Move to the new server

The move to the new server earlier this month went well. Unfortunately this morning we had a major problem which meant starting the move again. It was a local issue and nothing to do with the server host. Everything should be restored by now but we are still going through the site to check each page.

Monsanto want to patent common vegetables

4764_tomatoTakeover_1_460x230You have heard all the hype about Monsanto wanting to ‘feed the world’ well here is the reality, they want to own the world by taking out patents on common vegetables. That means that every time you grew one of their patented veg you would pay them for the privilege. Too outlandish to be true? Definitely not, just look at their track record; they have prosecuted farmers for accidentally growing GM plants where the seed has been self propagated i.e. the wind has blown it onto their land.

This company has morals and is only intent on total domination of the World food supply. We need to act fast before they slip through their patent applications. PLEASE sign the Avaaz petition and help them for 1 million signatures HERE

If you live in the EU contact your parliament member and tell them they have to stop this, you can find them HERE

This really is  major threat to the security of our food and the right to grow what we want without having to ask permission and pay fees to Monsanto. Please do something to stop this.

Hot bed update

It has been an incredible winter – again. The very cold weather in March has really delayed plantings but the hot beds have produced a crop. The winter mixed salad sown on 8 Jany 2013 has been giving us very welcome fresh salad since the end of March.  www.organicgarden.org.uk/first-hot-bed-crops/ for full details and photographs.

Scientists link weather to Arctic sea ice loss

An article in The Guardian has linked the loss of sea ice in the Arctic to changes in weather patterns. Many climate scientists have been saying that the effect of ice melt is much more severe than first thought but the comments have been played down by governments who are preoccupied with the economy. Why do they find it so hard to accept that climate change will have a far bigger impact than any of their supposed election winning strategies to improve economic growth?

We have got to the stage where climate change is affecting the whole world and yet nothing is happening to mitigate the effects. Consider just the weather in the UK for a moment; here, in the Peak District, the local council is still battling to clear 6.5m  (20ft) snow drifts. many roads not normally affected by winter snow were blocked for several days and towns and village were cut off. Many other areas of the UK affected yet it soon ceases to be news and attention shifts to the perennial short termism that afflicts UK politics.

Maybe climate change is just not a vote winner? maybe the issue is just too big and potentially too destructive for the government and the population to comprehend? Or are we still in denial, still have our collective heads in the sand? I know there are still climate change skeptics out there and they seem to be fulled by the ‘red top’ news papers who seem intent of following the line that it is all a myth or a plot dreamed up by the left.

So far individuals have taken steps to make changes to their life to reduce CO2 but we need all governments to take this issue very seriously and to do that NOW. And we need the help of all of the scietific community to work together. I have suggested this before but is it not time to look at research budgets and divert money into climate change mitigation? Dare I suggest that some large, prestige projets should be put on hold as what is the use of understanding what happened immediately after the big bang if we have messed up the very World we are trying to understand? maybe funding the the LHC and the Square killometre array should be diverted to climate change mitigation research so that we can understand and reduce the impact that we human beings have on the world we so cherish.

 

Time to start planting?

It is traditional to plant potatoes on Good Friday. As Easter is very early this year, and the weather is still cold and wet,  do not even think about it. With a bitterly cold east wind for the next few days and forecasts of 30-40cms of snow for the north then this is not the time to even think about planting anything outside.

The best way to know when it is right to sow seeds is to check the soil temperature. If you want a quick guide then see this page. If in doubt be patient and wait for things to warm up and you will find that seeds will germinate quickly and grow into much stronger plants.

Soil remineralisation revisited

Ten years ago when the new garden was started I wanted crops in the first season. The soil was very heavy clay and the ground had not been cultivated for a long time. Conventional wisdom said that it would take a couple of years to get the soil ready for planting.  At about the same I came across report about the decrease of the mineral content of fruit and vegetables. An idea was born!

For many years two government scientists, R.A. McCance and E.M. Widdowson, collected information about the nutrient content of food. The data was processed by David Thomas and presented as a report;  ‘A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991′.

This looked like the ideal time to do something different, to create a more or less instant garden and, more importantly, to remineralise a tired and neglected soil.

Sourcing ‘rock dust’ was not easy and initially I  found a quarry some miles away who would virtually give me what they considered to be a waste product. The only expense was the transport. After finding a local supply of municipal compost there was suddenly two large piles of material that was used to make soil. You can read more about the project  HERE.

It is generally thought that rock dust should be applied to soil every five years so it is time to remineralise again. Now it is easier to source the right product as the Seer Centre supply 20Kg bags of dust. I used this in 2008 and am more than happy to use it again.  The usual disclaimer applies, I have no commercial interest in this product and have not been asked to endorse it. The reason I use it is because I believe it works. The soil at the garden is now very healthy and produces phenomenal yields. In 2011 the usual potato bed (in a five course rotation) produced 130lbs (~60Kg) from 19 tubers, last year it was down to 100lbs  (~45Kg) due to the bad weather and many people did not get a crop at all so I think we did well.

Using rock dust is just one component of a healthy soil but I really do believe that healthy soils grow healthy plants which leads to healthy people. Yes, there is a lot more to it than that but getting minerals back into food is important and something I will continue to do for as long as I grow food.

Book on hot beds

If you want to know how to make hot beds for really early crops then the best place to start is by reading a new book by Jack First. Jack appeared on the UK TV programme Gardeners World last year. He showed just what hot beds could do with lots of salad crops and very early new potatoes.  The usual disclaimer applies, we have no financial interest in this book and any recommendation is because we found it useful.

Click the book to order.

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Composting kitchen waste update 25 Jan 2013

A couple of days ago I noticed the thermometer in the lid of the Hotbin was showing about 8C. As the air temp was below zero it had to be hot gases from working compost. I inserted the compost thermometer and it read 30C.

Today the lid thermometer was reading ~15C and the compost thermometer shows 42C. I think that is impressive considering the air temperature is -2C today and the bin is still less than one quarter full. It looks like the composting kitchen waste trial is already a success.

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The compost temp on 23 Jan 2013, it is now 42C

Update 26 Jan 2013

After the heavy snow last night it was easy to see that the Hotbin was working – the air coming out of the vent on the lid had melted the snow. The lid thermometer was showing 22C and the core temp was slightly under 60C.

(Click on an image to enlarge, navigate using < < or >> then click the image to close.)

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Trials 2013

This year our trials will be hot beds and composting kitchen waste.

Hot beds – living in a comparatively cold part of the UK where the winter temperature in the garden has been at least -10C for the last ten years it is important to find ways of extending the season. Last year there was only frost free month, July. That is unusual as we normally have 2-3 frost free months in a typical year. This year we want to be more proactive and use hot beds. As fresh manure is in constant supply on the farm just a few metres away we thought it would be easy to try to heat a couple of solar pods using fresh manure.

Composting kitchen waste – now that most councils collect kitchen waste it is easy to think that the solution has been found. We produce a lot of waste by cooking from fresh ingredients each day and do not want it to go to a municipal composter. Of course that is better than land fill but it is a waste of nutrients from the garden. For many years I have looked for a way to compost kitchen waste easily throughout the year. From February we will trialling an insulated compost bin designed specifically for kitchen waste. The compost will then be returned to the garden to grow new crops producing a true closed loop system.

The time for change is now!

We are on the edge of a precipice; the Arctic ice cap and Greenland glaciers are melting at an increasing rate yet no government seems to either care or want to do anything about it.greenland-glacier-melt-nasa

Radical steps are needed to avert disaster on a scale unprecedented in human history yet governments are still spending billions on space research, building a new radio telescope and other esoteric research. It is time to suspend such projects and spend the money on ways to improve energy and food security.

The UK government pleads poverty and have recently said that climate change has to take second place to economic recovery. That makes me mad, very mad. They do not seem to recognise that the time to address these issues is NOW!

Energy security is relatively easy to tackle as Germany has shown by increasing the amount of electricity generated by renewables from 20% to 60% in 12 years. In the UK the government ended a scheme to support households installing PVs because it was popular and the small amount of money allocated was used up too quickly.

The tired old mantra that there is ‘no money in the pot’ is just a lie. There IS cash for free schools and an extra £100m for summer schools was announced a few months ago. All very laudable but what if the generation now going through school struggles to afford food or cannot find enough of it? Just think what £100m could do to help switch to renewables or help us to improve food security.

My conclusions are that administrations are not taking climate change seriously which amounts to a criminal failure to govern. It is time for really radical change: 1) stop space exploration and divert money to mitigating the effects of climate change. 2) Do not build the expensive ($100m) very large array radio telescope and divert the money  to projects to encourage more home renewables and domestic food growing. 3) Stop spending billions of politically motivated education follies like free schools and use the money to reintroduce horticulture to all UK schools.

That would be just the start of changing the way we live to one that fits the level of resources available to us. The irony is that this would produce a fairer and more ‘sustainable’ economy but it takes vision and foresight to see that, something sadly lacking these days.

What can we do? Grow more food; you knew I would say that. Reduce car journeys, use public transport more, develop an awareness of the hidden costs of everything you buy, buy less, recycle everything you can, make compost – particularly from nutrient rich kitchen waste. Finally, ask your MP, councillors, other political representative what they are doing about food security and energy security. Look at the response you get and it is not adequate tell them!

Find your district councillors, county councillor, MP, MEP.