Category Archives: Organic food gardening

The title says it all – organic food gardening = growing your own food using organic methods.

Broccoli Is Dying. Corn Is Toxic. Long Live Microbiomes!

Do you want the cheapest food possible? If so this is what you get: “Data going back to 1940, as reported by Eco Farming Daily, shows: “The level of every nutrient in almost every kind of food has fallen between 10 and 100 percent. “

This is not anything new, it is well documented and we have mentioned it before – “A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991.” see the PDF is here.

There is a stark choice: you either go for the cheapest food and kid yourself that it is good value for money or you buy decent food that is not produced using high inputs of chemical fertiliser and chemical pesticides  –  organic food!

See this piece in Scientific American

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

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

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.

 

 

What are organic standards?

Common questions about choosing organic food are; how do you know it is organic? and Is it worth it?

To be sure that it is organic look for the certification labels.

The UK has a rigorous certification scheme run by the soil association, some say it is the best in the world! It is illegal to say or sell something as organic if it is not certified.

Is it worth the extra? That depends on how much you really value the food you eat and your health. Non-organic food will contain pesticide residues at varying levels. The government set a maximum daily dose for each of them but they have never faced the problem of multiple chemical residues.

The ‘cocktail effect’ of pesticides has long-been recognised as an area of concern in the UK. Little has been done to understand the human health impacts that may occur due to continued exposure of the multiple pesticide residues that consumers eat on a daily basis.

From; http://www.pan-uk.org/dirty-dozen-and-clean-fifteen/ accessed 20/07/2019 07330

If you value your health and want to eat good food then choose certified organic produce!

 

 

Reinventing the (gardening) wheel?

For many years we have argued that we need to grow more food at home. Now Grow it yourself, or GIY, has suddenly become popular partly because of a looming no deal Brexit and fears about food security.

There are many other benefits associated with gardening including exercise, improved mental health, zero food miles and having fresh food readily available. It also reconnects people where the land.  For us it is also about growing sustainably with no pesticides or chemical fertilisers.

A research group – the Food Research Collaboration  have recently published a paper: ” Brexit and Grow it Yourself, a golden opportunity for sustainable farming”. Not sure about the farming bit but I get what they mean.

It is good to see the role of GIY being recognised but it will need more than an academic paper to get things moving. There is a chronic lack of allotment space in the UK and with ever more land going to feed the insatiable appetite for housing it will not be easy to find space to grow food.

While we agree on the need for more allotments we would argue that the typical allotment plot is far from sustainable. There are often high inputs of the same agrochemicals and chemical fertilisers used in farming. A few years back at an event in a south midlands town to encourage more food growing the local allotment society stall consisted of a table full of the chemicals they  used!

Carrots, 64 per Sq.M

The way forward is to use intensive sustainable, organic growing on small plots, something we have been promoting for years.  See this trial from 2009  Quick and easy square metre beds

A lot can be grown in a small space with relatively little effort. Our new garden has a growing area of 15 square metres. We estimate that it will produce 90-120kg of food per year based on previous trials.

Many gardening skills have been lost and there would need to be a programme of short courses, demonstrations and mentoring of new gardeners. Time is short with Brexit on the horizon and the effects of a warming planet already evident. We need to act now to get things moving!

Soil and CO2

This is by far the best explanation of soil sequestration (storage) of CO2 in soil that I have seen. I cannot understand why farmers, gardeners and governments are not jumping on this as a way to help to drastically reduce atmospheric CO2.

Get the PDF here

Why can’t we imagine how the land feels?

This article in The Guardian raises issues that explain why the world is in the state it is. If we see the planet only as a resource to be ruthlessly exploited then we will kill ourselves and every other living organism. What we have forgotten is that everything we need we need to survive comes from the Earth.

This is particularly true of soil. If it as only seen a substrate to provide support for engineered plants that rely chemical inputs to survive then we are doomed.

The loss of soil to erosion and resulting prediction that there is only 40 years of topsoil left should be a resounding wake up call. Yet there is no panic, there are no demonstrations in the streets, there is no understanding of what it means.