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Whilst people were stockpiling toilet paper, I was stockpiling...Compost

Mar 11 2020

I have followed a plant-based diet since 2015 so I eat A LOT of fruits and vegetables, I really mean A LOT! My fruit bowl resembles a small rowing boat in the middle of my dining table and my fridge is a rainbow of colour with a small, sealed corner allocated to my husband and daughter's organic meat. I don't eat 5 a day, I do at least 10 fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. This means I frequent the supermarket at least every other day to re-stock supplies. So when I heard that the UK would be going into lockdown my main concern was 'How was I going to get my fresh leafy greens?'

At that stage in the game my greenhouse was mainly occupied with sweet peas and sunflowers for my allotment. I had some seedlings on the go: broad beans, runner beans, squashes and organic heirloom tomato seeds which were growing in the heated propagator. However, there was nothing of instant value that allowed me to whizz up a green smoothie or a quick Buddha bowl. Luckily I was already prepared and had my seed packets ready with my pre-ordered callaloo (Jamaican spinach) and my mixed salad leaves. So it was simply a case of filling as many seed trays and pots as possible, plus sowing as many varieties of fast growing leaves like micro greens, rocket, spinach, spicy salad leaves and every variety of basil I could get my hands on. Luckily Amazon were delivering pretty quickly in the circumstances but this resulted in seed prices quadrupling, or you simply could not get hold of them. Unfortunately I didn't get any coriander seeds which is a herb I put on practically everything after living in South America and eating delicious Colombian food garnished with coriander. Instead, I bought some fresh coriander pots from the supermarket and planted those little pots in good quality compost and hoped for the best - it was hardly a major dilemma in the midst of a global pandemic but it made me happy and got me away from all of the fear and negativity.

I try to grow my plants at my allotment and in my garden without the use of chemicals after watching a documentary on Bees and Pollinators and being shocked how innocent looking off the shelf gardening sprays and slug pellets damage the bees central nervous system and destroy the microbiome in the soil. The over use of these chemicals has significant consequences for everything on the planet, including us. Therefore, I try to buy as much organic produce as financially viable. A significant part of our shopping bill is taking up by berries and as you know organic berries are pricey. I had already decided to dig up my berry plants that were growing in a raised bed at my allotment, simply because the heavy clay soil gets water logged over the winter which rots the plants' roots. I had the romantic idea that I could grow them in my back garden and I could easily pick the raspberries, blackberrys, blueberries and goji berries for our porridge and smoothies every morning. This would take a lot of compost, time and effort but I was prepared to pay the price. Hence why I took myself to the local builders merchant and got 1.25 tonnes of top soil which my husband, daughter and I shovelled into hippo bags into the back of our van. This was painfully removed and carried up the garden, mixed with bio-char, vermiculite, perlite, coconut coir, shop bought compost and fertiliser to make a decent filler for my pots and planters.

As I write this my 4 water butts have already dried up as the relentless watering schedule and slug patrol begins but... as we say in London 'the juice was definitely worth the squeeze'. I don't mind work and I am prepared to put the time in for things that are important to me: FOOD! A positive from UK lockdown (blessed with the amazing weather) I had both the time and resources and I was not going to waste it.

Lessons learned from Summer 2020

1) You can never have enough compost

2) The blackbirds will eat all of your berries even if you cover the plants with a net - the baby birds are like professional ninja burglars and I have no idea how they got in, let alone out!

3) 7 berry plants will not give you enough berries for 1 bowl porridge but they will give you enough for a garnish on a smoothie bowl.

4) Despite growing companion nasturtiums plants next to all of your brassicas, the caterpillars are going to eat all of your kale, swiss chard and rocket. 7 months later, I am still trying to grow Kale, but this time I'll try the winter variety.

5) Broccoli plants will take absolutely ages to grow, they need a lot of water and they will be looking like they are not ready for months on end and then overnight they will turn into broccoli flowers.

.... nice problems to have!

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Fabian Halliburton
Fabian Halliburton
Feb 17, 2021

Wow! Very informative, inspiring, and comforting to know there are people out there, going to great lengths to grow their own produce. At the same time making the effort to go about it organically. Well done. And keep striving.

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