Thursday 28 February 2019

Marshalls Seeds New for 2019

Marshalls is one of my favorite seed suppliers, I like the packaging format and the information provided on the pack, the other thing I really like is when they supply seeds for free in their press pack at the Garden Press Event which I attended yesterday. 

Attendees of the Garden Press Event normally come home with a free goody bags from a range of companies at the event, and it's quite exciting to see what's in the bags when you have struggled home under the burden of the load especially when there are things like packs of grass seed, fertiliser and weed killer that tends to be a bit weighty. It's a long walk from the venue to the underground and then home when you have a number of bags full of goodies.

In this years Marshalls Goody bag contained the following seeds packs, these varieties suit a range of situations from container growing on a small balcony to raising crops on a large allotment meaning home-growers of all abilities and with all space can reap the rewards :-

Beetroot - Sugar Salad Mix
Carrot - Silvano F1
Carrot - Charisma F1 (Main Crop Chante nay)
Chilli Pepper - Moruga Red
Chilli Pepper - Machu Pichu
Chilli Pepper - Lancer
French Beans - Dwarf Bush Borlotti Beans 
Green Manure - Tagetes Ground Control
Onion - Hylander F1
Okra - French Quarter
Pepper - Sweet Tangerine Dream
Pepper - Lemon Dream
Radish - Breakfast Mix
Rocket  - Athena
Spinach - Cymbal F1
Tomato - Arielle F1 (Outdoor Cherry)
Tomato - Dwarf Cherry Summerlast F1
Tomato - Lizzano F1
Tomato - Patio Plum

Dates on the backs of the packs vary from one pack with 2020 to 2022 so no mad rush for me to grow them all this year but here is my starter for 10 which no doubt will change as these things do as the season goes on. I will be commenting of the results of those that I do grow this year as and when they grow and are harvested.

Beetroot - The Sugar Salad Mix is a mix of the sweetest, softest-hearted varieties so you can eat straight from the garden with no cooking. Disease resistant varieties for successful harvests. So I will grow these as well as the normal varieties that I grow for pickling, Three 2.4x1.2m beds of Beetroots last year looks like taking on that extra half plot was the right idea.

CarrotsMarshalls has teamed up with the National Vegetable Society for a chance for home-growers to show off their carrot crops at five shows around the country. See the Marshalls Blog for more information.

Chilli Peppers - Umm making me feel like I need to get the grow stations going and sow these this weekend 

Chilli Red Moruga - Rare scorpion-type peppers giving off superlative heat produced in abundance on every plant. This scrambling variety provides excellent cover in the greenhouse as well as vibrant red fruit.

Chilli Lancer F1 - The perfect chilli variety for drying and making your own chilli powder. Upright peppers develop well on a sunny and ventilated window sill.

Chilli Machu Pichu
- Rare brown peppers with medium heat and a smoky flavour adorn plants that reach 90cm (3ft) in height. Perfect for growing in conservatories and greenhouses.

French Beans - With an additional half plot I may grow these this year if the beds ready in time and next year if they are not.  

Green Manure - Companion plant for salad crops like tomatoes to keep pests away- this marigold is great for organic growers. Roots release sulphur in the soil naturally to deter nearby fungi and soil pests. Defiantly worth a go on one of the new beds where I will be growing tomatoes on the allotment 

Onion - I will grow these from Boxing Day next year me thinks 

Okra - Not something I have grown before but looking at it you can sow from January so one for next year me thinks.

Peppers - Got to be worth trying now in the grow stations, especially as I will have an additional greenhouse on the new half plot. 

Radish - The Breakfast Mix Includes a first in purple French Breakfast radishes. Excellent for harvesting leaves or juicy roots. With a satisfying bite to every radish, and as I'm on a diet and eating more salad they have to be grown this year. 

Rocket - Will be grown this year as I'm on a diet and need Salad ! 

Spinach - I will donate these seeds to one of my allotment buddies who I know likes Spinach

Tomatoes - As anyone who follows my Blog will know I love Tomatoes and grow quite a few different varieties each year, and have a large seed bank of different varieties. I save tomato seeds to contribute to seed circles to keep heritage varieties alive. That does not mean that I'm not diverse to growing F1 varieties especially when they have been provided Free or have been purchased in a Garden Centre end of season Seed Sale. 

I'm growing 22 varieties in the back garden and mini and micro varieties in the greenhouses in the Back garden and in the Greenhouses on the allotment this year so the Marshalls Arielle F1, Summerlast F1 & Patio Plum will be included in my growing list for 2019.

Tomato Patio Plum - Is a rare crinkle-leaf bush-variety producing 20-30 mini-plum type tomatoes on every plant. Happy on a sunny patio and with no support required. Great for beginner growers.

Tomato Summerlast F1 - Is a Productive plant giving you summer and autumn harvests. Easy to grow: no need to pinch out little side-shoots, this miniature variety is happy on a sunny patio or window garden, and hopefully in my Space Saver Greenhouse.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

The Garden Press Event

I've been looking forward to attending this event all over the Winter months, my wish that more information about who is attending and going to be there being released a few weeks before the event came true this year as an email arrived a couple of weeks ago with a link to an online version of the brochure that you get handed to you at registration.  Half the fun of attending this event is discovering new exhibitors and new products.  

It's a great venue and in my humble opinion much better than the Barbican which has been used in the past. This year was different because it's warm dry sunny and 18C where as last year the Beast From The East meant that we were travelling in the cold with snow on the ground wearing moon boots and thick winter coats.

In my rush to get there I didn't pick up my mobile so no photos of the stalls this year. 

My favorite New Product had to be the New iTip Rotating Wheelbarrow Handles which I was lucky enough to be provided with a free set to try out on my wheelbarrow.

I did try the product at the event and loved the simplicity of design and the grip of the handle when using the wheelbarrow with them fitted .

Here they are in use. The handles fit into tubes up to 32mm diameter, and they completely remove the need for you to alter your grip and way of holding the traditional handles when getting around 45 degrees or the mid tipping point of balance from above to underneath which is a benefit to those with mobility and dexterity issues.  

It looks as if even a kid can fit them so when I get them down to the allotment I will have a bash and let you know how I get on with them.

This product won the Best International Invention of the year Award from the British Inventions Society and was well received on Channels 4's "Buy it Now" program, if you want to find out more about the product and perhaps purchase then visit the iTipHandlles Web Site 

Sunday 24 February 2019

Hawthorne Attack

When I got up to go to the allotment this morning it was cold I was breathing out smoke, I wiped down the dew off the windows except the front windscreen which as covered in ice. So I warmed the car up and put the heater on and waited for the warmth to do its work and then made my way to the allotment getting there just before 8am.

Frost covered the timber joists that I painted on my last visit, and so it was that I decided to attack the Hawthorne bush / tree and cut off as much as I could rather than paint over frost covered timber. My future son-in-law arrived with a van load of leafs from his garden and we filled up the leaf boxes to the top, we topped up two Daleks and filled another Dalek that contains only leaf's up to the very top.

We had a coffee then he departed and I attacked the Hawthorne 

The top of the tree is lying over the slabs and I gradually started working my way into it filling up a couple of square flower buckets with cuttings. Rotting timber was cut to the flower bucket height and was left in the sun to dry out. 

Cuttings and timber previously stored was used to fill the two incinerators and was set alight. I love the incinerators when they suck air in through the bottom and expel the heat and like this morning flames through the chimney burning nearly clean with very little smoke. 

Most of the problems we have with neighbours occurs when plot holders burn wet weeds and material that produces a load of smoke without letting it dry out first. I only have the rest of March to have fires, so that's only four weekends to cut up the trees and old rotten timber I inherited when I got the plot and burn it all 

Bed 13 the daffodil & Tulip bed is doing really well and it looks like I will have quite a few flowers to take home to the wife. 

Saturday 23 February 2019

Patio Remedial Works

Some of the decking has seen better days and needed replacing so a visit to Homebase to pick up some 500x500mm decking tiles. Original tiles lifted and the concrete under cleaned and the rotten ones replaced with the new ones. It's a shame they don't make the 45 degrees tiles anymore. 

Can you can guess which ones are the new ones?. So next job to make good decking tiles out of the ones I've replaced.    

Monday 18 February 2019

PowerBee Saturn Solar Powered Lights

Since obtaining PowerBee Saturn Solar Lights and putting them on the fence back in August 2016 I have reported each year on how they have performed. Three and a half years later they are still shining brightly at 6.00 am during the Winter months.

I have to admit I think they are worth the couple of quid extra than buying something of a lesser quality, in fact there are Solar lights all around the garden and only the PowerBee lights are the only ones still working. 

These are the hanging Solar lights that I bought from B&M and put up 2017 and they are no longer working at all and have not survived the riggers of time 

Basically they turned out to be ornate looking crap.

What I would have liked, but at the time PowerBee didn't have any in stock was the PowerBee Saturn Wall Light

I see that they are once again in stock and now the existing B&M wall lights are not functioning I think I will be investing in the PowerBee wall lights to match the ones on the fence this year. 

The old security light on my front porch gave out during the summer of 2017 and I replaced it with a PowerBee Solar Security Product  

Despite only getting minimal sunlight because of the orientation of the front elevation, the light has worked well during the Winter and it is extremely bright.

Two years later and its still working as good as they day it was installed. 

I can understand why their web sites states "Some of our first customers have Outdoor Security Lights still going strong, We have a very large loyal customer base, who once buy from us, tell us they will never buy solar from anyone else again!"

Sunday 17 February 2019

More Painting

More painting of timber Joist today and I'm nearly at the end of my second tin or Ronseal One Coat Fence Paint and yes it's still rubbish and needs more like three coats to cover than the one stated on the tin, but will have to do

 Bed 13 that is full of Daffodils and Tulips is on the move 

They are coming up 

The tulips on the table are on their way up, but the fox has dug up one of the planters on the floor

The timber that was stacked on the cast iron table in the background was moved to a rack behind the shed and some of the dirty stuff leaned against the wall so the rain can wash it off before I stack it horizontally. 

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Chitting Potatoes

The spuds I bought from Wilko have been in doors now for 5 days in the shopping bags they were brought home in and I really needed to sort them out and get them out of the dark as I don’t want to end up with very long white sickly looking growths, what I need to do is Chit them properly.

One of the first jobs of the veg gardening year is to start to force and chit some potatoes. Chitting means sprouting the tuber – putting it, most eyes upright, in a light, cool but frost-free place at about 50F (10C), somewhere like a porch by a window, a conservator or in a disused bedroom near the window is ideal.

Not having any place like that to leave them until they go in the ground which will be mid to late March, I tend to place my seed potatoes in my Space Saver Greenhouse, which will hold off frost attack sometimes with the aid of a terracotta candle heater. In really cold spells like the Beast from the east in 2017 the trays of spuds will come into the kitchen for the night and then back out to the greenhouse for daylight during the day.

I normally use egg cartons / trays from the local café but this year they didn’t have an excess of trays knocking about so I have used seed tray modules in mushroom trays to keep the tubers upright.

The bottom and sides of the trays are lined with bubblewrap to hold off the cold and frost over night when left in the greenhouse. A sheet of fleece or bubblewrap will be placed over the spuds at night to keep them warm and cozy.

There is great debate about the necessity of chitting, but research appears to suggest that, it does seem to ensure a quicker and slightly larger harvest. With early varieties it gets them off to a flying start, so the harvest can begin by the end of June. It makes potatoes grow faster and form larger tubers once planted out, so we can get in a Main crop in August or early September, before the worst of the blight takes hold.

Second early crops like Charlotte can be harvested approximately 13 weeks from planting when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back.

Early maincrop varieties like Desiree can be harvested approximately 15 weeks from planting when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back.

Maincrop varieties like Albert Bartlett Rooster can be harvested approximately 20 weeks from planting when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back.

All three sacks of spud were 2kg bags and in terms of numbers of spuds I’ve ended up with

30 x Charlotte (Second Early)
27 x Desiree (Early Main Crop)
33 x Albert Bartlett Rooster (Late Main Crop)

Because the size of the seed potatoes was generally good and egg size I've ended up with a few more spuds per sack this year and It's looks like I may have to make a couple more Planting Membrane Sheets with 27 planting positions.  

Harvesting Tips

·         Home-grown potatoes should be ready for lifting from June until September, depending on the varieties and the growing conditions. Earlies can be lifted and eaten as soon as they're ready.

·         This will be when above-ground growth is still green, and usually as soon as the flowers open.

·         Second and maincrop varieties can be kept in the ground much longer, until September, even though above-ground growth may well be looking past its best.

·         Two weeks before you lift the crop, cut the growth off at ground level. This should give the skins of the potatoes sufficient time to toughen up, making them far less prone to damage from lifting and easier to store.

Sunday 10 February 2019

Rain Stops Play Again....

One does what one can when the weather is against you, and yes it's another Sunday morning and yes it's raining again, but it's the second week in February and fool's Spring and it's time to start sowing a few things. 

So I've slammed 40 Royal Horticultural Society Palace F1 Parsnip seeds into a take-a-way Tupperware container on damp tissue paper to chit as soon as I see roots forming they will be sown into loo rolls and taken down to the allotment and planted in the Parsnip bed. This year I'm determined to end up with a good quantity of Parsnips. 

Friday 8 February 2019

Potatoes I'm Growing This Year

A Visit to Wilko sorted out everything but the first Early Spuds for 2019. The seed potatoes are nice sized and not to many large chits already and a lot cheaper than the Garden Centre or B&Q and it has to be said the best looking seed potatoes I've had for a couple of years. I also picked up 10 Gladioli for £1.75 for the back garden 

50 Silver Moon Onion Sets for a £1 from Pound Stretcher, so just need to source some Red Onion sets  

Friday 1 February 2019

Planning and Reviewing February in Previous Years

Reviewing the diary over the Six five years for February

2013 - Infrastructure works, drying weeds for burning, burning weeds, Rain start of the month, dry towards the end, delivery of woodchip to plot, built a coldframe  
2014Infrastructure works, transplanting bluebells and daffs in comfrey bed, bought and planted fruit trees, Constructed Greenhouse Sub Frame, Seeds from Lidl I could not resist at 29p a pack or 5 for a £1   

2015 -  Allotment Winter Tidy Up, Spent tomato compost & coir dressing added to beds, Sprouts, Cabbage, Chitting Potatoes, Timber base for the greenhouse created, Onions from Seeds   

2016 - Infrastructure works, kerb stones off freecycle, Base for the shed on Spencer Road. Erecting the Shed, Trimming shaggy weed membrane, gathering compost paper & Coffee Grounds.

2017 - Infrastructure works, Laying concrete slabs at Spencer Road in the Greenhouse area , Portable Grow Station created and Sprouts sown, Grow Station 2 created, Chitting potatoes in Grow Station 2,  

2018 - Infrastructure works, Laying concrete slabs on Plot 1A, Installing the bed edging that had been brought from Spencer Road Allotment, Warming Up Beads with solar tunnels and obtaining Timber Roof Joists from the building site next door.  

Planned for 2018

As last year January was very wet, so I'm playing catch up with a lot of items that were scheduled to happen last month. So if the weather permits I have plan to undertake more Infrastructure works, 

I will keep a look out for the Digital Thermometers from Lidl and purchase a few additional ones for the greenhouse and to replace a couple where the screen is not quite as good as it was

Below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what actually happened in November and what has slipped. 

Mill Green - Plot 1
  • As much infrastructure works as the weather will allow 
  • Water Butts - Fix taps 
  • Guttering to Shed - TBD
  • Extension to shed - rear - built minor modification required   
  • Cut Roof Joists to bed sizes - Nearly all done 
  • Paint Joist cut to bed sizes - Ongoing 
  • Lay the paving for the greenhouse - TBD 
  • Erect the greenhouse - Timbers Cut for base need to be treated  
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time
  • Remove Hawthorne bushes from the wall - Started but need to be cut down and burnt before March
  • Install Kerb Edging all around the plot - TBD
  • Stockpile Timber ready for burning  - Ongoing
  • Plant Spring Bulbs - Done 

Mill Green - Plot 1A
  • Weeding - Never ending job   
  • Clear the greenhouse - To Be Done 
  • Rhubarb Bed to be created - clearance of weeds in current location and move when ready
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time 
  • Clear area behind the Greenhouse - TBD
  • Clear Seating Area - TBD
  • Plant Raspberries - Awaiting Collection from fellow plot holders
  • Planning
  • Catalogue Seeds 


  • Purchase vent opener for new greenhouse.- Not Yet

Apple - prune trees - and train along wires.

Week 1
Week 1
Week 1
Week 1
Brussel Sprouts - 1st sowing Eversham Special, Bedford Darkmar 21 & Rubine, Breast Cromwell & Montgomery
Cauliflower (early summer) - sow seed indoors
Spring Onions - start to sow fortnightly - North Holland Blood Red       
Week 2
Week 2
Week 2
Week 3
Radish - Sparkler 3
Radish - Icicle
Lettuce (Winter) - sow fortnightly
Week 3
Week 3
Week 3
Week 3
Carrots - cover / warm up the carrot beds.
Brussel Sprouts - 2nd sowing Eversham Special, Bedford Darkmar 21 & Rubine
Spring Onions - start to sow fortnightly - North Holland Blood Red
Week 3
Week 3
Cabbage (summer) - sow seeds indoors
Week 4
Week 4
Week 4
Week 4

Lettice (Winter)- sow fortnightly
Radish - Cherry Belle
Tomatoes -
01 Beefsteak
02 Gardeners Delight
03 Crimson Crush F4
04 Kibitz
05 Money Maker
06 One Hundreds and Thousands
07 Outdoor Girl
08 Stupicke Poini Rane
09 Rapunzel
Late Feb