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Majorie Ellis-Todd’s ....Big Horti Blog.....18th April 2022 One Metre Feedbank Challenge

Thanks for all your posts asking how Valerie and Tim got on with Garden Rescue, a lot of you had been looking out for the episode. Sorry to inform you that Valerie and Tim have pulled out of Garden Rescue following my revelations about ‘Fairy Trees’ last year. I heard they quite literally hit the gin, then broke the news to Charlie and the Rich Brothers.

As for that lovely man who posted a comment: “with a double-barrel name like Ellis-Todd you must be from a stuck-up postcode” or words to that effect, I have the perfect plant recommendation for you - #Soleirolia soleirolii (Common name: Mind-your-own-business).

Well I’ve been asked to say a word re the proposed #One Metre Feedbank Challenge which is being piloted in East Belfast. Details are on this website. In a nutshell you grow your own and share some of the harvest with others.

From your posts I can see that you lovely people have taken to the One Metre Feedbank Challenge like a slug to a Hosta. Particular enthusiasm is noted from Janet and Simon in the Ballyhackamore area. Janet posts that she was out in the back garden, digging over her proposed vegetable bed when she discovered a black plastic tube. Thinking it was a Blue Peter Time Capsule, she eagerly unscrewed the top. Instead she was greeted with a rank smell and the remains of - the enclosed card declared - Arthur the Budgie. May I interject here: ‘Children, plastic is not a good choice for a coffin’. Unfortunately Janet and Simon had to give up their endeavours when they realised they’d unearthed an old pet cemetery. I understand Simon has since been prescribed Ramipril for his blood pressure and is frantically looking into the property deeds. While Janet is blaming Simon for everything (he can’t help being a man) and suing for divorce. Oh well, Janet and Simon, the thought was there!

Of course, all this demonstrates that # No Dig is the way to go. And as part of the One Metre Feedbank Challenge this method is recommended. As a #Green Flag Judge, member of the #Royal Horticultural Society, the #Horticultural Forum NI, #Soil Association, and various societies including the Alpine one, I am a strong advocate of this method which has become part-and-parcel of the Organic Growers’ philosophy.

So what is No Dig Gardening? And how do you include it in your square metre vegetable plot?

#Charles Dowdling (a market gardener) pioneered this method of planting crops from as far back as the nineteen-eighties. Check Charles out on his youtube channel for advice and tips. His argument is that digging into the earth is not only back-breaking, it messes with the natural order of the soil structure. So don’t be doing that, for goodness sake!

The benefits include:

● No disruption to micro-organisms and fungi living within the soil

● No disturbance to essential worm activity

● No introducing new weed seeds to the surface

● Avoids compaction of the soil

Find a lovely sunny place in your garden, measure out one metre square. Go bigger or smaller if you wish. If you decide to use a space on the grass. Get a few big grocery boxes from the supermarket, flatten them out. Use these to cover the area, then place a thick layer of organic mulch on top of the cardboard. Contact your local council to enquire re free compost, sometimes they do during Compost Week, make your own or purchase peat free. This layer of mulch on the cardboard stops light reaching the soil below, which weed seeds need to grow. This means the plot will be instantly weed free for planting. Sow your seeds as per package instructions. As your crop grows the cardboard will decompose. The vegetable roots will penetrate through to the ground below and organic matter from the mulch will make its way naturally into the soil. Overall this method is better for the ecosystem. So it’s a winner all round.

If you do not have a suitable area in your yard for planting directly into the soil e.g. its flagged, consider using a raised bed. To make a raised bed cheaply, carefully take a pallet apart to create some individual planks of wood. Alternatively just source some wooden planks. The planks should be the same length (1 metre long), around 15-30 cm wide depending on the crop you intend to grow. Wider for root veg like carrots, narrower for lettuces, for example. Now secure the planks together in a square frame. If you’re like myself getting down is straightforward but getting back up again is a JCB job, then think about making the bed higher. Fill your raised bed with store bought organic compost or well-rotted mature. If going for the pallet option, please don’t take them from a bonfire or you might end up on one. LOL! Get your own. Search online. Businesses often just want rid of these. You can, of course, just use grow bags or pots. Have a balcony or only a small patio area? Why not plant vertically, again using a pallet (see youtube for #pallet garden ideas).

Which brings me to another post. A young man called Henry is offering his GSI (Get-Someone-In) services 24/7 for any of the ladies in the vicinity who are DIY (Do-It-Yourself) shy. Well, Henry, really! This is 2022, we are all quite capable of knocking together a raised bed. Although I do have a wee man this years who does all my jobs around the house and as they say in the trade: he’s easy-to-pay. Mind you, I see Henry is offering his services free-of-charge, so a bit of competition there. He’s from the Ballyhack area as well. I wonder if he knows Janet and Simon?

Oh, oh, it looks like she does. Great to see Janet is back posting again.

She posts: ‘Simon has moved back in with his mother, so I have been growing veg for the one metre challenge at a local gardening club (which I recommend) and have made a stack of new friends there. P.S. Henry has done a few jobs for me and he’s very very good’.

So then a lovely positive post to finish with this month. Now time to sow your seeds, water, don’t forget to feed and keep on top of any weeds that do appear, then watch them grow.

Please keep posting your progress, share your ideas and we’ll meet this challenge together over the coming months.

Marje xxo.


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