If you want to get in touch with where your food comes from then pick up a handful of soil. Although it looks brown it’s alive and living. A whole micro- ecosystem of its own. How could anyone call such a remarkable resource ‘dirt’?

Soils have been a bit of a Cinderella topic, but are currently getting an airing for all sorts of reasons. One is evidence of catastrophic damage to our soils from intensive arable farming, (flooding and runoff leading to soil erosion), and then increasingly the realisation that soils are massive storage systems for carbon on the earth. We need to look after our soils carefully so that they store water and carbon while giving us abundant crops.

Gardeners mostly bat along quite happily without knowing too much about soil. Gardening books usually have sections on soils, but they look dull, complicated, ‘sciency’ and best to flit over!

Soil rain drops

It’s my mission to make this fascinating

One great joy of the Stroud Permaculture Course is that I get the chance to teach the soils topic. It is about understanding something of what makes up a soil, what type it is, how to look after it and more. We learn about soil types, fertility, nutrient sources and feeding crops by organic methods. Applying Permaculture design principles to making food growing systems, caring for the earth and looking after the soil are central to the process.

I have been cajoled (nicely) into leading a walk at Stroud Summer Street Allotments on Sunday July13TH  at 3.00pm., entitled ‘Caring for our Living Soil’. We will be looking at the soil, feeling it, peering into a hole or two hopefully, walking up and down the slope and discussing what’s going on in the soil there. We will find out how fertile the soil is and what the challenges are. I know that in general allotment site soils are always well cared for, and I know how much love Summer Street gets. I’m really looking forward to my afternoon there. (And I hope to see the Silk Weaver’s Plot).

GUEST BLOGGER – Sue from HelpX

I love coming to work in the garden at Tin Bath House. Here there is a sunny Cotswolds hillside simply teeming with life. This is a garden where every little thing you do adds a brushstroke to Helen’s masterpiece. That brushstroke is initially unnoticeable but soon settles into the whole. The garden boundaries are carefully barricaded against deer, rabbits and even badgers and are checked every evening. At the moment the enemy lies within and attention has been turned to the nightly visitations of slugs and snails. Their most recent target has been the young leaves and growing tips of the Pink Fir Apple potato crop. Torchlight patrols with associated squishings and slingings have kept the slimy ones in reasonable control, along with bio slug pellets. If all else fails, then it will be all hands to the beer traps.

Sue HelpX June 14

The next task will be the weeding of the “Olympic” steps which run almost the length of the garden. In a few years’ time they will be bordered by trees and create a vista through to the meadow below. I have painted an image in my mind of a return visit, perhaps in five years’ time, when I will be able to pick a a ripe apricot from the flourishing tree in the front garden and take it to eat under what will by then be the shaded avenue of the Olympic steps. I may even catch a glimpse of a great green bush cricket. Thank you Helen and Nigel for your fine hospitality and friendship and the dream of summers to come.

See www.helpx.net – volunteering opportunities around the world.