Community Practice Soil Spirituality Urban

Miles’s Lane

I noticed this chap’s grave on my periodic visit to Bunhill Fields to say hello to William Blake and the other nonconformists. This being 2024 you can look up a performance of Shrubsole’s music. May he rest in peace.

Growing Practice Urban

Thinning Out

Be strong-minded. Sow thinly.

Leonard Wickenden

As a grower, as in so many areas of life, I am very much still learning. My biggest newb error this year has been to sow seed too densely. It’s very embarrassing. In mitigation, I haven’t made this error universally across my growing, only with these plants.

The problem is that all the seed for these plants is my own. And I have so FUCKING VERY much of it. Plants create incredible amounts of seed, it only stays viable for a certain amount of time, and it seems rude to waste. And so like a total idjut I have sperlunked too much of it into these pots. As a result, were I not to intervene, things are going to go from bad to worse. These would all choke themselves to death,

I’ve made a crude attempt to thin them out. Yanking seedlings out by the roots (badly disrupting their neighbours) and either repotting the remains, or putting more soil underneath them in their exiting pots. It looks like a total car crash right now. The limanthes, butchered. I’m hoping most will recover… I’m optimistic. But what else can you do?

Community Food Health Nutrition Urban

Parkway Greens

I love to visit this shop. It’s the best fruit and vegetable shop I know in London. Looking at it from across the road today, I thought to myself, “This shop isn’t ALWAYS going to be there…” So I reasoned I had better take some photos of it. Just like I used to chronicle record shops back in the day.

This evening, reflecting further on that transience, I remembered Compendium Books by Camden Lock, just around the corner from Parkway Greens, a remarkable store and something of a cultural hub for the many years it was there.

We don’t think of green grocers in quite the same affectionate way as bookshops, but of course we should. The owner here is a particularly lovely chap. Long may he prosper.

Ecology Practice Spirituality Wilderness

Leaf Mould

Community Ecology Urban

Guerilla Bamboo

The Camellia from 2002 looking very well.

Community Ecology Growing Health Organic Practice Regenerative Soil Urban

Broad Bean Harvest 2024

The broad beans that I planted in December were ready to be picked. They hadn’t formed nearly as big a bush as last year.

The harvest wasn’t bad, but was not as impressive as before.

These stems went onto the compost heap.

I think this shows the limits of the viability of applying No Dig principles to containers. There’s not enough nutrients OR biology to support more growth.

And I’d taken measures. Rotating the crops, and after all beans are a legume, after the first round of them I’ve had buckwheat and nigella before this crop. I’ve also applied leaf mould. And chanted my mantra over them too, innit.

Digging it out, I WAS surprised to see that the trough was not root bound.

But equally it was rooty enough…

The box itself, given to me by my dear-departed father-in-law, was in need of some repairs. This was another reason to crack into it.

Sieving the soil produced these nuggety chunks of clay. So hard they felt almost like gravel. Sorry, but in no way could these be an optimal growing environment…


But it wasn’t all barren! There was a lot of insect life. No doubt from the poor guys who lost their homes in my demolishment. Aah, they’ll be OK! I will look after them. It’s mainly wood lice, but there’s other stuff happening. Wait for the cat’s miaow at the end.

But check out these nitrogen nodules on the broad bean plant’s roots. This has been the first time I have seen this with my own eyes. Very impressive.

I mixed the sieved soil from the wooden trough with a mixture of Lakeland Gold compost and some Carbon Gold fertiliser pellets. Heaven knows if that will work?

This new soil went into a shelter I’ve built for the next crop, buckwheat and a few others in pots.

The beans themselves were delicious.

I shared them, steamed and then dressed with olive oil and salt, with Mrs Ingram.

Ecology Growing Urban

Spontaneous Fungal Eruption

The woodchip mulch I used on this Bay bush suddenly sprouted these mushrooms one morning. That was at once to be expected and a surprise. They had all disappeared by the end of the day.

Growing Soil Urban

Terminating Green Manures

“Terminating” – that’s actually the correct technical term here. These clovers were planted last December and now are mostly (but not all) terminated to make way for my sunflowers.

They did an amazing job looking after two large pots of my compost – stopping them getting leached by the winter rains and preventing weeds growing on them.

I didn’t see any nitrogen nodules on their roots. If I had waited for them to flower, that would have been evident, I expect. Still, the biomass itself is great and goes straight into the compost heap.

Ecology Wilderness

Cow Parsley

Such a beautiful pentagonal structure.

Not to be confused with Yarrow. I never could get this to grow from the seed I picked up at Samye Ling.

Ecology Food Growing Organic Practice Spirituality Urban


Fooling around with 20m2 on a roof terrace in the centre of London, there are distinct limitations to one what can achieve in a garden. I could, as the genius Mark Ridsdill Smith does, grow a lot more vegetables. However, my own view is that whatever vegetables I grow to eat – and this year it’s been spinach, leeks, rocket, red cabbage, yacon, potatoes, runner beans, broad beans, beetroot, and tomatoes – is only ever going to be a token, for giggles…

For whatever reason, after growing cavalo nero, lettuces, and spinach erbette, I’ve cooled on growing leaves. I’ll grow spinach again over the winter but, although they are touted as the best things to grow in the city (because they are fast to grow and expensive to buy), I find leaves somehow boring.

Equally I find most ornamentals, often highly cultivated plants you couldn’t imagine happening in nature, almost products of a laboratory, a very tedious thing to grow. The flowers I’m growing, borage, phacelia, limanthes, marigolds, sunflowers, dandelions, nasturtiums are found at vegetable-growing seed suppliers as varieties that are good for insect life. Even my most ornamental flowers honeysuckle, poppies, zinnias, dahlias, (this last especially a concession to Mrs Ingram who loves them – they are beautiful…) are renowned for being attractive to pollinators.

What works very well among these select vegetables, trees, and carefully-chosen flowers, are herbs. Ever since I came across Juliette de Ba├»racli Levy and went on Kirsten Hartvig’s amazing country ramble at Forest Row I’ve been enchanted by them and their awesome potential. In the city they really work well, they don’t take up masses of space, the bugs love them, and they are fascinating. Currently, I am growing nothing particularly far out.

I believe that what one grows in the city should fundamentally address our urban alienation from nature. That selection should be geared to making us connect with the process of growing, with the seasons, with the cycle of life and death, and our cosmic alignment. In the city, we can’t pretend that we’re living wholly natural lives, but at least we can use growing to keep in touch with those things; like a diver underwater has an oxygen tank.