The Voice ‐ March 2019
Comment by Geoff
Since The East London Garden Society was formed in September 2011, we have travelled far and together we have remained constant in campaigning for gardeners. We have also campaigned to create a better environment for gardeners of all passions and to be at ease with that passion.
Our prime project at this moment in time is to secure the viability of the largest forest garden in Europe and we are some way there. Our voice has already been heard on the matter of abandoning the poisonous Glyphosate and most councils in London are now to ban the product or significantly reduce its usage. At least the population of London is now aware that poisoning the people will bring consequences.
Hopefully you will all continue to travel with The East London Garden Society and help us achieve our goals.
To have the largest forest garden in Europe in Central London involves a fight, but it’s a fight worth having because if it is won it will set a precedent. If you feel strongly about this issue, please sign the Petition.
Collapse of Insects
Researchers called the state of insect biodiversity worldwide ‹dreadful’ explaining in no uncertain terms that unless we change our ways of producing food insects will become extinct in a matter of decades.
Lepidoptera are insects that include butterflies and moths and Hymenoptera are insects that include bees and dung beetles, all of which are most at risk on land. Aquatic insects affected include dragonflies, damselflies, stoneflies, caddisflies and mayflies.
Overall, the total mass of insects is said to be falling by a shocking 2.5 percent a year. If this rate continues unchecked, insects could disappear within 100 years.
“It is very rapid. In ten years, you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none” study author Francisco Sánchez‐Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, told The Guardian.
“Major insect decline occurred when agricultural practices shifted from traditional, low‐input farming style to the intensive, industrial scale production brought about by the Green Revolution.
The latter practices did not necessarily involve deforestation or habitat modification (e.g. grassland conversion, drainage of wetlands) but rather entailed the planting of genetically‐uniform monocultures, the recurrent use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, the removal of hedgerows and trees in order to facilitate mechanization, and the modification of surface waterways to improve irrigation and drainage.
Monocultures led to a great simplification of insect biodiversity among pollinators, insect natural enemies and nutrient recyclers, and created the suitable conditions for agricultural pests to flourish. A quarter of the reports indicate these agriculture‐related practices as the main driver of insect declines in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Pesticides have caused the decline of moths in rural areas of the UK and pollinators in Italy. Broad-spectrum insecticides reduce the abundance and diversity of beneficial ground‐dwelling and foliage‐foraging insects. Systemic insecticides reduce populations of ladybirds and butterflies in gardens and nurseries and inflict multiple lethal and sublethal effects on bees and other arthropods.
Fungicides are not less damaging to insects, and synergism of a particular group of compounds (i.e. azoles) with insecticide toxicity is certainly involved in honey bee collapses.” Back to top
There are two types of marigolds, both of which have edible species. However, it is the calendula genus, available in several edible varieties that has many medicinal qualities.
Calendula officinalis are easily grown at home in your garden or containers; they are useful in protecting your plants from insects, pests and deer, and add a beautiful pop of colour to a vegetable garden. Calendula products are useful in the treatment of wounds and burns and in improving oral health. Consider making your own tea, oil and salve at home using flowers you know were grown using organic methods without pesticides and insecticides. Marigolds provide a pop of colour to any garden or vegetable plot.
They range from creamy pale yellow to bright yellow, orange or variegated reds and orange. When planted with your vegetables, they help protect against certain pests and attract valuable insects, including bees necessary for pollination. Marigolds help protect your tomatoes against nematodes, slugs and hornworms, are low maintenance and add colour with beauty, also helping protect vegetables against mosquitoes and aphids. At the end of the season, turn the marigolds under so the roots decay in the soil and provide organic matter for the following year.
Not all marigolds are created equally. While both types offer some of the same benefits to your vegetable garden, they don’t have the same health benefits. The tagetes varieties are often purely ornamental while most of the calendula variety delivers health benefits. Although both go by the same common name, and species of both may have medicinal value, they cannot be used interchangeably.
The seeds take approximately two weeks to emerge from the soil and enjoy full sun to partial shade. Calendula plants are annuals that are easy to care for and may bloom throughout the summer. Marigold flowers are deer resistant and attract butterflies. Deadhead the flowers and pinch them back to keep the plant from becoming bushy. If flowering dwindles in midsummer, cut the plants back severely for re‐growth.
The flowers need to be picked every couple of days in order to prolong the flowering season. The colourful flowers can be eaten fresh or dried for later use. The flowers are more flavourful than the medicinal tasting green base. Once dried, the flowers can also be rehydrated for use in salads, salsas, scrambled eggs and frittatas, adding colour, flavour and health benefits.
Dried flowers can be added to soups and stews in the winter. They were also once added to breads and syrup in medieval Europe. In one account written in 1699, the author wrote:
“The yellow leaves of the flowers are dried and kept throughout Dutch land against winter to put into broths, physical potions and for divers other purposes, in such quantity that in some Grocers or Spice sellers are to be found barrels filled with them and retailed by the penny or less, insomuch that no broths are well made without dried Marigold.”
The bright colours of the flower make a wonderful addition to ice cubes and can be used to cool down iced tea along with a sprig of mint for contrast. Calendula has been used for centuries in homeopathic remedies to treat or prevent a number of conditions. Back to top
This is one story from Uganda where HIV has taken hold and many children are now orphans. Nashif is working to address the situation as best he can, having decided to teach the local orphans permaculture skills in order that they are able to reach adulthood and be able to fend for themselves.
“My name is Nashif Ahmed from Uganda. I was born in 1993 and I grew up with my grandma who managed to send me to high school in 2014, although she didn’t manage to send me to university. I developed a passion for our orphans here in Uganda, myself being one, so I joined the Red Cross as a volunteer.
In 2016, I registered a community‐based organization named Help Orphans for Future Nation which supports the education of orphans through buying scholastic materials and undertaking permaculture projects to support food abundance, beekeeping and gardening.
I am seeking support to establish a school for the orphans to provide them with technical skills and tools for self‐reliance, and to support us in acquiring more land for permaculture training and gardening for sustainability.”
This is one of the many good stories frpm Africa but Nashif’s concern is helping to lead a revolution with permaculture and in some ways, he leads the way. The children shown here are the latest recruits, all of whom are orphans and learning permaculture skills. Back to top
Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Calendula Infusion
Ingredients for the Calendula Oil:
Dried organically grown calendula petals
Carrier oil (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil or almond oil)
Clean lidded glass jar
Put your desired amount of dried calendula petals in a clean, dry glass jar.
Cover the flowers with the carrier oil of choice by an inch.
Place the jar in a paper bag to protect the oil from UV light and place in a sunny window to infuse for four weeks.
Give the jar a good shake a couple of times a day. Drain the petals from the oil and store the oil in a container with a lid for up to one year.
Ingredients for the Calendula Salve
4 ounces of infused oil from the above recipe
½ ounce of beeswax
25 to 50 drops of essential oil such as tea tree, frankincense, lavender or chamomile
Heat the beeswax in a double boiler. Once melted add the calendula oil. Allow the mixture to stay over the heat for 60 seconds until thoroughly mixed. If adding essential oil, stir it in. Pour into a clean dry container and allow it to cool.
This recipe makes enough to fill three two ounce tins. Back to top