Hand Grown•No-dig•no harmful chemicals
To grow resilient, nutrient dense vegetables, you need healthy soil. Organic growers know this, and work hard to improve soil health.
As science discovers more about the complex ecology of soil, we are learning that it's possible to go one step beyond organic methods to improve soil health.
This includes not ploughing or digging soil, not leaving bare soil exposed to the elements and not compacting soil by driving heavy machinery on it. It also includes reducing the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides which harms soil health, wildlife and people.
Our Growing Methods
By using the growing methods described below we achieve our 2 main goals:
To grow a diverse range of high quality, nutrient dense vegetables in the most environmentally compassionate way we can.
To maintain & enhance biodiversity on Spindlebrook Farm and beyond.
Based on this, these are the key principles of our growing system -
Minimise soil disturbance: No ploughing, heavy machinery or other deep tilling. This also reduces fossil fuel use.
Keep the soil covered as much as possible: Minimise exposure of soil to elements. Also reduces erosion of top soil.
Keep things growing in the soil as much as possible: Plant foliage protects soil, and the roots help feed beneficial soil organisms and fungal networks.
No harmful chemicals: Fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides all harm soil organisms, fungi, water courses, wildlife and people.
Earthworms. One of the larger species of 'soil organism'.
Hand Grown and Human Scale
In order to nurture a healthy soil biology, we use a method of growing called no-dig, which means we do not plough, turn or compact our soil with heavy machinery, like tractors.
Instead, all our work is done by hand, using traditional hand or human powered tools, including some clever non-mechanised modern tools like the paperpot transplanter.
We avoid using single use plastic but do use some plastic that will be in use for decades, in the form of polytunnels for season extension, propagation trays & for occultation (excluding light from plants to speed up their decomposition insitu and avoid the need to till).
The Cat tunnel is invaluable to extending the season
Minimise Fossil Fuel Consumption & Reliance
Growing by hand also reduces our fossil fuel consumption, which limits the amount of land we can cultivate. However, because we don't use tractors we can grow our vegetables at a much closer, more intensive spacing. This method is called 'bio-intensive' and it means we can maximise yields whilst minimising our environmental impact, fossil fuel consumption and land use (freeing up almost 90% of our farm for nature).
Growing bio-intensively on a small scale without heavy machinery, using organic no-dig principles, helps us to build up the soil life, creating abundant gardens full of naturally nutritious vegetables and salads.
Our permanent no-till beds, ready for sowing and planting
The Importance of Soil Health
“Human health is affected by the health of the soil” - Soil Association
The more scientists understand the complex ecology of soil, the more we learn that healthy soil is the key to producing the healthiest, most nutritious crops for us and our local community - which is one of our main goals.
Healthy soil is a living ecosystem, teeming with beneficial organisms, such as worms, microbes, fungi, bacteria and insects. A single teaspoon of healthy soil has more organisms in it than there are people on Earth!
Plants get most of their nutrients from the soil, but they can't access those nutrients without the help of fungi and soil organisms. The organisms break down and convert materials in the soil into nutrients that the plant can use. In return the plant produces sugars and amino acids that feed the organisms. This delicate symbiotic relationship has been going on for as long as there has been soil and plants on Earth.
Healthy soil = healthy soil organisms = healthy plants = healthy veg eaters
As we mention above, soil life is easily damaged or destroyed by activities such as ploughing, leaving soil exposed to the elements, adding chemical fertilisers and even driving on it with heavy machinery. At Spindlebrook we avoid these practices. Instead we aim to nourish, protect and build soil using compost, ramial wood chip, cover cropping, crop rotation and a mindful approach to growing.