Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Edible perennials in small spaces (book)

Edible Perennial Gardening: Growing Successful Polycultures in Small Spaces

 Do you dream of a low maintenance perennial garden? One that is full to the brim of perennial vegetables that you don’t have to keep replanting, but only have a small space?
Do you struggle with too little time for gardening or controlling the pests and diseases that eat your crops? Do you want to grow unusual vegetable varieties? You can do all of this with Edible Perennial Gardening. Anni Kelsey explains how to source and propagate different vegetables, which plants work well together in a polycultures, and what you can plant in small, shady or semi-shady beds as well as in sunny areas.
Everything you need to know about getting started in growing your own food in a low maintenance perennial garden.
Do you dream of a low-maintenance perennial garden that is full to the brim of perennial vegetables that you don’t have to keep replanting, but have only a small space? Do you want a garden that doesn’t take much of your time and that needs little attention to control the pests and diseases that eat your crops? Do you want to grow unusual vegetable varieties? You can have all of this with Edible Perennial Gardening. Anni Kelsey has meticulously researched the little-known subject of edible perennials and selected her favorite, tasty varieties. She explains how to source and propagate different vegetables, which plants work well together in polycultures, and what you can plant in small, shady, or semi shady beds, as well as in sunny areas.
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Soil science and soil crisis (online)

Energy Balance

These blogs (by Professor Chris Rhodes) dated 22nd April and 6th April 2014 give a lovely introduction to the science of soil, and to the current crisis of soil, which all growers without a strong background in this area should read. It is a blog so perhaps a bit light for inclusion here, but contains so much great information that I thought it was worth it. Prof. Rhodes' older blog posts deal with a huge range of environmental issues (ranging from peak oil to home-made sauerkraut), many of which will be of interest to permaculture practitioners. 

Send The Digest your conference report (please)

Been to a conference? Tell us about it!

There are many wonderful (and some not so wonderful) conferences happening in 2014, far more than any one of us can attend. So if you have attended one, why not write a short report on it for the Digest (200 words max, but linked to a longer report or website if possible). Then we can all share one another's learning and inspiration. E-mail your report to Chris at

Live more on less (online)

There is no wealth but life: A practical action plan for living more on less.

We all understand the importance of reducing resource and energy consumption and stepping more lightly on the planet. But figuring out exactly how to do this in a consumer society can be very challenging.
The aim of this website is to provide a practical action plan for those people who wish to live a ‘simpler life’ of reduced and restrained consumption. The Simpler Way represents a life with less clutter, less waste, and less fossil fuel use, but also a life with more time for the things that truly inspire and bring happiness.

Gardening myths dispelled (book)

Gardening Myths and Misconceptions

Some mythical beliefs run deep into the collective unconscious and once ingrained as “certain facts” in the public domain, they are difficult to question, even when they contain contradictions or are demonstrably untrue. There are many such beliefs in gardening, some with discernible origins in history, some which have established for no obvious reason. In this book Charles Dowding is asking questions, because mythical beliefs hide methods of easier working, for better results.

Fly less but stay connected (book)

Beyond Flying: Rethinking air travel in a globally connected world

Fourteen authors from around the world share their stories about how they came to the conclusion that reducing their air travel was necessary to avoid playing their part in climate change, and how they changed values and attitudes to businesses and personal travel. These are the stories of how these remarkable people found easy and better ways of living and working in a globalised world with less air travel.

Allotments are great for soil quality (journal)

Urban cultivation in allotments maintains soil qualities adversely affected by conventional agriculture  

Maintenance and protection of our soil resource is essential for sustainable food production and for regulating and supporting ecosystem services upon which we depend. This study establishes, for the first time, that small-scale urban food production can occur without the penalty of soil degradation seen in conventional agriculture, and maintains the high soil quality seen in urban greenspaces. Given the involvement of over 800 million people in urban agriculture globally, our findings suggest that to better protect soil functions, local, national and international urban planning and policy making should promote more urban own-growing in preference to further intensification.



Wednesday, 16 April 2014

UN Special Rapporteur advocates agroecology (report)

(From The Guardian online). In his final report (pdf), Olivier De Schutter, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, offers a detailed critique of industrial agriculture that has boosted food production over the past 50 years, yet leaves 842 million – 12% of the world's population – hungry. As an alternative, he champions agroecology; both more environmentally friendly and contributing to improved nutrition. Other measures to improve the system would be to abandon mandates for biofuels and cut down food waste in rich countries and post-harvest losses in poor countries.

Permaculture activist magazine

Permaculture Activist Magazine

I'm not sure how well known this American magazine is amongst Digest users so I thought I'd give it a little plug. The August issue is on experimentation in permaculture and the copy deadline is 1st June so you still have time to submit an article if this inspires you. 

The magazine aims to supply information that enables people everywhere to provide for their own & their communities' needs for food, energy, shelter, & to design decent lives without exploitation or pollution & from the smallest practical area of land.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Campaign for Real Farming (online)

Campaign for real farming website

'The Agrarian Renaissance needs new kinds of farms – polycultural, low-input, skills intensive; and these new farms need appropriate markets – generally local, and geared to the small-scale; and overall we need a true food culture – people who truly appreciate what good food is, and are prepared to seek it out.'
The mission statement of this website is reflected in its contents, and unlike many it is kept right up to date.

Scaling up agroecolgy (report)

Scaling-up agroecological approaches: what, why and how? 

The objectives of this paper are:
•To contribute to ongoing debates on agroecological approaches and their centrality for more sustainable agricultural and food systems;
•To provide key evidence and arguments for supporting advocacy work calling for the scaling-up of agroecological approaches.
The paper includes four main parts:
Part I explains what agroecology is, situating it in light of peasant and industrialized agricultures and introducing its three interconnected dimensions as a science, an agricultural approach and a movement. Part II clarifies how scaling-up an agroecological transition can contribute to achieving sustainable agricultural and food systems. Part III identifies the main challenges to be met for scaling-up at a higher stage agroecological approaches.The conclusion formulates recommendations that help in addressing major challenges involved in scaling up agroecological approaches

Want to prevent flooding? Fix your soil (report)

In the light of recent extreme weather and severe flooding across large parts of the UK, there has been much debate about how to prevent similar problems in the future, how to manage rivers and waterways and discussion on the future of farming in areas such as the Somerset levels, which are prone to flooding.
One way of addressing multiple issues at the same time is to ensure that the type of farming that does take place works to decrease rather than exacerbate flooding. In particular, the health of the soil has a great effect on how much water it can hold, how much water runs off, and how much the soil itself is eroded – silting up rivers and streams. In most rural areas the key determinant of the health of the soil is the way that land is farmed.

Introduction to soil health principles (video)

'The Soil is naked, hungry and running a fever!'

Ray Archuleta, a conservation agronomist with the National Resource Conservation Service, spoke at the National Conference on Soil and Cover Crops in Omaha this year. Ray delivered an authoritative and inspirational address to the conference about agroecology and the importance of holistic design in landscape management. You can watch a 25 minute video of his presentation here.

Trees help farmers manage drought (report)

This review assesses the benefits of native tree species for shelter on the water regime of pasture and crops. It draws on evidence from the UK, Europe and other temperate zones. Before the evidence is presented overviews are given of evapotranspiration, shelterbelt design and crop micro-climate. The evidence in the review suggests that under the right conditions native tree shelterbelts could enable UK crops to use water more efficiently. Shelterbelts can be viewed as an insurance policy. They may not provide yield increases every year, but they can buffer crop production when extreme weather events strike.

Why monitoring and evaluation matter (online)

Why monitoring and evaluation matters for Transition

 What role does measuring and evaluating impact have in Transition initiatives?  How important is it, and how straightforward is it in a group that is already busy "doing stuff"?  This project, from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, is developing a project called Monitoring and Evaluation for Sustainable Communities (MESC) to develop and trial a range of tools to enable groups to self monitor and evaluate their work.



Building soil with wood chips (online)

The Hidden world that feeds us: the living soil
Every one involved in agriculture sooner or later comes to the same conclusion: we must make soil. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides and ploughing destroy the fertility of the soil; organic farming maintains its fertility but cannot replace lost soil. The most fertile agricultural regions were once hardwood forests, especially oak forest. This research paper proposes that, contrary to conventional practice even in agro-ecology, the way to build soil is by the addition of chipped hardwood twigs and small branches to fields.