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March 2018 No Dig Gardening
A member attended a talk organised by Perth Organic Gardeners given by Charles Dowding from Somerset about no-dig gardening.
"I hope I have got the following details right, but you can check and gain much more information by going to his website: https://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/
He started by showing us a paddock which, with plants put in a layer of compost placed on top of it had, within six months, become a productive garden. For the first year he places cardboard around the whole gardening area in order to kill weeds that might creep in, but paths within the garden he leaves as soil and he ignores compaction. Cardboard, plastic, straw he has tried but finds they attract slugs. In fact, he keeps all his area as free as possible from anything which might hide these beasts.
Persistent weeding is the key - though he says he does just 2 hours a week plus 1 hour edging. He hoes or rakes regularly and just pulls perennial weeds such as couch, bindweed and ground elder. The only exceptions he mentioned were brambles and dochans - the latter he digs out up to 6" deep. He works on the principle of exhausting the root system and says that creeping buttercup goes after 4 to 5 months, dandelions after 5 to 6 months and 8 months for couch. He had pretty big, wooden compost heaps and said he would include everything: cardboard, paper and even bindweed and couch grass!
Just once a year he applies 2" of compost to all his garden and does no further feeding, not even on tomatoes. He gets £22,000 worth of salad crops from this and, by picking, not cutting lettuce could achieve it with just four sowings per year though does also do six sowings. Of course, compost is the key and on his 1/4 acre plot he uses: 6 tons of his home compost, 3 tons of cow manure and straw compost, 1 ton of horse manure and straw compost, 3 tons of mushroom compost and 3 tons of green waste compost.
A few tips are: don't bother hardening off plants, just cover them with fleece once they are planted out; Kuri squash might do in Scotland because it is ready by October; he believes in using copper tools; he grows his runner beans, Czar and Borlotti, for dried beans to be used in the winter; lay potatoes on top of the soil and cover with grass, straw, though preferably with compost (to discourage slugs); buy maiden fruit trees - M9 if growing amongst vegetables; compost is too wet if you can squeeze more than 2 drops of water from a handful; he is experimenting with it, but isn't sure that rotation is necessary; use a hot bed of stable manure with straw on top for germinating seeds; use East Riding organic compost for seeds; try growing Stevia as a substitute for sugar; for a change, grow Oxalis tuberosa or Yacon; you can mow rough grass before covering it with compost.
If you don't dig then carbon dioxide is not released, the worm population increases, weed seeds aren't brought to the surface, evaporation is reduced, there is better drainage, mycorrhizae are left intact - they grow at about 6" - 8" a year and Dowding feels that there is vigorous regrowth of weeds if the soil is disturbed.
Also, compost on top keeps water in and helps the ground absorb water."
February 2018 JJ Gladwin on how we can help the bees.
JJ Gladwin, one of the panellists at our recent very successfuil Gardeners' Question Time event, where she answered one or two questions touching on the need for bee friendly and invertebrate friendly gardens, has written up some of the points contained in her answers as general advice to gardeners. You can read her article here.
Since 1994 JJ Gladwin has been making a garden at Old Allangrange, which was recently the subject of a 'Scottish Garden of the Season' feature on the website Discover Scottish Gardens, which is well worth a look. View the feature here.
There's a new note and link to GROW - A European growing organisation - on the Other Growing Groups and Courses page.
Food is a topic close to the hearts of many and Transition Black Isle is no exception.
As well as tantalising the tastebuds, fresh, local produce is good for happiness, our own health and that of the planet.
A vast proportion of what people eat is transported hundreds or thousands of miles by truck, train, ship and plane, causing massive emissions of greenhouse gases, which are causing dangerous climate change.
Taking strawberries in December or air-freighted sugar snap peas from Asia for granted doesn't make a lot of sense.
The Black Isle
The Black Isle is a fertile area, perfect for growing a broad range of crops and rearing poultry and livestock. Supporting local producers boosts the local economy - and, crucially, the closer the food is from source to plate, the better it tastes! Growing and eating locally is satisfying, tasty and fun. And being in tune with the turning of the seasons means there's always something different on the horizon to look forward to.
Our new (2017) Black Isle Larder website at www.blackislelarder.org replaces our earlier Local Larder booklet, and provides an extensive directory of producers and suppliers of local food and places to eat and drink on and around the Black Isle.
Transition Black Isle's food group kicked off with two flagship projects in 2010, thanks to funding from the Climate Challenge Fund run by Keep Scotland Beautiful. Grow North and the Highland Food Challenge helped householders across the Black Isle savour a greater proportion of local food and cut their carbon footprints. We set up two community gardens, one of which, at Culbokie, is still active though now less closely associated with TBI.
The Grow North project has continued through 2016 and 2017, with practical workshops on a variety of topics and open garden days in the summer - see the Grow North page and the calendar for details. Two other very popular regular events are our Gardeners' Question Time in January and Potato Day in March, at which over sixty varieties of seed potatoes are on sale.
The drop-down menu on the Food tab at the top of the page offers some links to projects and resources.
TBI director Vanessa Halhead has drawn attention to this Worldwatch article about how Cuba has transformed its Agricultural in a small-scale and sustainable way since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"Four Important Lessons from Cuba’s Urban Food Survival Strategy"
The Fife Diet was an ambitious healthy and local growing and eating project run in Fife over several years. The culmination of its work was the production of a wonderful growing, cooking and eating 'calendar', not relating to any particular year, offering a wealth of help, advice and recipes for healthy eating month by month. It has been made available online, but via a publishing system which makes it very difficult to read. There may also be browser issues - Chrome seems to handle it better than Firefox.
Try this link to get at least an overall impression. There is a zoom control at bottom left, and a more useful full-screen control at bottom right. When in full screen use keyboard left and right arrows to turn the pages.
Here are links to two community growing schemes in the north of England
With easyfundraising.org.uk, you can help raise funds for TBI every time you shop online at a wide range of popular sites, without adding a penny to the cost of your purchase.Find out more and sign up
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Do you run a sustainable business on or near the Black Isle? Add it to the TBI business directory