We’re at the end of Peat Free April, and this will have influenced lots of people to stop buying peat-based compost for good, helping to protect endangered habitats and prevent greenhouse gas emissions.
But what with the renaissance in British gardening, commercial peat-free compost may be in short supply this year!
Whether on not you can get your hands on commercial peat free compost (and it is especially useful when it comes to sowing seeds!) it’s a no-brainer to to make your own.
How to make compost
If you’re new to composting, there’s not much that can go wrong. You can add any uncooked fruit and veg, as well as lawn and hedge clippings, egg shells, scrunched up paper and torn up card. Here are a few every day items that can sometimes be composted, but you need to just check…
Teabags can be composted, but try to choose teabags that are fully compostable, such as Clipper tea, as many teabags contain plastics in the glue that holds them together.
Loose tea is always a safe bet.
Don’t forget to compost the cardboard box.
Most coffee bags can’t be composted, even though they might look papery.
It is now possible to get compostable coffee bags, such as those used by Lincolnshire independent coffee roasters Jackalope Joe, but these need the high temperatures of industrial composting.
Adding them in small quantities to hot, aerated compost heaps is probably fine, but best not to add it to a small domestic compost.
Do add your coffee grinds though – they compost very nicely!
It is increasingly possible to find bags that are 100% compostable in a home compost.
They can be useful for lining a compost caddy, but unless you have a fairly hot compost, or you are able to leave it for years, you might find them slow to decompose.
If you want faster results, you can cut up compostable bags to help them break down more quickly.
Easy wins: veggie boxes
If you get you veggies from the supermarket, consider trying a veg box scheme. As well as reducing food miles and supporting you local food economy, they use much less packaging.
Riverford have now stopped using disposable plastic altogether.
Eden Farms based in Old Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire re-use packaging, and their goats eat any waste produce.
Nathan Willows offers a plastic free veg box, delivered in Lincoln and surrounding area
Easy wins: Refill shops
Refill shops are becoming much more popular, allowing you refill your own reusable containers, again and again, for example:
Try to avoid cooked food and meat, fish or dairy products, as they can attract vermin and smell bad. While used bedding from chickens, guinea pigs and horses makes great compost, don’t include faeces from cats, dogs or any other carnivorous animal.
Also, I made you this little video with the bits and bobs I compost in my kitchen.
Guest blog, by Linda Scrutton from Dunston Community Garden Dunston Community Garden was born out of a request for ideas to spruce up the area around the village hall. This Spring, the gardeners have been transforming that land, making it more beautiful, welcoming to people and wildlife, and delicious – with flowers, fruit trees, veggiesContinue reading “Dunston Community Garden”
They’re not exactly the most usual school pet, requiring considerable knowledge and skills, some specialist equipment, not to mention the careful handling – but the learning opportunities are as bountiful and delectable as the honey! Wyberton Primary Academy near Boston shows us how it’s done, with a little help from Willoughby Road Allotment Association. TheContinue reading “Can kids keep bees?”
Guest blog, by Linda Scrutton from Dunston Community Garden
Dunston Community Garden was born out of a request for ideas to spruce up the area around the village hall. This Spring, the gardeners have been transforming that land, making it more beautiful, welcoming to people and wildlife, and delicious – with flowers, fruit trees, veggies and more…
Since the space around the village hall was allocated, village volunteers have nearly cleared all along the sunny hedging, and most of the branches, trimmings and dead blackberry vines have been taken away.
Most of it has been planted with donated plants, including strawberries, perpetual onions, wild garlic and rhubarb.
So far the group has twenty-five members, plus 3 youngsters who have come along with their parents and helped.
One young girl planted a small tree and delighted in writing her own label! I think she will be back!
One of our members is now working his way along the beck, clearing the suckers and dead branches and making the beck accessible – much to the delight of visitors.
It is such a pleasure to walk or sit by the sparkling beck-side, as it flows past the community centre and under the bridge!
The group has received a 1000 litre water container to affix to a downpipe, to supply the garden with water from the village hall roof; a wheelbarrow has been rescued from a skip; and the raised beds are due by the next bank holiday – fingers crossed – together with topsoil.
Just in time to getting down to sowing seeds and accepting veg plants…
Once the raised beds are completed, filled, the seeds sown and the young plants planted out and growing nicely, the next stage will be to establish some signage.
Dunston Community Garden welcomes donations of time, plants and materials, and has so far been built entirely by the generosity, goodwill and resourcefulness of local people.
The group is in the process of setting up a community bank account, in order to access funding and accept donations of money, and accomplish even more!
You can follow developments on the Dunston Community Garden Group’s Facebook page, and get involved if you live locally.
If you don’t live in Dunston, it is a source of inspiration: what might be possible in your community? Check out our Incredible Edible page for more ideas, links and resources.
Peat free We’re at the end of Peat Free April, and this will have influenced lots of people to stop buying peat-based compost for good, helping to protect endangered habitats and prevent greenhouse gas emissions. But what with the renaissance in British gardening, commercial peat-free compost may be in short supply this year! Whether onContinue reading “Every day things you can add to the compost”
1. Getting your hands dirty is transformative
2. The good food economy is a shared endeavour
3. Intergenerational friendship matters
4. Solidarity is on the rise
A question: What would we do differently if we no longer needed foodbanks?
Veg exchange scheme, chat & collect, independent takeaway… our newest Food Partner, Doddington Farm Shop, has been doing loads through lockdown to keep providing people with fresh local food, and keeping human interaction alive despite everything. Local, seasonal produce Opened in 2007, the Farm Shop at Doddington Hall was born out of a passion forContinue reading “Doddington Farm Shop & Cafe”
They’re not exactly the most usual school pet, requiring considerable knowledge and skills, some specialist equipment, not to mention the careful handling – but the learning opportunities are as bountiful and delectable as the honey!
Year five – Mrs Hodgson’s class – is the school beekeeping class.
This allows all the children to have their turn at this very special experience as they grow through the school.
There’s also an after school bee club for those who just can’t get enough of it during curriculum hours!
Because the school has this very rich educational resource right on site, teaching and learning about bees is threaded throughout their curriculum and school life – from the biology of flowers to the sale of their very own honey at school fairs.
You can also buy Wyberton’s school honey at the local co-op – food miles don’t even come into it!
The bees have been on the site and in the curriculum for five years, and they have become part of the life of the school.
Can Kids Grow Food?
But that is not all: whereas school vegetable gardens can be notoriously short lived and over-reliant on a few volunteers, Wyberton’s school garden is becoming similarly embedded in school life.
The year two class have four vegetable beds. This small growing project has partnered with Willoughby Road allotment association, who have provided them with plug plants and seeds, and invited the class for visits to their allotment site.
It is a real asset to have Willoughby allotments nearby – they’re a particularly family- and community oriented allotment association, with accessible toilets on site, plenty of smaller plots available – because “everyone’s lives are different” – lots of support to those new to growing, and an enthusiasm to work with local schools.
“We want children to appreciate where their food comes from – from the ground, and not just a shelf in Asda. It’s gone down really well. The children go home and tell their parents about it!”
Paul Collingwood, Willoughby Road Allotment Association
The children have contributed to Boston in Bloom, as well as grown their own veggies, and there’s also an after-school gardening club (soon to be re-started following a pause due to Covid restrictions).
The school’s successful growing space and pioneering beekeeping has been driven by the passion and dedication of teachers, with help from the local allotment association.
Wyberton is a shining example of how growing in school can be done – and done well in the long term – when it is integrated with the curriculum.
Has your school succeeded in embedding healthy food growing into the lives of school children? Please get in touch – we’d love to hear about it!
There’s also some excellent support available, including the Soil Association’s Food for Life programme. It’s currently £199+VAT for your first year – and you can expect a £3 social ROI on every pound spent; and by the way, Food for Life Schools are twice as likely to be rated Outstanding. Get in touch if you’d like a 10% discount code for the scheme.
I wonder how many times during this past year I just had to go to the shop because our household had run out of ‘milk’? Feeling overwhelmed by the number of Tetrapaks piling up in our recycling bin every week I searched again for a company that would deliver plant based milk to our door. Continue reading “‘Milk’ back on the doorstep”
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and their local community, in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared. communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk Ropsley Market Garden is Lincolnshire’s first CSA – the first of many: the English CSA moment is now here: people increasingly recognise the need for sustainable, resilient, healthy, local food,Continue reading “Ropsley Market Garden CSA”
Lincolnshire resident, Mrs Smith (1892-94) can teach us a huge amount about sustainable living, local food and minimising waste.
Mrs Smith lived in the village of Navenby for most of her 102 year life.
She owned a small cottage in the village, this cottage changed very little since the 1930s and she held onto her old fashioned way of life right up until she passed away.
While she had electricity in the cottage she never had a fridge, freezer, or washing machine, all of her hot water and heating came from the range in the kitchen.
The cottage is now a museum, run by North Kesteven District Council, which tells the story of Mrs Smith’s remarkable life.
With the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund the cottage has been restored and is reopening on the 21st of May 2021.
Mrs Smith lived a very low waste lifestyle, even without the modern technology we rely on she was able prevent food waste and she made sure to use any items she owned until they had completely worn out.
At the cottage today we are looking to bring Mrs Smith’s traditional knowledge back to life, with talks and group tours exploring how the pantry would have been managed and how she would have grown and processed produce.
Learning from Mrs Smith in this way we can work towards living our everyday lives much more sustainably.
If you’re interested in volunteering at Mrs Smith’s Cottage garden, or sowing seeds ready for planting, or to raise money at the annual plant sale, find out more here.
Make it: Mrs Smith’s Apple Chutney
With an apple tree in her garden Mrs Smith spent many hours in the autumn making chutney and other preserves, make sure not to waste any of the apples she collected. This recipe was collected from Mrs Smith and is firm favourite amongst our volunteer team.
1kg apples peeled and chopped
500g onions finely chopped
400g dates chopped
500g soft brown sugar
500ml white wine vinegar
1tsp mixed spice
1tsp powdered cloves
Pinch of cayenne pepper to taste
1. Place all ingredients in a large heavy bottomed pan and cook gently until sugar has dissolved.
2. Bring to the boil and then simmer until fruit has softened.
3. Stir occasionally and continue to simmer until the mixture is the consistency of Jam.
4. When ready pour mixture into warm sterilised jars and seal.
Makes approximately 6-8 jars. Enjoy!
We welcome Mrs Smith’s Cottage as our newest Food Partner – we have a huge amount to learn from Mrs Smith about sustainable living, and the lost arts of food growing, preserving and cooking.
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Kate Bell, Climate Change Manager for City of Lincoln Council, and Matthew Davey, Environment & Community Projects Officer for Lincolnshire County Council, talked with us about the council’s engagement with local communities and their growing projects, with lots of useful information and tips on how to how to find out more and get involved. InContinue reading “Connecting with Your Council on Community Growing Projects”
Care Farming is the therapeutic use of farming practices – where service users regularly attend the care farm as part of a structured health or social care, rehabilitation or specialist educational programme.
The powerful mix of being in nature, being part of a group and taking part in meaningful nature based activities is what makes care farming so successful.
As more flights are cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of airline meals are also going to waste. Foodbank volunteers distribute surplus airline meals To address this, the Lincolnshire Food Partnership has been working with Lincolnshire foodbanks and community larders to make sure this surplus of food reaches those who need it. Volunteers fromContinue reading “Foodbanks distribute airline surplus”
Here are four things I’ve learnt from being with Lincolnshire Food Partnership for slightly over a year – enough time to start thinking a little bit differently about things – and a question for those of you who have given your time, money, energy or anything else to a foodbank in the past year.
Getting your hands dirty is transformative
“I was so ill, I could hardly do anything, I could hardly look after my kids. And the allotment turned everything around. It was just me and the soil.”
There’s probably more to be said about this as a metaphor, but I’m referring to the dirty that involves chatting to the worms, the smell of earth and ripening tomatoes in a greenhouse, soil under the fingernails, and a feeling of well hungry by tea time.
Last year I wrote a series of blogs about allotment growing, intending to encourage more people to give it a go.
Turns out that was hardly needed – you can’t get an allotment across most of Lincoln for love nor money, and once again the seed companies are inundated with orders, water butts and gardening gloves are flying off the (online) shelves, social media gardening groups are exploding, and the nation is having a GYO renaissance!
But the transformation story keeps cropping up, again and again – of people crashing, their mental health in pieces on the floor. But by interacting with nature and earth, sowing seeds, tending the soil, harvesting the fruit, they recover something lost, and become whole again.
“People working within the food system need to feel differently about their role within society… It’s not about them and us; it’s about everyone supporting each other. Let’s stop talking about “supporting local” as if it’s shoppers doing a favour, and be more aware of our shared, co-operative endeavours.”
The tenacity, resilience and imagination of Lincolnshire’s independent food sector through the lockdown has blown me away! I take my hat off every day to the people – you can find many of them on Lincoln Indie Takeaways – turning out to provide us with good food and keep us connected to local growers, despite the personal risk, and additional complications and responsibilities.
This hasn’t been possible for everyone – for many businesses there has been no way through the pandemic, many have been crippled by unpayable rents, family responsibilities, illness, isolation or shielding, slipping through the gaps in support, and faced other impossible circumstances.
But in many cases, local food has been immensely resilient, big hearted and deeply connected to their communities – these are just a few examples:
We’ve seen Louth’s Serendipity Restaurant transform into community kitchens, cooking and delivering food to those who need it during a pandemic, with support from local businesses, farmers and others; and Castle Hotel in Lincoln repurposed their kitchen to produce free meals for NHS workers.
Doddington Hall Farm Shop started the delightfully subversive “chat and collect” service, so shoppers could still talk to a person and retain at least a degree of social interaction with their grocer.
Weirdough’s Pizza emerged at the start of the pandemic as a back garden fundraising project, but transformed into a growing business, helping people all the way; Bread & Cheese sells what it says on the tin, but outdoors from a van, while Lincoln’s indie bread and cheese shops have repeatedly had to close. Others, like Bailgate Deli, Veg Out and Curry Jacks, keep our connection with local growers and Lincolnshire produce alive.
Lincolnshire’s first CSA, which was born out of conversations over eggs, is in its infancy and is already a market garden to behold, with a huge amount of love and support from local people, and is providing a model for what could be done in the county!
It’s pretty evident from the social media feeds of these good food businesses how appreciative they are of their communities and customers. You and I – we’re not helpless little consumers to be manipulated by the big boys, we’re food citizens together, building the food economies we want and need.
Food citizenship is a concept that has inspired me since I first read about it in the process of creating the Mission & Aims page on our website nearly a year ago, and the more I learn, the more relevant I find it. Learn more here.
“The real reason we started (Curry Jacks) is because of you. Because we believe that listening to people’s stories over a plate of something tasty is the single most endlessly fascinating thing anyone can do. People who have travelled and people who have stayed at home. People’s huge disasters and tiny triumphs. The hurdles people have faced and how they’ve handled them. We love all of those stories. So this is a thank you to all of you who’ve shared parts of your lives or thoughts with us over the last three years! (And here’s to times ahead when we can sit over a meal together again.)”
Curry Jacks Facebook page
Intergenerational friendship matters
The allotment holders I spoke to over the course of last year all – all! – had an adult in their lives who introduced them to gardening as children, even though they came to GYO and allotment-holding as adults. This is a message for everyone with children in their lives.
While there’s no place for the patronising sexism some young women allotment holders I’ve spoken to have experienced on their allotment site, it’s also very clear that many older allotment holders have a lot of knowledge to pass on.
And there’s a generation of enthusiastic new growers who could save themselves – hang on, I speak for myself here – we could save ourselves a ton of spudding around making mistakes if we spent more time with our elders. People like Geoff & Hillary whose Lincoln allotment sparked the blog series, passed on to me knowledge, ideas and quantities of beans disproportionate to the time I spent with them!
The value of sharing food with a child was brought home to me by Kim Smith – she outlines how to go about introducing foods to children using the TastEd approach. The opportunity to explore a big variety of foods in an unpressured way at a young age sets people up for a lifetime with a healthily diverse diet.
And there are benefits of doing this away from the table and the people who normally do the cooking – and I think many other parents would testify, our kids will eat all manner of things with other people that they wouldn’t eat at home!
About a decade ago, when I was working in Early Years Education, Sue Palmer (author of Toxic Childhood, and big hero of mine) asserted, in the face of huge paranoia over stranger danger – not only that adults shouldn’t stop talking to children, but that we all have a duty to talk to them. And in the past year, I would definitely extend this to eating and gardening with the children in our lives!
I’ve seen children eating purple sprouting broccoli straight off the plant who would never eat it on a plate; competing to see who could eat the most sorrel leaves without pulling a face; running to wash and eat a carrot that was just pulled from the ground; gaping with amazement at an apple cut sideways to reveal the pips in a star shape, or the luminous inside of an aubergine under that dark skin.
Children can’t discover this sort of thing in their own spontaneous play; it is something they need adults in their lives to introduce them to. Let that be us!
Solidarity is on the rise
The rise in foodbank use in the past year is well documented – though shocking, I won’t write about it here – and is matched only by the rise in the community spirit that has risen up to meet this need.
You can get an impression of the scale of this by taking a scroll through our Find a Foodbank page – which we continue to add to; and I am in no doubt that there are more that are springing up and/or taking place under our radar, as well as an abundance of local initiatives that don’t conform to the term foodbank. It is the most read page on our website, and Foodbank is the most used search term to reach us.
Informal neighbourhood groups, online communities, churches, schools and more have stepped up, and existing foodbanks have massively increased their provision in response to the circumstances, and the urgency of the need that emerged from it.
The pandemic has unleashed a force of humanity to be seriously reckoned with.
Which led me to wonder…
What would we do differently if we didn’t need foodbanks?
When I was asked recently what it would mean to build back better, my first response was that we need to address (that is, eliminate) poverty, as quickly as possible.
What would happen if we had, for example, a Universal Basic Income, or Universal Basic Services, or sufficient national investment in jobs, training, a green recovery, etc, or whatever it was that achieved a removal of poverty, the inside circle of doughnut economics?
It’s a bit of a thought experiment – it’s not apparent on the current political agenda – but supposing poverty was addressed, radically, and on a national scale – what would happen then?
If the gruelling, debt-burdened, humiliating level of poverty that gives rise to foodbanks was eliminated: what would happen to all that energy and solidarity?
What would all those people accessing foodbanks, and/or involved in running them, do?
Maybe you’re one of them – what would you do differently if you could reclaim the time/money you give to foodbanks, or the debt/anxiety/insecurity/etc that might accompany the need to access one?
The human energy saved would be colossal!
Would everyone return to the backlog of household jobs, a bit more social media scrolling, catching up on some holidays? Or would we all get a taste for community building, or a vision for a better food system that everyone could access?
Once the community larder became defunct, would people open a real independent local cafe in their community, now that everyone could afford it? Or start a CSA or care farm having recognised the health benefits and resilience of real local food? Or start to demand a far less wasteful system than is, perhaps, inherent to supermarkets?
What would you do without foodbanks? If you’ve ever been to one, I’m curious to know.
Guest blog, by Annabel Britton, from All Good Market in Stamford There are more organisms in a handful of soil than there are people on Earth. It’s the foundation of all terrestrial life and civilisation. And it’s a finite resource: its loss and degradation cannot be recovered within a human lifespan. The soil crisis Globally,Continue reading “60 Harvests Left”
Incredible Edible is about actively participating in the journey towards a sustainable food future, becoming more connected with our food and each other.
This takes various forms: creating community gardens to bring the neighbourhood together over food; transforming derelict public spaces to become beautiful and edible – propaganda gardening, we call it! – or re-learning the disappearing arts of seed saving, cultivating, or preserving.