Category Archives: Uncategorized

How supermarkets create food waste from field to table

The article is full of information about waste in the supermarket food chain. What is surprising is that a lot of waste comes from farmers over producing for fear of not being able to supply.

Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson has openly spoken about his experiences in the 90s: “When I used to supply the supermarkets you generally grew about a third more than you thought you would sell, just to make sure that the supermarket buyer didn’t have a tantrum if you ran short, and so routinely, you have more than you can sell and so you just mow it off and plough it in – that’s the normal thing to do.”

The overriding issue is how supermarkets have come to dictate the whole agricultural industry.

See the article here on the Wicked Leaks web site


RSPB resigns from government’s pesticides forum

According to an article in The Telegraph “The RSPB and dozens of environmental groups have resigned from the government’s pesticides forum after two decades claiming the use of dangerous chemicals is now far worse than when they joined.”

The UK government is very good at playing games, they will no doubt shouted about the fact that they have environmental groups on board yet will have really wanted to keep their farmers friend and agrochemical companies happy. They want votes and donations to party funds to win elections and feed their hunger for power.

I am in no doubt that Michael Gove will have already had his spin doctors in to gloss over the withdrawal of environmental groups. They will be saying something along the lines of the need for cheap food, a prosperous agricultural industry and the need to keep food on supermarkets shelves while at the same time saying how sad he is that these groups have taken such extreme action.

The UK government has ignored the 2013 UNCTAD report on sustainable farming because it says that we do not need pesticides, GM or any other agrochemical, money making, Earth destroying products to ‘feed the world’. There are no party donations from not using agrochemicals

What I do know is that if we keep destroying insects for profit the whole ecosystem will collapse. We are part of ‘nature’ not above it or able to control or manipulate for our own ends. We simply rely on for everything.

Food has to be sustainable.



Book on hot beds

If you want to know how to make hot beds for really early crops then the best place to start is by reading a new book by Jack First. Jack appeared on the UK TV programme Gardeners World last year. He showed just what hot beds could do with lots of salad crops and very early new potatoes.  The usual disclaimer applies, we have no financial interest in this book and any recommendation is because we found it useful.

Click the link to order.


Composting kitchen waste update 25 Jan 2013

A couple of days ago I noticed the thermometer in the lid of the Hotbin was showing about 8C. As the air temp was below zero it had to be hot gases from working compost. I inserted the compost thermometer and it read 30C.

Today the lid thermometer was reading ~15C and the compost thermometer shows 42C. I think that is impressive considering the air temperature is -2C today and the bin is still less than one quarter full. It looks like the composting kitchen waste trial is already a success.

Update 26 Jan 2013

After the heavy snow last night it was easy to see that the Hotbin was working – the air coming out of the vent on the lid had melted the snow. The lid thermometer was showing 22C and the core temp was slightly under 60C.


The time for change is now!

We are on the edge of a precipice; the Arctic ice cap and Greenland glaciers are melting at an increasing rate yet no government seems to either care or want to do anything about it.greenland-glacier-melt-nasa

Radical steps are needed to avert disaster on a scale unprecedented in human history yet governments are still spending billions on space research, building a new radio telescope and other esoteric research. It is time to suspend such projects and spend the money on ways to improve energy and food security.

The UK government pleads poverty and have recently said that climate change has to take second place to economic recovery. That makes me mad, very mad. They do not seem to recognise that the time to address these issues is NOW!

Energy security is relatively easy to tackle as Germany has shown by increasing the amount of electricity generated by renewables from 20% to 60% in 12 years. In the UK the government ended a scheme to support households installing PVs because it was popular and the small amount of money allocated was used up too quickly.

The tired old mantra that there is ‘no money in the pot’ is just a lie. There IS cash for free schools and an extra £100m for summer schools was announced a few months ago. All very laudable but what if the generation now going through school struggles to afford food or cannot find enough of it? Just think what £100m could do to help switch to renewables or help us to improve food security.

My conclusions are that administrations are not taking climate change seriously which amounts to a criminal failure to govern. It is time for really radical change: 1) stop space exploration and divert money to mitigating the effects of climate change. 2) Do not build the expensive ($100m) very large array radio telescope and divert the money  to projects to encourage more home renewables and domestic food growing. 3) Stop spending billions of politically motivated education follies like free schools and use the money to reintroduce horticulture to all UK schools.

That would be just the start of changing the way we live to one that fits the level of resources available to us. The irony is that this would produce a fairer and more ‘sustainable’ economy but it takes vision and foresight to see that, something sadly lacking these days.

What can we do? Grow more food; you knew I would say that. Reduce car journeys, use public transport more, develop an awareness of the hidden costs of everything you buy, buy less, recycle everything you can, make compost – particularly from nutrient rich kitchen waste. Finally, ask your MP, councillors, other political representative what they are doing about food security and energy security. Look at the response you get and it is not adequate tell them!

Find your district councillors, county councillor, MP, MEP.


Monsanto ARE intent on World domination

By buying the major company investigating bee deaths Monsanto have shown they will go to any lengths to silence their critics!

“Monsanto, the massive biotechnology company blamed for contributing to the dwindling bee population, has bought up one of the leading organizations involved in research into bee collapse. The company’s genetically modified corn may be devastating the bee population, and Monsanto is under serious fire for their role in the downfall of these vital insects. Monsanto’s motives for buying Beelogics, one of the largest bee research firms on the planet, in September 2011 are quite obvious.” YES, to silence the opposition!


Safe herbicide?

Like many people, I once believed in the safety of RoundUp. Back in the 1980s when I was a young graduate student in ecology, it was the “safe” herbicide of choice for clearing weeds from study plots.

Monsanto would like us to continue to believe their flagship product is safe, but the data are increasingly saying otherwise. The latest? Widespread exposure is a near certainty, since RoundUp — now linked to birth defects — shows up regularly in our water and air.

Glyphosate, RoundUp’s active ingredient, was found in every stream studied and in most air samples taken in a recent study conducted by government researchers in Mississippi and Iowa. And it’s undoubtedly in other states too. Across the U.S. it’s used commonly on corn, soybeans, cotton and rice, to the tune of 180-185 millions of pounds in 2007 — more tonnage than any other pesticide.

And that’s only use on farms. RoundUp is also the second most commonly used pesticide in homes and gardens across the country.

The above is from the ‘GroundTruth’ blog. The article goes on to give more information about the dangers of glyphosate based herbicides. It is all too easy to reach for the quick fix and many still believe that these products become inert as soon as they touch soil. There is a wealth of evidence to show they are not as benign as the manufacturers want us to believe. The answer is simple, do not use them.

Is spring is just round the corner?

With the days getting longer and the constant reminders that it is time to start sowing seeds anybody would think that spring has arrived. There are endless articles in magazines about what to grow this year and last weekend one garden writer said it was time to sow tomato seeds. While this is perfectly possible if you have a heated propagator in a heated greenhouse and extra lighting I would suggest that it is far too early as you will need heat and light for 2-3 months and that it both expensive and unsustainable.

Here in the ‘frozen north’ we do not plant out tomatoes and other of more delicate plants like courgettes, squash, dwarf French beans and sweetcorn until early May. So if you sowed the seeds now that would mean holding them in pots in a warm, light place for three months which is not good for the plants or you bank balence

Sowing seeds outside in February is also daft. The winter has been hard and the last time I looked at the soil it was frozen to a depth of maybe 2-3 inches ( 10-15cms). Obviously most seeds will not germinate at those sorts of temperatures yet we are constantly told that February is the month to sow parsnips. Many gardeners complain that parsnips are difficult to grow and, you guessed it, when asked they say they sow in February. I cannot understand why the seed companies and garden journalists recommend such early sowings.

The best way to sow at the right time is to know your own plot. Some gardens are colder than others and after a few seasons you will come to know what works for you. Take into account variations in the weather as after a very cold spell it will take a while for the ground to warm up.

The second tip is to measure the soil temperature and then find the minimum germination temp for the seeds you want to sow. See our germination temperature chart here.

My last tip is to be patient. We all want to start sowing seeds but if you get carried away and start too early there will be failures. Wait until conditions are right and you will have good crops of strong healthy plants.