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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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February 15 2012 4 15 /02 /February /2012 14:32


York Minster


The recent controversy about the court action to ban prayers at council meetings has brought to light an important issue, whether or not secularists are trying to force religion out of the public arena by using the equality laws. The secularist case seems to be that religion is a purely private matter, and so should be restricted to private life. The consequence of this must be that public matters, such as political affairs, would be conducted in terms of secular [non-religious] values. The rationale for this position is that secularism is a common denominator for all participants in society and that religious ideas are extras grafted onto a common secular basis, and so can be dispensed with.


A stronger version of this view is to believe that religion is divisive and that it should therefore be kept out of the public arena. If we all abided by a common set of secular values, religious squabbles and disputes would fade away and we would have social peace. Of course, this argument would work if we all were Muslims, Christians, Jews or Buddhists, etc, so what a secularist is really saying is that society should have a common set of values, which are obviously his own. This leads us to postulate that this is really secularist proselytisaton dressed up in egalitarian terms.


The religious case is that in using the equality laws secularists are engaging in what is tantamount to persecution of views which they dislike by trying to prevent them from accessing the public arena and are therefore using equality laws for a purpose for which they were not intended and for which they should not be intended.


Religions also point out that religious views are not merely extras grafted onto secularist ideas, as the two sets of beliefs are fundamentally at odds with each other. They derive their views from different sources and they aim for different goals. They live by different values. While there is some overlap, the two systems do not share a common basis, so they cannot agree to work on anything other than a limited set of shared values, so the secularist case is quite weak.


The claim that religion is divisive  and that we can esape quarrels by having a common secularists approach is an intellectual sleight of hand, as the secularists are quite wrongly excluding themselves from the clash of ideas. They cannot sit out of the clash of ideas  in godlike superiority. They are as much part of it as religions are.


Societies can be divided into ideological societies and liberal democracies. The former privilege one system of belief, be it religious or otherwise. Examples would be the Soviet Union and all communist states, Saudi Arabia, Nazi Germany, whereas the latter would be any society that gave equal scope for all religious and philosophical views to flourish. These societies would follow the general teaching of John Stuart Mill, who argued for minimum interference in the liberty of others to live according to their lights. Paradoxically, Mill was an atheist, but was so tolerant that he has little or nothing in common with the modern secularists who are at the heart of the clash with Christianity.


The problem with the secularist case is that it fails to distinguish between secularism and pluralism. A secularist society privileges non-religious and/r anti-religious beliefs. By pressing for religions beliefs and practices to be excluded from public life they are privileging the secularist belief system and are therefore attempting to create an ideological society in which their views and therefore they themselves are privileged over those whith whom they disagree.Their approach, which purports to be egalitarian, is therefore anti-egalitarian and discriminatory.


Secularists fail to distinguish between a secular society and a secularist society. A Secular society does not privilege religion and allows no religious orgabisations to exercise control over the state, whereas a secularist society orivileges the philosophy of secularism by insisting that the state be run on secularist lines and no religious input into politics should be  permitted. Whereas religous beliefs can flourish in a secular society, the secularist society is designed to prevent them from flourishing. It therefore is an affront to equality as it favours one group of citizens and their beliefs over others.


J.S. Mill would have wanted a pluralist society, in which all beliefs, religious or otherwise, are allowed an expression in the public arena and in which all individuals and groups are fully at liberty to express themselves and promote their way of life by peaceful and non-coercive means. The advantage of the a pluralist society is that it allows everyone to be happy  and fulfilled, whereas an ideological society, in which one philosophy is privileged,  results in someone being happier and more fulfilled than others are. In an ideal society no beliefs should be excluded from the public arena. Strangely, John Stuart Mill, an atheist, is a great help to modern religious thinkers trying to assert their rights. The pluralist society is a society that promotes the happiness and equality of all. It is the one for which we must all strive.

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February 10 2012 6 10 /02 /February /2012 10:45



The church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the site of Jesus' burial


At the centre of the Christian faith is the belief that God became incarnate in Jesus and that, when Jesus was crucified, God showed his approval of Jesus by cancelling the death sentence that he suffered and raising him from the dead to a renewed life. Thus Jesus, who died by hanging on a cross, a sentence that excluded the victim from the community of Israel, was declared God's chosen. A mighty claim!


The resurrection is central to this narrative. However, it is widely agreed that the resurrection is not an event in history. This means that it cannot be included in the academic discipline of history, which cannot cover "supernatural" [for want of a better word] events. But it is a major failing of many academics that they confuse the limits of their subject with the limits of truth. There can be events that do not fit into an academic discipline, and these can be significant. The resurrection is an event in sacred history, the long story of God's dealing with humans through the Jewish people. But this does not end all discussion. We must investigate it to determine what we might legitimately believe about it.


The resurrection either happened or it did not. Unfortunately there have been a number of intermediate explanations, none of which are impressive. Those who claim that all those who reported Jesus' appearances were lying may be discounted, as this presumes that the sceptic knows exactly what happened. Others write off the events as mass hallucination or delusion. Again, this cannot be completely disproven, but to know this the sceptic would have to identify and psychologically analsyse everyone who experienced the resurrected Christ. This is impossible, but we might note that sceptics require rigorous academic proof from everyone else.


Yet there were claims that the apostles stole the body in the night, as Matthew's gospel reports. The guards claimed that they had been sleeping on duty when the body was taken. This presumes that the body had actually disappeared. But these guards were Roman soldiers, who were always executed for sleeping on duty. So why were they not executed? Something odd had happened; and why did they not hear a heavy stone being rolled away? This beggars belief. However., some might argue that the chief priests stole the body to prevent the apostles stealing it, but then why not dig it up when the resurrection story circulated, or at least say where it had been put? 


The claim that the women went to the wrong tomb is sexist. It was based upon the assumption that women are not very bright people and liable to make silly mistakes. I do not think that we need to entertain such a claim.


On the lunatic fringe is the idea that Jesus awoke in the tomb, pushed the stone away and strolled off. Medically this is impossible. A person who is crucified undergoes suffocation when he is hanging downwards and has to raise himself by his arms to breathe. So when Jesus appeared dead on the cross he would have been in the position where he was not breathing. After a few minutes death would have happened. Furthermore he was speared  to ensure that he was dead. Such a  blow would have seriously wounded him had he lived. Survival in these circumstances would have been miraculous, even with modern medicine.


Maurice Casey makes a more credible case that Jesus' apostles genuinely experienced bereavement  visions, which are not unknown among bereaved people [Jesus of Nazareth, Casey, t and t Clark, 2010.] This is feasible, but there are stories that do not comfortable fit into this model, such as the meeting on the Road to Emmaus [which is heavily theologized and from Luke, not a reliable historian] and the eating of boiled fish. Casey accepts that Paul's vision did not fit into this bereavement vision model, and his argument is therefore weakened. While it is possible that some of the experiences were bereavement visions, can he assert that all were; and how does this claim  fit in with the empty tomb?


It is noted that the gospels present quite garbled  accounts of the resurection experiences that have defied systemisation into one narrative. This is because, I believe, they occurred to people who were widely dispersed in a society in which communication was slow. I suggest that there were many of these experiences, many of which were unrecorded. This would make an integrated account well nigh impossible.


Yet it is sure that the defeated enthusiasts who followed Jesus did not slink away. After three days they were empowered and began to organise a community. What was the transformative experience that turned defeated and frightened men into spiritual heroes? They had in those three days undergone a profound religious experience that founded the largest religion in the world and has empowered it over two thousand years. Something happened.


Yet Christians must not think that they understand the resurrection. The nature of the risen Christ eludes comprehension. We have not concluded the investigation, but have merely completed one chapter; and we have a very large volume to study.


In the end, certainty cannot be had in human affairs. The resurrection cannot be proved or disproved. It all boils down to the faith decision. Does the story of Jesus as told by the church speak to you? Does it empower you and enrich your religious thought?  Faith or lack of it involve a decision. This decision is not an arbitrary leap in the dark, but is to be made after a considered reflection.






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February 9 2012 5 09 /02 /February /2012 15:45



Permaculture is an important cultivation and design  technique and an ecologically harmonious way of living. The name suggests what it is about. It comes from permanent and culture, its ideal being to develop a sustainable and ecologically harmonious form of agriculture and horticulture that meets the needs of humans and animals within the eco-system. It is not to be confused with the organic movement, though the two are quite compatible with each other. Permaculturalists believe that the design technique is a design for living and that it should stretch into the whole of a permaculturalists life. The ideal is that the whole of a person's existence should run with the grain of nature rather than against it.


Permaculturalists attempt to cultivate in harmony with the environment, so that minimum energy will be expended in the cultivation process. Thus all permaculture begins with observation of the site  where growing will take place. The observer takes note of all environmental l conditions and reflects on what has been observed. He/she will then design a cultivation system that relies on plants that are harmonious with the growing environment. By growing with the flow of nature growers expend less energy than those who try to grow against it. This would avoid energy expensive use of heated greenhouses to grow crops that are not suitable for the environmental  conditions at a site.


Permaculturalists divide land into zones. Zone 1 is the dwelling and its immediate environs. Zone 2 is the productive gardens close to a house. Zone 3 is orchards and farm land. Zone 4 is land less amenable to humans, such as moorland and natural woodland. Zone 5 is wilderness. Few sites have all five zones, and most have only zones 1 and 2. In Britain there is little zone 5 land. Permaculture values edge, as it realizes that edges of one plot or piece of land can be quite productive and are sometimes wasted. You will also note that it is not obsessed with straight lines, and a permaculture site might  have paths and beds which are curved and sinuous, going along the lie of the land or its surface features.


The aim of Permaculture is to maximally utilise resources and energy before they leave the system. Thus the ideal permaculture system will have no waste, as waste is a sign of failure. The design will be such that all waste will be re-used. Composting is an important part of the process, but waste usage extends much wider than this. Permaculture systems will be designed for minimum energy use and maximum returns. In common with the organic movement it realises that the earth ahs top be nourished rather than exploited, and most permaculturalists follow organic methods. However, Permaculturalists believe that a bare piece of land is an error, and they like to keep land covered. This will involve either growing some crop on it, even green manure, or keeping it mulched. Mulch might be plant remains, seaweed etc.


Permaculturalists place emphasis on perennial crops rather than annuals, although annual crops are important as part of diet. Perennials are thought to be a more economic use of energy, as they regrow every year without having to be replanted. The movement is not committed to vegetarianism, though some Permaculturalists are vegetarians. Also important to the movement is the idea of forest gardens. These are gardens that blend various kinds of trees and shrubs with some vegetables and bushes. Permaculturalists like them because they utilise the vertical dimension as well as the surface.


The Permaculture Association credits courses in permaculture. The initial course is a certificate. There is a teacher's  course and a diploma for more advanced designers. Various course providers are credited to offer these. Some magazines have sprung up to promote the permaculture message. I have a certificate in permaculture, but for me it involves a lifelong growth of knowledge and personal development in the ideas of the movement.


Below is a picture of a forest garden in Africa






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January 29 2012 1 29 /01 /January /2012 12:00



This time of  year is the time to prepare your soil. Soil needs feeding just like plants do. When you grow anything in the ground you take goodness from the soil, and vegetables take quite a lot of it. Whatever you eat is taken from the soil and the goodness leaves with it. Hence you must put goodness back. Organic growers feed the soil so that the soil can feed the plants


Well rotted manure is a good idea. Manure comes in various kinds. Horse manure comes from stables and often contains weed seeds, but it is still good. Cow manure is taken from barns where cows are kept. Ideally manure should be well rotted before you apply it, as otherwise it might burn the plants as it rots down. Pig manure is very strong and not the best for gardens. Chicken and other poultry manure is fine, but it is very strong and should be applied sparingly. It is not a bad idea to add it to the compost heap, as this will enrich the soil but will be distributed throughout the compost. Manure often comes in pellets supplied in tubs and bags. This is an easy way to cart it around, but while it still contains nutrients, it does not supply much bulk to the soil and lacks the water found in unpelleted manure. Apply manure as a mulch over the ground and around the roots of trees.


Compost, which is the decayed remains of plants, comes in various kinds, and there are different kinds of compost for different tasks. For generally preparing your ground a general purpose is good. However, there are some loam based composts still  available. These contain more soil and are quite beneficial. They are derived from composted turf.Garden compost is the remains of garden plants allowed to compost down in a bin or compost heap. However kitchen compost is very useful, as it contains remains of foods, which are quite nutrient rich. I keep my kitchen compost in a large bin, but have compost heaps for the allotment compost, the plant remains. Tea bags and banana skins are good components of kitchen compost, as they are rich in potassium, which is an essential soil nutrient. Meat should never be added to a compost bin, as it attracts rats.Nettles are a useful addition to your compost heap, as they draw up minerals from the subsoil, which can then enrich the surface layers.


Worm compost is a kind of manure. It is produced in a  wormery, also known as a worm bin. It is very strong and should be applied sparingly across the plot. However, the juice form a wormery, which is drawn out by tap, is extremely nourishing for plants [foul smelling, though.] This is very strong and should be applied by diluting it in a  watering can.


Mushroom compost is left  over from mushroom production. It is a useful soil supplement and can supply much needed calcium.


Seaweed is an important source of nutrients. It can be applied directly, if you live near the sea, but the rest of us have to purchase it as seaweed meal or in liquid form. I like to apply it to all my crops, as it supplies essential trace elements. It is not unduly salty.


Well rotted leaf mould can add some goodness to the soil. This is made from piles of leaves that have been allowed to rot over a year or two. It does not add a great deal of nourishment, but it does enrich the soil structure. It is of course possible to mulch [cover] the ground with leaves and leave them to rot down. This will supply nourishment as the leaves rot and also help to suppress smaller weeds.


A recently introduced  soil enricher has been rock dust. Soils contain minerals derived from rock, and these are an essential component of  soil health. In recent years there has been a growing awareness that soils are becoming demineralised through mineral loss from agriculture and horticulture. But it is possible to find granite dust obtained from grinding granite in quarries. Other kinds of rock might also be used in future, if they are suitable. Supplies  can be found on the Internet if you type  rockdust into your search engine.Clay also helps to mineralise soil, as clay soils are extremely fertile, if hard to work. Clay can be dug in, but it is not easy to obtain.

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January 18 2012 4 18 /01 /January /2012 15:48



Integrated pest management uses a variety of techniques in such a way that they do not conflict  with each other. These techniques are chemical, cultural and biological. The skill to integrated pest management is to time the application of each technique for maximum benefit and minimum side effects.


Take an example. If you apply a chemical pesticide, you might kill harmful and helpful insects. So you are killing the friends that eat the pests. So in integrated pest management you study the life cycles of helpful and harmful insects so that you know when the harmful ones are present and apply a chemical pesticide then. In this way you kill the pests, but not the beneficient insects.


The benefit of using integrated pest management is that it prevents over-reliance on pesticides. At the moment there is a problem that pests are developing resistance to common pesticides. For example, the glasshouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporarium, has begun to become pesticide resistant in the south of Britain, and the resistance is spreading to other areas. The reason for this is that the pesticides have killed all the flies that are vulnerable to them, leaving those with some inbuilt resistance to that specific pesticide to breed and multiply. Using integrated pest management techniques minimises the use of pesticides, thus preventing the development of resistance. The other techniques will kill off pests. For example, no pest, for example, is immune to being crushed or eaten.


Cultural technques involve hygiene. In integrated pest management the grower ensures that all plant debris is disposed of , so that pests cannot hide in it, and that pots are disinfected in winter. This means that overwintering pests have no place to hide. All nooks and crannies in glasshouses are swept out and disinfected for this reason. Pests whose larvae dwell in the soil are vulnerable to cultural techniques. Vine weevil larvae are vulnerable to a ground roller, which crushes them. Digging exposes the cells in which some pests or their larvae overwinter, and then they are exposed to birds that can eat them. Blasting off aphids with water jets in summer not only destroys the aphids, but waters the plants as well. These techniques will be used at times when helpful insects are not present, as far as possible.


IPM might mean that you become aware of the presence of hosts in your land or area.Some species of aphid prefer a specific type of plant, maybe a tree, as a host for larvae at one stage in their life  cycle. So therefore  growers will as far as possible minimise the presence of host plants on their land. Conversely, they may adjust their land to create habitat for helpful creatures. For example,a pond with frogs or toads pays off enormously if you want slug control, as these amphibians eat slugs and snails. IPM might mean that growers introduce animals that, for example, eat slugs. Keeping a few ducks not only helps slug control but provides eggs. The problem slugs come back as eggs that you can eat or sell.


Intregrated pest management relies on the introduction of selected predators or the encouragement of natural ones. For example, ladybirds [Amercian ladybugs] are great eaters of aphids, so as far as possible they should be encouraged. Integrated pest management [IPM] will encourage hedgehogs and predatory birds. In glasshouses  it will introduce, for example,  Encarsia formosa, a minute parasitic wasp, to attack the red spider mite, Tetranichus urticaria. [Encarsia does not sting humans.] But when the wasps are being introduced chemical pesticides will not be used. You might use a chemical at a time before Encarsia is introduced, or when you are sure that it has died off, but during its presence then chemicals will not be used.Nematodes can be applied in gardens or glasshouses to destoy slugs. These are very tiny creatures that burrow into a slug's nervous system and paralyse it.


Furthermore, care in the use of chemicals is necessary. There are different kinds of pesticides. Integrated pest management will be reluctant to use residual pesticides, These remain in the soil and could therefore kill useful insects. Imidicloprid is one such soil based residual pesticide. It has proved useful in attacking pests, but there are concerns that it might kill helpful insects. The only type of pesticide that can be used is one that breaks up very easily. Slug pellets, will not be used, as they poison not only the slug, but also the hedgehogs and birds that eat eat them. Besides being counter-productive in inteprated pest management terms the use of non-organic slug pellets is horribly cruel, as the hedgehogs can be heard wailing in agony after eating them. However, organic pellets can be used, as they simply gum up the slugs'  digestion. The slugs  then starve to death.


Integrated pest management only works if growers are  knowledgeable and prepared to research their crops and the pest problems specific to their area. IPM will then need a clear pest management plan. A lazy grower or one who wants to take short cuts to a fast profit will not be successful in IPM. The short cuts are the excessive use of pesticide, but they create long term problems. IPM requires that growers are aware of the full range of pest control techniques and judiciously select the ones that are relevent to their circumstances and apply them in a thoughtful, well-planned way. It is the most professional way of pest management.

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January 11 2012 4 11 /01 /January /2012 10:59



Keeping chickens is a growing hobby in Britain, and it can easily be done if you have a back garden and there are no regulations to prevent you.


Firstly, you need a secure coop. This will be  a waterproof, warm and comfortable place for your chickens to roost. Ideally it will have  a perch to roost on. The coop will need a solid floor, ideally of strong wood, so that foxes and rats cannot burrow in. This should be covered in fresh straw and or wood shavings that you renew on a  regular basis.  The coop will need an enclosed wire area, a pen,  for the chickens to peck. This area should be safe from foxes. A fox can dig under the wire of a coop, so you need to ensure that some wire is tucked under the sides of the coop to prevent the foxes burrowing in. Watch out for holes in the mesh that might allow one of these pests or a cat to sneak in.Ideally you will purchase a professionally made coop from a dealer. There are many good ones about. Ensure that it is well painted before the chickens are introduced.


Some coops are movable, so that the chickens can be moved to different areas of ground, preventing build up of diseaes in one spot and the ground going stale.


Select your breeds. Most people want eggs, though some want meat. Some want both. So take advice as to the breeds that you want from a knowledgable dealer. If you just want eggs, you do not need a cock. This is because the eggs that we eat are unfertilised ovulations that the females just drop and leave. They only squat on fertilised ones. If you do get a cock for breeding, ensure that you keep cocks separate from each other, as males put together fight for supremacy. Keep different breeds in separate pens, if you want to breed from them. Cross breeds have no pedigree.


Chickens need a good diet. They are omnivores, which means that they eat anything, though they generally feed on vegetables. you are not allowed to feed kitchenscraps to them. Purchase a mash. For eggs you want a layers' mash. There is a different mash for meat. You can certainly feed them other materials. They will peck seeds and plant materials, such as fresh greens. However, chickens need to peck for food, so allow space and ground suitable for pecking behaviour. They will eat small insects, but although chickens will eat meat, cooked meat is not ideal for them.and should not be given. Any meat should come only from pecking for insects, their natural behaviour. Water should be provided fresh more than once a day in a feeder that they cannot foul or knock over. Professionally made feeders for both water and food are available from dealers.


They need a steady supply of grit to aid digestion. This should be spread in the pen and the chickens allowed to peck for it.. Chickens also need to be given an anti-worm substance at regular intervals, as pecking the ground can mean ingestion of worm eggs.


Any signs of disease should result ina vet being summoned.However, you need to be merciful. Sometimes it is kinder to kill an incurably sick animal than to leave it to suffer. You must be realistic in making decisions on this matter.


To prevent disease clear out the straw in the coop and any droppings on a  regular basis.This material makes excelllent compost. You may need to disinfect on occasion to prevent red mite, which is a nuisance for chicken keepers. When keeping animals you must never drop your vigilance against pests and diseases. It is unfair on the animal.

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January 3 2012 3 03 /01 /January /2012 19:49





The organic movement establishes standards for all aspects of farming and food production. It therefore has standards for eggs.All eggg, including chicken, duck, turkey, qualil and guinea fowl can be governed by organic standards


When dealing with eggs we must be aware of the different egg categories. Battery eggs are eggs produced in cages, but there are also barn eggs, in which the birds are housed in a barn. These differ from free-range eggs  in which the birds have access to the outdoors. Some terms are confusing. Cage free might mean that the eggs are still barn eggs, but not battery. Organic eggs are free-range plus extra standards. Free range in itself does not guarantee that the eggs meet organic standards, though free range eggs are produced to high standards of animal welfare.


The free range requirement holds for organic eggs. The chickens must have access to the outdoors for a significant part of the day and be able to express natural pecking behaviour. They must also be free from routine applicaton of antibiotics, which can only be administered when the birds are sick. Forced moulting is not allowed.This is the cruel practice of starving the birds for a short period to ensure that they all moult at once, which is for the famer's convenience, but not for the birds'.


The main requirement for organic eggs is that the birds are fed an organic diet. This means that they must eat food grown by certified organic farmers. To achieve certified status farmers must meet the requirements of the Soil Association or another legimate certifying body. The food must not contain genetically modified crops and crops that have been cross-fertilised by genetically modified crops are not permitted. Furthermore, the birds must not be fed animal by-products, such as meat remains.


Organic eggs must be produced by birds that are reared to standards of animal welfare that meet the requirement sof the Soil Association. Eggs can only sold as organic if they are produced by a farmer who is registed to produce eggs with the Soil Association or another legitimate certification body that meets the requirements of the state in which it is established.

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January 2 2012 2 02 /01 /January /2012 19:47



Plantng trees is easy as long as certain rules are kept.


The first rule is to plant during the dormant season. This is the winter time, when the tree is inactive. As a general rule you plant trees in months with an R in them, September to March. However, the best time is November to January, when the ground is coldest. In Britain the ideal time is November to December, but in certain places where the winter soil is frozen, the planting is best done just before Spring when the soil is warmed up.This rule applies to deciduous trees, but evergreens can be planted at any time of year.


The hole that you dig should be square to prevent roots turning into a circular pattern, though it is not dangerous to dig a round hole. Its depth should be equal to the depth from the bottom of the roots to the point at which the trunk begins. Do not plant deeper than this as excessive depth is not thought to be good for the tree.  You can place a water tube into the ground so that it protrudes. This will enable water to be passed down to the roots in dry weather.


Insert the tree into the hole and back fill it with compost. Fill it to ground level, but not deeper. Then heel down the soil. This is pressing the soil down with your heel. The purpose of this practice is to squeeze out air pockets, which prevent the roots from contacting soil and absorbing water and minerals. Ensure that you water the tree well. Do this by watering the soil around its base.




You can insert a tree stake. This is a pole fastened to the tree that enables it to hold firm in bad winds. It should be diagonal to the tree rather than vertical and fastened with suitable straps. Do not use ties that are too thin or they might cut into the tree bark. They might also snap. The tree stake should be inserted before the hole is filled.


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January 1 2012 1 01 /01 /January /2012 20:46



Green pest control is an aspect of integrated pest management, the process of combining chemical, cultural and biological controls to attack pests. In green pest control the chemical element is played down at the expense of other elements, though some chemical substances are permitted.


The first element of green pest control is cultural practices. These are the gardening techniques that kill pests. Prime among them is good hygiene. This means not leaving plant litter or debris lying around where pests can hide during the day. In greenhouses it means clearing out containers and disinfecting them to prevent pests such as vine weevils hibernating in winter. Cultural controls might also involve spraying fruit trees with jets of water to destroy aphids. This is important at the times when aphids [greenfly] are present on plants.


Cultivation of soil is important. If you dig the soil in winter certain pests that hibernate in cells in the ground will be exposed. They will then be liable to be eaten by predatory birds. Rolling lawns is a useful defence against vine weevil larvae, which eat the roots of plant, as the roller will crush them.Grease bands can be placed around fruit trees in winter to prevent winter moths from climbing into them to lay eggs. The female moth cannot fly.


Slugs and snails can be attacked by means of a variety of methods. Beer traps are useful. These are jars half filled with beer. Slugs love the smell and crawl into them and drown. Snails are also vulnerable to salt on paths, as salt dries them up. They dislike soil in which soot has been included, and they are said to dislike egg shell strewn around plants, though this does not always work.


Biological  controls involve setting predators on the pests. These can be wild animals that eat the pests. Many gardeners place nesting boxes for blue tits on the trees, as the tits eat various pests. You can also encourage hedgehogs, which eat slugs and snails. Ducks also are great consumers of these pests, so they can be kept in the garden.


Nenatodes are minute invertebrates that dwell in soil. You can purchase them from dealers and apply them by the watering can dilute in water. They burrow into the nervous system of slugs to paralyse them and render them vulnerable  to predators as they lie motionless.Nematodes need renewing every few weeks.


There are also specially bred predatory insects for greenhouses. You have to purchase the predator for the pest. Aphids can be combatted by the tiny predatory wasp Aphidoletes aphidmyza. There are other pest predators depending upon which pest you are which pest is troubling you.


Some chemicals are permitted. The soil association permits organic growers to spray fruit trees with soft soap, which gums up their respiratory systems. There are also organic slug pellets. Non-organic pellets are monstrous, as they poison not only the slugs but the hedeghogs and birds that eat them. Hedgehogs die in agony if they eat slugs that have consumed these pellets. Organic pellets do not poison the slug but swell inside it and gum up its bowels.


All techniques are useful, but it is important to avoid certain chemicals which are thought to be environmentally harmful. Any organo-phosphates should be avoided, as they are a threat to useful wildlife. Neonicotinoides have been implicated in threats to bees. Organic growers cannot use these complex chemicals.

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January 1 2012 1 01 /01 /January /2012 12:52



When planting a garden you must realise that a garden is an ongoing process. You do not simply plant, sit back and enjoy. Instead, you enjoy, but there is ongoing work for the whole life of the garden or your time there. A garden never stays the same, it evolves and grows over time.


The first requirement is to have a structure in mind, as a structure allows you to organise your thoughts and activities. Some gardeners create a structure of paths and beds. The paths may be wood chip, gravel or brick. The beds may be raised or at ground level. If they are to be raised they need wooden or brick sides, though brick is expensive. In a flower garden it is possible to demarcate the paths and beds with box trees, which must be kept pruned to below knee height. But these need renewing every few years.


Gardeners must take care of their soil. Most soils fall into the medium pH range. This is the acidity scale. A pH of 6.5 -7 is considered fine for plants, but there are soils that differ on either side of the extreme. A friend of mine with a place on a Welsh mountainside had a soil pH so acidic that little or nothing would grow, so she had to use raised beds to grow anything. You can get your pH tested by purchasing a kit from a  garden centre.


Gardeners must ensure that they nourish their soil. This is done by the addition of compost and or manure, which can be laid on top of the ground or dug in. The manure should be well-rotted. Nowadays manure pellets are available from certain suppliers, but if you add these you would need to add compost to provide some structure to the soil, as pellets add little of this. Seaweed meal, ideally as liquid seaweed, should be applied in diluted form, as this enriches the soil with trace elements. However, the nourishment of the soil is an ongoing process that must occur constantly through a garden's life. Leaf mould is another useful addition to soil. This is made from leaves that have taken a year or so to rot down. It adds some structure to the soil


The beds should be well dug prior to planting. Dig them over and leave them for the winter, then break up the soil with a hoe until it turns into a fine tilth.Tilth is a crumbly soil made up of fine particles. If you are growing vegetables add a base dressing at this time. this is fertiliser applied to the ground before planting.You might need to add fertilsir during the growing season, but never in excessive quantities, as this can burn the roots.


Vegetables need a crop rotation. This means growing plants in sequence in each bed. The Standard British rotaton is four fold. Potatoes, followed by root crops, beans and peas, then brassicas, members of the cabbage family. but this is the most simple rotation, and professional gardeners can be quite sophisticated in their rotational patterns. Rotating crops prevents a build up of plant diseases and pests in the soil.


Flowers are divided into annuals, biennials  and perennials. Annuals die yearly and need replanting. Biennials take two years to live and perennials live indefinitely. Herbaceous perennials die back to their roots and regrow. It is a god idea to lift them once every two or three years and divide them. This involves spliting the root clump into two and replanting. Rhubarb can be treated in this way. I do it to rhubarb once every five years. Woody perennials, those with woody stems, do not die back and are not divided in the manner that I have just described.


Bulbs and coms should be planted to a depth of twice the size of the bulb. Do this in Autumn according to the advice given by the bulb seller. Onions, however, need to be peeking just above the ground. But you might need netting to protect them from curious birds, such as wood pigeons, which are becoming  nuisance in gardening.


In cold climates you might need to start young plants off in a greenhouse or cloche. This brings me to an important point. Some planting books give planting times for the south of Britain. But the planting dates are later as you go further north. Take into account the likelihood of frost before you plant. Beans in particular die quickly in frost, as do tomatoes. Not even a greenhouse will protect against frost, unless it is heated.





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Published by frankbeswick - in Plants & flowers
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