Author Archives: Colin Shaw

Composting food waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions

There is a relatively easy way for a council, municipal authority or government to do something effective for the environment, compost food waste. Why is it so important? Because if food waste waste were a country it would be the third highest emitter of green house gases next to China and the US.

In the UK; “Of the 10 million tonnes of food waste arising annually in the UK, only 1.8 million tonnes is currently recycled (either by composting or anaerobic digestion). Only 12% of household food waste collected by local authorities is recycled, with the remaining 88% ending up in the residual waste stream.” (WRAP)

In 2013 we got a HotBin.  See an article by Alys Fowler in The Guardian here. All of our food preparation waste goes into the bin, that is around around 200Kg a year. It has worked ever since, even in the coldest winters. All the compost it produced goes back onto the veg garden.

The usual disclaimer, we are not associated with the company that sells the bins, just a satisfied user!

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Good soil supresses weeds

The more I learn about soil the better it gets! Having good soil with the right pH supresses weed growth. Perfect.

And the great thing is that good soil also produces heathier crops. So, less weeds, better crops eliminates the need for pesticides or artificial fertilisers. This has to be the way to grow healthy, sustainable and nutritious crops

A garden heals the worried mind

The stresses of the last few months have been hard to live with and there seems no end to the situation. For me the garden has helped enormously, I honestly don’t know what I would have done without it.

I found this article today by Helen Chesnut a well-known garden writer from Canada. What she says resonated deeply with my own experience over the years while trying to cope with what the TV now calls a life changing event. The garden healed in many ways, emotionally and physically; never underestimate the power of even gentle exercise. And, growing fruit and veg improves diet.

Helen says: “Then, there is the garden. Whether it’s a landscaped acreage, an allotment plot, or a collection of potted balcony plants, a garden is refuge and solace in the face of stress and anxiety. A garden heals. The worries of the world that buzz about in our minds slip away as we delve in the soil and tend our plants.” See the whole article here or click on the image below.

Photograph By Helen Chesnut

Now that lock down has been eased in the UK, for the time being, the urgency to grow food to fill the gaps left by food shortages may have diminished. There will be other critical events which have the same effect. Some say it will be a no-deal Brexit or climate change as new and unpredictable weather patterns decimate once reliable crops. We cannot know what the future will bring but we can be better prepared to look after ourselves.

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Hydroponics – not a sustainable way forward

Covid-19 has affected food supplies across the globe. Singapore was hit hard as it imports 90% of its fresh produce. The government was quick to react both to combat the virus and to tackle food shortages.

Part of the response has been to build roof top hydroponic gardens. They can be installed and producing very quickly and in many ways are ideal for roof tops.

Results are also fast especially with lettuce and other leafy greens, the climate helps. The problem with hydroponics is that it uses artificial fertilisers which are very energy intensive to produce and not sustainable. They will also have to be imported so it could be argued that it makes hydroponic food production liable to shortages from future world events.

When Russia suddenly withdrew support from Cuba, the country was left with a massive food crisis. The USSR had supplied Cuba with a network of hydroponic gardens that produced most of their fresh food. When they left supplies of nutrients stopped so production ceased.

Cuba converted the hydro systems to Organopónicos or organoponics. They became totally self-sufficient and organic. They grew food without chemical fertilisers and did not rely on supplies from any other country. That is THE way forward – it produces total independence and sustainable, organic food.

If Covid-19 teaches one thing then it that we need a diverse and resilient food system that does not depend on imports. It must also be sustainable and have the smallest carbon footprint possible. Nothing else is good enough, there must be no quick techno fixes and so side-stepping the difficult decisions needed. Anything less means widespread hunger the next time a world wide disaster strikes.

Mixed salad leaves-harvest

Picked the first salad leaves today. That’s just 26 days after sowing the seed. It really is a quick crop, the gardening version of instant gratification. Totally delicious with home made Humus.

Mixed leaves and Mizuna

There is nothing like having fresh leaves, they have not sat in a bag for several days in a dilute mixture of sodium hypochlorite, which has been used for many years as a ‘disinfectant’. Ours were washed in tap water and then rinsed with filtered water.

Mizuna

Watercress grown from rooting stems in bought in pack from Waitrose as it was organic

An improved lettuce bench/table/trough

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An improved lettuce table-update 26 June 20

It is 23 days since the lettuce table was finished and the first seeds sown. There is a good crop of three different types of salad mixes ready for picking. There should be four but the germination of one mix was patchy.

The original lettuce table can be found here

The radishes were removed as they were growing far too much foliage and swamping the salads.

The four colour Mizuna has done really well, it was a trial pack of seeds for 99p!

The watercress trough followed on the 15 June 20 with some cuttings taken from a standard organic pack from Waitrose.  Seed of unknown variety was also sown and it germinated in a few days. It might not have enough time to mature this year but we will try again next spring.

If using cuttings rooted in water the roots should be converted to soil roots gradually. After the water roots have developed gradually add soil tot the jar each day until you get a thick slurry. Leave for a few days watering daily and then plant out.

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The human cost of cheap food

This is a video about rural poverty in Derbyshire. It totally blows the popular myth “there’s no such thing as a poor farmer”.

This is the reality of cheap food in supermarkets and it is repeated all over the world. Somebody somewhere picks up the tab, it’s usually the farmer.

 

“Urban dwellers yearn for ‘Good Life’ allotments”

By chance the BBC are running this piece today, it is well worth a read. They say:

“Land set aside for allotments in the UK has declined by 65% from a peak in the “dig for victory” and post-war era.”

“Lost allotments” could provide 6% of the UK population with their five-a-day fruit and veg

“We have already seen a huge increase in the number of people interested in growing their own food as a result of coronavirus, with garden centres and online shops selling out of seeds in the first weeks of lockdown.

“Coronavirus has… highlighted to people the fragility inherent within our globalised food system. In a time of crisis, interest in self-sufficiency rises.”

What more evidence do we need to take this seriously?