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Pest & Disease: What’s Eating my Potatoes?

This week’s blog has been inspired by the many questions I have had on pests and disease on potatoes.

There are a fair few things that can affect potatoes and their leaves. Let’s look at some of them here.

What is causing the holes in my potato leaves?

Small Holes

Adult flea beetles can feed on the potato plant leaves and stems and can cause small holes in the foliage. It doesn’t usually affect the plant’s productivity or growth, but could cause a problem later on in younger potato plants. This is because when their eggs are laid and then hatched, the larvae can feed on young potato tubers. The adult can lay eggs in the cracks of the soil near the base of the plant. They can overwinter under leaves or in grass. The larvae like to feed on the stems that are under the surface and on the tubers, which creates pimple-like lumps on the potatoes and when the potato is cut you can see small like tunnels.

What’s my solution?

Ways to prevent this happening can be by piling lots of mulch up around the potatoes and removing weeds and leaves from the edges of the beds. Also, make sure you rotate your potatoes every year to help prevent pest and disease build up. Remember that potatoes are a soil conditioner, so are great for breaking in new beds.

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The Colorado beetle

Large Holes

Large holes in potato leaves can be caused by the Colorado beetle. These beetles lay yellow eggs on the underside of your potato leaves. When the larvae hatch they are hungry and can destroy plants very quickly, causing large holes in your potato leaves. They can easily strip a plant of its foliage and attack flowers as well.

What’s my solution?

These beetles are very hard to control however, my advice would be to inspect your plant and pick off any leaves with egg clusters underneath and scatter buckwheat seeds in between your potatoes. The buckwheat will attract beneficial insects that will deal with these bugs in a natural way. I also highly recommend companion planting your potatoes with beans to help with this problem.

The other day someone also told me of a spray they use with basil leaves. Crush a handful of basil leaves and soak in water over night. Strain and add a teaspoon of oil and spray onto the leaves. I imagine it is the volatile oil in the basil that the beetles don’t like. Give it a try and let me know how you get on!

Preventing the spread

My final tip is that, if you have used mulch around your potatoes and have experienced a pest problem and but want to use this mulch elsewhere in your garden after harvesting, my advice would be to spread it out on a tarp and look to see if you have any beetles present. Then catch and crush these beetles. You could also spray the mulch with EnSpray 99 then reapply somewhere else. However, if your mulch is infested with beetles, there will most likely be eggs there so burning is the way to go.

Happy gardening!

Pest & Disease: 4 tips to rescue tomatoes from the problems caused by rain

What a difference in weather to last year’s lead-in to summer…! This time last year, we were battling with the incredibly hot, dry weather and now we have the opposite with heavy rain, snow in some parts and strong winds. The intensity of this rain followed by warm, humid sun can have devastating effects on our tomato plants.

Problem #1

If you planted your tomatoes early and have lots of tomatoes on your plants by now, this heavy rain can cause their skins to crack and split open.

Tip #1

It is best to thoroughly check your tomatoes and remove any split ones, as these can drop onto your garden and attract fruit flies among other pests.

Problem #2

If your tomatoes have flowers at this time of heavy rain, this can cause blossom end rot on your fruit. This is a spot at the end of the blossom where the tomato is formed that has been soaked by the water from the rain. Importantly, this can actually also be caused by overhead watering – so do take care.

Blossom end rot can be indicative of a lack of calcium in the soil and also occurs in capsicums, cucumbers and melons.

Tip #2

As your tomato starts to grow, you will notice a brown patch appearing on the bottom of the fruit. It will increase in size as the tomato grows and cause rot in the fruit. Take care to remove any tomatoes you see this rot on.

However, this is not a disease – just a problem that is caused by either rain or lack of calcium absorption.

Problem #3

Calcium is essential for development in tomatoes. When the soil’s moisture fluctuates from too dry to too wet, this can limit your plant’s ability to absorb this vital mineral – this is why mulching is essential.

Too much nitrogen in the soil can equally prevent absorption; or if the pH is too high or low. Tomatoes like it around pH 6.5.

Tip #3

I find that if you have a good balanced soil with good humus and a good mulch you are generally ok.

To support growth and maintain calcium absorption, it is important to keep a good moisture level in your soil. I tend to only water my tomatoes once or twice a week and water at the root and not overhead.

When I grew up, my dad used to put a clay plant pot in next to each tomato and this was where it got watered. By doing this it took the water down to the roots where they were cool under the soil and prevented evaporation. Usually, I find the old methods are the best.

Problem #4

With all this rain and warmth, your tomatoes will have pumped on the growth and seem to be getting taller by the day! They will need support and control to grow successfully – but take care.

Tip #4

A few things to remember are never tie or remove leaves in the wet. Tie your tomatoes on a dry day with either soft cloth or stretchy string and remove leaves for added airflow on a dry windy day as this will heal the plant quicker.

Happy tomato gardening!

To mulch or not to mulch? My top four sources that are safe to use in your garden

Thanks for your many questions on mulching the garden – you have been asking what to use and, most importantly, what is safe to use out there.

To me, mulch is so important in the summer months as it helps retain the moisture in the soil and keep plant roots from drying out, enabling them to go deeper into the soil to get their moisture. The question these days is what mulch is safe to use, with the heavy use of pesticides on crops.

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I can personally recommend the following four sources of mulch:

Leaf mulch is a layer of either shredded leaves or leaves that have been collected from a previous season and allowed to partly break down. These will enrich your soil in many ways.

Seagrass – If you are lucky, like me, and live near a beach that dumps this on your shores, it is a fantastic free source of mulch. I’m not sure where the name seagrass came from, but it looks very much like fresh cut grass clippings in appearance. Seagrass has hardly any nitrogen content but is full of minerals and especially high in boron, which is great for olive trees.

Organic straw seems to be a hard mulch to get hold of these days, so when it is available I buy 5 or 6 bales, which will last me the season. Organic straw can be expensive however, if you compare it to the bags of pea straw available in the shops, it is actually extremely good value as the quantity of a bale is 10 times more than a bag of pea straw.

Home grown beans or peas – I usually let all these plants go to seed and die off in my garden and then I break down all the stems etc. and mulch around my plants.

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Why should I bother to mulch?

Mulch is such an important part of gardening as it protects the soil from drying out; it keeps the roots of your plants cool in the hot summer months and protects them from soil splashes when the rain is heavy. It also keeps the weeds down – bonuses all round!

Top tip: One thing to remember is not to mulch right up to the stem. It is advisable to leave a space around the stem of each plant – otherwise you can suffocate the air flow and create a great environment for breeding pest and disease. This is also a great space to water your plants directly in the early hours of the morning.

Remember your fruit trees too – mulch can protect them from the dreaded weed-eater nicking the trunk and also to keep their roots cool, especially surface feeder roots like lemons and citrus trees.

My advice when buying mulch would be to only buy organic. Ask yourself what the pea straw has likely been sprayed with, considering commercial peas are prone to a lot of diseases. Fungacides are used, the dreaded Roundup is used between the rows and they are probably grown from chemically treated seed!!

Your garden deserves better and so do you!

Happy gardening

Pest & Disease: Five ways to prevent rust on your plants

What causes rust on my plants?

Rust is a fungus that is spread by wind, which affects a variety of different plants including garlic, onions, silverbeet, beetroot, roses and leeks.

Rust starts on the foliage of plants and spreads by leaves touching each other or by the wind blowing the spores from one plant to another. Before you know it, your whole crop or plant is affected by rust!

The most common causes of rust is moisture in the air or soil, or from planting your crops too close together, so that there is not enough airflow. Rust is a force of nature and can’t be controlled in the way some people like to think it can. If you live in a cold area, you are likely to escape this dreaded fungus. However, a mild winter will enable spores to remain rather than being kept under control by the cold.

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Rust

What damage does rust cause on my plants?

Rust can destroy your whole crop if it gets a bit of momentum. When I see the first signs of rust, I am ruthlessly quick to pull the plant out and salvage what I can to eat. I then burn the rest. If left in the ground, this disease will spread from one plant to the other.

Occasionally, even this fails and the rust will still infect your whole garlic crop; while your onions stay safe – another mystery of nature! Rust is specific to its own crop so garlic rust won’t spread to your roses and vice versa.

If your crop is nearly ready for harvesting, you can remove most of the leaves to try and help the disease slow down. Remember to wash your hands and gloves afterwards just to be doubly sure not to spread the bacteria.

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How can I prevent rust from developing on my plants?

There is NO fail-safe way to successfully control rust, however there are some actions you can take to minimise the risk of rust.

Tip #1.

Water in the morning and not at night, as the water will sit there all night until the heat of the day, which will give the rust spores time to take hold.

Tip #2.

Water at the base of the plant and not overhead. My recommendation would be no overhead watering for any plants during spring/summer.

Tip #3.

Give your plants room to breathe and try not to overcrowd them by planting too close. Good airflow is the key.

Tip #4.

Rotate your crops, or resign yourself that some things you just can’t grow in your area, climate or soil type – humidity and clay soils are definitely high on this list (sorry Waiheke!). If you have space, I strongly urge you to wait seven years before you put the same plant in the infected spot.

Tip #5.

Sterilise your tools to prevent spreading the disease from one plant to another. Also wash your hands or gloves after dealing with plants contaminated with rust.

Good luck and long may your garden continue without rust!

Happy gardening

 

 

Pests & Disease: How to control black aphids before you get an infestation!

Thanks all for your many questions regarding aphids and rust over the past two weeks – I will address these problems in the next two blogs.

‘What are all those black bugs on my onions, chives and garlic?’ you ask!

At this time of year, aphids are having their own party at the expense of our plants – more so if you live in humid areas!

The black spots or bugs you see on your onions, chives and garlic are black aphids which are merrily multiplying and sucking the life out of your plants. Some appear bigger than others – these are the ‘mothers’, which have wings. These aphids do not produce eggs but leave hungry young straight on to your plants. They are usually in a long line, as every couple of days more young are laid, and they can produce up to five every couple of days. The interesting thing is that all their babies are girls.

Where did my infestation come from?

The adults overwinter in the warmest spot they can find in your garden to protect themselves from the cold and the frosts so, if like me, you have no frosts or snow, your population or infestation is likely to be much, much higher than somewhere that gets these conditions.

They really like to overwinter in the thin skins of garlic or shallots and, for the life of me, I have never been able to see them! Yet as soon as the leaves start to sprout, the mother gets ready to lay her first lot of eggs on the small vulnerable leaves. From here, they pierce the young leaves and start to suck. Within these young leaves are sweet carbohydrates, which aphids desire the most. They are very slow at first while the temperatures are cool, but as soon as the sun comes out it is ‘yeeha!’ and all systems go…  Hence why you can sometimes feel you have an infestation overnight, while they have actually been there all the time but moving very slowly.

How do I control black aphids?

When my first leaves are up on my garlic and onions, I spray with Naturally Neem and then use EnSpray 99 oil in the following weeks. Naturally Neem is the best Neem product you can buy, as a lot of Neem products are not refined enough for edible application. Remember Neem must be sprayed in the cool of the day only.

How do I prevent black aphids?

Keeping your plants healthy from day one can really help keep away an infestation and I use regular spraying of Liquid Kelp which keeps the plants strong. Kelp strengthens the cell wall of the plants, making them less attractive to the aphids who are after the easy prey of weaker plants.

If you are buying chives, onions or leek plants at a garden nursery, I also recommend observing the leaves carefully and looking in between each leaf, as they can be hiding in there.

Beneficial insects can be your friends too – encourage ladybirds into your garden as they will eat aphids and take care of the problem for you! Check out my earlier blog here to find out how.

How do I manage an infestation of black aphids?

If you have a large infestation, my advice would be to pull the plants out carefully and submerge them in water to prevent any of them re-infesting elsewhere.

You can still eat the produce, it just may not be as juicy…

For more pest & disease control advice, sign up to my newsletter this week to receive my free printable with my organic recipe to repel green shield bugs!

Happy gardening

Pests & Disease: Protect your plants from Green Shield & Stink bugs

Beware – these pesky little critters can destroy your garden! Once green shield bugs are present, it is a daily job to deal with them.

If you want to prevent them, the time is ripe now to be checking under your leaves for egg clusters. Green shield bugs, also called stink bugs, lay around 14 eggs which are generally a yellowy tan colour, sometimes paler.

What are green shield bugs and stink bugs?

Let’s first start by looking at the life cycle of these bugs.

When the Nymphs first hatch, they don’t really eat or have wings. They evolve in their growing process by shedding their skin. They change colour from black, to black and green, and so on until they become an adult. It is not until just before they become an adult that their wings form, then the trouble really starts!

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Young shield bug
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Mating

What problems do green shield and stink bugs present in my garden?

These bugs pierce and suck your vegetables or plants to feed and, unfortunately, they seem to do it right before you’re ready to harvest. This is why, when you pick a tomato that has been attacked by these pests it will be dry inside, and usually with a white ring on the inside close to the skin. Basically they suck the goodness out of your plants.

I remember years back when shield bugs only attacked tomatoes – nowadays they are not fussy at all and particularly like to hide in the bean bush, sucking away out of sight doing damage unseen…

Why are green shield and stink bugs hard to manage?

These damaging pests can overwinter as adults, and they will hide in long uncut grass and shrubs over the cold months until the sun is up for laying their eggs. They prefer to breed on plants that have fruit or seed heads and are particularly fond of berry leaves. They produce several generations in one year and can become prolific very quickly.

Now is the time they start to lay their eggs and each female can lay eggs over an 8 week period. This is crafty, as it is just in time for when your fruit or vegetables are coming ready to harvest. This means that one plant can have all stages of bug development on it at once, from eggs through to adults.

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Hatching

How can I control green shield and stink bugs organically? 

Adults don’t stop laying until around the end of summer, when the day light gets less and the air gets cooler. Imagine how many babies they will have had by then!

It is crucial to try to keep on top of them now. The very best advice I can give, after decades of organic gardening experience, is how very important it is in any garden to take the time to really study your plants; not only at a glance, but to get right in there looking under leaves, down the stem and into the soil.

Observation is a huge part of gardening… When you observe these bugs on your plants, or signs that these pests have been present, you know you need to act quickly if you want to keep any of your own crop for yourself.

If you do find these dreaded insects on your crops, you can manage them by smothering with EnSpray99 – this is an effective and organic method to manage an infestation.

Another organic recipe I’ve tried and found to be successful is to collect the bugs; crush them and put them in water to spray on the plants. I’ll be sharing my organic recipe for this next week in my newsletter as a free printable. Make sure you’re signed up!

Some of the best preventative methods I have found is to plant Calendula officinalis on the periphery of the garden, which acts as a host and a sacrificial plant for shield bugs.
I also recommend planting Alyssum, Borage and lavender to attract other beneficial insects that will eat shield bugs.

I wish you luck with these bugs and encourage you to share with me any tips, tricks or observations you may have had success with in the past.

Happy gardening!

Success Series: 5 steps to growing the best organic tomatoes

In the first of this Success Series, I want to share my secret techniques to growing the best tomatoes – without chemicals, pesticides or magic tricks! Give these five easy steps a try and see if you can also enjoy summer success with your tomatoes.

When I grow my tomatoes either from seed or plant, I take the following action:

Step 1

I soak the seedling in EM (effective microorganisms).

Step 2

I spray fortnightly with EM and Liquid Kelp which help to keep the strength and health of the plant up throughout the growing season.

Step 3

When it comes into flower, I feed with a healthy dose of EM and Kelp, plus Flower Optimise which increases flower production and helps flowers set to fruit.

Step 4

When the fruit is formed, I spray with EM, Kelp and Fruit Optimise for the rest of the season. I use these products as they help create strong cell structure, good flower and fruit production and increase nutrient density of my food. A healthy plant vibration will repel and prevent pests and disease – removing the need to deal with them.

Step 5

Periodically throughout the season, I will add potash as a side dressing to my tomatoes – potassium is a major nutrient required by your tomatoes. So if you have been saving the ash from your fire over winter, this is a great time to use it. I water mine in.

 

For those of you who don’t know about these helpful products, I have summarised their benefits here for you. These products are natural and organic and can be mixed together and sprayed all as one treatment, with no side effects. They are also rescue remedies at times of pest and disease. EnSpray 99 certified oil can be used as a sticking agent.

I have tried and tested these products over the last 15 years with amazing results, and this is the only reason I sell them.

I am pleased to announce that I have just launched an Essential Summer Product Bundle, which is available now in my online store, and includes all the products you need to grow a healthy, organic and nourishing crop this season. There is no need to buy separate foods for different veggies. Simple! Just choose between fruit or flower, depending on your aims.

 

EM (Effective Microorganisms)

  • Reduces pests by out-competing them on all plant surfaces and in your soil
  • Improves the process of plant growth from seed to fruit, giving bigger and higher yields
  • Helps plants to take up all the nutrients they need, creating nutrient-dense food
  • Helps remove toxins from soil and plants
  • Improves plant and soil health
  • Can even be used on your chook poop to reduce odour

 

Liquid Kelp

  • Increases pest and disease resistance
  • Boosts soil life activity
  • Helps plant structure in times of stress from climatic conditions
  • Increases shelf life of produce

 

Flower Optimise

  • Improves flowering of plants
  • Enhances mineral levels
  • Encourages bigger and better blooms on all flowering plants, not just veggies and fruit
  • Increase colour of blooms
  • Encourages more flowering

 

Fruit Optimise

  • Increases natural growth hormones producing bigger and better vegetables
  • Improves root structure
  • Increases yield
  • Increases mineral levels

 

Happy gardening!

Pest and disease in tomatoes: 7 ways to prevent Early Blight

Tomatoes can be prone to a lot of pest and disease in the upcoming season, so it is a good time to take a look at these now to ensure your juicy, plump, organic success!

What is Early Blight?

This is upon us now in some gardens; I have found it mainly on self-sprouted seedlings that have had to deal with rain, wind and cold over the past couple of months. This disease is one to be vigilant for.

What is Early Blight?

Early blight is one form of the many blights that attack tomatoes and is a fungus that can overwinter from last season’s diseased plants. This is why I recommend that, if you have diseased plants, you must pull them out and either burn them or take them to a green waste station. Plants that are affected will not produce many tomatoes and the disease can spread to other plants. Early blight can affect whole plants including their stems, leaves and fruit.

How do I identify Early Blight?

The characteristics of early blight are dark (brown to black) spots which form usually on the lower leaves and have identifiable rings. The lower leaves will eventually turn yellow and drop off. The fruit, when affected, will have spots near the fruit stem.

early blight

My 7 recommendations to prevent Early Blight

1. Early blight can remain active for up to a year and the spores can stay dormant in the soil for many years, so this is a really good reason why I recommend rotating your crops.

2. Good drainage for your tomatoes is important, as this can help stop the spread of the disease.

3. Make sure you have good airflow around and in between your tomato plants. I tend to remove the big leaves from the bottom up as my tomatoes grow, to enable airflow throughout the growth of the plant.

4. The most important thing to do is to water your tomato plant at the base and not the leaves.

5. Mulch your plant heavily.

6. Stake and train your plants from a very young age to avoid them drooping on the soil where disease will breed.

7. And lastly, personally I would remove infected plants to prevent the fungus spreading.

Happy gardening!

Are you a good neighbour? Lessons from Tauranga…

I have had an incredible week in Tauranga, where I feel privileged to have hosted a workshop on large-scale Bokashi for The Good Neighbour project.

If you’re not familiar with this organisation, I highly recommend you take a minute to find out more – the extent and size of this project is truly humbling. Having just returned from Thailand and Myanmar, where I was enormously inspired by the efforts and collective impact of these communities, it is wonderful to discover something so forward-thinking in our own backyard.

John and Jackie Paine are the amazing driving force behind The Good Neighbour project, putting in endless hours and enthusiasm over 4 years to develop approximately 116 community gardens and rescue now on average 38 tonnes of food from landfill every month.

This food is weighed, recorded and then sorted into boxes to go back out into the community, to support those who need it. Excess food is frozen as required, and they have recently started building a commercial kitchen, so they can process additional food into pickles, jams, juices and pre-cooked meals.

For example, during my visit they had received delivery of bread, pastries, snacks and fruit that they sorted, boxed and distributed for the school holiday programme for afternoon tea. How fantastic is this?!

If we look at each different area in our community and our country, these projects could be duplicated everywhere. We could keep food out of landfill and feed communities in need for free. GENIUS….

There are over 100 volunteers involved in this project, and I want to take a moment to recognise and acknowledge the achievement and efforts of each and every one.

I contributed during my visit by sharing my knowledge of large scale Bokashi and the processes needed to support their efforts from kitchen to compost to garden, including auditing their food waste.

By using this clever system, they will be able to consistently add great value to their soil in the community gardens by re-using their own food waste – which is very much the ethos of their entire project – and this saves them money rather than buying new garden mix every season.

I also gave them an introduction to EM (effective microorganisms), which they can derive enormous benefit from using in their community projects including rearing chickens, cleaning drains and toilets and managing garden pests and disease.

The solution is simple.

Let’s create nutrient rich soil; let’s support the restoration of our land; let’s be socially responsible people as part of this planet and keep our food out of landfill, where it creates toxic gas and destroys our planet.

The way forward is to use EM and Bokashi, together with our food waste, to grow more amazing clean food.

I’m sure you’ll agree, the Good Neighbour is such an inspiring, heart-warming project that benefits the whole community. If you’re working on a project of a similar nature and feel that my expertise could benefit you too, please get in touch – I’d love to see where I can help!

Over the next few weeks on the blog, we will start the focus on summer pest and disease control and what to feed your garden and when for the ultimate results.

For those that receive my weekly newsletter, you’ll be familiar with the Knowledge Bed section, where I answer your gardening questions. This is now growing fast and I have decided to evolve this into a private Facebook group for members, which will enable me to respond quicker to assist you. I’ll be launching this soon and inviting you to join, so stay tuned!

For now though, please continue to contact me with your questions through the website or on Facebook anytime and do keep them short and to one subject at a time to best enable me to answer.

Happy gardening!

 

Share, give, collaborate, learn, respect, help, grow together

I recently returned to New Zealand after an incredible trip to Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) to grow and share my knowledge of the innovative composting technique, Bokashi and Effective Microorganisms (EM). In last week’s blog, I shared my experiences with you after attending a mind-blowing four-day forum at the EM (effective microbes) research centre at Kyusei Nature Farm in Saraburi, Thailand.

My next stop on this epic trip was ‘Project Bokashi Myanmar’.

One of the major reasons I founded Grow Inspired is because of my passion for sharing knowledge with others. The second part of my trip took this to an entirely new level and has formed one of the most inspiring, humbling experiences of my life.

The aim of my visit was to share my knowledge of large scale Bokashi to enable the locals to grow food in sand, because they have no viable soil – just a small amount of sticky blackish/white clay under the sand. In addition, Myanmar is in monsoon 4-5 months of the year, so height and good drainage are essential.

What a great challenge.

People in Myanmar have no government assistance and work to eat and live, which is a great way to get your creative juices flowing – you simply must ‘do’ in order to survive.

Bokashi Myanmar is a pilot project in the early stages of set up in Yangon, Myanmar. Jenny Harlen from Bokashi Sweden is the amazing co-ordinator and inspirational driver of this project, with just a small team of locals and a filmmaker from Germany.

The project aims to show that growing food in any kind of environment is possible and to help set up systems for processing food waste to prevent it from entering the rivers. The kind of ground-breaking results that can be achieved in a community where everyone is motivated is just enormous.

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Of course, in Myanmar there are no systems for processing plastic or food waste at all – the plastic is just dumped on the streets and down the far end of the side streets, it can be knee high…!

I began with a project at Bokashi Myanmar HQ to collect food waste to start our Bokashi system, and we literally had to go around the town balanced on the back of a bicycle with these giant bins to pick up the scraps; dust whipping our faces, dodging traffic in the intense heat and trying to hold on tight!

That day we processed over 300 litres in a space 2metres by 1metre using only sand, Bokashi, carbon and expanded EM. This week, they will be planting into this and there will be progress reports from me over the next wee while.

The waste cardboard and newspapers, cans and bottles are collected by locals who get money for these products, so if you want to use cardboard for mulch or newspaper for layering you need to pay for it. Therefore, the greatest mission in setting up the Bokashi system in Myanmar was to find a substantial and, ideally free, carbon source (brown material) to balance out the nitrogen created by making Bokashi.

The people here are so resourceful – if you require something you ask a local and they will know another local who can get it for you.

One day we went to the slums for a project to build food beds for the local community to grow in. We needed to find a reliable source of carbon within the slums, but with no available cardboard or paper, we identified discarded coconut husks as our only option to layer in the bottom of our beds and for the bottom of the Bokashi barrels to absorb the juice.

But, how do we get enough of them, we asked ourselves?

We asked a guy; who then found another local from down the street, who knew someone. Before we could figure out what was going on, a team had been sent to bring some of these coconut husks for us. Everyone down the street started coming out of their houses and talking to one another, joining in any way they could – helping to fetch more husks, digging in the sand, gathering things we needed. Their collective energy swept into a movement that morning and, within a matter of hours and with many hands, this enormous project was completed.

coconut

What we can achieve, build together and create with the powerful techniques of EM and Bokashi are never so profoundly illustrated than in the slums. We’ve all seen slums on TV – maybe many of you have seen them in person too. These communities have nothing and so everything you can give them is a precious gift.

But these communities don’t just want to take a gift hand-out; they want to learn, they want to participate, they want to help. The way this community mobilised to support a common goal and get things done was humbling and heart-warming.

I was blown away.

They showed a beautiful humanity that is sadly absent from the more developed communities we are more familiar with.

It gives me hope for the future, but also taught me that we all need to shift our own way of thinking; our approach to life’s challenges. Share, give, collaborate, learn, respect, help, grow together.

The coconut husks work amazingly well so we’ve even started a trial using Bokashi-soaked coconut husks for sowing seeds directly into and for growing microgreens. You simply have to think outside the square when resources are thin.

By the time I departed Myanmar, we had set up systems, sources and solutions to food growing and waste management that I know will continue to grow and thrive in my absence.

But I can’t wait to go back and visit again – when I have something new to share with them, and when I need to remind myself and reaffirm my beliefs that where there is a will, there will always be a way.

Happy gardening, and I hope you grow inspired

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