Plants for Life #2 – Growing Organic and Biodynamic

The room upstairs at Bungay Library was packed for our second Plants for Life event yesterday (Sunday). This was a relaxed conversation on Growing Organic Herbs between organic and biodynamic herb grower, David Wrenn of Orchard End Organics in Kirstead and Mark Watson, the events’ organiser. Mark writes:

David began by passing around several of his extremely healthy herbs so people could rub and smell the leaves. One of these was the graceful Balm of Gilead (Cedronella tryphylla), a native of the Canary Islands in the mint family. A tea from this highly aromatic plant helps to clear blocked sinuses and chests. And tastes really good.

Speaking about about the soil as a living organism, David explained that the word organic has only begun to be employed in recent decades because of the increase in artificial pesticide and fertiliser use. He grew up on a farm in Dorset in the 1970s where his father used only natural methods.

We learned how if you want to grow plants on a small scale, it’s best not to dig too much in established growing areas because of the web of life under the ground – from the networks of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi to earthworms. And also to try things out, see what works and doesn’t, get our hands into the soil, feel our way round with the plants and to use our instincts.

For an inspiring introduction to the no-dig system take a look at The One Straw Revolution by the late Japanese natural farmer, philosopher and no-digger, Masanobu Fukuoka.

The audience joined in after David’s introduction to ask his advice on everything from how to grow basil successfully (don’t put it outside in April, wait until Summer is really here, and better still keep it on your warmest, sunniest window and only water in the mornings, the roots don‘t respond well to watering at night) to the virtues of keeping an aloe vera plant in the kitchen (instant relief for minor burns and cuts).

Of the many invaluable hints and tips David shared with us yesterday, one particular image remains uppermost in my mind: that of the roots of plants following the casts made by earthworms as they work their way through the soil. If the whole world took this ‘organic’ image to heart, and worked with the land with nature in mind, I’m sure we’d be a healthier, happier species.

David Wrenn runs Orchard End Organics in Kirstead. Click here for his website and contact details.

Next month (Sunday 18 March at 3pm) we welcome medical herbalist Dan Wheals who’ll be showing us how to Adopt-a-Herb. So do come along. These monthly Plants for Life talks are open to everyone. There is no need to book and entrance is free, though donations are gladly accepted.

Mark Watson co-ordinates Sustainable Bungay’s Plants for Life Talks, Walks and Workshops 2012 and this year’s Plant Medicine Bed in Bungay Library Courtyard Garden

For all enquiries Tel: 01502 722419 or email markintransition@hotmail.co.uk

Photos: David talks about organic and biodynamic herb growing; listening to a question from the audience (CDC)

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