Category Archives: Uncategorized

The EarthShot prize

By now many of you will heard about the EarthShot prize, if not check out  It is a BIG project, it needs to be! I am pleased to see it happening but it does not mean that all our problems will be solved by 2030.

Where do we start?
The big question is ‘how can one person make a difference?’ The answer is to cut personal CO2 emissions as much as possible and then some more.

For the last 30 years I have been growing food in a closed loop garden – no waste ou tand no input of fertilizers or pesticides. Organic food growing has been a major part sustainable food growing in cities, towns, and villages for many years. That is how this web site was born, it was the first organic gardening site in the UK and designed to demonstrate that organics was not some sort of magic but just a more sensible and sustainable way to grow food.

But why concventrate on food? The facts say it all. When the amount of CO2 produced by the production of food and from food waste if food were a country it would rankas the thrird biggest polluter behind China, and the US.

There is no universal one-size-fits-all solution. The best way start is to grow at least some of you own food even if you have no garden, you can use small, recycled l containers.

A new way to think about growing food
In the UK many put their gardens to bed for winter and that is when the ‘season’ is seen to end. There may be some brassicas left ready for Christmas but o the whole we still tend to think of a shortish summer season and then a long rest!

Things have changed, some crops do need some protection, but it is possible to keep many plants growing now. Another sure sign that temperatures are rising. The other way is to use a protected cropping.

 Food waste
If you do not have any growing space the other way to save CO2 and MONEY is to drastically reduce food waste. It is a massive problem and akin to flushing paper money down the toilet.

Be part of zero waste reduction and do not give away valuable food waste – into a compost bin ready to rot down and use on the garden. There are some very neat and odourless systems around which do an excellent job of converting food waste into a rich, black compost in just a few weeks. They are not cheap so why not share one with a neighbour?

While I am excited and enthused by the Earthshot Prize  spending millions on big projects could engender the idea that it is all fixed now so there is no need for individuals to do anything. That MUST NOT happen, we must keep up the momentum to ensure that every community aims to be zero carbon by 2030. There is no alternative.

I am working on a high tech, sustainable food growing project. It is early days yet but the basic parts are on order so work should begin in the next few weeks. I will post a link here when there is something to show so please come back soon.

HotBin composters

We have two HotBins for composting food waste. The idea was to have one as an active bin and use the other for maturing compost when it was full. We ended up with two half full bins that would not heat up.

Talking to a friend revealed that she had the same problem, the bin would not heat up when it got to be about half full. She solved the problem by using a corkscrew compost turning tool and even came round to do our bins!

The problem is finding the tool. If you know of a source please email us!

Leaf mould from last year

Last year we filled three builder’s big bags of leaves, one bag had only shredded leaves, the second a mix of shredded and non-shredded and the third was all plain leaves. Today I emptied the shredded and put the five wheelbarrows full on the fruit bed which gave a depth of 8-10cm. The other bags are not quite ready.

The fruit bed was made earlier this year by taking the turf off the lawn lightly forking the soil and then adding any spare soil and compost we had. It was not enough as the fruit bushes suffered over the summer and we could not work out why.

Last week I put a fork into the lawn and found the soil depth was less than the length of the tines. Under the soil is the well know bed of shale which runs through this area. A quick test with a watering can and it was easy to see that the drainage is far too good as the water from the can just disappeared, there was no pooling at all.

The only remedy is to improve the soil so it holds more water and the best way to do that is to add lots of compost. The plan is to fill the beds to the top of the boards over Autumn and early Winter and let the worms do the rest.

Speaking of worms, there are already some good recruits including the big one! It was a lot longer when it started to move.

Council compost bins

To encourage more home composting councils are offering discounted compost bins, you can check here to see if your council is part of the scheme. In Derbyshire we can get a 220-litre Blackwall compost convertor for £19 and the 330-litre size for £21 plus a delivery charge of £5.99. When you consider that our district council will be charging £50 a year for emptying the green bin it makes sense to start composting your garden waste.

I ordered the 330-litre bin which was delivered in a couple of days. I wanted to see how easy it was to use and how well it worked. The first fill was a mixture of grass cutting and shredded garden waste.

Measuring the temperature is a good was to check if the bin is working. A hole was drilled to allow the use of a standard compost thermometer. To reach and maintain 60c means that the bin is working well.

Day      Temp
1            23C
2            43C
3            61C
4            61C

If you want to know how to make hot compost go to this page.

We will be running a series of online composting workshops beginning in late September 2020
please email us for details

Fighting to save bees

Beyer, the maker of neonicotinoid pesticides that have killed vast numbers of bees is taking the EU to court over the ban on it’s use. They obviously stand to lose a lot of money selling a poison that kills bees. How utterly cynical, irresponsible and downright stupid can they be?

We need to fight back because we rely on bees to pollinate plants that feed us. Without bees we are in a lot of trouble but Beyer does not care about that as long as they make a profit. It is time to stop them, please sign this petition.

There are other things we can do to help bees like not mowing all of the lawn. Leave some patches untouched to make nectar bars.

See this page for shrubs, bush fruits and trees that are good for bees.

If you have the space plant bees friendly plants go to this page on the RHS web site for more information.

Email us if you need help
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After harvest compost application

After clearing the onions and garlic the next step was to add 25mm (1 inch) of compost. Both the onions and garlic need digging out but the soil was not turned over. It was easy to use a fork to raise the bulbs and then gently remove them. Never just pull out the bulbs by the leaves as it will damage the stems which could cause the bulbs to rot during drying.

Photo: Sally Furness

The compost was made earlier this year so is about four months old. It has been sieved through a 10mm screen. The idea is to make several cubic metres of this a year so all the beds can have the same treatment. We are not quite there yet but with recent improvements to the compost mix the output should increase.  More soon on we have changed the way we make compost.

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Onion harvest

We harvested the first onion bed a couple of days ago. There were 62 in the bed which is just under a metre square. There are a few smaller bulbs but generally they are a good size.

In the 2009 square metre bed trials  the total was 8.6 kg with an average weight of 126gms. It looks like the figures for this year will be higher as the sets planted into a bed with a good layer on compost. More information when they have dried off.

The onion bed just before harvest.

The crop looks good. They will be stored for use from January next year. There are anther 40 in another bed which should be ready next month. Again, they are for storing as our post BREXIT supply.

Around 80% of onion sold in the UK are imported from EU countries, the rest come from much further afield e.g. Egypt, Kenya and Israel. It is crazy that we import so many when they could be grown here?

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Frosts in May!

It was beautiful start to the day, sunny but cool. A quick inspection of the garden at around 7AM showed frost on the lawn. It was the real stuff, white and frozen.

It was not totally unexpected especially when the wind is from the east. As the garden is near 300m ASL it is cold which makes the growing season shorter with maybe only three frost free months, June, July and August.

If you are new to growing you need to get to know your garden. Never rely on the information on the back of seed packets telling you when to sow or when to plant out. Also, popular TV garden programmes will tell you it is time to do this or plant out that. Beware, most are filmed a lot further south and your local climate may be very different.

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Please note: we do not store emails, pass on details to anybody else or send messages after we have a responded to your question.

Germination and planning for winter!

Seeds sown direct in beds on 10 April have started to germinate – carrots, parsnips, broad beans and peas in modules. Still no sign of the leeks sown in modules but there is time enough to resow if needed.

I must admit to having never lost the fascination of seeing seeds germinate.

Now is the time to plan follow on crops for winter. Just found this book which we got several years back. This year we want to get it right so that there is food right through until next spring.

Eliot Coleman explains the four season harvest