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Last week we welcomed Kim Stoddart, co-author of 'The Climate Change Garden' book and editor of 'The Organic Way' magazine and passionate gardener. Kim is the Garden Organic representative for Wales and will be running this Principles of Organic Gardening on the charity's behalf.

In the workshop, we learnt more about how to integrate organic principles in the context of the garden or allotment setting.

Kim launched the workshop with an outline of some of the reasons why taking an organic approach is so important in these times - for people and planet.

Organic for People and Planet

The climate emergency and biodiversity collapse are signalling the need to change 'business as usual'.. As social-ecological scientists suggests, "the evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute" [1].

Growing organically and supporting organic food systems is one way we can play a part in supporting a healthier planet. Plus recent scientific evidence is finding that organic food has a higher nutrient density than non-organic food.

Five pillars of organic gardening

Kim talked us through the five pillars of organic gardening which can help guide a practice which benefits both people and planet.

1.Build and maintain soil health

The soil is full of life, which supports healthy plant growth. The basic principle is that the soil is as important as the plants it supports. Compost, green manures, mulching can all support soil health as can reducing the amount of soil disturbance. At Global Gardens for example, we follow minimum till, no dig principles.

2.Encourage biodiversity

Different life forms such as plants, insects, birds and mammals all have a role in creating a resilient growing system. Letting grass grow longer, installing a wildlife pond, planting hedgerows and native plants, leaving swathes of nettles and planting pollinator friendly plants can help bring diverse life into the garden. If you live in Cardiff, check out the Urban Buzz Pollinator Pledge for lots of ideas about how to can support pollinators in the allotment and garden.

3.Use resources responsibly

The organic grower uses resources sustainably, with minimum damage to the planet. This includes guidelines on use of water, energy, wood, plastic and growing containers. Reduce consumption, make do and mend, recycle and upcycle, compost and save seed. Think about some simple actions you can take in your garden. Is there a roof you could harvest water from to avoid using the tap? Perhaps you could think about reducing plastic in the garden too.

4.Avoid using harmful chemicals

Toxic chemicals used to kill weeds, diseases and pests can damage the health of your growing area, and all the life-forms within and beyond it. Instead, supporting predatory insects can reduce reliance on harmful chemicals. For example, ladybirds eat aphids and blackflywhilst slow worms, hedgehogs and many birds eat slugs. Creating wildlife habitats for predators can help beat pests.

5.Maintain a healthy growing area

Keeping your growing area in good health, rather than just pest and disease free, is at the heart of organic growing. A diverse and vigorous growing system, good hygiene, and close observation all help prevent problems.

The essence of organic growing is to work within natural systems and cycles. We hope these pillars can help you build the foundations of a healthy garden or allotment ecosystem. Do let us know how you get on!

[1] Lenton et al. 2019. "Climate tipping points—too risky to bet against." Nature: 592-595.

Steffen et al. 2015. "Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet." Science 347, 6223.

This workshop was supported by the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales and Garden Organic.


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