Watercress-o, watercress-o, Crying, “tuppence a basket, watercress-o!” Kamil has built this mini combined basic hydroponics and pond water cleaning system – with a small £12 solar pump, pumping water into a tray with pebbles and watercress.  The tray is slightly tilted towards the pond. Results: the water in the pond clear after a week. Watercress: harvest once every two weeks. Apparently, a few trays could be built up over each other on a scaffolding… to increase the growing space and cleaning ability. (As your humble web-editor, I rarely express an opinion here – but in this case I really do have to say what a brilliant idea this is…) … [Read more…]

Gozo Growing #6 : New Boots and Pallets

July might not be the best month to take on a new field here on Gozo. It’s always pretty hot and dry during the summer months, but the Maltese Islands are also currently in the grip of a sustained heat wave, named appropriately, Lucifer! This has seen day time (real feel) temperatures soar as high as the mid 40 degrees centigrade. That’s one hot rock! By starting and finishing early – i.e. getting up at 5.30am and stopping work by 8.30am, this has allowed me to make a good start on the plot – and the thought of jumping in the swimming pool afterwards is an additional work incentive. With a remarkable lack of imagination, we have secured use of a neighbouring field, so it’s all of thirty seconds walk with the grey water that we are storing for use with crops. No one can quite remember when the field was last used to grow vegetables, but the best guess seems to be sometime in the mid 1990’s? The plot measures (approx) 50 x 45 feet long – imagine a sort of slightly off square if you like, surrounded on all sides with typical limestone rubble walls, and in various states of repair. The East and West walls are covered by some lovely mature olive trees, which provide welcome shade, but also act as a good wind barrier, though not from the strong North Westerly or the destructive hot Southerly winds (straight from the Sahara!) I’ve done a fair bit of sitting around at times other than pre-dawn working sessions, just observing and seeing what else the plot has growing on it. There are lots of thistles, fennel, lavender and Medick seeds, a couple of Almond trees, and an overhanging Carob tree. Most of the olive trees have become ensnared by serious wild asparagus and Common Smilax growth – thorny, scratchy and very difficult to remove. The soil has potential for growing good crops, though it also has stones – lots of them, some of which are arranged in a sort of large circle (possibly an area for keeping rabbits?). Still the space has a lovely vibe, and it’s just a great place to sit with a cool beer and watch the moon rise, the sun set or simply to take in distant sea views further down the valley to the North or due South across other seemingly abandoned fields and the nearby restored windmill. Blott, our new kitten also thinks it’s a great place to come and chase Cicadas… and then eat them. I’ve been busy collecting cardboard and compost, horse manure and soon to arrive goat/sheep manure courtesy of the village shepherd’s flock. I’ve installed a large pallet skip compost bin and sorted any wood I came across into piles to be used for some variant on a HugulKultur raised bed system (though I don’t think the soil will be deep enough for a full blown version of this type of growing system). As for the boots, well … [Read more…]

“A Food Brexit” briefing document published

Professor Tim Lang, President of Garden Organic, has co-authored a hard-hitting paper on the future of UK food post Brexit. A Food Brexit: time to get real, published by the SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), is a briefing document for Brexit negotiators and government ministers. It claims that the UK is unprepared for the most complex ever change to its food system on leaving the EU. And that Brexit poses serious risks to consumer interests, public health, the environment, businesses and workers in the food sector. … [Read more…]