Soil.. should horticulture have a say?

There is currently an inquiry by the Environment Food & Rural Affairs select committee looking into soil. This is a good thing. As the great American broadcaster Paul Harvey once said, “Man — despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments — owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains”.

Now all the details as to how to respond can be found here. Whilst very much focussed on agriculture, I do think horticulture can and should have a view.

Willow mulch

So as you can see in terms of horticulture there perhaps is much that can be learned from how soil is treated. To mulching, not constantly digging and so on (no idea why I said the cosmos were going in at night when I meant next year).

Plough field with a conservation strip

So next door we have a ploughed field, which is fine. They grow crops and of course food security is important. Next to it is a conservation strip. Essentially that means its just left and not ploughed up. It looks slightly longer in summer than it does now, but not hugely different. As I understand it, that qualifies for some form of subsidy. Essentially public money for public good.

Mulched, not ploughed, pollinator friendly mass planting

Next door is my plot. Two national plant collections, preserving the UKs biodiversity one plant at a time (or at least having a go at it). They just happen to be plants that are pollinator friendly. They don’t get sprayed with pesticides; they are grown with collected rainwater and so on, all in an effort to be as sustainable as possible. If we delve even deeper we could look at research that shows cows fed with cosmos flowers in their feed can reduce the methane output (greenhouse gas) by around 26%, so some of this stuff really could be quite important.

But in terms of the soil, and doing the right thing with it, and to it, no subsidy, so no public money for public good. I would suggest the way I look after my soil is better than intensive farming, and what I am doing can be equally as important in terms of food security – as without those bees who just love all those cosmos and indeed hollyhocks the crops may not be in as good a state as they might be.

But purely in terms of soil, are there lessons from no dig, no spraying of insecticides, thinking about fertilise use etc that can be learned from gardens. I think maybe so.

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