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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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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




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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April 16 2014 4 16 /04 /April /2014 12:16



The picture above shows zebra mussels


Britain is a trading country with wotld wide connections, and so many species have been introduced to our shores, sometimes intentionally, other times accidentally. Some are a positive blessing, such as the potato, but others are nuisance species which harm the environment. Both animals and plants are to be included in this category of nuisance species. There is soon to be a E.C, list of nuisances which cannot be grown, owned or moved.These nuisances can be classed as invasive species.




There are several intrusive animals. One of the most well established intruders is the grey squirel, which has effectively left the native red squrirrel near to extinction, as it not only out-competes the red for food, but also carries a virus fatal to reds. It is almost impossible to eradicate. The mink, imported for fur farms after the war, got into the wild when some escaped, and others were released by animal rights activists who raided the farms and released them to roam free. This was a death sentence for bank voles, who are being massacred by the mink.


Another problem is the harlequin ladybird. This is larger than the native species and has a habit of eating them. It has a nasty bite. As ladybirds are an essential part of the nation's defence against aphids, these harequins have to be eliminated as soon as possible.  


Other imports are not a problem. Sika deer have escaped from parks, and as they readily interbreed with red deer, they are diluting the genetics of the red deer population, but this is not a problem. Similarly muntjac, small barking deer, have escaped into woodlands. But they are not a nuisance and are a food supply to some hunters.There are other escapees from farms, one of which is the wild boar. This is the most dangerous escapee, although no humans have been hurt by these shy woodland creatures. But it is hard to class them as invasive, as they are a native species that went extinct.


It is some aquatic animals that are causing problems. The zebra mussel, pictured above, is harmless in itself but after  it arrived in ballast water from ships it took to water courses and settled in profusion in pipes, and is thus a cause of blockage. Much money has had to be spent to keep the pipes clear. The Chinese mitten crab has found its way into the Thames, where it is undermining the river embankments. These crabs have the ability to migrate across land to find other water courses. So far they have been confined to the warmer areas of Southern England.But there has been talk of controlling these edible crabs by fishing. These crabs are edible, and in 2009 scientists decided that their flesh was safe to eat. In some areas they harbour the bilharzia parasite, but in Britian this is not so, as the parasite's secondary host is not present in this country.


Another invasive species causing havoc to the tiny native white clawed crayfish is the American signal crayfish. They outcompete the native and carry a virus deadly  to the smaller crayfish.  It is legal to hunt these if you get a licence, but you can only get a licence for one day at a time in one specific waterway. Beware of them, their claws are powerful and can detach your thumb. You need to know what you are doing to hunt them.


There is concern over the Asian killer shrimp, found in a lake in East Anglia and possibly hitching across country on canoes. This is an aggressive little beast that gobbles up other wildlife. Whether it is edible I do not know.


Invasive plants


Japanese knotweed stands out. It is a fast growing species so invasive that it is illegal to grow it. It can outcompete any native and has no predators or biological controls. Recently a psyllid, a small insect,  that feeds on it was introduced from Japan, and tests are under way. Knotweed can be eaten, and the Japanese eat the young shoots. It is a  relative of rhubarb and can be cooked in the same way, but there are doubts about whether pregnant women should eat it. Play safe. Having nibbled a leaf, I can tell you that it is forgettable.




There are others. Himalayan balsam, shown above,  is a beauty on the riverbank, but as it damages watercourses it is having to be eradicated. It is not as dangerous as knotweed, but it is a threat to bank stability. Rhododendron has  friends and enemies. Some people love it, but others hate it, and point to its ability to take over whole areas, as is happening in parts of Snowdonia. The plant exhibits allelopathy, the abaility to give out a toxin which suppresses other plants in the soil. The main cultprit is a species, Rhododendron ponticum, which is having the most widespread ill-effects. The trouble is that, while these plants are beautiful, their wood is useless fo carpentry or fuel, as it spits and burns unevenly.


There is a range of pond and waterweeds which are considered nuisances, some of which are banned from sale. These include Crassula helmsii, from New Zealand,and Canadian waterweed. These weeds cannot be put into waterways or private ponds, as they grow in such profusion that they deoxygenate the water and thus kill waterlife.


I doubt whether we  will eliminate all these species, but we need to keep them under control, by culling or finding a use for them.

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February 26 2014 4 26 /02 /February /2014 15:12

One of the most important families of food plants is the Brassicas. Several of them belong to the same species, the extremely variable Brassica Oleracea. What they have in common is that they enjoy soils of about pH 7, so slightly more alkaline than many other plants.


Many descend from the wild cabbage. The ancestor was known as the colewort, an early version, from which came the extremely useful kale. Those of us who have grown this family will be aware that kale seems to be less attractive to slugs than many of its relatives are. This makes it safer to grow as it requires less protection, But descended from colewort was Brassica oleraceae. This one plant species gave us cabbage, Broccoli, calabrese, cauilfower and sprouts, all of which are varieties of a single species. Generally they are robust plants, though Broccoli is  hardy to minus 18 degreees, but my last venture into Broccoli coincided with a harsh spell when the weather one night reached minus 21! All dead overnight.  With the variable weather that we have been having in the UK I am sticking to hardier varieties.



3626511648_ef096da39a.jpgNote the cross shaped flower heads that characterise this family.


Also within the Brassicas is kohl rabi. This is newer to production in the UK, but is still Brassica oleraceae. You eat not the leaves, but the swollen stem just above the root. Some people say that it tastes of turnip. I would say that there is some truth in this. Turnip, though, is grown for the swollen root. Its near relative, swede, is also a Brassica; both of them  belong to Brassica napus. Oddly, the yellow plant that covers many British fields at the moment, oil seed rape, is also a Brassica napus, but it is grown for its oil, which is useful for cooking.Many people believe that its pollen is particularly effective in causing hay fever. When my son was involved in agriculture in Worcestershire, West Midlands of England he would come out of his house in the morning, smell the rapeseed pollen coming down from the Cotswold Hills and know that his hay fever was coming on. 


There are two herbs that come from this family. One is horse radish, the strongest tasting root in the whole family. The other is mustard. It is interesting that the smallest members of the family have the strongest taste, as maybe the taste in larger members is diluted by size.


Brassica rapa is known a pak choi, Chinese cabbage. This is in fact two different subspecies. It has the advantage that it is a plant that can be planted later in summer, as is the case with some other Chinese vegetables.


Brassicas can be susceptible to club root,a fungal disease that causes roots to swell and become less effective. A good defence is to lime the soil and to rotate your plants over a long rotation. Do not grow Brassicas on soil where there is club root for many years. Brassicase are also susceptible to slugs, although kale is the least attractive to them. Another enemy are the two species of cabbage white butterfly, whose caterpillars eat into the leaves. Netting is the best defence. Cabbage root fly lays its eggs near to the cabbage and the larvae burrow into the soil and eat into the roots. Cabbage collars are a useful defence, as they are put round the stem of the plant and thus give the larvae further to travel. They seem to work. Wood pigeons often attack cabbage plants and eat at the heart. . Netting is the best defence.

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January 9 2014 5 09 /01 /January /2014 15:07



 A few years ago I and my wife, Maureen,  visited Ireland, and we took a trip to part of North West Sligo, whence my maternal great grandmother's family had emigrated over a century ago. Ireland of today is a comfortable place to live, but as a gardener I was interested in the soils, and I was somewhat daunted by what I saw. We were very near the shore, and I thought that the soils were thin and exposed to the salt-laden winds that sear that landscape near Rosses Point. I could see why my ancestors made the decision to go to England. The land was too poor to farm.


Yet many of us nurture a dream of living near the coast. For some it is a retirement dream, or the thought of a coastal business, but others dream of self- reliance.  Well, the coast has advantages. You can grow vegetables and keep chickens, etc, and you can also do a bit of fishing or foraging. But there are difficulties of coastal self-reliance. The most obvious is that nowadays there have been incidences of coastal flooding, only in the last week or two in the British Isles, as storm surges bring waves inland. I have no dream of gardening on a shore prone to flooding, and a house there would be vulnerable. Self-reliance is a dream, but it is only for realists. An unfeasible operation soon becomes nightmare.


You must consider certain factors: how near to the shore do you propose to live, and how exposed the shore is. My daughter lives on the South East side of Anglesey above the Menai Straits, some distance back from the shore, where she is definitely not exposed to coastal flooding, and the bulk of the island protects her house from salty winds [She is not a practitioner of self-reliance and probably  looks upon her Dad as lovably nuts. She is probably right.] So if you want to be self-reliant near the sea, stay a bit back from the coast and nowhere near a stream prone to flood, if you can avoid it.


Yet there are no limitations on livestock. You can keep chickens, turkeys and various mammals like pigs or cattle near the coast, but you need to be sure that if the land is floodable they can easily be rescued. Having to leave animals to drown or not bothering to save them is horrible. If you cannot guarantee an animal's safety, do not keep it.You can also do many of the activities of self-reliance, such as making bread and wine, pickles and other preserves without thinking about how near the coast you are.


Growing vegetables  is a key part of self-reliance, but here is where you must consider the salt in the soil and the air. All coastal areas have some exposure to windborne salt, which is not good for many plants, some of which cannot tolerate it. But there are solt tolerant varieties and there are techniques for minimising salt in the soil. The main technique is raised beds. The soil below the raised bed should be heavily turned over before the bed is raised above it. Horticulturalists advise going down to nine inches and working compost into the hole. This will provide salt free soil


You can choose salt tolerant varieties. High salt tolerance is possessed by kale, spinach and asparagus; beet also descends from sea beet, which still grows wild on our shores, [I saw some in Anglesey last week] so it is easily salt tolerant. There are some that have salt tolerant varieties.Potatoes have medium salt tolerance, and there some new varieties that are stronger in this respect. Tomatoes, peas and lettuce also belong in the salt-tolerant category. Broccoli and some squash varieties can thrive in coastal conditions, and there are some varieties of cauliflower that can produce results in spring in the milder conditions that are found at the coast. However, radishes, celery and beans are not suitable for coastal conditions. Worthy of mention is an apple variety, Bardsey Island, which was found growing wild on Bardsey, and is therefore of proven salt tolerance.Onions and leeks can also be grown.


Self-reliant people may be tempted by foraging. Mussel picking is a popular activity, but remember there are local by-laws and regulations enforced by the authorities in each area that determine where and when you may pick shellfish, and how much. Check the regulations for your area for each type of shellfish that you want. Also ensure that you only pick from clean waters. and local advice wil be needed for this. Do not take shellfish in months without an R in the name, as these are the breeding months when the flesh is poorer. It is also at this time that toxic algal blooms can be found in coastal waters, and these can poison the shellfish and you, seriously. You always need to follow the basic advcie of leaving the shellfish to purify for a time that differs for each variety, which you will need to research. Only then can you cook and eat, and even then follow all the cooking guidelines for each type.


Fishing for your supper is also attractive, and I enjoy some sea fishing. But not only is fishing a skill, it can be dangerous. There have been people washed away while fishing from exposed rocks or on stormy shores. You will need to work out whether you want to beach cast or fish from pier or boat, and then get the hgear suitable for your fishing type. If you want to fish from a boat, ensure that you know the local waters and take advice. It is easy to get into trouble at sea, and there are tricky waters off parts of the British Isles.When fishing, the rule is safety first; the sea is unforgiving.


Some people forage beach plants, but I see little use in most of them, many of which are too rare and so are forbidden to foragers. All multicellular algae [seaweeds] can be eaten, but you must ensure that you take them from clean waters, and some are not worth the trouble, either because hey take too long to cook or to chew. Dulce is in the latter variety. It is even when cooked certainly chewy, and while the Welsh eat laver in laver bread, cooking the stuff requires heroic patience. But these seaweeds can be great mulch for your garden. I have seen masses of blackberries on land just behind the coast, and these can be foraged; and on a trip to Scotland my son Peter and I foraged raspberries by the side of a  sea loch, so these are available to the forager.


Doing some research as to what is available and possible in your chosen area is a must. Self-reliance by the sea is a great idea, but you have to get it right, be realistic and stay safe.

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