Tag Archives: food

ALLOTMENT TIPS

It’s a funny old year already and it looks like being the warmest March for decades – and whilst Scotland, the North And North West have kept their rainfall, The East, South and South East are already in drought conditions. As March has been unseasonably warm, I have been up on the allotment earlier this year. Soil improvement has been a theme on all the  plots, with tons of manure being dug in over the last two years (when the garden lots were first made available by our local council, transforming an old ‘set aside’ field) but March and April are busy times for vegetable growers:

  • Plant late early and maincrop potatoes once they have been ‘chitted’ (sprouted) into rich well dug soil. I am trying slug and blight resistant varieties this year – Sarpo Mira and Kestrel along with Maris Piper.
  • Peas can be planned out from March onwards in rows – I would recommend planting at two week intervals.
  • I have raspberries , gooseberries and blackberries already planted. Check for disease and damage on stems and remove as necessary. Strawberries can be ridies up and old leaves and spent runners removed.
  • If you can sow seeds indoors or in a greenhouse, courgettes and runner beans can soon be started in pots.
  • Weeds can be suppressed (and worms fed) by a mulch of manure or rotted leaves
  • Freecycle is a great way to find free stuff. I am on the look-out for some scaffolding planks for a new raised bed for my strawberries.
  • Not much to harvest yet, some winter greens still – but the rhubarb is well on its way to being edible – it looks great!
  • And don’t forget frosts can cause damage right through till May – fleece can protect tender shoots outside.
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ANOTHER PLANET

The UK has been accused of caving in to pressure from Canada by stalling on a proposed Europe wide ban to ban products such as petrol and diesel that come from mining Canada’s tar sands – a process the WWF says is worse for ecology than the Gulf oil spill.  It seems UK coalition ministers are refusing to back other EU countries that want the sands specifically named in a new fuel quality directive.

Oxfam says that a ‘broken’ food system will aggravate worldwide hunger with food prices doubling in the next 20 years, pushing millions of the World poorest people into hunger. Oxfams new report “Growing for a Better Future: Food Justice in a Resource-Constrained World” (what a terrible title!) says that scramble for food and land are pushing up prices and natural disasters brought on by climate change were also forcing prices higher. Commenting that the system is pretty much ‘bust’, Oxfams points to the negative role commodity speculation plays and also says that farmers should not be given incentives to plant bio-fuel in place of food crops.

“Support windfarms – it would be less controversial to argue for blackouts” says George Monbiot in the Guardian (31/05/11)  “Why do those who oppose wind power insist on spoiling their case with gibberish? In his column on Friday, Simon Jenkins claimed that onshore windfarms were being planned “with no concern for cost”. But the only reason for building them is a concern for cost. If it weren’t for this issue, they would be the last option governments would choose – God knows they cause enough trouble.” Read more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/30/wind-farms-less-controversial-blackouts

Steve Bolze, the Chief Executive of General Electric has said that cheap gas will curb the growth of energy projects saying that this means that more gas fired power generation plants will be built than solar or wind in the next 10-20 years. If the drive for gas continues the International Energy Agency says that the world will miss its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Germany is planning to shut ALL of its nuclear reactors by 2022 in response the Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster. Germany will become the only major industrial economy nuclear free for decades. Nuclear currently accounts for 23% of Germany’s power.

Cate Blanchett has found herself at the centre of a row in Australia after appearing in an TV advert calling on  Australians to support a carbon tax. Conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott lambasted the advert, funded by environmental groups, saying that “people who are worth $53 million have a right to be heard, but their voice should not be heard ahead of the ordinary working people of this country”. That, is seriously, from a politician in the twenty first century!!!!!  Blanchett is artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company and is striving to green the Theatre which has installed solar panels that provide up to 70% of its power.

Greenpeace has clashed with the Danish navy after protesters boarded a British owned oil exploration vessel about 90 miles off Greenland’s coast. The protestors occupied a survival pod they attached to the drilling ship Leiv Eiriksson. The Danish navy says that there is a 500m exclusion zone around the test drilling site. Greenpeace has accused the Greenland and Danish governments and Cairn Energy of threatening the fragile Arctic marine environment with another potential oil spill. Greenland has issued 20 exploratory drilling licences and insists that its safety standards are the most robust of any country.

Scientists in the UK say that world class research into future sources of clean green energy are being threatened – by a green tax. The complaint is over the unexpected impact of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme and one laboratory, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy faces a £400,000 bill  this year- which it says is perverse as it is researching the production of ‘zero carbon  energy’. Scientific bodies are trying to persuade ministers to exempt research institutions from the carbon levy.

A new report from consultancy WYG on behalf of Biffa Municipal claims co-mingled collections for household waste result in the most improved recycling rates and cost savings for councils. The findings have been disputed by the Campaign for Real Recycling. The research claims that councils can boost household recycling rates and cut costs by adopting alternate weekly collections of co-mingled dry recyclables and waste from wheeled bins and according to the report, a  review of kerbside recycling collection schemes in the UK in 2009/10 found that most of the top 30 councils in the kerbside dry recycling league table for 2009-10, took the co-mingled AWC approach. According to the study, of the top 30 councils,  23 collected 75% or more of their dry recyclables co-mingled, 23 collected recycling each fortnight, 21 collected refuse fortnightly, over half collected both refuse and recycling fortnightly, and the vast majority used wheeled bins.

The world’s first hi-tech landfill mining project has been given the go-ahead in Belgium where gasification and plasma technology will be combined to extract materials and energy from buried waste.

Centrica, the parent company of household gas supplier British Gas, has carried out its threat not to reopen one of the UK’s largest gas fields following the Government’s decision to raise taxes on production. The energy firm said South Morecambe, the largest of three production areas that make up the offshore Liverpool Morecambe Bay gas field, would stay shut following routine maintenance work because the higher levy. Morecambe Bay supplies 6% of domestic gas. No job losses are planned.

Forecasters believe that a heatwave that could last until July will leave some parts of the UK even hotter than north Africa and the Mediterranean. Forecasters predict that temperatures will stay above 21C in June and July – and could even hit  32C. It looks likely that rainfall will continue to be below average in the second half of June in the South of England, which is good news for Glastonbury and Wimbledon but bad news for farmers and consumers, as food prices will increase as a result. The hottest summer on record was 1976.

The European Investment Bank has banned all further investments in Glencore’s mining projects after allegations of tax avoidance and environmental damage, The allegations are linked to the company’s copper mines in Zambia. Glencore has denied the charges but has admitted exceeding sulpher dioxide output limits.

Northhumbrian Water is going to use reed beds to water and sewage sludge to power its energy hungry facilities in a move to become the greenest utility company  in the United Kingdom. The company already uses anaerobic digestion to breakdown human waste and produce gas that can in turn be used to produce electricity. The company plans to build the World’s largest constructed reed bed in Essex to provide cheaper and more ecologically friendly water treatment.

UK pours millons in food and wine down the plughole

food4The United Kingdom pours away £2.7 billion of food and drink each and every year according to new research from the Waste & Resource Action Programme (WRAP) including £470 million of wine (hic!), £250 million of milk (Miaow) and £120 million of soup. The waste, which would weigh some 1.8 million tonnes, could mostly have been avoided through better planning accoridng to WRAP. According to household waste diaries kept by 319 families accross the country, milk is the biggest source of waste followed by fizzy soft drinks, fruit juices and smoothies – even making a cup of tea can be wasteful with estimated £100 million worth of tea poured away. The average cost of waste house in each household is now £50 a month, up from £35 last year – and in a recession! WRAP had previously campaigned against the waste created by unwanted ‘buy one get one free’ campaigns and now wants urgent action to curb the waste going into our drains – starting with asking families to use less, to freeze what leftovers they can and also suggesting solutions like using unwanted wine in cooking. From The Times which has a great new Blog, Green Central, online at www.timesonline.co.uk/greencentral