Landshare.org is a British initiative that looks to re-think the way we produce and grow food. The community puts people who have land in touch with people who want to produce food and encourages people to get talking and working together. The idea is that people with a bit of spare space can offer it to a would-be grower in exchange for some of their harvest. The British TV station Channel 4 has set up a web site and forum based around the aims of the organisation. If you’re looking for some inspiration and would like to get involved, why not check it out.




Food Inc documentary

If this doesn’t get you out into the garden and growing your own, nothing will. Writers Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser are involved in this documentary about everything that’s wrong with the American (and, consequently, global) food system and what we can do to change it.

Grow your own carrots

The taste of a freshly pulled organic carrot simply can’t be beaten by anything you get at the shops – even dyed-in-the-wool organic-skeptics admit that they taste better. For a product that’s widely viewed as something of a poster child for everything that’s good about natural produce (who can resist photos of baskets of them, complete with their fan of green foliage?), it’s interesting to note that carrots are quite possibly one of the most tweaked-with vegetables around. Originating in Afghanistan, selective breeding over centuries has improved everything from the appearance to the texture and, indeed, the colour: carrots of yore were naturally purple – the orange was bred into them by, surprise surprise, the Dutch.

Today, carrots come in all shapes, sizes and colours as diverse as purple, white, yellow and red. If you’re thinking of growing your own, maybe opt for the less common varieties – the regular kind are readily available in the shops and cost very little, so you may as well reward yourself with something a little bit different for all your efforts. Here’s how to grow your own carrots. And yes, if you do eat too many of them your skin really will begin to turn orange…  Continue Reading »

The UK’s Soil Association has announced that if all British farmland was converted to organic farming, at least 3.2 million tonnes of carbon would be absorbed by the soil each year – the equivalent of pulling almost 1 million cars off the roads.

Research undertaken by the association (available for download here), further suggests that a worldwide switch to organic farming could offset 11% of all global greenhouse gases. Among the other findings: widespread adoption of organic farming methods in the UK would offset 23% of the country’s agricultural emissions through soil carbon sequestration alone – significantly better than the UK government’s current target of 6-11% by 2020.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that 89% of agriculture’s global greenhouse gas mitigation potential is from carbon sequestration. In addition to helping to counter climate change, soil carbon also helps improve soil structure and quality, reducing the impact of climate-related problems such as flooding or drought. One of the main causes of low carbon levels in arable land is intensive, overly specialised farming.

The Hard Rain Fell

It’s been a while since I last posted. Most of November saw Cape Town taking the mother of all hammerings in the wind and rain department – so what if it’s supposed to be summer here! My little garden took a heck of a beating. Between the gale-force wind (which completely destroyed my best artichoke plant) and the endless rain, some of the jobs you need to keep on top of, like weeding, feeding, staking and yes, watering, simply didn’t get done.

The artichoke has now been cut right back to the level of the soil – something I’d have had to do at the end of the season anyway – but already the improved weather means it’s sprouting and raring to go for next year. Given that it provided me with the best part of 20 artichokes this year, it was a nice return on a single seed and a plant that spent about half its life in a container before I put it in the ground.

If you read my post on growing tomatoes, you’ll be familiar with the term “blossom end rot”. This is what it looks like:

It’s caused mostly by a lack of calcium in the soil, but sporadic/insufficient/too much water can also contribute. I thought I was covered by using mushroom compost in the containers I’m growing the tomatoes in (this type of compost usually contains chalk) but apparently not, and all the rain just washed the nutrients away. I’m consoling myself with the knowledge that it’s usually the first of your crop – the bit that takes the colder weather and the excessive rain – that gets hit hardest. I read somewhere that spraying the plants with a milk-and-water mixture can help, so I’ll give that a go and report back. In the meantime, the second round of tomatoes are looking good and healthy – hopefully all the sunshine we’re getting now will sweeten them nicely.

Also looking good are my sweet peppers and the sacks of spuds, and the first of my cucumbers has taken off. The salad leaves are still going along very nicely too, so my aim of having one home-produced item on our plate every day is still paying off.

How to grow cucumbers

cucs2It ain’t summer and it surely ain’t a salad until there’s cucumber in it. It might not be top of the nutritional content list, but cucumber really is the taste of summer, so if you’re growing your own salad leaves, it’s worth your while having a couple of cucumber plants to go with them.

One or two plants will provide you with all the produce you need. They’ll work out just fine in a container and look stunning as they scramble up a home-made wigwam or trellis – lush green leaves, attractive yellow flowers, easy peasy to grow… what are you waiting for? Continue Reading »

1133022_strong_shootIf you don’t have small kids in need of home-made “binoculars”, it’s probably a long time since you’ve attempted to devise a recycle-friendly use for toilet roll inserts. Well here’s one: they make ultra-cheap, biodegradable seedling holders. And best of all, they’ll keep cutworms and other garden lurgies at bay during your plants’ most vulnerable period. Here’s how. Continue Reading »