November Gardening Newsletter

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

You may think this newsletter has little to do with gardening but at the end it will come back to it – to  soil – the Earth’s most important organ and the one that is most neglected.

The soil is very much like our stomach, teeming with life.  In one handful of fertile soil there are more living creatures than there are people in the world and the same is true for or stomach.  Zach Bush said it nicely – we shouldn’t view ourselves as individuals but as an ecosystem.  The same is true for soil – everything is interconnected.

I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the majority of environmentalists who completely focus on carbon and climate change while neglecting so many other pressing problems.  Carbon – an important nutrient that cycles in various forms through the Earth – has become demonised.  Yes – there is too much carbon in the atmosphere and I’m obviously not denying that climate change occurs, but I totally disagree with this reductionist approach.

This focus on carbon and carbon taxes reduces the vast complex world and the problems the world faces into a simple formula.  I know people like these simple formulas and these common enemies – they are calculable and we can have clear targets but the complexity of the world is not that simple and there may be equally pressing problems.

Have we suddenly forgotten that our soils are dying?  The UN put out a warning that we have only about 60 harvests left if we continue with the way we farm?  What about all the chemicals – pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers that contaminate our soil, food and wildlife?  What about the disturbing loss of biodiversity?  What about our fish and oceans?  What about our trees?  Probably all our ash trees will die within the next decade – and have you heard many environmentalists voice their anger and sadness about this?  Why don’t they calculate the amount of carbon when 5 million ash trees no longer sequester carbon?  Even worse – a dying tree will even release carbon into the atmosphere.  Do you think the carbon tax will go to replace these trees on farmlands throughout Ireland?  Probably not, because hardly anyone is aware of this mass extinction of one of our most loved and most common trees in the Irish landscape.

We need to try and overcome this reductionist theory on climate change and the single focus on carbon emissions and instead we need to re-connect with the soil and the land to get a deeper feeling and understanding of it all.  We need to find the bigger picture and find out everything is interconnected.  We should go to organic farms, gardens and grow some vegetables and fruit and fall in love with the Earth again.  Because only what we love we can protect.

And I’m sure this will lead to a proper solution to slow down climate change.

Ours soils

I mentioned that our soils have become degraded to the extent that we have already lost 30% of the agricultural land area.  The reason for this is mainly due to industrial farming methods.  What we have done is using up the organic matter in the soil and never replenishing it.  The organic matter content is usually between 5 and 7% of the soil and consists of everything that is and once alive.  You could see it like the soil’s bank account – the soil’s reserves.  But now in most arable soils throughout the world this organic matter content has dwindled down to about 1 or 2% and farmers themselves know that there are no more birds following the plough because there are no longer worms in their soils.

Now what people don’t often know is – 50% of organic matter is carbon.  Soils are by far the largest carbon sink (twice more than all the vegetation and the atmosphere combined).

We have taken the carbon out of the soil and put it into the atmosphere.  So don’t blame the poor carbon any longer.  Put it back to where it belongs –  into the soil.

Once that carbon is back in the soil we will be able to produce food, clothing building materials for many more thousands of years.

At the BioFarm conference in a couple of weeks my talk will be about “How soils can be the solution to climate change”.


BioFarm Conference

Please make some time in November to join the Biofarm Conference held by NOTS.

The BioFarm conference will be held online over 5 days from November 9th – 13th 2020 from 4pm – 8pm.  The cost for the 5 day event is only E50  (a little more for people living outside Ireland)

So far the following speakers are confirmed with many more to follow:

Gabe Brown (US)

Allan Savory (Zimbabwe)

Richard Perkins (Sweden)

John Kempf  and Greg Judy (USA)

Dr. Christine Jones (Australia)

Nicole Masters (New Zealand)

Timothy Njakasi (Uganda)

Joel Williams (Canada)

Jim Cronin, Thomas Fuohy and Klaus Laitenberger (Ireland)

And many more

For more information on the speakers and details of the conference have a look at their website



Gardening Weekend at Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara

Date: 19th-21st March 2021

With: Anja Gohlke (Head Gardener Kylemore Abbey) and Klaus Laitenberger

Unfortunately the last gardening weekend in October had to be cancelled due to Covid 19, but the good news is – they have a new date for March 2021.

This gardening weekend course is usually booked out very quickly and it could be that numbers will have to be restricted so early booking is essential



Tel: 095 46100 (Renvyle)