Category Archives: Remineralisation

Progress in the garden

This is our fruit and veg  garden on 16 May 2020. We started work on the plot just over a year ago. There was a lot to do and it’s been hard work but worth it. We are looking forward to harvesting some tasty, pesticide free veg soon.

The weather made it a difficult year but gardeners always say that! The first few months were cold and wet and the top part of the garden was flooded a few of times due to poor drainage. That should now be fixed.

Spring has been cool and mostly dry here and again we are verging on a drought. There were frosts up until last week. That has caused some damage especially to the fruit bushes in the new bed to the left of the path, the top corner is just visible in front of the chairs.

We have done a lot recently thanks to lock down but there is still more to do to achieve our aim of an sustainable, zero waste fruit and veg garden.

New projects
We are lucky to have a corner of a large garden to grow food. Many people have only have a small gardens or just a balcony so we want to share some ideas. First will be an update to the lettuce table  made about 20 years ago. The plan is to make one using as much reclaimed timber as possible and use reclaimed butyl rubber pond liner for the waterproofing.

Next is the use of self-watering containers. We have used them before with good results. We will have peas, beetroot, tomatoes, courgettes and strawberries in various sizes of container. More to come on this soon.

We are also about to start making comfrey liquid fertilizer from the plants started in 2019. This is part of the closed loop, self-contained. zero waste garden we are working towards. It will not be on the same scale as our previous project.

We desperately need an extension to the compost bins as we are already getting short of space. So far we have a cubic metre of compost maturing in one of the bins. The second bin has active compost in it which leaves just one free for the next batch. The plan is to try a very simple way of locking boards together to build metre square bins that can be used when required and then broken down over winter.

As winter approaches we want to try some new ways of extending the season with the aim of having keeping some crops going through winter. That will mean some new cloches and cold frames to go with the solar pods stacked against the wall on the top right of the photo above.

That should be enough to keep us busy for a few weeks, we will post news with videos of progress here.

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Regenerative agriculture – regenerative gardening?

There is a lot of talk about regenerative agriculture, particularly in the US, how it improves soils, stores CO2 from the atmosphere, reduces or eliminates the use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers and reduces costs.

What can gardeners take from this? How do we change the way we garden to get the same benefits?

To start:

1. Stop digging soil – use no dig raised beds and apply lots of compost particularly in the autumn.

2. Never leave the soil bare especially over winter as heavy rain compacts soil and washes out nutrients particularly nitrogen. Use cover crops, mulch or compost.

3. Mulch around growing plants with compost.

4. Get to know your garden, learn what works best for you and don’t blindly follow what everybody else does.

5. Remineralise your soil see this page.

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!

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.

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.

Soil remineralisation page – major update

We have updated the soil remineralisation page and have included more links. We have been adding volcanic rock dust to our gardens from 2004 and believe it increases the nutritional value of the food produced and improves plant health.

Our previous garden suffered very few problems with pests and disease. This was achieved by good organic gardening practices like crop rotation, feeding the soil not the plant and not using artificial fertilisers and pesticides. plus adding rock dust. That will always be our approach to gardening.

Adding rock dust provided the minerals that were missing. See the page