Category Archives: Growing food

Foodscaping

Foodscaping is the American name for a font yard (garden) that is used to grow food rather than grass. This TED talk explains it all.

He talks about the loss of nutrients in produce from US factory farms. The same is true for the UK. For many years two UK government scientists measured the mineral content of  range of foods bought at random from shops around the country. This is an overview of what they found. (More details can be found HERE.)

If you want to have a go you can start with some small beds to find what works for you, see Microbed gardens – online workshop  If you don’t have garden then try growing in containers you will be amazed at what can be done.

Now is exactly the right time of year to start!

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Take the first step, grow some food in 2021

“…the stranglehold of corporate Big Ag on the global food system that just four companies – ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Dreyfus – control more than 75 per cent of the worldwide trade in grain.”

“As our ancestors knew very well, control of food is power, a basic truth that we seem to have forgotten.”

“If we want to live in a democracy, we need to take back control of our food.”

The truth about food from “Sitopia : How Food Can Save the World”

Not everybody has access to a large garden or the ability to take on an allotment. Microbed gardens show that it is possible to grow significant amounts of food in small spaces by using intensive planting techniques and good crop management. The idea grew out of Square Foot Gardening which was popular in the US in the 1990s.

Microbed 1, Thursday 7 January 2021 at 7.30pm Please email us for more details or to register your interest.

Gardening in the blood

This is a photo of my grandfather, George, taken in the 1960s. He lived in Lincolnshire and had a big fruit and veg garden with amazing soil. He came to the UK from a farming family in Australia sometime around 1917.

Whenever we visited there was always a tour of the garden. It was a log strip running down to a stream. I always wanted to go on the tour but had to ‘behave’.  Grandad would turn to my father and say “what do you think of them” and a discussion would start about what was doing well this year and what was a waste of time.

Sometimes we would walk up to the top of the lane and look at his small field of sugar beet. It is only recently that I realised that he cultivated, planted, and harvested the field on his own, much of it by hand. The field has gone now, incorporated into another hedge less prairie used to grow grain.

For a long time, I never worked out how he grew such huge crops year after year then the penny dropped. There were no main services at the cottage, it was totally off grid. No mains water, there was pump outside the front door. No electricity and no mains sewage, there was an Elsan in a small shed in the yard.

A few years ago, I remembered that he would not pay for the Elsan to be emptied and it went into the trenches I saw in the garden. I did ask my dad once what they for but was told to be quiet. Evidently, he dug a trench a couple of feet deep and added the contents of the Elsan and any other kitchen and garden waste he could find and filled in with soil.

It was not just marrows that were huge; I remember carrying an enormous cabbage back to the cottage when I was about seven years old. It was a two-handed job. The garden kept them in fruit and veg and both grand parents lived well into their 80s,

However much some will find it hard to believe and even be slightly repulsed by using humanure there is another way to live like many families did around 60 years ago. They were very much before their time and all lived virtually zero carbon lifestyles. I am proud of what the grandparents showed me all those years ago.

Now I know where the gardening, self-reliance, off grid, and sheer cussedness genes come from. It also explains why I want some brown bib & brace overalls, because both my grandad and dad always wore them for gardening and they both grew bumper crops.

Potato harvest August 2020

The six plants produced 13Kg of potatoes from 0.88 sq. metres. That is equivalent to 14.75Kg per Sq. metre or 147 tonnes per hectare. The average farm yield is around 40 Tonnes per hectare. I am not suggesting that farmers should divide their fields into square metre plots but it does show that small scale growing can produce a significant amount of food.

The tops did suffer from blight but it was not bad and did not go down into the tubers. That is exactly how we expected Saro Mira to behave having grown then for many years.

The spuds will be stored in hessian sacks in the cool, dark shed until early 2021,

Garlic harvest

Another crop harvested today, Garlic, Picardy Wight. The bulbs were planted in January. We have always chosen to plant early in the year rather than in the preceding autumn.

The bed used was at the top of the garden close to the greenhouse. The area was flooded to a  depth of 15cm (6 inches) last autumn so I doubt that an Autumn planting variety would have survived.

First time we have used this variety but it sounds ideal!

“Picardy Wight garlic is a softneck garlic originating from the province of Picardy in northern France and is known for its fierce flavour, great keeping, and ease of cultivation in cooler, wetter climates like ours. If you like your garlic strong, then this is the variety for you!”

Some of the garlic crop hanging from a beam in the shed.

Today we lifted 26 good sized bulbs and hung them to dry in the shed. They will be stored for use next year. With luck there should be enough for 4-6 months.

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Time to plan your BREXIT garden!

The panic to find fresh food may be over for now but there are other problems on the horizon. When we crash out of the EU without a deal the government will cosy up to the US to import their food. When that happens how will you know what you are eating? To find out have a look at this article by Alice Keeffe in The Guardian.

“There has been much ado about the prospect of chlorinated chicken, but the implications of a trade deal with the US are equally grim for fruit and veg. The American government will insist on our loosening regulations around the use of pesticides, so we can look forward to apples containing higher levels of malathion (an organophosphate insecticide linked to cancer which can impair the respiratory system) and grapes with added propargite, an insecticide that has been associated with cancer and can affect sexual function and fertility. Oh yes, and then there are neonicotinoids, all but banned in the UK because of their toxic effect on bees, and chlorpyrifos, banned by the EU over concerns about its impact on the brains of foetuses and young children.”

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate which were used as insecticides. They used to be widespread but were banned in Europe some years back. It is accumulative poison and can be absorbed through the skin. The manufacturers continue to sell them to the developing world and the US. See this piece about child deaths in India.

Do we really want food produced using pesticides that have been banned here? It is time we grew up as a nation and looked after ourselves and the land where we live. There must be a resounding NO from anybody who cares about food, their health and the long term future of this fragile planet.

One answer is to grow your own. Now is a good time to start planning and getting your food garden ready. We are hear to help.

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A garden heals the worried mind

The stresses of the last few months have been hard to live with and there seems no end to the situation. For me the garden has helped enormously, I honestly don’t know what I would have done without it.

I found this article today by Helen Chesnut a well-known garden writer from Canada. What she says resonated deeply with my own experience over the years while trying to cope with what the TV now calls a life changing event. The garden healed in many ways, emotionally and physically; never underestimate the power of even gentle exercise. And, growing fruit and veg improves diet.

Helen says: “Then, there is the garden. Whether it’s a landscaped acreage, an allotment plot, or a collection of potted balcony plants, a garden is refuge and solace in the face of stress and anxiety. A garden heals. The worries of the world that buzz about in our minds slip away as we delve in the soil and tend our plants.” See the whole article here or click on the image below.

Photograph By Helen Chesnut

Now that lock down has been eased in the UK, for the time being, the urgency to grow food to fill the gaps left by food shortages may have diminished. There will be other critical events which have the same effect. Some say it will be a no-deal Brexit or climate change as new and unpredictable weather patterns decimate once reliable crops. We cannot know what the future will bring but we can be better prepared to look after ourselves.

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An improved lettuce table-update 26 June 20

It is 23 days since the lettuce table was finished and the first seeds sown. There is a good crop of three different types of salad mixes ready for picking. There should be four but the germination of one mix was patchy.

The original lettuce table can be found here

The radishes were removed as they were growing far too much foliage and swamping the salads.

The four colour Mizuna has done really well, it was a trial pack of seeds for 99p!

The watercress trough followed on the 15 June 20 with some cuttings taken from a standard organic pack from Waitrose.  Seed of unknown variety was also sown and it germinated in a few days. It might not have enough time to mature this year but we will try again next spring.

If using cuttings rooted in water the roots should be converted to soil roots gradually. After the water roots have developed gradually add soil tot the jar each day until you get a thick slurry. Leave for a few days watering daily and then plant out.

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“Urban dwellers yearn for ‘Good Life’ allotments”

By chance the BBC are running this piece today, it is well worth a read. They say:

“Land set aside for allotments in the UK has declined by 65% from a peak in the “dig for victory” and post-war era.”

“Lost allotments” could provide 6% of the UK population with their five-a-day fruit and veg

“We have already seen a huge increase in the number of people interested in growing their own food as a result of coronavirus, with garden centres and online shops selling out of seeds in the first weeks of lockdown.

“Coronavirus has… highlighted to people the fragility inherent within our globalised food system. In a time of crisis, interest in self-sufficiency rises.”

What more evidence do we need to take this seriously?

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.”