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  • : The blog of Frank Beswick. It deals with my interests in religious, philosophical spiritual matters and horticulture/self-reliance
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June 29 2017 5 29 /06 /June /2017 18:08

Having the right balance of plant nutrients is essential to the production of vegetables and flowers.There are several main nutrients. Carbon is provided through CO2 and water goes with it as the two interact with sunlight to drive photosynthesis. But there are three big ones: nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, known as NPK. When you see the NPK rating on the side of a fertilizer packetyou know the relative amounts of these three essentials. Nitrogen is vital for green growth and deficiency results in reddish leaves. Potassium is good for fruit and phosphorus for roots and general plant health. An excess of nitrogen produces abundance of green growth, but deficiency of fruit, as the excessive foliage places demands on the plant's resources. For this reason you should not allow excessively lush  growth on tomato plants, as this may be at the expense of the fruit.

But there are other less important nutrients.Magnesium and manganese are important for leaf growth, and their deficiency produces yellowing between leaf veins and in the case of manganese patches of dead tissue. This sort of deficiency is common on sandy soil, which can also be a cause of calcium deficiency, which often is recognized by black or brown spots.Bitter pit is seen on fruits, and some plants, notably Bramleys, are susceptible. Iron deficiency is found most commonly on limestone soils. Its symptoms are bleaching or yellowing. 

Some minor nutrients are born, copper and molybdenum. Molybdenum is rarely deficient in British soils, but it is seen mainly in cauliflower and broccoli, where the leaf blade can either die or shrivel to a thin whiptail. The remedy is to lime the soil. Boron deficiency is similar to calcium deficiency, but is commonest on soils derived from granite parent rocks. Copper deficiency occurs on a range of soils and is hard to identify . 

Prevention is better than cure. Applying a rich variety of soil enhancers will help. Seaweed, be it raw, seaweed meal or liquid, is a rich source of nutrients. Rock dust helps, especially if it is derived from a variety of rock types to ensure that there is as wide a nutrient range as possible. Compost and manure always help. 

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May 5 2017 6 05 /05 /May /2017 00:59

May is a glorious month. The weather has been warm and the ground dry. I have had to bring my son along. He is thirty six and,let's face it,  faster than I am. I let him get on with the watering while I dealt with the planting. It took ages today, as England has been going through a warm, dry patch. I am glad of a younger man, and am hopeful that his wife,who has expressed an interest in taking part in the allotment, will come along, for many hans make light work. 

The late frost in April has killed the aubergine [egg plant] and the potatoes suffered because of frost, but they are recovering. I am waiting a few days before I plant tomatoes because of frost,  but several of the vegetables are growing nicely.

More later!

   

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February 28 2017 3 28 /02 /February /2017 15:03

Friends,  I will commence with the state of the Federation. As you know the atmosphere within it is pleasant and there is no acrimony, but the size of the Federation is still small. Not many sites feel any interest in joining, and I  have managed to recruit but one new member this year. So as we are all aware that Trafford allotments need a political voice, the first issue facing us is to think of  ways to develop the Federation.

Let me stress that it is not a substitute for the Forum, which is a council body, but we must be aware that the forum has a limited lifespan, for it is very much Janet Long’s baby, and she is not far from retirement, so it probably finishes as and when she retires. So we will need a federation to represent us.

It seems to me that we must be seen by council and public as a resource and not a nuisance. So we must present our sites as attractive, even beautiful when possible, and maybe we can be a source of advice to amateur gardeners in our community. We must never cause any problems to the council, and we must ensure that we make friends with local councillors to support us in our endeavours.

We must all be aware of the rationale for allotments, which was primarily food for the ordinary people. But we must also be cognisant of the health benefits, both physical and mental, that ensue from gardening. The social benefits are enormous, when allotments are run rightly. We must be constantly promoting these to society and to politicians.

I thank you for your attention and invite your comments.

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January 12 2017 5 12 /01 /January /2017 15:31

I must admit,  a combination of bad weather and a virus has curtailed my gardening activities in early January. Not that there is much to do. I needed to continue digging over my new [second]  plot and get some paths laid on the old plot. 

The virus had taken something out of me, but  a day or so ago I was recovered enough to go the allotment. The rational mind says that it is a coincidence, but we see personal meaning in natural events. I was greeted with a chorus of bird song. It was not, of course, for me,but it was saying welcome back. 

The digging on the new plot was the main task, but the first job was to check for wind damage, as Britain has had a few bad winds recently, not as bad as last year's storms, but there has been some damage done in places. Fortunately, I was not afflicted. But the digging was hard, and I have run into a problem. Hard pan! When land is dug only to a certain depth for years the soil stratum below that depth can become quite hard, and this is what has happened. I cannot get below a spade's depth, so it is too shallow. My solution was to get a mattock, which is a heavy duty tool that is a cross between a pick and a hoe. I am going to use it to break up the soil in the rows of vegetables that I am going to plant.

But I had to shift some paving stones that I inherited when I took over the plot. After a few stones my bad back was complaining. My wife and daughter would complain even more. They think that I am too old to be lugging heavy weights, and they are probably right, but I am not growing old gracefully!  I laid some weed control fabric on one of the paths. It is really good stuff and keeps weeds down very well.But then the steadily intensifying rain sent me home. I am not expecting to be able to do much more in the next day or two  as the weather in Britain is worsening. The snow has struck Northern Ireland and Scotland and  rare thunder snow is predicted for North Wales. We in North West England do not really get the worst weather, but at this time of the year weather is an impediment.

The next big job is pruning the apple trees, which is my son's self-appointed task. He has had specialist pruning training, so why not use him.    

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January 1 2017 1 01 /01 /January /2017 19:02

Well,we have been working hard to prepare the plot for the coming season. It has not been too hard and most of the initial digging is done, bar one section that was frozen by frost, but there is not much to do. But the digging has been to one spade depth  down, and so it is relatively shallow. The reason why? Pan. When a piece of earth is tilled for many years to a certain depth, the ground below that depth can become quite solid and resistant to the spade, and this is what has happened. WE call this pan, or  hard pan. 

So what is the answer. Andrew and I are buying a mattock, a heavy duty digging tool for breaking hardened soil. Andrew, my son,  has used one before when he was a tree nursery worker, and so he is looking forward to using one again.We will get the job done.

We have not got rid of the tarpaulin that covered much of the  ground yet. I brought Andrew round to help me move it, but the weather was icy and the whole sheet was caked in ice, making it heavy, so we rolled it up and left it until the ice melts. It is going to take the two of us to shift that tarpaulin. Yes I can  drag it on my own, but dragging it is a recipe for damage,so we play safe and carry it.  

When digging I sense that the ground is not dark enough.Why? Shortage of organic matter, and that's  not good. So what is the answer? We need compost and manure. I am going to apply a mixture of chicken manure pellets,which are great soil enhancers, and a layer of compost later in the season. But after the manure and before the compost I am going to have to deal with some invasive weeds. Creeping buttercup is a weed of acid soils, and it is popping up on one part of the new plot. I will add some wood ash, which is alkaline, to make the soil conditions difficult for the weed, and then will cover over the weeded infected area with a ground control fabric for a month or two until I apply the compost. This fabric lets through water,but not light and is deadly for weeds. I use if to make my paths on my main plot, and it has solved some weed problems very well.

I am going to break up the old compost bins, which are a decaying wooden frame with some wood that is best fitted for the council waste tip. So in the next day or two I am taking my heavy felling ax, which I have used to fell some dying fruit trees, and that will solve the problem of the unwanted wood very well.

Anyway,folks,watch this space for more when I have more to tell you.  

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

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December 5 2016 2 05 /12 /December /2016 12:09

At the meeting on the 30th November the officers were re-elected, with Frank Beswick as chair and Noelle Ryder as treasurer. The secretary's post is still vacant. 

The main issue discussed was the development of housing in Trafford as part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Plan. The Federation seeks to know how allotments will be affected by the development, and Frank Beswick was mandated to  approach the council on this matter. So far the council have not responded.

The meeting also discussed the suggestion raised by a council officer that the Federation might become the council's first stop in negotiations with the allotments, and the Federation is happy with this, though this would mean that all allotments would have to be members.This might lead us  to make membership free to widen participation.

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November 26 2016 7 26 /11 /November /2016 15:32

Well, I have been thinking about it for a while, and now I have taken the plunge. To add to my 250 square yards I am adding a half plot of 125 square yards. It is the right half  of a long plot as you look from the path. 

So what are the problems and benefits. We have plenty of spare land since the council raised the rents, and this plot had been neglected. It had been taken by a young couple with a family, who had not the time to deal with it. Now I am fortunate, as my eldest son, in his thirties, is now free to help, and on our first session we split the tasks.He cleared the surface of weeds, while I cut the bushes on the flower bed that were overhanging the area where we are to grow vegetable. Then I began the digging. The soil at places showed signs of not having been dug much, and there were deep rooted weeds, such as dandelion. I got  some out with the garden claw, a  tool that enables me to twist out deep roots. 

But the November soil is heavy with water, and in Greater Manchester we have had double our annual rainfall this year, so the digging was heavy. Today I did not bother to dig, as we have had frost,and it is not considered good to dig frosty ground; moreover, my back is not very good at the moment. I am coping, but the pains are not going away. 

What are my plans. As I have not only my own house, but two married sons, each of whom wants and needs vegetables, I am keeping the plot for staples. Growing a large area of potatoes will have the advantage of breaking up the ground and getting the soil into better condition. I am also going to grow onions and marrows. Leeks are a possibility. But the potatoes will be first and second earlies, as these are not susceptible to blight.

Further to  the rear, which is overshadowed by large trees, I am probably going to plant fruit bushes and  rhubarb, the latter of which has large leaves that can compete for light. The rhubarb will be turned into jam by my daughter-in-law. 

One of the big tasks is to get the soil into top condition, and this will be done with plenty of compost. There is an unused compost bin at the rear, whose wood is decaying, so I will need to clear that and then spread the compost. I think that I wil use plenty of pelleted chicken manure, which is great for the ground and easier to use than dubg, which contains much water and is  very heavy to shift. 

Lots of hard work, yes, but I love it. 

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July 8 2016 6 08 /07 /July /2016 18:36

Blight is recognized by brown withered blotches on potatoes and other members of the Solanaceae family, such as tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. If the plants are left in the ground the whole plant withers and falls, with the spores dropping into the soil where they find their way into the tubers, rotting them.

Prevention.

Firstly,it is useful to recognize the conditions in which blight occurs. It is prevalent later in the season about July and is more likely in cool, damp summers. This is because the oospores that transmit it are water borne, so they prefer rainy conditions. Generally farmers spray their crops with a copper based fungicide, though the traditional Bordeaux mixture is now banned in the EU because of its effect on soil life. Copper sulphate can be used.

Prevention also means eliminating scutch potatoes, which are potatoes left in the ground from the previous crop, overlooked probably, and which grow the subsequent year. These can be reservoirs of the fungal spores, so it is important that they are pulled up when they arise.

Growing blight resistant varieties is highly desirable. First and second early varieties are not usually prone to blight, though main crop are. But there are main crop varieties that are not susceptible to this fungus.Sarpo Mira is a highly resistant variety, but there are others, which can be purchased through reputable suppliers.

In greenhouse crops susceptible to blight avoid watering the leaves, so as to obviate the conditions in which blight grows on them. Water the soil. This is the safest way to water any plant.

Cure

When blight is noticed, you can spray to hold it back, but some growers pull up the potato haulms and dispose of them. They do not do so on the compost heap, as on a normal garden heap the temperature is too low to guarantee that the spores are killed, so they dispose of them in facility where there is a hot composting system. I take infected plants to the council's green waste facility.

It is also important to rotate your crops, as this gives the fungal spores in the soil time to die off. Growing potatoes in fresh soil is also useful. Next year to avoid blight I am growing in containers.

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April 20 2016 4 20 /04 /April /2016 19:29

We can tell now that Spring is really here, the equinox has passed and the clocks gone forward, but nature has her own clocks. There are the first stirrings of growth. The perennials in my flower bed are surging up, but so are the weeds. First of the weeds is ground elder, this edible perennial grows under the nearby road and comes into my allotment via the corner. I will never be rid of it, and just have to keep on pulling it up, knowing that it will return. The first of the mare's tail is showing, I have been steadily winning the war with this weed, and now I certainly have less than before, just by continuing to pull it up.

But enough of the weeds, what else is growing.The first signs of the first early potatoes that I sowed are now peeping up, and the peas are thankfully appearing in one of the raised beds. That is pleasing, as I have been trying to deter rodents from eating them. The trick that I use is to plant the peas in a watered trench five centimetres deep and then squeeze a cloud of pepper dust on it to make the peas unpalatable to mice. Then after the trench has been filled, squeeze even more dust on top, just to add an extra deterrent.

Onions and rhubarb are also growing vigorously, as is the comfrey in one of the raised beds, which I am growing as a fertilizer crop [you don't eat it.] The apples are in bud and the plum is showing blossom.So all is looking well. But carrots and parsnip seeds are still not showing signs of growth, nor are the chive seeds, but I am unconcerned, they take time.

But there are other jobs to do. If it is dry tomorrow I repaint the picnic table, whose varnish is wearing thin. Then there is the new greenhouse, well, a second hand one. A friend is moving to another allotment site and giving me his greenhouse, a task that involves several men shifting the whole structure on poles to the new site. Of course, I will have to level the surface first and lay paving stones as the base. Then comes the joy of gluing it down with a strong chemical adhesive, and after that we will need to bolt it down for extra support. Tightening the fittings will also be needed after the transport. But a free greenhouse is worth the effort.

I have been planting seeds in the small growhouse in my back yard for transport as seedlings to the allotment. This is nursery work, and it is a really emotionally fulfilling task.

But there is still planting to be done, as not all beds are planted yet. It is a busy time of year, but I love it.

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March 17 2016 5 17 /03 /March /2016 19:34
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