If lockdown has clarified one thing for us, it has been the importance of fresh and clean locally produced food. To be clear, when we say clean food, we mean free of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, grown in balance with the environment. There is nowhere near enough of it, or any simple way to truly determine how it has been produced.
There are a promising number of smallholdings, growers and artisan producers popping up however, which is perhaps a response to the same observation – an innate human understanding that this is the direction we need to take for our personal and collective nourishment, in so many ways. It is vital for our health and ecosystem that more people make the move to producing locally grown, clean food.
At The Soil Farm we are doing all that we can to support any grower, farmer or smallholding, new and old, to adopt regenerative practice into their systems. We are keen to do what we can at home too. Whilst we currently don’t have the time or space to grow all that we need, we certainly don’t need our Victorian styled front lawn either. So we have started our own ‘very-smallholding’.
Deciding on a no dig system was easy. It is the simplest to maintain over time and as we make a lot of compost, finding raw material isn’t an issue. We upcycled some old scaffold boards to help keep things in shape and created a 20 square metre veg patch.
First we used a few sheets of clean cardboard as a carbon layer to suppress the grass and weeds without the use of plastics, letting the rain wet them down, then we put the frames in place and filled them with compost. Adding a layer of leaf mulch on top of the beds helps retain moisture and feeds the soil too. We decided that 85cm wide was a good size to be able to reach the whole bed and created paths between at about 50cm wide, covering them in aged woodchip, adding valuable carbon and fungi into the system.
A mesh cover will definitely need to be put in place to protect the seeds and young plants from the birds while they establish. We have already noticed an increase in feathered visitors feasting on the volume of bugs and worms in the compost, but we enjoy their arrival and don’t mind sharing – I am sure they are having the same conversations about looking for clean food, so we will just figure out how best to work together…
We will keep adding mulch and compost as we go, but the no dig beds are ready to use straight away and with spring upon us, there is plenty to be planted. We are excited to see the first germination breaking through, then we won’t have long to wait before we are eating and sharing from the garden!