Author Archives: Colin Shaw

Biochar

I found this book in last week in Oxford last week, Blackwells Broad Street branch.  it just jumped off the shelf. I have known about biochar for some years but not used it in the garden. With the new plot and talk about sequestering CO2 and making better use of nutrients it could not have come at a better time.

What I like about the book is that there is some history, the use of biochar goes back to 450 BCE – 950 BCE. The soils from that era are still black, it lasts locking up atmospheric CO2 for centuries. There is a section about how it works and very useful practical information about making biochar in either in a burn pit or a TLUD: top lit up-draft gasifier.

Making a TLUD from a couple of steel barrels look relatively straight forward so that is what I will do.

It fits in nicely with the yearly timetable as I am just about to start preparing the soil for the winter. I will post some pics of the TLUD build progress soon.

Grow food in your garden – fight climate change

There is nothing like sitting down to a meal with veg that you have grown. It might be only one or two items but it tastes better and feels good when you know it is from your garden.

Now is a good time to start thinking about growing food next season. You don’t need an allotment or a large garden, start small and see how it goes. See this page

IPCC report on climate change and land

Finally we get to the very basic problem – we ALL depend on the land for survival. It is the top 15 inches (38cm) of soil is that feeds us. Forget that, mess up the land, ignore it or take it for granted and we are dead, It is as simple as that.

The full report can be found here

Extracts about food security:

Coordinated action to address climate change can simultaneously improve land, food security and nutrition, and help to end hunger. The report highlights that climate change is affecting all four pillars of food security: availability (yield and production), access (prices and ability to obtain food), utilization (nutrition and cooking), and stability (disruptions to availability).

“Food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines – especially in the tropics – increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions,” said Priyadarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

“We will see different effects in different countries, but there will be more drastic impacts on low-income countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

The report records that about one third of food produced is lost or wasted. Causes of food loss and waste differ substantially between developed and developing countries, as well as between regions. Reducing this loss and waste would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve food security.

“Some dietary choices require more land and water, and cause more emissions of heat-trapping gases than others,” said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

“Balanced diets featuring plant-based foods, such as coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and animal-sourced food produced sustainably in low greenhouse gas emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation to and limiting climate change,” she said.

We need more allotments – now!

Here is a bit of very radical action, well not that radical; the government must make more land available for the  “90,000 people on waiting lists to get their own patch of land to grow vegetables.” In short more allotments! Not that difficult, would not cost billions and would help in all sorts of ways. See this link for more information

Glyphosate/Roundup Decimates Microbes in Soils and the Human Gut

There has been lots of research over the years that showed that glyphosate does not break down on contact with soil, as was claimed. It now looks as if it also damages soil and the human gut.

The latest study was carried out by a team led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen. The researchers suggest that glyphosate use could be behind the recent spike in gut disease noted in industrialized nations that genetic reasons alone have failed to explain.

People ask me why I grow/buy organic food, this is the answer.  And it is on sale in many supermarkets next to household cleaning products and sometimes next to food. It should be banned.

Glyphosate from Monsanto’s Roundup Decimates Microbes in Soils and the Human Gut – New Science

The British countryside is being killed by herbicides and insecticides – can anything save it?

“From orchids and moths to hedgehogs and toads, our wildflowers and wildlife are dying out. Making the meadows safe again is a huge challenge – but there are glimmers of hope”

The Guardian – 31 May 2018

Gloomy prospect … meadow flowers in Upper Teesdale. Photograph: Kevin Rushby/The Guardian

What has been obvious this year is the lack of insect strike on the windscreen of cars! Some say that it is a good thing, but it emphasises the huge decline in insect numbers and should sound alarm bells. The link to insecticides is obvious yet there is no response from government.

Pesticides are now sold in supermarkets alongside cleaning products. A sign of how normalised they have become. This was evident in a local branch of Tesco where pesticides were shelved next to food!

In the garden it is lawns that get the full treatment. In Spring each year there are endless TV adverts show ways to blast weeds with the latest product. For a pesticde free lawn, see this site

With climate change happening now there will be a huge impact on food supplies. Keep a small area of unsprayed grass but use the rest to grow food!

Things you can do:

  • Make a pledge to become a pesticide free household, especially if you have young children.
  • Think seriously about growing some food. Start with one metre square raised beds, all the information you need it here.
  • Become more informed about pesticides in food and how to avoid them.
  • Check out the Pesticide Action Network for more information.

 

 

RHS Harlow Carr

Having not visited the RHS garden at Harlow Carr for about 7 years I was pleasantly surprised by the changes to the site. There is a new library and education building, new gardens and work was in progress on the stream at the bottom of the slope.

I was surprised and delighted to see the fantastic new fruit and veg gardens. There were lots of ideas there including growing potatoes in a wooden bed which had six lift out bags.

A few years back the RHS seems to be stuck in a rut doing that same old stuff over and over but now they seems to be right on message. It is well worth the trip to Harrogate.

Edible Mach Maethlon (Machynlleth)

As part of a project for Eyam Green Group I visited Edible Mach Maethlon (Machynlleth) last week. There are various sites in the town that are planted with edible crops which are available for anybody to pick. There are even planters at the local Co-op who are actively supporting the project. An interactive map of the sites is available here.

There are other farming/horticultural projects which train people in growing and coordinate small growers to supply a local box scheme. It was an inspirational visit that clearly demonstrates what can be achieved with enthusiasm and cooperation.

The first gallery includes photographs of the show garden located at Y Plas. It is an impressive and well kept garden with a number of raised beds. It was a volunteers day so there were people around tending the gardens. The volunteers then moved on to the library which is near the centre of town.

It was not possible to visit all the sites around the town but I did stop at the Co-op. There are planters each side the front and rear entrances. The planters at the front door contained a good selection of herbs. At the back entrance each planter had an apple tree and some soft fruit.