Gracemount Community Garden is a small part of a much bigger movement of change in practices of horticulture and agriculture. We are trying to use best methods for health of the soil because the healthier the soil the better for human health and the health of the planet. Eco-agriculture is one way of describing what we are trying to do.
We all agree that healthy soil is best for
- the nutritional value of food
- the variety of living things (biodiversity)
- retaining water, more heavy rain soaks away rather than flooding drains
- growing healthy plants that take in carbon dioxide
- keeping carbon in the ground (natural carbon sequestration).
Principles we use when we grow in Gracemount Community Garden
- organic, that is no pesticides or industrial fertilisers
- minimum digging, minimum compacting or disturbance to preserve the structure of the soil
- minimum leaving the earth bare to prevent surface erosion and nourish the soil
- make compost and put goodness back
- companion planting, put plants together that help each other (discourage pests or encourage bees) and in combination feed the soil
The Ethos of Growing a Community Gardening
In setting up Gracemount Community Garden, Transition Edinburgh South and Richard our gardener have prioritise being a welcoming place of friendliness, cooperation and shared learning for people of all backgrounds and ages. This remains at least as important as the yields of our produce, although providing people with locally grown low-carbon healthy food is also a priority.
Our principles are not just about healthy soil and its benefits but growing the community through friendly spaces and places.
The combination of principles we are using are not being formally taught in any horticultural college that we know of. One of our ambitions is to become a hub in a bigger network of learning.
Eco Agriculture Movers and Shakers
The convener of Transition Edinburgh South has frequent dialogue with larger organisations with an interest in eco-agriculture like the Soil Association, the Royal Horticultural Society, the Botanic Gardens, and with local farmers who have moved in that direction such as at the organic Whitmuir farm https://www.whitmuir.scot/.
We try to learn from people like Charles Dowding in England who describes how his no dig methods lead to healthy soil, higher yields of crops and fewer weeds.
We also read Gabe Brown’s accounts of how he has used regenerative agriculture on his farm in North Dakota USA https://brownsranch.us/
Plants and Carbon
Carbon Sequestration – to be able to capture carbon in the soil. Are there other benefits. How do we do this? “What about regenerating land, building flourishing eco systems, clean air and water and minimising warming effects around the world. The answer is simple, build soil health through building soil biology. This is the ultimate buffer for climatic change and, whilst we are at it, we will inevitably build soil carbon.
Healthy Soils reduce flooding, are more drought tolerant, produce higher yields and clean water” (1) ..as well as increasing the minerals and vitamins in our produce.
- “Is Your Soil Alive” P42 Organic Farming Soil Association Magazine No. 132
“We have already degraded at least a third of the world’s agricultural land.” Growing a revolution” P17 David Montgomery
Brandt now sees cover crops as the key to supporting his microbial livestock. Cover crops don’t just feed the microbes, they help moderate soil temperature so the microbes can work for him.