Study Says Allotment Soil Is Better Than Conventional Farm Land For Food Growing

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Soil report shows we should all grow more of our own – New research confirms that soil in allotments and back gardens is richer – and more productive – than on farms

Soil is one of the great failures of modern intensive agriculture. Healthy soils, beneath natural grasslands and – especially – woodlands, contain lots of organic matter. This organic matter holds onto nutrients and gives the soil structural stability, allowing it to resist damage by, for example, heavy rain, thus preventing erosion. There’s also plenty of life in a healthy soil, lots of burrowing earthworms, and so lots of pore space too. A healthy soil is basically a giant sponge, which fills up with water after rain, gradually releasing that water to plants in dry weather.

When land is cleared for agriculture, and especially for arable crops, all that goes out of the window. The organic matter in arable soils is lost to the atmosphere as CO2, and the soil loses its structure and strength, leading to compaction and erosion. Arable soils also lose their ability to hold onto water, nutrients and pollutants, leaking nutrients into groundwater and lakes and rivers, causing eutrophication and, if the water is for human use, the need for expensive water treatment.

Although this is all depressingly well-known, the conventional view is that all this soil degradation is the price we have to pay for the high yields of arable crops on which we all depend. But, says new research just published in the Journal of Applied Ecology [Urban cultivation in allotments maintains soil qualities adversely affected by conventional agriculture], gardening proves the conventional view to be completely wrong. The researchers looked at the properties of soils on allotments in Leicester, along with those from other urban sites, and compared them with soils beneath arable fields and pasture in the countryside around Leicester.

The arable soils showed all the usual symptoms: compacted, lifeless and low in organic matter. Allotment soils, by contrast, were more open, more fertile, and higher in organic matter, in fact they weren’t all that different from soils beneath woodland. The reason isn’t hard to find: composting of allotment waste is virtually universal among allotment holders, most also import household green waste as well, and use of manure and other kinds of commercial compost is widespread. In short, soils on allotments are healthy because allotment holders go to a lot of trouble to keep them that way.

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Tomatoes Seed Sales Rocket 40% With Heritage/Heirloom Tomatoes The Most Wanted

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Tomato seed sales rocket 40% with First World War varieties the flavour of the month – but gardeners fear EU clampdown

  •     Foodies and tomato lovers tiring of buying mass-produced supermarket varieties
  •     Most popular tomato seeds include varieties introduced before WWI, like ‘Harbinger’

Sales of ‘heirloom’ British tomato seeds are soaring as foodies and tomato lovers tire of buying mass-produced supermarket varieties and turn to home-growing.

Tomato seed sales were up 40 per cent in the 2013 season according to figures from The Organic Gardening Catalogue, which has specialised in supplying seeds – some originating from before World War One – to organic gardeners for 50 years.

Some of the most popular tomato varieties driving the demand include the ‘Harbinger’ (introduced in 1910), ‘Golden Sunrise’ (1896) and ‘Ailsa Craig’ (1925) in an ever-expanding range of more than fifty colours, shapes and sizes.

The demand for more flavoursome fruit and vegetables has expanded alongside British households’ growing fussiness over their groceries and the origin of produce.

But niche tomato varieties stocked by retailers like Waitrose and M&S are often expensive and sometimes disappointing in flavour.

Michael Hedges, managing director of Surrey-based The Organic Gardening Catalogue, said: ‘Tomatoes remain the most widely-grown crop for home growers in the UK, and we’re seeing an increase in interest in the old varieties, ideally suited to home garden growing.

‘They typically have thinner skins, rich flavour and a long harvest and ripening period. It would be hard to find anything like these in the supermarket.
Continue reading “Tomatoes Seed Sales Rocket 40% With Heritage/Heirloom Tomatoes The Most Wanted”

The Future Of Food

This BBC documentary sees George Alagiah travel the world in search of solutions to the growing global food crisis and how we’ll go about securing access to food (food security) for the rising populations. This along with coping with a ever changing climate, water shortages and the effect of our reliance/dependance on oil based fertilisers and as an energy source.

See How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

Original Title: The power of community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

Very interesting documentary on how Cuba survived the “peak oil” crisis forced upon it by the fall of the Soviet Union and also US sanctions.

“When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba’s economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half and food imports cut by 80 percent, people were desperate. This fascinating and empowering film shows how communities pulled together, created solutions, and ultimately thrived in spite of their decreased dependence on imported energy. In the context of global Peak Oil worries, Cuba is an inspiring vision of hope.”

Superfruit: Goji Berry

Superfood: Goji Berry

The Goji Berry, also known as Wolfberries (Lycium barbarum/chinense), the Himalayan fruit that contains all 18 amino acids (six times higher than bee pollen), 21 minerals as well as huge amounts of vitamins (A, B1, B2, B6 & E). Gram for gram they are packed with even more iron than steak and spinach and more beta carotene and vitamin C than carrots and oranges, respectively. A true Superfood if ever there was one but also the most fashionable too. The plants are very hardy and cope well with salt winds and even droughts too so are perfect for most climates and most people.

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I’ve personally never even tried a fresh Goji Berry, only ever had them in their dried format but they were lovely, I can’t wait to plant a bush this year and eventually reap the rewards in the future. This is my little girls (coming up 2) second favorite fruit behind Blueberries, she’ll be more excited than me to try them. It’s gonna be lovely to show her them growing on the plant. She invaded the greenhouse most days eating my tomatoes from the greenhouse last year, it was so cute but I don’t think she’ll be waiting till the berries are ripe, wish the plants luck for me.

TED Talk: Guerilla Gardening

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens, in South Central LA, in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes. But when none of this is presented to them, if they’re not shown how food affects the mind and the body, they blindly eat whatever you put in front of them.” – Ron Finley

Paul Stamets (Mushroom Man) Promoting Permaculture Ideals

Paul Stamets Talks on Living Sustainably, the Health Benefits of Eating Locally Grown Food and Health Problems Associated with Intensive Animal Farming.

It’s worth watching the full 13 minutes, they are a little fancy talking in between Paul speaking but it’s few and far between really so bare with it and enjoy.

The main thing I took from this was Paul saying how we need to preserve ancient forests as they house these beneficial fungi that could and in fact do hold the key to the “cures” of many diseases, specifically H1N1 flu pandemics.

“Interview with vegan author Paul Stamets, who is a world-renowned American mycologist and botanist specializing in fungi. He shares with us the medical applications of fungi and its roles in rehabilitating the environment. Most important, he reminds us to eat the organic vegan diet and locally as much as possible in order to preserve biodiversity in our ecosystem.”