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Growing food from grass

Guest blog post by Debbie Binch

The Windermere Food-Growing Group, has taken on part of the BT grounds at Holly Drive, to use the space as a food-growing demonstration garden.

Our plan...

is to inspire people to follow suit in their own gardens. We believe that we shouldn’t rely on our food being imported from elsewhere and grown by people with whom we have no connection. We need a resilient, local food system that supports local growers and is sustainable. With these thoughts in mind, we decided to make it a no-dig (see below) and a chemical-free (see below) garden.

We took on the rough grass plot in April 2021, and by June the plot was starting to be productive.

To make the garden...

We laid thick layers of overlapping newspapers and cardboard (tape and plastic removed first) on top of the rough grass. To avoid compacting the soil, we designed the area to ensure that the growing beds did not need to be walked on, with the middle of each bed easily reachable from either side. We mulched the paths with woodchips, which we collected for free, and the beds with a mix of unwanted soil (from a garden which was being re-landscaped), well-rotted leaves and grass (from the bowling- green's heap), and sweepings (from elsewhere on the site). We planted seedlings, grown on by members of the group, straight into the beds - instant gardening! A sign, made from an old breadboard, explains what the plot is about.

To link with the community... ☺

We created a Facebook page, which attracts more members who like our idea, and regular updates are posted. Passers-by usually stop to talk and to appreciate the plot. A guest house facing the plot brings cups of coffee for the gardeners, and the Openreach staff often stop to see how things are progressing. Members who help are offered produce, and any excess goes to the foodbank.

Why chemical-free?

Our food industry has devised more and more toxic combinations of chemical warfare to kill weeds and pests. Every time we spray one of these harmful chemicals, we forever alter the soil and the genome of the microbiome of weeds and nearby plants, as well as the animal and human food consumers. In parallel to the genetic consequences of widespread use of genetically-modified organisms across the planet, we create global deprivation of nutrients at all levels of biology on earth.'Regenerative growing' focuses on rebuilding organic matter and living biodiversity in the soil. It produces nutrient-dense food while sequestering excess atmospheric carbon underground to help reverse climate change.

Links to more info:

Chemical Farming & The Loss of Human Health - Dr. Zach Bush

From Food Futures (Lancashire) strategy: ‘What we choose to eat not only affects our health, but has implications for the health of local ecosystems and ultimately our planet. In fact ‘unhealthy diets now pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined. Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience and constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries’.

Why no-dig?

Healthy soil is a living ecosystem, made up of minerals, air, water, organic matter and living organisms. No-dig gardening is the best approach to keep these elements in balance, and the precious soil ecosystem functioning as it should.

When we dig the soil, and when we leave it bare, we cause damage to this ecosystem. The soil can more easily lose its nutrients, be eroded by wind and rain, become compacted or overly saturated. When we disturb the soil, the beneficial organisms working away below the surface decrease, and the fertility of the soil slowly diminishes over time.

Research (from International Panel on Climate Change) has confirmed that tilled or dug soil also becomes an emitter of carbon and greenhouse gases. 

Since the soil in a no-dig garden is left largely undisturbed, the complex web of soil life is allowed to thrive. That life, from the earthworms to the microscopic bacteria and fungi, will slowly break down the organic matter and incorporate it into the soil. No-dig gardening is about harnessing this natural process to create a closed-loop, healthy, natural system in your garden.

Links to more information:

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