Microgreens have become fashionable over the last few years. There are reports of indoor farms starting up in old factories and disused railway tunnels with enthusiasts saying this is the new, clean efficient agriculture which is better than messy soil. They fail to admit that nobody is growing root crops because they need soil!
The commercial growers generally use hydroponics, where the nutrients are dissolved in water which constantly circulates around the system. The nutrients used are soluble manufactured using the same energy intensive process used to produce agricultural fertilisers.
There are other ways to grow microgreens and we have opted for a ‘soil’ mix and an organic fertiliser based on seaweed. This could be a much more eco friendly way of satisfying the demand for fresh greens when it is impossible to grow outside.
The photo shows left-over pea seeds that were soaked over night and then just spread on the seed tray. That was 2 days ago, and they have sprouted already. I have never lost the fascination of seeing life created by just adding water! They will be grown on to the first true leaf stage which should take 10-12 days.
Next for seeding are Radish, Beetroot, Basil, Red Amaranth, Sweetcorn, mixed salad leaves and Sunflowers, Will it work? It should but who knows, so watch out for updates.
78% of global ocean and freshwater eutrophication (the pollution of waterways with nutrient-rich pollutants) is caused by agriculture3;
94% of mammal biomass (excluding humans) is livestock. This means livestock outweigh wild mammals by a factor of 15-to-1.4 Of the 28,000 species evaluated to be threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List, agriculture and aquaculture is listed as a threat for 24,000 of them.5
Food, therefore, lies at the heart of trying to tackle climate change, reducing water stress, pollution, restoring lands back to forests or grasslands, and protecting the world’s wildlife.
Today I sowed three types of onion seed; Sturon, Giant Stuttgart and Ailsa Craig in quarter width trays. They are on a heated base with the temperature set to 14C. This must mark the start of the new growing season although it is cold and damp outside with the forecast of snow.
Normally our onions are grown from sets but in 2020 we lost around 25% of the crop to white rot. As I am sure there have been no onions grown on the plot for many years I can only assume that it came with the sets. That explains the use of seed this year, to see if we can get clean onions that will store well.
We also had an attack of allium leaf miner so all alliums will be protected by insect proof netting this year.
Next to go in will garlic around Mid January if the weather is suitable. The cloves will be planted straight into the beds.
I follow Edible Garden City on FB because I love how Singapore responded to Covid. They grew only 10% of their food so were vulnerable to supply chain problems. Their response was a big campaign to get everybody growing veg.
I found this short film today of a family growing food and running a small outlet in the city. I recognised some of the veg they grow and have been growing them here. I made a note of others to try.
What got to me most was the father’s decision to grow without pesticides. He said that they scared him and he did not want his family eating sprayed food. His main concern for his family is to “to eat with peace of mind, to eat healthily”. I could not agree more.
Foodscaping is the American name for a font yard (garden) that is used to grow food rather than grass. This TED talk explains it all.
He talks about the loss of nutrients in produce from US factory farms. The same is true for the UK. For many years two UK government scientists measured the mineral content of range of foods bought at random from shops around the country. This is an overview of what they found. (More details can be found HERE.)
If you want to have a go you can start with some small beds to find what works for you, see Microbed gardens – online workshop If you don’t have garden then try growing in containers you will be amazed at what can be done.
This year we tried overwintering oriental veg. The garden is in a cold spot, in a valley around 270M ASL open to the East. It has been cold with some sharp frosts in November. I am always doubtful about leaving any crops in the ground without protection but the oriental veg has survived.
Tonight, we used some Pak Choy leaves in a stir fry. We also tried some Wong Bok raw; the thick stems were delicious with the flavour changing as it was eaten. There are plenty more to harvest so they should last into March.
There will definitely be more next year with maybe some protected cropping from cloches to give us all year round greens.
We had snow today, the first this Winter. In spite of the cold but we were still able to harvest a lettuce grown outside.
It is a “Winter Density”, a favourite winter variety. We used to grow them in the small polytunnel at the old garden. In January one year I found all of the small plants encased in clear ice. I thought that was it but they thawed out and went on to develop into edible plants.
This year they were supposed to over winter but maybe they were planted out too soon or the Autumn was too warm because they grew too quickly. We have been able to have fresh lettuce through to December. There are also salad leaves in the greenhouse which are growing slowly but should be ready in the New Year.
We have a good crop of leeks this year but when harvested some have looked a bit strange.
I sent the photo to the RHS thinking it was something I had done wrong but they came back with the response that it was allium leaf miner. The clincher was the suggestion that there would be “… cylindrical brown pupae are about 3mm long and found embedded in the stems and bulbs”. Sure enough they were there.
The only cure is crop rotation and covering alliums (onions, garlic and leeks) with insect proof netting.
“…the stranglehold of corporate Big Ag on the global food system that just four companies – ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Dreyfus – control more than 75 per cent of the worldwide trade in grain.”
“As our ancestors knew very well, control of food is power, a basic truth that we seem to have forgotten.”
“If we want to live in a democracy, we need to take back control of our food.”
The truth about food from “Sitopia : How Food Can Save the World”
Not everybody has access to a large garden or the ability to take on an allotment. Microbed gardens show that it is possible to grow significant amounts of food in small spaces by using intensive planting techniques and good crop management. The idea grew out of Square Foot Gardening which was popular in the US in the 1990s.
Microbed 1, Thursday 7 January 2021 at 7.30pm Please email us for more details or to register your interest.