I heard this statement recently describing organic agriculture. It aptly describes the process by which we grow your vegetables. Instead of reaching for chemical fertilisers to feed the plants we use photosynthesis to create ground covers of plants using light, air, soil and water to create complex sugars which are shared through plant roots nurturing the fungi, bacteria and many other microbes in the soil . They in turn regulate the plant’s needs, delivering nutrients which are the by-products of their life cycles. The nurturing of the soil biome delivers the fertility we need for healthy plant growth.

For our winter veg we use complex mixtures of grasses (organic matter), clovers ( fixes nitrogen) and chicory ( deep rooting bringing up minerals) grown for two years and then ploughed under so we can grow veg for another two years . We also add compost which accelerates the biome build up. We currently mow the growing grass/clover sward during the two years allowing earthworms and other soil organisms to draw down the cuttings to further add to the soil humus. For our summer veg we use a combination of minimal tillage , short term green manures ( annual plants) and compost to achieve the same end.

A by-product of this system is we have a carbon regenerative phase. Soil carbon is not in the soil which is inert but in the soil biome. Chemical fertilisers feed plants but not the soil biome hence the decline of carbon from our soils when we use chemical fertilisers alone. This is not sustainable as we are losing carbon from our soils at an astonishing rate.

Growing food disrupts carbon but if we combine the carbon in the above ground biodiversity (birds, insects etc.) that is nurtured by organic farming practices with the below ground carbon we are certainly moving in the right direction. Yet there is so much more to learn and improve.
Recently I have found myself describing what we do as a “regenerative urban market garden growing to organic standards”.

John Mccormick
Autumn 2021