Oh, I know the kind of post you’re wanting out of me. You want to know all about filming with the BBC, or maybe the eco-celeb gossip from the Soil Association Conference, including exactly what happened in those long, quiet hours after I drunkenly tweeted that I had brushed by hand along the back of Monty’s corduroy jacket…
But instead I’m going to talk to you about soil carbon sequestration. Oh no, there goes half of you. Ah well, at least those of you left have a genuine interest. No, don’t you go too! I’ll keep it short and make it Fun! And Accessible! Well, you know, maybe.
Just you and me then. I have – as I say – been to the Soil Association Conference. I am not trying to set myself up here as some kind of eco-queen. That I really am not, but I am, like many, on a bit of a mission to making my life more sustainable, and I do have a hunch that gardening has a big part to play in this. After picking up titbits from local talks and books, the full emersion of the conference was food for the soul, packed with radical people and challenging ideas about how we can save ourselves from hurtling towards Armageddon. But it’s really a farmers’ shindig, and so I spent much of my time trying to work out how I could apply the ideas I was hearing to gardening, not actually as hard as it sounds.
The talk of the conference, the buzz, if you will, was all of this soil carbon sequestration. It’s all pretty new. I may not have got the details down exactly, but the gist is this: soil, when full of organic matter or put down to permanent grassland, acts as a carbon sink, which gives extra grist to organic farming’s mill, hence the excitement. Now obviously they were talking about permanent grassland in terms of cows and grazing and – most especially – the role it can play in counterbalancing all the farting, but my mind immediately sprang to my lawn. Lawns do get a terrible rap environmentally-speaking , because they require constant petrol-based attention and regular applications of oil-based fertilisers, and they often get called names such as ‘green desert’. I know all this, as well as the fact that they are just a weird historical hangover, but I have a soft spot. I have always loved lawns and sensed they must be better than, say, a sea of gravel, environmentally speaking. Turns out I was right. They make excellent carbon sinks.
Obviously the benefit of this is lost if you fire up the old petrol or electric mower every time it needs cut or if you liberally sprinkle on chemical fertilisers, which is why I was out yesterday having another go at evening out its bumps and troughs to make it fit for the push mower, and why I have just ordered some of this micro-clover mix, which will keep the grass green and fix nitrogen so that it feeds itself. Short of spontaneously shaping itself into a rough likeness of the messiah (or his mum), this must be the most my lawn can contribute towards saving the world.
By the way if you are mainly a veg gardener, the trick is to try not to dig– every time you cultivate all that carbon just gets released. As such, I availed myself of a copy of Charles Dowding’s Organic Gardening the Natural, No Dig Way, which looks – unsurprisingly – like being ahead of the curve.
Oh, you have stayed till the end! Have some gossip. Slebs I have met or spotted this week: Martyn Cox, Dawn Isaac, Alys Fowler, Charles Dowding, Rob Hopkins, Patrick Holden, Rebecca Hoskins, Monty Don and John Craven. BBC filming try-out? Painfully awful and OK in turns. At one point I attempted to play Cleve to Martyn Cox’s Joe (talkative and kept things going)and Alex Denman’s James (posh and enthusiastic), but sadly without being half as funny or smouldering as The Quiet One himself. And Monty? After the corduroy-brushing incident he whisked me off to his Land Rover and plied me with organically raised pork products and vintage perry. I eventually lulled him to sleep by humming Fields of Gold (dont click! it will really play!) into his ear then made good my escape by hurling some battery eggs into his path.