by Shelia Hayman
In 1993 I was making a Horizon film about how digital technology was going to change everything, and inevitably one of the places we filmed was Seattle, the home of Microsoft. It was February and freezing cold, but looking out of my hotel room window, I saw a queue of people – at least ten of them – standing in sub zero temperatures, patiently waiting to get into one of the shops on the square.
That was my first glimpse of Starbucks. Plenty of people must have had holidays in Italy and come back thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be good to have coffee bars like that at home, where you can stop off on the way to work and get a really good coffee and a bun in a few minutes?’ But they had done it. They had not only injected it with American gigantism, they had wrapped it in the American dream – the dream that if you buy something, it will change your life.
NATURAL SOLUTIONS FOR PLANT HEALTH.
Most people use pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers as they don’t feel they have any other choice. There are however, lots of solutions to keep pests and diseases away through natural controls, to create a balanced eco system. Below is a list of ideas all of which will help form a part of an integrated pest management plan:
- Maintain soil health. Correct watering, soil composition, mulch, organic matter comfrey tea, green manures, www.Gardenorganic.org.uk
- Right plant, right place. Shade v sun. Exposure etc.
- Companion planting. Plants have natural substances in their roots, flowers, leaves that can alternately repel and/or attract insects. Companion planting can discourage harmful pests without losing beneficial allies. Use them as a border, backdrop or interplant in your flower or veg beds. Use plants that are native to your area, so the insects you want to attract know what to look for! Plants with open cup shaped flowers are the most popular with beneficial insects. Example:
The allium family (which inc. onions, garlic, leeks,chives) are helped by carrots, to deter slugs, aphids, carrot fly and cabbage worms.
- Homemade sprays: Neem oil from the neem tree has been used for centuries to ward off insects. Garlic oil spray made from water, minced garlic which you leave for several weeks and then spray on stems and leaves. Simple soapy water can also work! Pepper mix has even been suggested by some, as has rhubarb spray to control aphids (although some claim the oxalic within it adds toxins to the crop)
- Biological control. The term for when a predator controls a pest. Add beneficial insects, ladybirds, certain nematodes, parasitic wasps to take care of insect problems. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/pdfs/biological-control-suppliers
- Attract insect eating birds. Provide safe nesting sites, habitat, food. Plant year around nectar rich plants. www.ofbutterfliesandbees.co.uk
- Crop rotation. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=124
- Bug club!!! Get the kids out there and start plucking up those snails and make a snail racing track!!
We will be running a natural solutions for plant health workshop in March/April.
Transition Kentish town and Friends of the Earth Camden present a screening of this hard hitting doco about pesticides and the politics of pollution.
When: Wed 27/1
Special guest speaker Nick Mole of Pesticide action network.
C’mon folks, join in the campaign (hashtag) pesticidefreecamden
For those of you with smartphones, an interesting new app called OLIO is spreading around North London.
It’s a free app which connects neighbours with each other and local shops so that surplus food can be shared – either for sale, or for free – not thrown away.
We’ll be launching OLIO officially in Kentish Town at our Urban Harvest Fest on 26th September, but meanwhile they need people in our area to sign up in advance of a launch.
Check it out at www.olioex.com
The World Health Organisation’s cancer agency has declared that glyphosate – the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Round Up, the world’s most widely used weedkiller – a “probable carcinogen”. With the EU officially reassessing glyphosate at the moment, Avaaz has launched a big petition to “immediately suspend approval of glyphosate”.
Last year we wrote to Cllr Sally Gimson, the sustainability lead at Camden Council, asking them to review the Council’s use of glyphosate on Camden’s streets, parks and estates and consider a proven alternative, a technique called weed steaming which is being used already in Southwark and Kensington & Chelsea. The letter is reproduced below.
We have not yet heard back from the Council and are following up on it now.
Letter to Sally Gimson on glyphosate
27th November 2014
Cllr Sally Gimson
Camden Town Hall
London WC1H 9JE
Re: Glyphosate spraying on Camden’s streets, parks and estates
We are writing from Transition Kentish Town, a community group working to make Kentish Town less dependent on fossil fuels, and a happier, greener and more neighbourly place to live.
We’d like to ask you to re-visit the issue of glyphosate spraying on Camden’s streets, parks and estates, and we can suggest an alternative method of controlling weeds.
There is a growing amount of research that indicates glyphosate is a toxic substance, which persists in the soil, in water and in plants, doing damage for many years.
The bioaccumulative effects of glyphosate have been deliberately downplayed by the herbicide industry. Friends of the Earth Europe commissioned laboratory tests on urine samples from city-dwelling volunteers in 18 countries across Europe – including the UK – and found that 44% of samples contained glyphosate. This was the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in human bodies.
Meanwhile, the weeds that develop glyphosate resistance grow tall and strong. So far, 23 species of new glyphosate-resistant weeds have been recorded, and counting.
We have been told, and have noticed that the street cleaners still do some hand weeding. We would strongly suggest they should be spared the toxic exposure to the glyphosate chemical, and given a little extra time for the hand weeding, or weed steaming (see below). If Camden residents knew of the toxic nature of what is sprayed on their streets, they would certainly tolerate the odd weed.
We have been told that glyphosate has been used “for years” in Camden’s parks and estates. Given the fact that glyphosate bioaccumulates in soil and water, it seems irresponsible to use it in public parks. As for spraying on estates, this is effectively spraying toxic substances in people’s gardens, since that is how estate land is often used. Has anyone spoken to the residents about this? We doubt it.
So here is our proposed alternative: a technique called weed steaming, based on an old method of killing weeds with simple hot water. A London-based company called Weedingtech offers a weed steaming product called Foamstream, which uses no harmful chemicals and is already being used by water companies and councils. In London, the boroughs of Southwark and Kensington & Chelsea are using Foamstream in parks using the contractor Quadron Services.
We ask you to look at this simple alternative and consider putting an end to the use of a toxic substance on Camden’s streets, parks and estates. It is well worth sitting down for a talk with Weedingtech or Quadron Services. We know that budgets are very tight, but there are solutions that can work for Camden financially without sacrificing residents’ health and our environment.
Transition Kentish Town Core Group
On March 7th, five of us gathered at Montpelier Gardens (address here) on a lovely spring morning, tidied up the beds, harvested some lambs’ lettuce (yum) and agreed a planting plan for the season.
Bed 1: Potatoes (two varieties).
Bed 2: Herb bed. Already there & beginning to grow again: feverfew, oregano, chives, mint, sage, lemon balm. Plant: coriander, parsley, fennel, dill, Greek basil, rosemary.
Bed 3 Nettle bed. Runner beans, mangetout, broad beans, yellow courgettes. We were offered gem courgette seeds by a generous resident when she saw us working on the beds! We also have some spaghetti courgette seeds.
Bed 4 Salad bed. Kale, red mustard plants, rocket, chard, spinach, sorrel.
March 21st 10am – the Big Dig
This month, we’ll have two communal sessions, it being a busy time for gardens – the first being 10am on March 21st eg. the Big Dig – please come along! No experience needed, just a willingness to get your hands dirty.
Otherwise we’ll have a communal session the 1st Saturday of the month at 10am. Below is the list of March jobs. If you can pop in & do some work on the beds any time, that would be great.
1. Get some small but sturdy stakes with which to label the plants – very important if starting from seed.
2. Get the potatoes & chit them.
3. Break up chive clumps & spread.
4. Get woodchips for potato bed. Transport from park gate.
5. Start propagating seeds.
Hope to see you soon!
Our popular hop growing project returns for a second year!
The idea is that we all grow hops in our gardens and balconies, we harvest them in the autumn to brew a batch of local beer, then we all drink it together.
Last year we harvested 9kg of hops. We’re hoping to do even better this year!
If you’d like to join in you can buy a hop plant for £12. Place your order using the Paypal button below. We’ll have them ready to pick up in the week of 16th March. Traditional planting day for hops is St Patrick’s Day! We will close the orders on 5th March.
The inaugural Darn It! event took place at the Grafton on a sunny January afternoon in January.
Cake was eaten and Bloody Marys were drunk. Plenty of sewing and darning took place – there were new logos, patchwork jumpers and numerous holes repaired – take that moths! There was a really nice mix of darn pros and rookies so even those with zero experience (come moi) were able to get stuck in. There was even an ‘Embellisher’ (come next time to find out more). What a lovely afternoon!
We can’t wait for the next one – needles at the ready!