Category Archives: Urban food growing

Singapore-gardening plots to increase twofold by 2030

Wow! If only the same could happen in the UK it would help build a more resilient food supply and improve nutrition. We need a vigorous, national campaign now!

From the The Straits TImes, June 18 2020

Rows of seedlings grown in an egg tray. PHOTO: NPARKS

“Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said: “The potential risk of disruption to our food supply during the Covid-19 situation underscores the importance of our local food farms and growing more food locally, as part of our strategy to strengthen food security and build greater social resilience.”

“The number of community plots for gardening enthusiasts will more than double by 2030.

The National Parks Board (NParks) aims to have 3,000 community gardens – up from 1,500 – and 3,000 allotment gardens, a threefold increase from the current level.”

 

French roof top farms to supply 1000kg a week

Paris roof top gardens could soon supply 1000 kg a day of fresh food. Think of the food miles saved. Think of the air miles saved! Think of the taste of really fresh food that you can normally only get by growing your own.

The downside is that it is aeroponic growing. There is no soil or other growing medium. The nutrients are in water which is sprayed on the roots of the plant and continually recirculated. It works well and can produce high yields. The downside is that aeroponics uses chemical fertilisers which are made using fossil fuels resulting in a big carbon footprint.

Some vertical growing systems use a synthetic growing medium like rockwool or vermiculite. The production of both is extremely energy intensive. There are also issues around disposing of used rockwool. Again, far from sustainable food production.

No quick fixes are ever as easy as they appear.

Early protected cropping – growing plants in large open ended glass jars. It worked!

It can only be a half-way house the ideal being getting back to the market gardens that used to surround Paris.

We need new food systems

It is 30 years since the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Science and Services was opened by Margret Thatcher. She said; “What it predicts will affect our daily lives. Governments and international organisations in every part of the world are going to have to sit up and take notice and respond…” They have not done that.

What the scientists are predicted 30 years ago was exactly right; the climate has changed. The weather patterns we are seeing now are here to stay. They affect everything we do especially growing food. It is no use saying that if things go wrong here we can go to ‘the market’ because the effects of climate change are worldwide.

We need is to change the way food is grown and distributed or starve. That means radical new solutions that serve local communities and get away from a centralised system that relies on huge farms selling though a few large retailers or the dwindling number of wholesale markets.

One solution would be to move to community supported farms, CSAs where people invest in a farm in return for a weekly supply of seasonal veg. Farms, in CSA terms, would more likely be known as market gardens in the UK.

This is a good example of how an American CSA responded to Covid-19

This is how a CSA adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic

CSAs are similar to how food used to be grown and sold 50 years ago in areas like the Vale of Evesham, Kent, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. There are still remnants of it on the Lincolnshire Norfolk Border.

A Norfolk market gardener who has a small shop next to his house.

Villages and towns should start to harness the power of allotments through food shares and mini produce markets. That might require some changes to allotment regulations, but it would be far better than allowing surplus produce to be wasted.

We could also return to selling at the garden gate like many used to do in the 1950s and 60s. Again, there are probably regulations that prohibit it but we desperately need to be creative or face food shortages very soon.

Most of all we need food to be grown sustainably i.e. in the most environmentally friendly way possible without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilisers.

Can’t find it – grow it!

It’s the same the world over. If people cannot find the produce they want in supermarkets they are growing it. This article is about a woman in Singapore who could not find Okra in her local supermarket so started gardening again. “We rely on other (countries) for our food, if they don’t sell to us we have nothing to eat…”

Things like lettuce and other salad greens are easy to grow and can mature in as little as 5-6 weeks. And you don’t always need a garden. We are about to start a trial of a very simple system made from recycled parts that can be used to grow salad crops. More coming soon.

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Urbanites find solace in urban farming amid COVID-19 quarantine

This is an article from The Jakarta Post and is typical of what is happening in many parts of the world.

There is a huge increase in the number of people wanting to grow food. In the UK seed merchants web sites are over loaded with some having queuing systems and time limited access. Well known brands are have sold out of seed but don’t forget there are local garden centres offering a telephone/email ordering service and home delivery.

We are experienced, committed and qualified gardeners and are happy to support and encourage anybody to grow food. Please email us info@organicgarden.org.uk

Beat the food shortages

The thing about Covid-19 that strikes us most is the panic buying of food and other essentials. The hoarders are stripping supermarket shelve. The stores are reacting by limiting the number of certain items and forcing long queues to get into stores. Is it time for food rationing? Evidently the government has a permanent stock of ration books.

The current situation highlights the dominance exerted by a very few companies. Supermarkets control the production and growing of food, its distribution and the retail sale. Consumers have no choice other than which store to choose. That cannot be a good thing.

Professor Tim Lang talks about food security (2009)

What needs to come out of all this is the recognition that food security in the UK is at best  precarious. A point that has been made many times over the years but one that has been ignored by everybody.

We need to be more self-reliant both as individuals and as a nation. We must get back to taking personal responsibility for our food and stop relying on a very small number of multinational companies to do everything for us.

We need to take personal responsibility for what we eat and not trust others to feed us endless processed food and ready meals. Most of all, we should grow more of our own food. We have done it before in times of crisis and we can do it again!

Now is the perfect time to start, cultivate the garden, buy some seeds and GROW FOOD!
You do not need an allotment or a large garden and you also don’t need to dig everything in sight! Follow the first link below to see how you can start today and have a working veg garden in an afternoon.

Quick and easy spare metre beds
Growing potatoes in a dustbin
Sowing seeds 
Veg growing chart
Composting

If you need individual help and advice then please contact us and we will be pleased to give any help and support you need.

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.

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!

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.