year…

Nasturtiums with marbled leaves

Purple Chilli plant gift

Rudbekia from seed

Garlic Crop

Plot in July





Pumpkins 2014

Hungarian Hotwax

Numex Twilight

Buffy Ball Squash

Early March – Chilli Update, jobs on plot, seed sowings and auricula’s

Chilli Update

The Chilli sowings have done well on the windowsill. The children and I check them regularly to see which variety is ‘winning’ the growing race. Hungarian Hotwax and Numex Twilight are neck to neck at the moment, both with good sets of true leaves. The variety which has shown the slowest progress is the Orange Habanero, but I am sure that they will catch up.

Chilli seedlings sown in February

What’s happening on plot

The start of the nice weather has made weekend trips to the plot a bit more enjoyable for everyone.   Last weekend we took the children up the allotment for a bit of a dig. We peeled back some of the black sheet which has covered the plot all winter, exposing just enough for us to dig over the bottom section of the plot in preparation for planting out the potatoes. Although ‘Charlottes’ are second early’s I always plant them mid/end march if the weather is mild. They are the only variety that I am growing this year so I do not need to try to phase them in between the first earlies and main crop.

the plot early marchfamily time at the plot

Wallflowers on plotLadybird

Other jobs included cutting back the canes of the Autumn fruiting Raspberry’s and training this year’s blackberry canes along the wire and post supports at the top of the plot.  My Tayberry which was trampled by thieves over on plot 2 last year is making a come back, albeit a straggly one.  I do not expect anything worthwhile from this plant this year, but hopefully by next year it will start to make good progress. Some things are worth the wait.

I spread a bit of manure in between the rows of new strawberry plants, just to establish where is safe to tread as the plants look a bit lost in their new bed at the moment, they haven’t really got going yet.  The new growth on the Rhubarb plants looks very healthy, and I must say that these plants have not let me down yet, there’s always plenty of tasty Rhubarb to share with friends and this year co-workers as well!

March Rhubarb


I also planted out some more Garlic, bulbs which had been slow to shoot, so missed the autumn planting.  I have only planted a few Elephant garlic at the bottom of the plot, from cloves saved out of the previous crop.  A few is all I need to keep the supply going for future years.  It will be interesting to see how the Garden Center garlic varieties do this year.  I might discover a new favorite.

This year's garlic plants Elephant garlic plants

Mini Greenhouse Seed Sowing’s

Last weekend I sowed my first seeds for the Mini-Greenhouse:

Pea’s, Mangetout, Leeks, Hispi Cabbage, mixed Salad leaves and Cornflowers.

I have plenty more that I want to sow this weekend, my Sweetpea’s, Nasturtiums, French Marigolds, Cosmos, Calendula, poached egg plant and a new one for the garden this year – Bunny Tails Grass.  As today is beautifully sunny, I shall enjoy sowing these with the help of my youngest daughter later on.


In 2012 I sowed a couple of packet’s of mixed Auricula’s after being inspired by seeing a beautiful collection of them on a TV programme.  Last year they flowered for the first time and walking around the garden this morning I see that most of them have survived the winter and are flowering for their second year now.  I think that they are beautiful and although you can walk into any garden center and buy such plants very cheaply, these plants are special to me because I know all the effort that have gone into them.

AuriculaAuricula 2Auricula 3Auricula 4Auricula 5Auricula 6Auricula 7Auricula 8

February – Chilli sowings and Chitting my seed potatoes

The 1st of February was a dry and bright day, and the window sills were full of natural light, so I couldn’t wait to look through my Chilli seeds and decide what varieties to sow this year.  My decision made, I headed for the nearest garden centre to buy a small bag of seed compost and pick up a bag of Charlotte seed potatoes.  With that mission accomplished,  I enlisted the help of my 7-year-old as official ‘seed sprinkler’ and within half hour or so the job was done.

Chilli varieties this year are:

Orange Habanero

Hungarian Hotwax

Numex Twilight


I will also buy a couple of 99p pots of Apache seedlings from Homebase end feb/early march, which flower slightly earlier than the chilli plants that I start off myself from seed.

Chilli sowings 2014 Pots benefiting from Natural light


Flowers from seed

I added an extra pot for my first flower sowing of the year: ‘Marmalade’ Rudbeckia.  These were a handful of seeds left over from a packet sent to me in the post by a fellow blogger a couple of years ago.  Lets hope they come up.  I sowed ‘Cherry Brandy’ last year and they were marvellous.  I have my eye on ‘Cappuccino’ for next year though.

Chitting Potatoes

I have grown Second early ‘Charlotte’ Potato quite a few times now, and with the exception of a poor Crop last year, they have been consistently good performers.  As usual, I placed newspaper on top of one of the kitchen cabinets and spread my seed potato’s out so that they can develop some nice sprouts before they go into the ground Mid March (weather permitting).  These will go in the bottom half of the plot and should be out of the ground before the Pumpkins, Squash and Courgettes start getting bigger and take over the area.

Charlotte Seed Potato'sChitting my Potatoes

Good Luck with your early sowings!



December – Jobs on plot and plans for next year

The Fog!

Despite some thick fog which lasted a couple of days last week, I did manage to find time to spend a good couple of hours on plot to finish up jobs which have been outstanding since the autumn.

On my last visit we managed to dig up the old Strawberry bed and manure and cover the lower half of the plot ready for next year.  The Swiss Chard was still going strong at that time, so I left it alone to carry on until the first frosts.  Without Cloche protection the Chard had now finally succumbed to the weather, although I still managed to pick a quarter of a black full of young healthy centre stems that had been sheltered by the large outer leaves.

I cleared away the Chard and lightly forked the area over, the soil was wet but still workable.  I have been growing on some Garlic Cloves in the mini-Greenhouse for the last couple of months, all but one tray of which have shooted. The Elelphant Garlic has only just started to come through so I might keep them going at home and plant them out early spring.   The bulbs which I considered to be ready were took to the Allotment for planting out now.   These were positioned in the top half of the plot and covered with tunnel cloches to protect them for the winter.  I have never bothered to cover them before, but considering that most of last year’s direct planted Avignon wight bulbs failed, I think it can’t hurt to try out a new way of doing things.

tunnel cloche with one cover removed for photo


That done, I turned my attention to the Rhubarb bed which has completely died down now.  I removed any traces of brown withered leaves and covered the whole bed with a layer of manure with plenty of straw in it, to act as a barrier for the crowns which don’t mind the cold but hate being waterlogged.

Rhubarb Bed - Winter Protection

Next job was to manure/cover the top half of the plot, we use old carpet underlay to tuck up the beds for the coming winter.   When the sheets are lifted off in spring the soil is weed free and ready to be turned over.  We are lucky enough to get free manure from the farm next door, the only limit to how much take is your own physical strength.  The manure was wet and therefore heavy on this particular day but my motivation was high as I had a found some ‘good dark stuff’ in one of the hollowed out corners of the pile.  Motivation or no, I still only managed four wheelbarrows full, a bit disappointing, I had convinced myself I was up for carting at least 6!


On a trip down to plot today I winter pruned the two Gooseberry bushes which are quite large.  I used to have a third weeping bush but never seemed to see any fruit on it so I removed that this autumn and put the White Currant bush transferred from plot two in it’s place.  I never know how much to cut off and tend to to just cut away any stems that cross over or grow too low to the ground.  I try to keep the very centre of the bush open to allow air to circulate.

Pruned Gooseberry bush

Next job was to remove some stray Raspberry suckers that were crowding other fruit bushes.  I selected a handful of the best ones from the Red Summer fruiting variety and replanted them.  These should be cut down to the ground ready for next year but I might let them settle in first.

Re-planted Raspberry Suckers

Thinking ahead to next year I have discarded my previously drawn up plans in favor of my new KEEPING IT SIMPLE PLAN.  After an 8 year career break, I am finally in a position where I feel I can return back to work, which I am very excited about, but obviously I would like to keep my lovely Allotment in good order as well.   I know that lots of busy people keep their Allotments in tip top condition, but considering that I have the kids and dogs to think of as well I am going to focus on crops that I just can’t live without and which are good at fending for themselves during the week (summer watering aside of course).

The Keeping it simple plan

The plan looks pretty sparse (even with the huge wheel type symbols which are supposed to represent Pumpkin plants!) but I will still be growing lots of flowers from seed for both the garden at home and the allotment.  I have kept Peas and Mangetout off the plan for now but I will probably end up doing Peas on plot and Mangetout at home.  I also have a list of Gap fill plants that I will run on in pots ready to slot in where I can.  These include: Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Kale, Leeks, Summer Cabbage and a few herbs.  Some Red Alert tomato’s, Apache Chilli’s and Cue’s will still be grown at home in the container garden.  We will see how it all goes.

My plot ready for Winter


Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year.