As more and more plants struggle under the influence of erratic weather and changing climate patterns, with prolonged and repeating droughts, I need to understand better, learn more, and become a facilitator of soil and plant health.

In my quest to do this, I am keeping this blog as a diary and resource collection. And since I am doing this anyway, why not share it? I am glad you are interested, thanks for stopping by. If you want to know what’s happening, feel free to sign up below.

These pages are for you if you:

  • Have a curious mind and want to be surprised by the amazing interactions between plants and soil and/or the mistakes I make, and whether I learn from them
  • Want to improve the health and productivity of your plants
  • Are thinking about studying with the soil food web school, but are not sure what to expect
  • Are studying with the soil food web school, and want to know where others got their equipment from in Europe

All is not well

More than 10 years ago I started working and volunteering on farms, before rooting a little more in place, and stewarding an allotment. For 8 years this has been my learning lab and observation centre.
But despite a range of good practices, and good intentions, not all is well.

When I took it over, it was a field of annual and perennial weeds, which I cleared and covered with compost. No-till style. I never saw the point in throwing chemicals on soil, that did not make any sense. If I wouldn’t eat it, why put it on the plants?
I did use organic slug pellets for the first few years, but then stopped. I do not want to “control” through killing for no other purpose. If I have to do the same thing each year, to biological processes, I am not regulating, just temporarily interrupting. Too many slugs with very efficient breeding strategies were surely telling me something. Something was out of balance.
Nature strives for efficient cycles, so surely chemicals would do more harm than good?! That was my rudamentary and very simplistic understanding. But we have to start somewhere, right?!
I minimise soil disturbance (only really do it for harvesting root crops), because I understood the soil to be a home for many creatures; and who likes their home turned upside down, needing to fix the damage each year? That’s costly.

I planted hedges, to shelter from the fierce Easterlies and predominant Westerlies, to create some veg-friendly microclimate, and create habitat for birds. Dug a pond, to give more frogs a home. They and slow worms are doing well.
Manure, compost, mulch and woodchip paths usually protect the soil.
There is a plant diversity with many pollinators visiting. Birds are plentyful for London: Sparrows (ooh, I love their chitter), black tits, robins, starlings, wood pigeons (of course), crows, the shy wren, the very occasional blackbird, magpies.

And yet, all is not well, as the last years have shown. For the first year in 2020 I need to buy more veg than the plot produces. Usually our 70-80% of our fruit and veg needs are covered from the plot. This year? 30-40, maybe.
Water availability and time are my limiting factors, I thought. I thought I was doing the right things for my soil, but am I??
I really want to understand what is really going on in my soil, and how I can increase it’s resilience and productivity.

So I started learning from different sources, and enrolled in Dr Elaine Ingham’s soil food web school.
What I am learning, what I am puzzling over, what I am trying to apply in practice, and challenges I set myself will be covered here, more or less regularly.

If you would like to be part of on my explorations, join me!

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