Category Archives: Organic food

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

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

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; 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.

Comfrey juice fertlizer

Looking through the gardening books this morning I found this old favourite. It is an original 1976 first edition of “Comfrey, past, present and future”.  It used to be well known in organic gardening circles but seem to have dropped off the radar in recent years.

I found the book in the HDRA shop, Henry Doubleday Research Association, at Ryton Organic Gardens. Now called Garden Organic there is no longer a shop and the gardens are a mere shadow of their former shadow of what they once were. And just at a time when we need to push for more sustainable food growing.

As we are building a new organic garden it seems obvious that Comfrey juice production should be part of it.

Lawrence Hills bred a sterile version of Comfrey, he called it “Bocking 14”. It will not self seed, which is crucial if you want to prevent it spreading!

There are three linked pages that explain why Comfrey liquid is so good, how to make small quantities and how to scale up production for larger gardens.

A chemical analysis of Comfrey liquid

Making small quantities of Comfrey liquid

Scaling up production for the larger garden

Please note: Comfrey liquid made by pressing the leaves and small stalks is totally different to Comfrey tea.

Organic outperforms conventional agriculture

Just to show that all the misguided hype about how we need huge inputs of fertiliser, pesticides and GM is just that, hype from the vested interest of the huge agrochemical companies that make a profit out of fear.

And organic gardening probably outperforms conventional food gardening. See this link to out own trials.

From: “Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body & Ultimately Save Our World” 2018, Kindle edition, p.138.

New garden almost ready to plant

More progress today after a big change of plan. We discovered an old water tank in the middle, of the plot which is only about 15cm (6 inches) below the surface. We could of built raised beds over it giving a total soil depth of around 38cms (15 inches.) Instead we decided on a major redesign to leave the area clear. There are now five, 2m x 1m beds and one, metre square bed (not yet filled.) This has increased the growing area to 11 square metres using the same number of boards with two 1m lengths left over. They might end up as part of a planter for the centre area.

The beds are now in place and have been filled with a soil and composted manure mix. All that is needed is some green waste compost to top off the beds and we can start planting.

Carbon sequestration reduces atmospheric CO2

Huge amounts of carbon dioxide are stored in soil and more could be added. All that is needed is a change in the way soil is managed on farms and in gardens.

What is exciting is that it can be done today without the need for new technology to be developed or massive new machines to be built. It just needs is farmers to change the way they treat soil. Not only could that help to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in soil it would also reduce fertiliser and pesticide use which means less the chemical leaching into rivers and streams. See this article about extreme levels of pollution in Europe.

There are several new books explaining how we could sequester enough CO2 to make a huge difference to climate change:

“According to Dr. Rattan Lal of Ohio State University, a pioneer in the study of “biosequestration” (using plants and microbes to sequester carbon dioxide), humans have put some 500 gigatons (billion tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the birth of agriculture some ten thousand years ago. But most of that CO2 was emitted during the relatively recent advent of modern agriculture. Through plowing the land, which releases tremendous quantities of CO2, deforestation, urbanization, and land-use change we have effectively taken a massive quantity of carbon that used to be stored in the ground and released it into the atmosphere.”
[Tickell, Josh. Kiss the Ground (p. 18). Atria/Enliven Books. Kindle Edition.]

Small scale commercial growers and gardeners can help by not digging or rotovating their soil. For gardeners switching to no-dig beds is the best way to start. In 2010 I started a trial garden on farmland that had not been cultivated for around 30 years. No digging was involved and it worked.

The other parts of the process are the application of organic matter, compost and yet more compost! Next is not leaving the soil bare particularly in winter when heavy rain causes compaction and washes out nutrients.