Green waste to compost and birdwatching

February 02 2020
Green waste to compost and birdwatching

The City Gardener, with Tim Barton

THIS month has seen the last delivery of compost on our allotment site.

That brings the total to 45 tonnes since November, and all of it locally sourced.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to the green waste that accumulates near the exit to the recycling centre in town, I can confirm that a good quantity of it ends up in Fishponds.

There’s a definite, albeit slow move towards a more environmentally friendly means of horticulture, whether this is industrial, in your garden or on an allotment, and a change in mindset is all we need.

I use nothing but compost and some homemade comfrey fertilizer to grow everything on my plot; this makes my home-grown food entirely organic, and incidentally not just vegetarian but vegan too. And with the compost that we buy in costing only 50p per barrow full, it’s considerably cheaper than any alternatives.

My brassicas are full of healthy leaves, my leeks immaculate and my parsnips this year bigger than any I’ve seen before. There is no way that anybody can tell me that they have to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow food on a small scale – it’s nonsense.

Our allotment is moving towards being entirely pesticide-free, for example. There are people who argue against this but, with so many others demonstrating with great success that there is no need to use them, I fail to see any justification in doing so. Yes, you have to put up with a few pests, but at what cost? Our site has also proposed to the council that all new allotment tenants should have to be pesticide free or even fully organic. This, by all accounts, was met with some objection from other sites. This isn’t the council objecting but other allotment holders, other people who are the current custodians of 10s if not 100s of acres of Bristol land growing food, and there is objection to them being prevented from spraying with harmful chemicals?

The last weekend in January saw the Big Garden Birdwatch run by the RSPB. This, for those who don’t know, is a chance for people to get out and record any number of bird species that they spot in a park or of course in their gardens.

We all know that there’s a decline in many bird species and this is demonstrably caused in part by our destruction of habitat and the flagrant use of chemicals in agriculture. But on a smaller scale, it’s also to do with the way that we garden ourselves. All too many gardens I see are swathed in green plastic: it may look pristine to start with but trust me, it will look tired quite soon – and then what? Natural lawns - and by that I mean ones that aren't doused in moss-killing fertilizer - are a haven for worms that the birds we are missing need to survive. I wrote last month how I leave my garden until the middle of February before cutting back for the new year's growth. This is mainly because of the abundance of food that there is for the wildlife that is so prevalent. At times there is a literal feathered banquet in progress, as the seed heads are picked clean and the overwintering bugs are found among the dead plant stems. If there were pesticides at play here then none of that would exist: I’d have lifeless wasteland just waiting for me to bend it to my will. I’m not going to fight nature, it’s been playing this game for too long. I’m happy just playing along, changing the rules a little here and there to make sure that it doesn’t get out of hand.