Category Archives: Growing food

Food and climate change

“Food has not been the focus of climate change discussions as much as it should have been. (…)  We can still act and it won’t be too late”  

Barack Obama, 26 May 2017.[1]

If you have ever wondered why food is such an important part of climate change then read this article from Grain. It questions the belief that agriculture accounts for a third of greenhouse gas emission and say it is nearer 50%!

The changing climate is already having an impact on food supplies. We are all vulnerable, wherever we live, which is why we need more sustainable and resilient ways to grow food.

Parsnip harvest

It is that time of the year, the parsnips are ready! A quick harvest today yielded some super specimens. They are a good length with no sign of disease.


I must admit to having never lost the excitement of seeing veg come of of the ground a few months after sowing some tiny seeds. Already have the seed catalogues ready to start planning for next year.

 

The ring of market gardens around Liège

There used to be a lot of markets gardens in the UK. I grew up in a small Warwickshire village and we used to have family trips in the car around the Evesham area because there were so many small growers selling produce at the garden gate.

My dad used to grow and sell, it was mostly enormous Webs Wonderful lettuces cut straight from the garden for 6 old pence worth around 45p today. There are still a few people doing it in Norfolk and Lincolnshire, they call them farm shops now.

In this part of Derbyshire there are no market gardens.That could be because the climate is harsher or just that nobody does it anymore because food shopping is now all about finding the cheapest supermarket produce.

The other Issue is land. Every spare bit of ground is snapped up by speculators hoping they will get planning permission for houses and sell for a fat profit. The other group willing to pay over the odds for agricultural land are equestrian users.

Yet again we seem to have lost the plot!  In other countries where food is valued there are lots of small growers. This web site documented the area around Liège, Belgium. It is amazing to see what people do with small plots.

We should do more of this in the UK not only would help improve food security and access to cheap fresh food it is good exercise in the fresh air. Allotments should be available on an NHS prescription.

Access to land for growing food has got to be seen as essential for human wellbeing and survival. There has to be more allotment provision for organic growing of course, in towns, cities and rural areas.

Under our feet

What if an easy way to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide were right under our feet? It would not require years of research, huge investments in unproven technology and is available now. Today!

Impossible? NO! We can start now. All we have to do is change the way we manage the soil that grows our food.

I have used no-dig raised beds to grow food for nearly 30 years. In 2009  four small beds were made without digging heavily compacted soil that had not been cultivated for 30 years. The soil was gently loosened, covered with compost and seeds/plants sown. It worked! See this page

Now there is research about the beneficial effects of not cultivating the biggest of which is creating a carbon sink that reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Why are we not doing this on a large scale? Why the reluctance to act? We could all start to make a real difference today!

Natural pest control

I am often asked if homemade sprays are safer alternatives to commercial pesticides. My answer is always NO! Apart from being illegal in the EU you never of the unintended consequences of making a spray.

The real answer is to create a garden that achieves a natural balance and accept that every year there will be some losses. In other words, stay cool and work with ‘nature’.

In our old garden we did achieve that balance. It took a while but eventually we had few problems. In the first year Gooseberry Saw Fly stripped a bush but never they came back. There were occasional black fly infestations on broad beans but nothing serious. We grew a potato variety called Sarpo Mira which never had blight – it is the most blight resistant spud in existence and was bred many years ago using conventional techniques.

Part of the reason for the lack of aphids was the nettles that surrounded the plot. They the perfect place for Ladybirds to lay their eggs early in the season. Ladybird larvae are voracious predators of aphids. They look scary but they really are your friend.

 

Better crops from better soil

What never ceases to amaze me is we have so lost touch with planet Earth that we have forgotten it is literally earth, or soil, that feeds us!

There is an increasing amount of evidence that we are taking too much from soil and giving nothing back. This leads to soil erosion on a massive, world-wide scale. No country is immune.

On the web site of Boston’s WBUR radio station is reference to a report from the UN saying that our soils are in trouble.

They state:

The health of the Earth’s soil is crucial to storing carbon.

So what does it mean when scientists conclude the Earth’s soil is being lost 10 to 100 times faster than it is forming?

“It’s undermining our ability for long term sustainability, in a nutshell,” scientist Louis Verchot says.

At last the message is getting out! By treating agricultural land differently, we could increase food output, improve spoils and lock in CO2. It is not rocket science! It does not need fancy new technology in fact or needs common sense old technology. No government needs to pass new laws or have any input into this. We could start doing this now! Yes, today, now!

The only groups fighting against it are agrochemical companies because they can see their profits plummeting.

Gardeners can be part of the change by quite simply learning more about what healthy soils. The first thing is to learn how to make and use lots of good compost. Next is to stop digging!

 

Food as medicine

As it should be at every hospital!

“You become diabetic because when you don’t have good food to eat, you eat whatever you can to survive,” Golden says. “Because of the healthy food I get from the pantry… I’ve learned how to eat.”

That is why growing food is the best single thing that you can do to improve health. Not only does it provide cheaper really fresh food, it educates and informs and changes lives.

I just do not understand why more of this kind of initiative is not happening in the UK. It is sad to think that people are being deprived of the experience of growing and eating their food.

You don’t need a lot of space, do it square metre beds!

 

Why Growing Food is The Single Most Impactful Thing You Can Do in a Corrupt Political System

See the original article and watch the videos at realfarmacy.com/

I have always said that growing your own food is the most anarchic thing you can do. Politicians and big business do not like independence, they want us to be docile consumers. To be the least bit self-reliant subverts that. That’s what makes me smile every time I get veg from the garden!

Growing food is easier than you think, you can start in an afternoon – see how

Promoting organic gardening in a climate emergency

It is a real pity that Ryton Gardens will no longer be open to the public. It was major tourist attraction in the past and Garden Organic will lose a lot by closing it. How many other casual visitors were inspired by what they saw? A much smaller garden, closed to the public except for occasional open days is no substitute.

We need an organisation to promote and encourage organic growing both to improve food security and to combat climate change. Part of that has to be a place where good practice can be seen by casual visitors. Most of all we need an organisation that can recognise the crucial role that sustainable food growing has in combating climate change.

Maybe it is time for a new group, charity or organisation to take over that role and really get things moving. Take a look at the edible garden display at RHS Harlow Car to see what can be done. I Just wish the gardens were organic.