December 21, 2018

To a geologist or an engineer, soil is not only a medium which is built upon but also a medium to be built with. Stones, bricks and sand are three but widely used components of a building obtained from earth’s crust. Although, built structures generally fall short of providing nutrients necessary for life to thrive. For instance, manufacturing process of brick requires clay to be burnt – volatilising elements like potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus critical to support lifefor...

July 9, 2018

Soil in a garden, regardless of its size, can be very varied. Where there are trees it is often dry, and at a low point often wet. Old gardens, which have a history of cultivation over decades, usually have fertile, workable soil. They are in contrast to the plots of Bedfordshire’s ‘new builds’ on fields of clay and which need copious quantities of organic matter to improve the soil to successfully enable young plants to establish and grow in a newly planted garden.

When garde...

January 8, 2018

INTRODUCTION

I pick the tree-lined streets in my cycle commutes across London. The air is cooler, the glare is less, and if there’s a breeze, the ear can tune into a gentle rustle of leaves over the humdrum of the city.

I know certain groups of trees well – some now for over half a century – having lived in the borough all my life. They are majestic friends, heroic in their resilience to almost all weathers, with lofty canopies and textured or fissured bark encrusted with liche...

October 25, 2017

When I started my project on the changing attitudes to soils in the UK conventional farming community eighteen months ago, I bought myself a pair of sturdy and sensible wellies. I foresaw a lot of time spent in muddy fields and at fringe farming events. I never thought I would be standing at the terrace of Westminster Palace, looking over a teacup of fine bone china at Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as he proclaims that soils are...