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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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August 1 2013 5 01 /08 /August /2013 10:48

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August is a time to take stock of your garden. For me, the Tatton Show is over, and our team have a couple of awards to our credit, a highly commended and best feature garden. We are now at the stage of harvesting crops. Potatoes will soon be ready and I have been getting some great cucumbers and onions.

 

But as beds are being harvested it is now time to rethink the design of the plot. The allotment chair has been thinking of entering the National Garden Scheme maybe next year.  This is a novelty and a challenge, as I have been building out of scrap wood.This was for ecological purposes, part of my green commitment, but it is not going to do for the future. Some of the scrap wood has gone already, but that was stuff that was in stock awaiting use.

 

The idea is to rethink the garden to make the design more space-efficient and also more aesthetic. I am going to take a out a path that lies between the flower bed, which needs upgrading, and some vegetable beds. These currently contain carrots and parsnips, so this change must await their harvesting. The paving stones from it will go to the handicapped plot nearby to make a paved area for wheelchair access. I am ripping up the scrap wood beds that lie behind and making beds out of pallet collars. I have some already, but I am moving some other pallet collars forwards.Another path will disappear, and the resut will be that the moving beds create two new paths, or rather do some widening, as one existing path is not wide enough.

 

This move has necessitated shifting water butts from the front to near the polytunnel. I shifted them single handed, partly emptied I must admit, and pulled muscles in my shoulder and neck. My daughter, who works in social care, will have a fit. "Daddy, you are sixty three,  not twenty three!"

 

The hot weather has meant that we have had to concentrate on weeding and watering, but now as England has finally got some rain, thunderstorms to be be precise, we can think about other things, the weeding having been done, though not fully. The paths need maintenance. I use woodchip, as it is a green, renewable material, but it does require maintaining, as it rots down into soil. It also can acquire weeds. I am busily exhausting the pile of woodchip delivered by the council. Suddenly my woodchip paths have sprouted mushrooms, not edible ones, but little brown ones. I am not treating these as weeds as I know that the mushroom mycelia are good for the soil. They create soil structure and retain water.

 

The tree area, which occupies the rear third of the plot, will be weeded, but I am not interested in taking out grass, but merely weeds. I will trim the grass, but I am awaiting the leaf deliveries that will commence in Autumn, which  I will use to mulch the whole tree area. I did this last year, and I have quite good crop of apples [future cider from my apple press.]

 

Finally, it is important to take time to help others. The handicapped have just taken up a plot, and they require lots of assistance. I have been showing some of them how to plant. We have donated the entries from our plot at the Tatton Show to the handicapped plot, but they need replanting, and this is a  time when the skill of planting can be taught. The helpers need assistance. They are all trained in psychology etc, but working with the handicapped means that they have to deal with a whole range of crafts,and it is difficult for them to master them all, especially as many are quite young, they need people like us to help and guide them.

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July 9 2013 3 09 /07 /July /2013 09:04

 

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Well, what weather! In spring the weather was unseasonably chilly,  and cold winds lasted for more than a month. Crops were delayed and farmers worried. My beloved pumpkins struggled in the weather, as once I got them from the grow house into cloches the weather was unsuitable. I had to plant some more when the conditions improved.They are growing nicely now and some small, plump globes are appearing at their ends.But at a show meeting last night everyone was saying how the crops are late.

 

But suddenly the jet stream has changed and the British summer has become roasting hot. plants are springing up to catch up on late growth. This creates another problem, the need for  constant watering. Do gardeners ever stop complaining about the weather? But I have little to complain about really. South Lancashire is not a bad area for growing. The soils are good, we don't floods or get too many bad frosts,but I grumble about the wind on my allotment, which is quite exposed.  There are people who have more to complain about.

 

Let me remind you,For the Tatton Flower Show I am growing a three sisters bed, sweetcorn, pumpkins and beans, an old Amerindian/Native American technique. I have one metre by three metres, so there will not be a vast number of plants in it. I am placing the pumpkins in the middle and having beans and sweetcorn in pairs at the sides of them, to show companion planting. I reckon that I will mulch the uncovered soil with woodchip to prevent weed. My little bed is part of the larger entry from Trafford allotments. I am a small fish in a much larger bowl, and am I glad I am not doing the organisation! 

 

Beans were different. I have seen few slugs this year, through snails are in evidence, and some cabbages have suffered. The snails have had their way with some beans, which were eaten. Fortunately, we could gather some spares. My sweetcorn is growing, but I have yet to see any cobs, but the plants are so healthy, they will come.

 

The big day is Friday, when the plant specialists come round to take the plants to the show. On Thursday night Geoff, Barbara, my fellow entrants from Chadwick Road allotments, and I will descend on my plot and get the plants  out of the cloche. Some plants will have to be bagged, but I am hopefully doing that today. Gentleness is the word. Ease the sensitve plants out of their beds and into plastic bags. Nerves! I am a bit of a worrier, so I have visions of everything failing. I cannot help Geoff with his problem. He promised cauliflower, but his plants wilted when he was away. We don't know when the plant specialists will arrive, probably early Friday morning. I am hoping to be there. Geoff certainly will [he's retired.] What a great guy Geoff is, he's a really good friend, and Barbara is great as well. She is a nurse and is still working. 

 

Monday to Wednesday are build up days when I am allocated to work. The show ground at Tatton is a construction site closed to the public and accessible only to those with passes. High visibility jackets and strong footgear are the rule. There is  a tent for staff to eat and drink, and in this weather drinks are going to be essential. I will not be working for cash on these days, but I have just completed my exam marking period, which is late May to early July, and so have a bit spare in the bank. Anyway, as I do supply teaching to supplement my pension, this is the time of year when supply teaching is rare, so I won't be missing much work.

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May 19 2013 1 19 /05 /May /2013 09:55

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This year I achieved an ambition, the opportunity to enter a horticultural show, the RHS Tatton show in Cheshire in late July. No, I am not a sole entrant with a stand exclusive to myself. I am joining in with a larger group of people from the borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester,UK, all of them allotment holders who are submitting a joint entry. Nor am I the man in charge, we are led by an experienced woman. We are all vegetable growers, and we are submitting a variety of beds.My bed is a three sisters bed, one that combines maize [sweetcorn] beans and pumpkins in companion planting. To be fair, we have a policy that no one person owns a bed. I am growing for my entry, but others can include their plants. It is important not to make the bed exclusively yours,  as planting can go wrong and we all need back up. 

 

There is more to a show than the public see. There is a preparation period of several days when the stands are set up. There is also a period when they are dismantled. During these periods there are rules that you must follow. You need a pass to get on site. and anyone on site at these times has to wear a high visibility jacket and a hard hat. On the show days we have decided to wear a uniform of a polo shirt emblazoned with our logo. I have yet to be told which days I attend on, but they have ordered a shirt for me, so it seems that I will be there when the public are on at  least one day. 

 

Growing pumpkins is my greatest challenge at the moment. I have my allotment, but it is an exposed place that is not great for sensitive, warmth loving vegetables. We are in the Mersey valley, about a mile from the river, and as flat as a pancake, so the wind comes along the thirty miles from the Irish Sea without impediment. I have solved [hopefully] the pumpkin problem by growing under protection, and they seem to be doing well. The wind recently took out my polytunnel, so I cannot grow there until I can replace it, but I have created protected beds composed of pallet collars one atop the other and covered with large sheets of strong corrugated plastic.I hold them down with bricks and large pieces of wood.

 

Before growing in the raised beds I helped them on in a growhouse and a propagator, which I keep at home and where I can tend them more easily. I transferred them when I thought that they were ready.

 

It is not widely known that all show plants are in black polythene bags. These are placed in the ground and then covered over to make it appear that the plants are growing directly from the ground. The bags have small holes at the bottom so that roots can extend out. I am using these for beans and sweetcorn, but the pumpkins require bigger bags, so I am using polythene sacks. Into each I have placed fifty litres of organic compost. I will need to feed them constantly as pumpkins are heavy feeders. Moving them when show day comes is going to be tricky, so I have placed pieces of wood under them so that I can slip supports underneath when the time comes.

 

Watering is a big matter with any container vegetables, so they will need much attention. This means that in the week after next when I am in Cambridge for work I will need to water well before going and maybe get some help.

 

I must admit that I am apprehensive. I always have a fear that nothing will  grow and that my plants will fail. They rarely do. But having support from others will be a great help. 

 

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April 13 2013 7 13 /04 /April /2013 17:09

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Retirement comes sometimes suddenly, but oft-times gently. In my case it has been a slow moving into a retired state. I had intended to continue supply teaching for a few years yet, but the while the agencies still have older people on their books, they seem more concerned to find jobs for the younger ones. Well, the younger teachers need a future! But we older ones still need something to do, and many of us need more money than are provided by our pensions. My own strategy is to carry on doing some economic work, but place far more emphasis on self-reliance.

 

Do an audit

 

A key part of any self-reliance strategy is to audit your opportunities and skills. In my case I am a qualifed horticulturalist and have an allotment. I am also generally competent at making and mending, but need professionals for some tasks, such as  plumbing, gas and electricity. I also have some economic opportunities still.  I am an examiner and am still being invited to apply for promotion [I don't want it.] I write and can continue doing my successful private tution business.  Mix self-reliance with some surviving economic opportunities.

 

Food

 

Key to any self-reliance strategy is the need to provide food. You need to develop the art of growing vegetables. If you have a garden or an allotment, fine, but you can grow in containers. Potatoes can be grown in sacks or specially designed containers in any yard. A greenhouse will provide you with tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables that require heat. A plastic one can be purchased quite cheaply. Window ledges and balconies can be home to containers that can produce some salad vegetables, but always ensure that you are not overloading a balcony. Salad vegetables are easy to grow and by regular sowing you can ensure a steady supply of salads.  

 

Mushrooms can be grown in any darker part of your house. mushrooms do not need darkness, but they do need an airflow. Some, like shiitake, are great but need warmth.

 

Adding value

 

Sometimes you can turn dairy products into cheese and yoghurt. I have a yoghurt maker. All you need is milk and a starter culture. Currently starter culturesare hard to acquire, but you can use a live yoghurt as the starter. It requires a good dose of starter, and ideally it should not be infused withany fruit juice. Similarly, milk can be turned into ccottage cheese quite easily. All you need to do is boil it to a high temperature and, if you cannot add rennet, do what I did and add lemon or orange juice. Add salt and then strain. Once it has drained tie it tightly into a bundle to drain and then three days later you have cottage cheese. Eat quickly, as it does not keep well. With cheese and yoghurt always ensure that your equipment is clean, so as to avoid impurity. If a yoghurt shows a red streak, throw it away! A good guide book is always very useful and can protect agains mistakes.

 

Wine is a great addition to your self-reliance strategy. You will have the time to forage for blackberries and elderberries. These with the aid of sugar and yeast can be made into wine. Wine made with only elderberries can be very tart and upsets some people, but elderberry mixed with blackberry is great. I have made a fantastic wine from blackberry and apple.

 

Foraging

 

Depending on where you are there may be opportunities for foraging. To do this you need a good book, such as Food for Free, by Richard Mabey. A range of books will show you various plants from different angles. There are a few poisonous plants to be avoided, but there are many nutritious ones growing round our towns and lanes. It is important to know what you are picking. If you live near the sea there is foraging that can be done on the shore, but if like me you live in a town, you have to make do with what is found by road and canal sides. Find out what is likely to be growing in your local area and concentrate on that.

 

Mushroom foraging can be profitable, but you need to be very careful that you know what to forage. Never pick a mushroom that you do not know. Never pick button mushrooms wild, as you cannot tell the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous ones. Get some good books on mushroom identification and be very careful.

 

 

 

 

 

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April 13 2013 7 13 /04 /April /2013 17:09

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Retirement comes sometimes suddenly, but sometimes gently. In my case it has been a slow moving into a retired state. I had intended to continue supply teaching for a few years yet, but the while the agencies still have older people on their books, they seem more concerned to find jobs for the younger ones. Well, the younger teachers need a future! But we older ones still need something to do, and many of us need more money than are provided by our pensions. My own strategy is to carry on doing some economic work, but place far more emphasis on self-reliance.

 

Do an audit

 

A key part of any self-reliance strategy is to audit your opportunities and skills. In my case I am a qualifed horticulturalist and have an allotment. I am also generally competent at making and mending, but need professionals for some tasks, such as  plumbing, gas and electricity. I also have some economic opportunities still.  I am an examiner and am still being invited to apply for promotion [I don't want it.] I write and can continue doing my successful private tution business.  Mix self-reliance with some surviving economic opportunities.

 

Food

 

Key to any self-reliance strategy is the need to provide food. You need to develop the art of growing vegetables. If you have a garden or an allotment, fine, but you can grow in containers. Potatoes can be grown in sacks or specially designed containers in any yard. A greenhouse will provide you with tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables that require heat. A plastic one can be purchased quite cheaply. Window ledges and balconies can be home to containers that can produce some salad vegetables, but always ensure that you are not overloading a balcony. Salad vegetables are easy to grow and by regular sowing you can ensure a steady supply of salads.  

 

Mushrooms can be grown in any darker part of your house. mushrooms do not need darkness, but they do need an airflow. Some, like shiitake, are great but need warmth.

 

Adding value

 

Sometimes you can turn dairy products into cheese and yoghurt. I have a yoghurt maker. All you need is milk and a starter culture. Currently starter culturesare hard to acquire, but you can use a live yoghurt as the starter. It requires a good dose of starter, and ideally it should not be infused withany fruit juice. Similarly, milk can be turned into ccottage cheese quite easily. All you need to do is boil it to a high temperature and, if you cannot add rennet, do what I did and add lemon or orange juice. Add salt and then strain. Once it has drained tie it tightly into a bundle to drain and then three days later you have cottage cheese. Eat quickly, as it does not keep well. With cheese and yoghurt always ensure that your equipment is clean, so as to avoid impurity. If a yoghurt shows a red streak, throw it away! A good guide book is always very useful and can protect agains mistakes.

 

Wine is a great addition to your self-reliance strategy. You will have the time to forage for blackberries and elderberries. These with the aid of sugar and yeast can be made into wine. Wine made with only elderberries can be very tart and upsets some people, but elderberry mixed with blackberry is great. I have made a fantastic wine from blackberry and apple.

 

Foraging

 

Depending on where you are there may be opportunities for foraging. To do this you need a good book, such as Food for Free, by Richard Mabey. A range of books will show you various plants from different angles. There are a few poisonous plants to be avoided, but there are many nutritious ones growing round our towns and lanes. It is important to know what you are picking. If you live near the sea there is foraging that can be done on the shore, but if like me you live in a town, you have to make do with what is found by road and canal sides. Find out what is likely to be growing in your local area and concentrate on that.

 

Mushroom foraging can be profitable, but you need to be very careful that you know what to forage. Never pick a mushroom that you do not know. Never pick button mushrooms wild, as you cannot tell the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous ones. Get some good books on mushroom identification and be very careful.

 

 

 

 

 

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February 28 2013 5 28 /02 /February /2013 11:25

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People are moving to a more self-reliant lifestyle, growing their own vegetables, keeping chickens and so on. But one way of being self-reliant is to grow your own mushrooms. There are several different kinds of mushrooms that can be grown commercially. All can be grown from spawn [not seed] produced commercially, but they must be grown in a way appropriate to their type and in suitable conditions.

 

There is some important biological information on mushrooms that is very important to have. The technical term is fungi. Mushroom and toadstool are popular terms, the former for the kind of mushrooms that we can eat, the latter for the ones that we cannot. It is vital to insist that you only eat fungi of whose identity you are sure. While most fungi are not fatal, there are some that are, but fortunately these are not the kind that you get in mushroom kits. It is advisable to purchase a kit from a good supplier. Also it is useful to have a good book for identification.

 

Fungi are neither animal nor plant, but something else entirely, and as air breathers they must receive sufficient ventilation and a steady flow of air is needed. It is a mistake to think that they need darkness. They can grow in dark, but they do not need it. Some fungi need to be sufficiently warm to grow, but not overwarm. There are several kinds that can easily be grown at home.

 

1: Conventional agarics. These are the white or brown mushrooms that you buy in the shops. You can purchase kits to grow them. It is possible to make your own mushroom compost, but as doing so includes a careful blending of manure and gypsum and supervision over a few days, it is not worth the while of the small grower.

 

2:  Oyster mushroom. These grow on wood. They make a good addition to stews and can be gently fried to make a pleasant delicacy. There are two ways of growing them. One is to innoculate wood with spawn. The other is to innoculate a toilet roll soaked in tea. The wood and the roll must be kept moist. When the substrate is be added exhausted it can be added to the compost bin.

 

3: Shiitake. These are a Japanese delicacy that grow on logs or sawdust spawn. You can grow them by purchasing innoculated dowels to hammer into logs. You can also grow them on sawdust spawn. They need a warm place to grow, so should not be grown outdoors.

 

There are several other kinds that can be grown, but the methods given here will enable you to commence growing.

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February 12 2013 3 12 /02 /February /2013 16:05

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Problems on the empty plot next to mine! Well, the half-empty plot because the front bit is taken by a new fellow who is working hard. But the rear is in mess. There was a large, overgrown damson tree and plenty of tree root penetration in the ground that makes it hard to dig. I thought of taking it over to get the greenhouse that has been left there, but in the end thought the better of it. I don't fancy working from scratch. But I did do some digging on the plot, purely voluntary and out of need, as the place is infected with plum sawfly larvae, and they might get to my damson and plum trees [plum and damson are so closely related that they are susceptible to the same pests]. So needs must!

 

Sawflies are a group of flies that each take a specific host. They are characterised by the female's having a saw-like ovipositor. With this she cuts into the leaf and deposits her eggs, which then a week later  turn to larvae that munch away happily at your leaves. Leaves can be ravaged by this fly. After a while the larvae drop off the tree and burrow into soil, where they dig cells in which to hibernate for the winter. In the cell they become adult and in Spring come out to mate and start the problems over again.

 

Which plants are affected?

 

Fruit saw flies include apple, pear [which also affects cherries], plum and gooseberry. There are several different rose sawflies.  Willow bean, Solomon's seal, pine, spirea and aquilegia are also affected. Hazel saw fly will affect birch, acer, hornbeam, ash, poplar, willow and some others.

 

What to do about them.

 

The best bet is to dig over the soil in Autumn or early Spring when the larva are pupating in their cells. This exposes the larva to cold and to predatory birds. Regular garden maintenance, which involves digging ground once a year will help break up the sawflies' cells.

 

Cultivation techniques involve picking the sawflies off the plants. Ensure that you look under the leaves, as that is where the larvae prefer to feed, in the shade and the shelter, nice and safe. They hope! Solomon's seal sawfly lays its eggs in the joints where branches break out from the stem, so you can look there. Most gardeners pick off and burn infected leaves. On roses, if leaves are rolled, it might be leaf-rolling sawfly, for which the solution is to pick off and burn the infected leaf.

 

If you are not organic you can use a contact insecticidebut poisoning the sawflies risks poisoning useful insects. I have never used an insecticide

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January 8 2013 3 08 /01 /January /2013 14:26

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So you want to make your own compost. You get a bin, place it in the garden, and then what do you put in it. Surely, it is clear, you compost your grass cuttings and your vegetable waste. But at this point you have to be careful. Cooked waste, especially meat, should not be placed in a compost bin, as the smell of cooked food attracts rats. Far better to keep cooked food waste in a worm composter, which is sealed to prevent worms getting put and rats getting in. Save the compost bin for uncooked vegetable scraps and garden waste

 

But there are other materials that can go into compost. Compost bins will take shredded paper, up to about 20%, and they positively benefit from some woody material to balance out the green, nitrogenous stuff. Too much of grass cuttings will result in a compost that accelerates quickly, giving off much steam, but runs out of oxygen and needs constant turning. Woody material slows the process down to a manageable rate.

 

Some substances are known to be useful. Coffee grounds and tea bags can go in. Hair, be it animal or human, adds nitrogen, as feathers do. Wool waste, known as shoddy, is mulched over rhubarb in its early stages. In the rhubarb industry, which is was strong in South West Yorkshire, waste from woollen mills was collected and applied to the growing rhubarb. Banana peel is particularly useful for the addition of phosphorus, in which it is very high. In addition, seaweed is always beneficial, as it adds micronutrients to the heap. At Heligan gardens in the period up to the First World War gardeners were told that they ought to urinate on the compost heap, as it adds nitrogen.

 

Egg shells add calcium, but they take some time to digest. Woodash can be added, but it is better laid on the ground. Leaves should never be added to the heap, as they take longer to rot than vegetable waste  does and rot in different ways. The compost heaps rots through bacterial decay, whereas the leaves decay through  fungal action.

 

Anything organic will decay and is in theory useful in compost, but it has to be sued in the correctw ay. A compost heap needs regular turning, as it requires oxygen to maintain the decomposition process

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January 7 2013 2 07 /01 /January /2013 11:29

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Whether you have a farm, a garden or an allotment, the nutrients needed by plants are the same. Obviously all plants need water, carbon dioxide and oxygen, but there are others. These  divide into macro and micro nutrients.Macronutrients are required in larger quantities than micronutrients, but all are important for plant health.

 

Macro-nutrients.

 

These are six of these. Many fertilisers contain a range of nutrients, though in different proportions. The three essentials are nitrogen, phosporus and potassium, which is why many fertilisers give you their N, P, K ratio, K being the chemical symbol for potassium

 

Nitrogen. This is essential for promoting green growth and it comes from manure to a great extent, though any kind of hair or feathers will also provide a good supply of this important element. This is why shoddy, wool waste from mills, is mulched over rhubarb, which requires a good nitrogen supply when in its early stages.

 

Phosporus.  This element makes for strong flower and fruit development, so  high phosphate feeds are known as bloom boosters. Do not overdo the phosporus, as excess can inhibit the uptake of other nutrients and lead to chlorosis, leaves going pale and dying. Cattle manure is good for phosphates, the form in which phosporus is absorbable by plants.

 

Potassium:  This element makes for a good root system and is considered important for maintaining plant health.  The best potassium feeds are woodash, which is high in potash, and banana skins, whose potassium level is very high.

 

Calcium.  This is vital for bringing soils to neutral pH, but it is also important for building plant cells. Calcium deficiency makes leaves go white. Blossom end rot in tomatoes is due to calcium not reaching the tomatoes in the  required quantity.Lime is a good source of calcium, as is bone meal, crushed seashells and eggshells

 

Magnesium: Calcium and magnesium work together. Lack of it produces symptoms similar to calcium. This element is often found in lime, particularly dolomite.

 

Sulphur.  This element fosters green growth and maintains a healthy balance of nutrients in soil. It is rarely lacking in Britain, as much has been added to soil by burning fossil fuels, which have deposirted sulphur from the air, but if the soil has too high a pH, sulphur can be added to bring it down.

 

Micronutrients

 

You rarely need to add a specific feed for micronutrients, as they are spread throughout a large number of different organic substances.A good seaweed meal is usually high in these micronutrients, and home made fertilisers, such as compost made from household waste, are high. Unless there is a specifically recognizable problem, a general addition of fertiliser will suffiice. Experts might design specific supplements based on chemical analysis.

 

Boron: Blackening and weakening of leaves and weakened root growth are deficiency symptoms. This deficiency is more common on sandy soils than on others.

 

Chlorine:  Paling of the leaves is a sign of chlorine defiiciency

 

Copper: Deficiencies are most common on organic soils, derived from peat, and chalky soils.  Mineral soils, those deriving from parent rock, but containing a good quantity of organic  matter are generally not affected by deficiency of this element. Leaves go yellow and wither.

 

Iron: Deficiency symptoms are similar to calcium deficiency, but most British soils are not lacking, the ones most likely to suffer being those on limestone. High levels of organic matter generally ameliorate deficiency symptoms

 

Manganese. This substance works in conjunction with magnesium and the deficiencies are hard to tell apart.

 

Molybdenum. Rarely deficient, except in acidic soils on occasion, but whiptail is a molybdenum deficiency disorder fround in cauliflowers, in which the leaf blade is thin.

 

Zinc: Few cases of zinc deficiency are found in Brtitain. Weakening of leaves is a symptom.

 

Conclusion:

 

Prevention is better than cure. Ideally growers will supply a good, well-balanced base dressing to the soil that includes a range of elements. They will use manure, compost derived form a number of sources and sea weed. This will prevent deficiency problems from arising. They will continue to supply soil supplements while the plants are growing.

 

 

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January 4 2013 6 04 /01 /January /2013 10:05

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A problem that many gardeners will face at the moment is waterlogged ground. After months of heavy downpours some areas are completely flooded.  I turned up at my allotment recently to find that a quarter of it had had flooded. I was lucky, as the allotment slopes gently from corner to corner and I am nearer the higher bit. Yet my ground is soggy, and I live in South Lancs, and Lancashire is a county where the downpours are reported to have been bad. We are quite flat here and the water does not run off  easily.

 

The first thing to realize is that you can have too much water. The term soil structure is important. The soil structure is the way in which particles of different sizes are present in the soil. This is important, as the structure allows air spaces to exist. as plants take in oxygen from their roots, they breathe through the soil. It is carbon dioxide that comes in through the leaves to photosynthesise. If the soil is flooded, then the air is squeezed out and this is not good for growth. It can be fatal.

 

The first thing to realize is that it is not easy to deal with waterlogged ground. Drainage ditches might take away water if you have a slope. It is also possible to dig a pond and allow some surface water to drain into it. But ponds are subject to safety precautions, especially if you have public access or children or elderly people near. I am not allowed to have one, sadly, as council safety rules forbid it.

 

If you dig over-wet soil it is not thought to be good for the ground, as it damages soil structure, so digging should wait for a drier period. It is possible to tine the ground to allow some air into it. This involves going through with a fork and and spiking it. Digging is better, but tining might help initially. Lawns benefit from being tined.

 

In the long run it might be important to raise ground level. This can be done with raised beds, which cover a significant part of my plot now. These can be commercially bought, but why bother?The commercial ones look good, but you can knock up a raised bed out of scrap or purchased wood very easily. I saw some commercial ones for £39 for a square metre. I made four out of wood purchased from a timber merchant for less than that, and they lasted a few years. The raised beds do not become waterlogged.

 

It is important to ensure that if you have containers, as I do in my back yard, they are properly drained, as containers waterlog even quicker than ground does, as they cannot drain away. I reckon that I will solve their  waterlogging problem by emptying them onto the allotment, and refilling when I want to plant later this year.

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Published by frankbeswick - in Garden & exterior
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