Turning off the tap

John Walker

Turning off the tap

‘Peak oil’, when global supplies begin to decline, is now only a matter of when, not if. So when can we expect the transition away from oil-hungry gardening? asks John Walker.

Just when we thought we’d got it right, when we thought we were on the right path, and that it was only a matter of time before the wider gardening world caught up with us, we find ourselves snookered. [Read more…]

Growing up

Growing up

Forest gardening offers an environmentally sound way of growing, but has it lived up to expectations? CAT Display Gardener Chloe Ward considers the possibilities for this innovative technique.

I remember clearly the moment of my conversion. 1991 saw the publication of Forest Gardening – the launch of a new way of growing food. It was the most environmentally sound system you could imagine. A vision of food production that was not just low impact but actively beneficial. The idea was enthralling to an aspiring ecological grower. It gave a new direction for the future. I was instantly seduced. [Read more…]

Growing for Seed

Pippa Rosen

Growing for Seed

I started my business in southwest Wiltshire in the UK over 20 years ago, concentrating at that time on herbs and beans which were, and still are, my passions. I gradually expanded the herbs-in-pots business to about 100 varieties to include medicinal, aromatic and culinary herbs, selling these out at markets and from trade-stands. Although never using any chemical sprays on the herbs I was uncomfortable, even back then, in using artificial fertilisers or peat in the compost mix. The horticultural industry continues to deplete peat reserves and I no longer wished to be part of it. I call myself a private herb nursery and still grow a few potted herbs to order using my own-produced potting compost. I came to doubt that to produce organically-certified herbs in pots on a small scale would be commercially viable, so I started to concentrate on growing herbs and beans for seed production and developing a mail-order business. I also sell from trade-stands at some of the larger shows and events as I enjoy meeting home growers and allotment holders. I find that having a background in growing herbs and some vegetables is very useful for answering the many questions I get! [Read more…]

Growing For Health: Beneficial Broccoli

Pauline Lloyd

Growing For Health: Beneficial Broccoli

Cultivation :

This hardy, nutritious and extremely useful green vegetable belongs to the cabbage family (Brassicaceae). Broccoli is essentially a cool season crop, producing heads mainly in the spring or autumn. However, by sowing a wide range of different varieties it’s possible to produce an almost continuous supply of homegrown broccoli for much of the year.

Broccoli is usually subdivided into two main types:

1. Sprouting Broccoli

This is the earliest and hardiest type of broccoli, producing either purple or white shoots typically in March or April. The heads of these very productive and handsome plants should be harvested when still tightly in bud, along with their leaves and stalks, which can also be eaten. Sprouting broccoli is usually sown in late April, with the young plants being transplanted to their final growing position in June/July for harvesting the following spring. [Read more…]

Deforestation: livestock destroying the living earth

By Amanda Rofe

“The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from global to local … Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring.”

Ref: Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Livestock’s Long Shadow (2006)

Forests provide a rich selection of all ecosystem services which are essential for the efficient functioning of the planet and the health of the people and animals living on it. Ecosystem services can be described under four main sections: provision (food, fibre, minerals, timber), regulation (carbon absorption, climate regulation, water cycle), cultural (recreation, reflection, spiritual enrichment) and support services (oxygen, soil fertility, soil formation). [Read more…]

Agro Ecology Deliberations

Stephane Groleau

Last February, I attended a lecture by Miguel Altieri, a renowned researcher in the field of agro ecology. Two hundred and fifty people (students, farmers and advisers) took part in the event. A specialist in insect biology, he teaches entomology at the College of Natural Resources at the University of California in Berkeley. Although it’s not vegan, agro ecology is worth knowing about. Many principles may motivate us, especially within a global context. In fact, they often reminded me of my classes in permaculture. Moreover, as in permaculture, the design of the growing system is heavily influenced depending on whether or not people choose to integrate animals. [Read more…]

A Place for Pulses

Amanda Rofe

Soya Beans ( Glycine max )

In May this year (2008) I grew Thompson & Morgan’s Ustie soya beans. Having pre-soaked them overnight, I sowed some in pots in the polytunnel and two rows in the ground outside. The seeds in the pots came up first and were planted out but it is too much work to bother with again and not really necessary. The seeds in the ground were slow to germinate until a heavy thunderstorm hit the region. Then they really took off. They were grown very close together and didn’t need any support. By the beginning of August these hairy tight little pods were fully formed and had taken just over three months to mature. By the beginning of September the plants were going yellow and the leaves were beginning to fall off. At this point I cut the plants off at the base, leaving the roots in the ground, and hung them up in large bunches in the shed to fully dry out. [Read more…]

The importance of earthworms for soil structure

Dave of Darlington

The importance of earthworms for soil structure

It was in 1881 that Charles Darwin published his influential book ‘The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms with Observations in their Habits.’ People must have been aware, probably since the dawn of agriculture, of the beneficial effects of earthworms on the soil, but Darwin was the first to study the activity of earthworms in a systematic way and to observe in detail the conversion of dead plant material by worms into soil organic matter. [Read more…]

Myths of organic farming

Myths of organic farming

by Dave of Darlington

A few years ago Anthony Trewavas, Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at Edinburgh University, published, in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, an article entitled Urban Myths of Organic Farming, in which he tried to discredit organic farming on the basis that, according to him, it did not promote any more biodiversity than conventional farming, that it used just as much energy as conventional farming and, most extraordinary of all, that trace quantities of toxic pesticides in our food were actually good for us! [Read more…]

More on no-dig potato growing

Dave of Darlington

More on no-dig potato growing

(with apologies to the H.D.R.A.)

The very dry summer of 2006 had an adverse effect on many vegetable crops, especially potatoes, which need a constant level of moisture in the soil to grow well. A dry soil not only checks the growth of the plants, retarding tuber development, but also increases the incidence of common scab, a fungal disease that normally only affects the skin of the tubers but which, in dry soil, can penetrate deeper into them and seriously impair their quality. [Read more…]