Growers Hub

A Reflection on Roots Allotments growth in 2022.

Written by
Ed Morrison
Ed Morrison
December 21, 2022
Category

Taking an embryonic idea from our heads into a fully fledged and thriving real life project has been such a fulfilling experience over the last year.

Back in 2019 when I first started growing in my grandma’s garden I had no idea it would turn into something that has the potential to help thousands of people across the UK. Sometimes I stop and pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming.

Having felt the positive mental and physical effects first hand of being in nature, growing my own food and taking more control over what goes in my body, it made me so happy to see that 93% of our Bath members felt a wellbeing boost over our first season of growing.

The Roots Allotments project has managed to help more people than I could ever have imagined. It shows to me that if we can pull together in our local communities and start helping each other out more, then the future we are all facing doesn’t seem as daunting. If we can start small, direct our hard earned money towards projects and things that do good for people and the planet, then our world and it’s societies will change for the better.

Over the last year we set up our first growing community in Bath and all memberships were claimed within a few months. We’ve seen people who had never grown anything before get their green fingers on and start to learn essential skills that our modern day food chain has stolen from us. The process of setting up such a large, planet first, no-dig allotment site was daunting at first but we rose to the challenge and will continue to take on anything that comes our way to make sure that people have access to outside space to produce their own food. 

Our members have provided vegetables to local elderly folk that were in need for their community cooked meals in Weston and also shared produce, recipes and tips with each other throughout the year. It truly is heartwarming seeing humans do what they do best when something positive is at the heart of it - especially after the last few years of social isolation we have all experienced. 

I’ve really enjoyed working with local schools to get their students into growing and learning that things aren't quite what the supermarket shelves make it out to be. It has filled me with joy watching young faces excitedly parading huge beetroots around after taking care of them from seed to harvest! It’s a complete cycle that the younger generations are missing out on because we’ve built their lives around screens and digital existence.



I even managed to get over to Newbridge Primary School, a local school, to fix up their very overgrown raised beds after they had not really been looked after since before COVID. It took me and a Roots community member three days of hard graft to cut down weeds, lay new wood chip paths, top up their beds with fresh manure and compost and then add some new plantings to them. This meant the world to the school and I can’t wait to help them get a proper plan in place for the 2023 growing season.

I am looking forward to continuing outreach work with schools close to Roots sites who can’t transport their students to our locations, and working on building a curriculum accredited growing course to help schools anywhere get their children enthused about where their food comes from.

Throughout the site build and first season of growing we were able to part-time employ Dean and Tip who are local big issue vendors from the surrounding area. I have never met two more hard working, friendly people in my life and it has been a pleasure working side by side with them, weeding beds, flipping compost, sorting seeds, splitting garlic etc. We have given them both a patch at Roots and they are valued members of our community. I would love to build on this and have a partnership with Big Issue in every location we launch at - growing should be accessible to all. With that, we also offer membership discounts for service members, students, and those on income support.

After I came across the stat that the UK has lost 98% of its wildflower meadows over the last 100 years I knew this was something we had to build into our plans when launching new growing communities. Wildflower meadows provide fantastic habitats for a multitude of insects, birds and mammals. Each one of Roots sites will have 15% of the area dedicated to native UK wildflowers. Since we established one on our Bath site I have seen bats feeding over it, bees and butterflies sucking up endless amounts of pollen and when I was visiting my patch at the weekend I saw gold crests, bull finches, robins and hedge sparrows. We are looking at how we can also establish more native hedgerows at each of our sites to boost biodiversity further.

After traveling around the UK looking at various different sites that have been conventionally farmed it really shocked me to find next to no worms in the soil. Darwin wrote his last book on the important role they play on recycling organic matter back into ecosystems. I read recently that earthworm populations have dropped by ⅓ in the UK with their decline being linked to synthetic chemical use within the agricultural system. Over the last 10 months we have seen a massive increase in the amount of worms that have come to live and reproduce on our patches - I sampled 1 square foot and found over 20 worms which was a very different story before where I struggled to find one in the same space.

We’ve achieved a huge amount in a very short space of time and helped many people feel a deeper connection to our beautiful spaceship earth that guides us through the universe and provides the right conditions for us to continue living on it. This is something we shouldn’t take for granted and we should all look inwards to see how we can support people in our local communities whether that’s buying from local suppliers, helping those in need, or just being accepting that we live in a big world now and community may not just be the people in your direct neighbourhood.

I look forward to the challenges and celebrations of taking the no-dig revolution to all corners of the UK and beyond. 

Happy Growing,

Ed

1) No digging needed! Your Back Will Thank You

Yes, it’s true. You’ll be picking bountiful harvests without needing to dig, turn or fork the earth! Your back will thank you because digging takes about 2 x times longer than No dig. Beds are made by covering your growing ground in cardboard and placing nutrient rich compost on top - giving you a surface that’s ready to plant straight away!

2) Less weeding 

Weeds get suppressed by the layer of cardboard and compost, they then die off because of no sunlight! If soil stays undisturbed then weeds and their seeds are more likely to stay locked into the ground instead of sprouting when disturbed on a traditionally dug allotment.

3) Feeding the soil creates healthier plants

By building yearly layers of organic matter and not disturbing the soil’s ecosystem, you will increase the amount of good microbial activity. Good microbes help plants access nutrients and water, so the healthier your soil - the healthier your plants! 

4) You’ll do less watering!

No dig beds retain moisture better because you’re introducing organic matter, not taking it away. By keeping the soil’s ecosystem in-tact and encouraging bacteria, fungi and worms to do their thing will create better layers of soil that save water for when your plants need it - instead of bare dug ground that leaks moisture! Water is a precious resource and no dig helps us make the most of every drop!

5) Higher Yields Are Scientifically proven!

No dig has been proven to produce significantly higher yields by Charles Dowding over the last 9 years at his Homeacres Farm. He has been weighing the results of identically planted dug vs no dig beds and over that time the results are 100’s of kg’s greater.

6) Reduce Single-Use Plastic! <3 The Planet!

Every harvest throughout the seasons means you’ll be totally cutting out vast amounts of single use plastic that is used in supermarket produce! The supply chains we rely on use way too much making no dig a great way to start reducing personal consumption of single use plastic.

7) Experience Less pests & diseases

The result of great soil health by the no-dig method helps good bacteria, insects and animals thrive! Using natural methods of pest control we can learn to work with nature instead of against it - a single teaspoon of healthy rich soil can contain up to 1 billion bacteria!.

8) You’ll help fungal networks and they’ll help your plants grow

Fungi are a super important part of running a productive healthy patch. When soil is full of life and undisturbed there will be miles and miles of fungal networks beneath your feet trading nutrients with each other and your plants.

9) Save time and be 40% more productive by no dig!

When you don’t need to spend hours and hours digging, turning and prepping the soil for planting, you’ll be able to spend it doing the fun creative side of gardening - planning, planting, pruning your patch to create your own edible zen garden.

As a bonus you will also feel the mental and physical boost of growing your own

Gardening and feeding yourself with incredibly fresh nutrient dense food has amazing positive side effects for both people and the planet. As time goes by you’ll feel closer and more at one with nature.