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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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March 9 2016 4 09 /03 /March /2016 11:01

This page is for the members of Chadwick Park Allotment to enlighten them about their legal position in relation to Trafford Allotment Federation and Urmston Allotment and Garden Society.

Trafford Allotment Federation is an umbrella body membership of which is voluntary for sites, so we can join or leave at will, either as an allotment or as individuals. This is not the case with UAGS, as I will show you below.

In 1915 UAGS was established as a fellowship of several allotments, but later it added sites, and in 1927 Chadwick Park was one of them. Chadwick Park has never had an existence legally independent of UAGS.

Currently UAGS' legal status is that it is an industrial and provident society. This means that it is a registered company,which has shareholders and pays corporation tax, recently I signed the tax return for the society, and I cite this in support of my case. All shareholders in UAGS are shareholders in all sites and all share the assets. No site has an individual legal existence independent of UAGS. While Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council is the landlord of all sites except Laneheads, the lessee is not the individual site but UAGS. Therefore we at Chadwick hold our land only through UAGS.

I will explain by the following model. Suppose that a company has eight workplaces, be they factories or sales outlets. No individual outlet can claim the right to secede from the company, as it has no legal existence independent of the company to which it belongs. This model represents Chadwick's legal status in relation to UAGS. No site can leave UAGS without UAGS' permission.

If a site chose to leave then legal consequences would ensue. As they rent their land via UAGS they would be automatically forfeiting their tenancies, and UAGS could evict them and re-let the land. Trafford MBC could also evict them,as they have broken the terms of their tenancies. Furthermore, a site trying to break off would have to pay compensation to shareholders, which could be substantial.

I hope that this enlightens all and sundry about the legal relationships applicable to our site.

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September 15 2015 3 15 /09 /September /2015 13:49

Autumn in Britain is a time when you are never sure of the weather. It is September at the moment, but the weather is up and down. Some days are pleasant, but others are quite rainy. We have to be alert for the frosts that we know will come. At the first frost we know that some plants will perish. The tomatoes, beans and marrows will die overnight. Immediately I will have to pluck and compost them, adding them to the growing heap at the rear of the allotment under the shade of the trees that grow along the road side.

Talking of trees. This is the time to consider what trees you want to keep. Cutting down a tree is a serious matter. as it is a long-lived being with a valued place on Earth and contributes to the fight against global warming. No tree should ever be lightly cut down, but sometimes you have no choice. In July I had to fell a much loved damson. It was almost dead of silver leaf fungus that would have spread to other trees. This month two cherry trees nearby showed signs of fungus, and I know that it affects cherries. To save my plum tree they had to be felled. I am using the space for a greenhouse, so I had to grub up the stumps. Cutting down a tree is nothing compared to getting a stump out, which uses far more effort. It took two hours to finally get out the stump, which I will burn to get rid of the fungus.

Yet once the tomatoes are gone I will work in the greenhouse. The grape vine will need fastening to the sides and roof, along which it grows furiously. A good cleaning on the inside will deal with mites, which can settle in.

Then there comes the issue of redesigning the plot. I am thinking of re-arranging the beds. This will mean digging up and relaying paths. We are also thinking of a walk in wonderwall, a large mesh cloche that protects vegetables from predatory birds. It will beat the small netting that I have been using.

I have had good vegetables this year. My neighbour, a judge in horticultural shows, praised my sweetcorn as competition standard. This is the first time that I have had this kind of accolade and it inpires me to maybe think of entering horticultural shows next year.

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July 23 2015 5 23 /07 /July /2015 21:40

Laying turf is an easy way to create a lawn.

The first thing is to prepare the ground. This is done by digging it over, then raking it smooth, a process that eliminates bumps and dents. If you do not do this, your lawn will look like a series of small mounds, as every indentation and hump will seem magnified. But before you lay the turf, ensure that all stones are raked out, as otherwise they will work their way to the surface. A thin layer of compost laid over the ground will be a good idea, but it must be evenly distributed.

After that lay the turf. You will have had to buy this from a turf dealer, and it will come in rolls. You should sue it as soon as possible, as otherwise the rolled turf will suffer from light deprivation and the grass will go pale. Fit the turf as closely as possible to any grass next to it, so that you do not see a joining between the two, and the rolls should be firmly laid next to each other. Water in the turf with a good dose of water, spread thoroughly across the lawn, and ensure that the turf is pressed down so that the roots of the grass touch the soil below them. Keep the lawn well fed and watered. If any parts look weak and pale, you can add grass seed, but ensure that the whole lawn is well fed with lawn feed.

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May 29 2015 6 29 /05 /May /2015 23:10

Reviewing any work by an author whom you have met is always a an expression of a relationship, but this review is something of a tribute. Patrick Whitefield gave me my first course in Permaculture, and even in the brief time that I knew him he had an impact because of his wisdom and strong, pleasant character. Sadly, this was his last work, as he died this year, 2015] aged sixty six.

The book is the product of a lifetime of study and observation in the field. It is the case that one sign of knowledge and wisdom is the ability to express it concisely and clearly, and this is so with Patrick Whitefield. The writing is crystal clear and concise. Words are never wasted, and the author achieves the rare balance between concision and articulacy, neither too few nor too many words.

His detailed understanding of the landscape and the processes by which it develops over time is laid out in language that the simpler reader can understand, but from which the more knowledgeable reader can learn much.

Altogether this is an enjoyable, well written and informative work that will enlighten readers about the British landscape throughout the ages, and how from clues in the present we can infer back to past conditions and events. This is definitely worth purchasing.

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March 9 2015 2 09 /03 /March /2015 11:27

North West England has been having a cold spell, and the rain has come with it. That's not bad, as recently Spring time has been quite dry. We need a few rainy sessions to fill up the water butts. I must admit that I need to get some guttering to take the rain water from my greenhouse to a water butt, but I have several small pots around the plot to catch rain. The trouble is that at this time of year the taps are switched off to prevent pipes bursting in frost, and they will not be switched on before April, so when you plant you need to use up some of your water stores.

I have been planting second early potatoes in the raised beds. The raised beds have also seen the planting of onions. I tried Ailsa Craig this year. They are large and you don't get many per packet, but I am planting smaller varieties as well. The problem is with the carrot tapes. It is so windy that laying them down is hard, but I am thinking of pinnning them to the ground with cocktail sticks. The same goes for the tapes of spring onion seeds. Some maincrop potatoes are going to be laid down soon. Tney are a blight resistant variety. 

I am going to use the flame weeder soon, as the manure that I spread contained some weed seeds, a perennial problem, and driving the hoe through wet manure is  a heavy task. Keep on burning them off. I pruned the cherry trees and took the larger branches into my wood store. Wait a year for them to dry out and there's more firewood. 

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February 1 2015 1 01 /02 /February /2015 12:01

What tasks await me this month? I was frustrated earlier on when promised deliveries of leaves did not arrive, so my mulching plan was thrown into disarray. They finally came and I have been setting out to cover the ground. I like to mulch with leaves for several reasons. I have fruit trees, and as the natural surface of the ground under deciduous trees is a leaf mulch, I want to garden with nature as much as possible. Permaculture believes in keeping ground mulched, and I believe that this is correct. Leaves suppress weeds, and as the worms drag them into the soil they are converted into soil matter.

Pruning the apple trees is over. I did it at the end of January. My son, well-experienced in fruit tree cultivation, was going to do it, but family pressures [of a happy nature] have to take priority. Part of this pruning was to prevent them overgrowing the path between them,

Planting time is still ahead, but I must prepare the soil for the planting of onions. First early potatoes go into the ground in February, and I will do it about mid month. This is the North of England and the climate, though quite benign here in South Lancashire, is cooler than further south. My allotment is an exposed site, not through height but through lack of protection from wind. But I get early potatoes by using two large rubble sacks. As these are above ground level they are not as cold as the earth is and so can give potatoes a head start. I have to prepare these sacks in the next few days. They take much filling at first, but after that you can just add pelleted manure to maintain the soil fertility.

Talking of fertility, the first early rhubarb is showing. Timperley early seems to dominate round here, mainly because Timperley is about three miles away. The rhubarb beds will need some pelleted manure, lots of it. I have cleared some ground near the beds, and will have to dig it over. It is near the compost heaps, and it benefited from a bit of re-arrangement of space. But what to grow there? My problem is that the back of my plot is overshadowed by large mature trees, which drain the soil at that end of water and nutrients. They belong to the council, so there is nothing that I can do, though the council officer in charge gave me permission to trim overhanging branches. I have done some, need to do more, and feel a bonfire coming on. The raised beds need pelleted manure added, and probably some compost. I need to make an effort to fill my black bin, which I drained to fill the raised beds.

Karen's damaged greenhouse needs taking down. Its frame buckled in the strong winds recently, and is now beyond help. As a committee member and a semi-retired person I will help. She is struggling to extract the bolts, but Jeff and I have tools that can do the job. We also have a job to do on the vandalized greenhouse on the plot next to mine. Jeff has the glass to repair it, but wants to wait until the council repairs the weak fence near my plot, which is the spot where intruders have climbed over.

I am thinking of getting a walk-in wonderwall, which is a mesh tunnel. I am sick of wood pigeons attacking crops.

Some early peas will be set in my grow house at home some time this month. Letting them germinate in a safe place will protect against mice. We had a bad year with peas last year, and I am not letting it happen again.

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January 22 2015 5 22 /01 /January /2015 15:18

We must never think of our gardens as places where the only life is us and our plants, with a few guest birds. Once you plant a garden you invite life in and it receives the invite gratefully. On my plot we have some welcome and not so welcome life.

First, the birds. You can never say which birds will arrive, but I can guarantee that when I dig the she-robin will arrive. I know it is a she because of the light breast, the male is the redder of the two. She likes to wait at a safe distance from me, and as I move on she pecks at the uncovered insects, and this is at whatever time of year I dig. There is also a wren who flits from soil to bushes with the swift darting flight so characteristic of her species. I have never seen her close up, even though she lives near my ground. The wood pigeons are beautiful, but they will strip the hearts from your brassicas unless you net them. An occasional visitor is thrush who pops in for a quick snack on insects, as is the blackbird; and the crows caw in the trees above us, but they are too cunning to come down when a human is around.

The wood pigeons' great enemy is the fox, whose earth is I know not where, but she oft visits my plot, lying stealthily in my neighbour's tall perennials and bushes until an unsuspecting wood pigeon lands too close. Then she takes her prey to one of my nice, soft raised beds on which she can dine in comfort. I say she. because I have seen her, sunning herself cheekily on a neighbour's plot. You can tell it is a she because of the thin tale. You can tell when she has visited because she leaves only white feathers, even the slender bones are crunched away.

My yearning to attract hedgehogs has not been very fruitful. I found a dead one, but that's small comfort, but when I gave it a decent burial the fox dug up the corpse. I had to put a slab on top of the grave of what was left. I also found a rat in my compost bin, probably eating some damaged windfall apples that I had thrown in. It is gone now. I am pretty certain that there are wood mice, as they have the habit of digging up newly planted peas, but you never see where they dwell. The grey squirrels from the trees on the lane outside have a habit of arriving on some plots, but I find that netting keeps them down. Dogs never get into the allotment, not being good climbers, and for some reason we never see cats, there is probably food for them elsewhere.

Wild bees are found. I recall once thinking that my fruit trees had set multitudinous blossom and wondering why I was so blessed. Then when moving some pallets I found bumble bees swarming round my legs. They were nesting under the pallets, and I knew why my fruit trees were so well pollinated! We also get honey bees, but in smaller numbers. The bees love to forage on my borage plants, whose blue blossom appeals greatly to their taste. And they swarm round it.

Insects abound on allotments, too many to count. Ladybirds are always welcome. But I as delighted to find that my new pond had attracted a water boatman. It must have been windblown to the site.

The world belongs to all the creatures in it, not just to humans. They all have their place in it, and as the garden is part of the world, there is place for more than humans in it.As long as we save the plants that we want, we need not complain about other creatures in the garden. They are not bound by human law against trespass.

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January 3 2015 7 03 /01 /January /2015 09:05

At last the year has turned and it is growing lighter, though not warmer. Today is not bad, though the morning is wet. But tomorrow night it will be freezing.

The first job is to prepare the soil for the next season.I am still in the process of going over to all raised beds, and am part way there. Some new beds must be filled with compost, which has had to be bought in. There are still some brassicas to be picked, and they have coped well with the winter, which has not been bad

But I am experimenting with a German technique called hugel culture. A hugel is a kind of mound, a raised bed without walls. At its base is a small pit filled with twigs or logs and leaves. It is then covered with a layer of turf, if you can get it. Above that is the compost and soil layer. The twigs rot down over years, providing nutrient. You can grow good crops in hugels, and I am looking forward to the summer's growth.

I took the compost for the hugel from my compost bins. I had a large bin full of kitchen compost that was well matured. I had to evict a rat, which had got into the warmth of the bin. But I did that before Christmas.I also used up one of my compost heaps, so there was enough compost. I intend to make the hugel larger over the coming months. There is no hurry.

But pruning is a major job. My son, Andrew, is a fruit tree specialist and he has promised to do the job for me. But he is getting married soon and my be taken up with domestic matters in the next month or two. We will see.

Happy New Year, Gardeners

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October 28 2014 3 28 /10 /October /2014 18:45

The summer growing season is over, and allotments are being put to bed. But for allotmenteers there is still work to be done. It is still too early to prune fruit trees, for apples need to be pruned in January, and I have an experienced nurseryman son who is offering to do the pruning. I have a stump of a pear tree to grub up. The tree underperformed and I found some rot, so sadly it had to go. But grubbing up a stump is harder than felling a tree. Again, my thirty three year old son is promising to assist me. There are times when realize that I am sixty four and he is thirty three, and that the physical difference is showing.

But for me October begins a period of re-organisation and planning. I am moving some of the raised bed around. I use pallet collars, and I am planning to put one atop the other to create deep raised beds. The vegetables to go into them, parsnips and carrots, vegetables that like deep soil into which they can grow long and large. I had a three and a half pound parsnip this week, and have been munching through it steadily at dinner. Here's hoping that next year there are giant ones to come from the new deep beds.

The last of the sweet corn is to come out before the  squirrels get to it. That's due to be taken up tomorrow.

Yet soil preparation is the main task. I am a bit annoyed. The manure deliverer promised to come on Tuesday, but didn't but the weather was bad, so I forgave him. He didn't come on Saturday, no trailer, but Sunday was inexcusable. He had a hangover! That's not the way to run a business. So I am looking for another source of manure. I might use my traditional fall-back position: pelleted chicken manure and lots of purchased compost. But I have been trying to get leaves to mulch the ground. I got some myself and covered one of the beds, but we are phoning the council, which tries to collect fallen leaves before November 11th, Remembrance Sunday. If possible, I cover all the ground with leaves. They starve weeds of light, keep the ground warm and when they rot condition the soil. I was going round the streets tomorrow harvesting leaves, but I have been asked to apply for a journalistic post, and must work hard at my application. But my wife is in London tomorrow and my son on holiday in Portugal with his fiance, so I am having a peaceful day to myself. I might get some work done in the afternoon, but that depends upon the currently inclement British weather. I am going to get some rock dust. Powdered granite works wonders for mineralization.

Yet committee work goes on. I am membership secretary. I have been chairman, but stood down a few years ago when I was having health problems, now healed. But we are having a new path surface through the allotment,as the present surface is rutted. But we are having electricity at last, so that will have to be done first. There are also two small trees to come down. Jeff, who has a chainsaw, is doing it, but he has a bad back, so when he is ready I know not. But early one morning I will be round to help, with my hard hat for safety. We need to do it early so that there is no one in the car park when the trees fall. So October is not a lazy time for allotmenteers, that's if they take their plots seriously. 

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July 29 2014 3 29 /07 /July /2014 17:01

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When you visit a garden centre or look through a catalogue you can be a bit mystified by the terms, especially the Latin names. Every plant has two Latin names. Take an example, Camelia sinensis is the plant from which we obtain tea. Camelia, which begins with a capital, denotes the genus, the group of plants to which it belongs, and sinensis denotes the species. This is not given a capital. There are other species in the Camelia genus, for example, Camelia sasquana, which is used in Japan for a kind of tea. It is important to realize that plants within the same genus can produce fertile hybrids. For example there are several species in the genus Amelanchier, a kind of shrub. Amelanchier canadensis x grandiflora is a hybrid between two species, canadensis and grandiflora. This is an interspecific hybrid, a hybrid between two species in the same genus. Yet you can also have intergeneric hybrids, which occur when plants from two related genera [plural of genus] are bred together. One example is leylandii, which is x Cyprocyparis leylandii, which is a cross between a Nootka cypress and  another member of the cypress genus. Note that intergeneric hybrids have the cross before the name rather than within it. They are not fertile and have to be propagated vegetatively, by cuttings.

 

Sometimes a single species contains much variety. For example, Brassica oleraceae, has several distinct varieties. Cabbages, kale, broccoli. calabrese,cauliflowers and sprouts all are varieties of this single species.

 

Various related genera are classed as families. Some families are small and have few genera in them, but some are huge. The rose family, the Rosaceae has a hundred genera and two thousand species; and you would not think that some belong to the same family. The family includes roses, but also Rubus [blackberry and raspberry] Prunus [plums] and Frageria [strawberries.] The Rose family belongs to a wider group of families which are grouped into an order, the Rosales. You will not need to bother with the term order when buying plants for your garden. There has never to the best of my knowledge been any interfamily hybridization

 

Yet of more importance to gardeners are divisions within species. You often find varieties. For example, there are red, white and yellow roses. These may all be part of the same species, but are different varieties within the species.  They interbreed easily with other varieties in the same species. There will be a variety name, for example Amelanchier canadensis x grandiflora 'ballerina' is a specific variety of that hybrid. Note that varieties do not have  Latin names. One kind of variety is a subspecies. This is usually a variety within a  species that is strongly linked to an area. For example,the cricket bat willow, Salix alba caerulea thrives best in eastern England. The plant name includes sspc before the term denoting the subspecies. Note that a subspecies can have a Latin name.Hybrids between different subspecies and varieties are known as infraspecific hybrids. However, while this term is used in botany, we do not use the term infraspecific hybrids in talking of mixing between breeds of animal or races of human.

 

A specific kind of variety is a cultivar. This is a variety that is kept distinct by human effort, which involves ensuring that interbreeding with other cultivars does not take place. Propagation of cultivars is rarely by seed and is generally by vegetative methods, such as cuttings, layering  and division.

 

Below the  level of cultivar  there is form and subform, the latter being the smallest division of a plant cultivar. Forms and subforms are so slightly different from other members of the variety to which they belong that they are easily lost when plants interbreed, so they have to be maintained artificially by vegetative methods. Forms and subforms only occur in the world of ornamentals. Vegetable growers do not need these terms.

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