Fiona Law, IEL co-chair writes
Want to grow tasty, nutritious, pest-resistant crops? As any observant gardener knows, the first requirement is a healthy, fertile soil or growing medium. Good stuff in, good stuff out.
Unfortunately, a bag of compost from the garden centre or pound shop is not really the answer. It’s likely to be stale, sterilized and 70% peat (see ‘I don’t dig peat’). That’s if you have a car and strong arms to carry it, and can stomach the compromise to sustainablity – transport miles being a key issue. This is the scenario many urban growers face.
Soil fauna – a whole nutrient-producing ecosystem
A fertile soil not only has hundreds of earthworms and mini-beasts, but also billions of fungi, bacteria and other micro-organisms. These carry out a process called humification, extracting the minerals and compounds that plants need to grow. The more life in the soil, the greater the fertility and the better your crops!
Ingredients of a good growing medium include: loam (mineral soil), organic matter such as green waste compost for bulk that helps create the soil and water pockets soil life needs, and nutrient-rich organic matter such as two-year rotted horse manure. Other lovely ingredients you might want to add are horticultural grit, seaweed meal, comfrey, spent mushroom compost, woodash and much more.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could develop a strategy for growing media distribution ‘hubs’ in the borough? In my role working with south London growers*, one of the main barriers facing residents and groups is getting hold of good quality growing media in sufficient amounts and at a good price. Working together, we could source efficiently the full range of growing media we need to build an even stronger Lambeth growing scene.
Incredible Edible Lambeth is here to develop a food strategy. To get the ball rolling on the growing media front we have set up, incollaboration with the Lambeth Parks team at Clapham Common, a really exciting event, The Great Clapham Common Compost Giveaway and Pumpkin Seed Sowing Event (click for more information). Join us on Saturday 28th April, 11 – 3 at the bandstand cafe!
Bring a barrow, a bucket, a bag or a buggy and take away green waste compost made on Clapham Common. Plant a pumpkin seed for Incredibible Edible’s harvest festival pumpkin competition in October. Get Gardening advice from the South London Master Gardeners. Tell us what you want and give your views on recycling food waste for compost.
If you’re from a community growing group, sign up now for a free series of five training sessions. The first will be on Sat 28th, 2pm – 3.30 at Great Clapham Common Compost Giveaway and Pumpkin Seed Sowing Event. Please RSVP c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Project Dirt page here (in due course).
Fiona Law is a Lambeth resident, fruit and veg grower, and co-chair of Incredible Edible Lambeth. She works part time as Co-ordinator of the *South London Master Gardeners, trains and teaches horticulture and runs a garden design business.