Benefits of growing your own food in allotment gardens (Sheffield Univ. / Willem Van Cotthem)

Read at : Sheffield Univ. – Environment Division


Producers of ‘home grown’ food can gain psychological and physiological benefits through physical activity and improved nutrition, as well as through self empowerment, engaging with nature, and participating in communal activities. Lack of physical activity and low intake of fruit and vegetables is linked to poor health, but little is known about how the health benefits of physical exercise and fruit and vegetable consumption relate to their environmental setting. Studies of these benefits have often focused on particular social groups such as the elderly or those with mental illness.



The paragraph above describes the major benefits of growing your own food in allotment gardens.  Key words are :

  1. Physiological benefits: physical activity, improved nutrition, improved health
  2. Psychological benefits: self empowerment, engagement with nature, participation in community.

In fact, these benefits also go for family gardens (kitchen gardens), school gardens and hospital gardens.  One can imagine that extraordinary improvement in nutrition and health can be achieved if people in the drylands and in refugee camps would be enabled to grow their own food, be it in allotment gardens or in community gardens.

I remain confident that international aid organizations and NGOs, sooner or later, will set up programmes and projects to install these types of gardens to combat hunger and malnutrition and to assure food security in hostile environments.

Container gardening on saline soils (Willem VAN COTTHEM)

All over the world people are looking for good solutions when trying to grow plants (trees, vegetables) on saline soils.  It certainly isn’t the easiest thing to do.

This week I received the query below :

Dear Prof. van Cotthem,

My apologies for a completely unexpected mail query, but I feel you are the only desertification/ veg gardening expert who could perhaps help me out.

I’m wondering how to use a strip of beach here in Mumbai (India) for vegetable production: a lot of fibrous coconut material is available on the spot. There are a number of well established shrubs and trees around, but still the soil is pretty sandy and saline. My idea is to introduce Inositol in the equation in some naturally available form, and try out beets or spinach. This land belongs to a charitable trust enabling orphanages from Mumbai to bring there wards there for a holiday. The idea is to grow this vegetables, make them available for the kids, and may be get the kids interested in growing things on seemingly hopeless substrates.

Now that I’ve explained my position, may I hope for some advice from you??


Rca Godbole”


Dear Rca Godbole,

Sincere thanks for this message and your appreciation.  Although I am not an expert on saline soils, I hope to be able to help you with some practical suggestions.

Let me tell you first that I am not aware of any use of Inositol to improve plant growth on saline soils.  I know that research work on salt tolerance in plants showed that :

leaf chiro-inositol level increased dramatically as salinity increased, which can contribute significantly to alleviation of salt stress impact. The enhanced accumulation of chiro-inositol by salt stress appears an important physiological process for L. plants to adapt to salt stress. This work also provides new information for gene target search in transformation via biotechnology for enhanced crop slat tolerance.” (see

I understand that chiro-inositol is produced inside the leaves of some plants growing on saline soils, but that this chemical is not used as a soil amendment.  I will check literature on that.

The same article mentions :

Interpretive Summary: High soil salinity or salt stress is a worldwide environmental factor seriously limiting crop growth and yield. The salt-affected land amounts to more than 900 million hectares. Because irrigating water is rarely salt-free, irrigation adds salts into soil and keeps turning more acreage into saline land. However, about half of the world’s land surface is dryland, which can only be made more productive by irrigation. Furthermore, most crops are salt sensitive but global human population continues to increase and maybe will increase by 50% by 2050. Obviously, salinity is a threat to agricultural productivity. Thus, reducing the impact of salinity and improving crop production through increasing crop salt tolerance are important global goals. Floral crops, they exhibit great diversity in their salt tolerance but little is known on their most growth-related physiological processes in response to salinity.”

I fully agree with the description above.  Reducing the impact of salinity and improving crop production through increasing salt tolerance are indeed important global goals. Unfortunately, science did not yet progress far enough to provide us with salt tolerant varieties of all our food crops.  So, we have to come up, for the time being, with other feasible practices to achieve our primary goal : “to grow these vegetables, make them available for the kids, and maybe get the kids interested in growing things on seemingly hopeless substrates” (like you described it so well).

I am convinced that it will be extremely difficult to improve the soil qualities of that sandy and saline beach in Mumbai (and every other beach) significantly enough to make plant growth on such a hostile substrate possible (except for halophytic or “salt-liking” species).  Most of our food crops are not halophytic.  Therefore, I am not in favour of growing food crops (vegetables, fruit trees etc.) on the beaches.  Nevertheless, I have the pleasure of suggesting you to try it with “container gardening” (see a lot of practical suggestions on this blog).

The basic idea is that any container (pot, plastic bottle, barrel, drum, small or big plastic bags, etc.) can easily be transformed into a substrate on which vegetables and fruiting plants can be grown.  This enormous variety of containers offers us a thousand chances to position these containers on every single open space (even on vertical racks).

Filling up the containers we will use for growing food crops with a non-saline substrate, means automatically that we do not have to take into account the nature of the local soil anymore.  Any container garden can be installed on a concrete soil, e.g. a roof garden, on a barren peace of land in the cities and, thus, also on a beach.  The reason is very simple : the roots are not growing in the local soil anymore, but in the substrate inside the containers.

There is a second extremely positive aspect of container gardening : the quantity of irrigation water needed is significantly smaller than in normal gardening : infiltration of irrigation water in the local soil is limited to a strict minimum, evaporation is only possible at the top of the container (not laterally through the wall of the container, except for clay pots) and, last but not least, if numerous containers are placed close to one another there will be a more humid microclimate created around the growing plants.

Let me ask you to consider the installation of a container garden on that piece of beach you have in view.  Studying the opportunities of involving all the kids in growing their own vegetables in their own containers, you will discover the tremendous advantages of producing food crops “above” the saline sands of the beach, without having to cure the incurable : salinity and drought.

I remain yours for more exchanges of ideas on food production in the most hostile environments.

Let’s do it for the kids !


Herb gardening indoors (Google / Herbs Scam)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Herb Gardening Indoors

Here are some tips for herb gardening indoors that will simulate the conditions in an outside garden. For Herb gardening indoors the growing climates need to be pretty much the same as the conditions outside. Get your herb plants from a good garden center nursery who will have plenty of garden advice to help you with your inside garden. You will need some garden equipment like a small digging garden tool, garden gloves, organic fertilizer and some small gardening containers. You probably already have most of these garden supplies in your garden shed. Continue reading Herb gardening indoors (Google / Herbs Scam)

Top Home Gardening Tips: Keep These in Mind (Google / Garden Growth)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Top Home Gardening Tips: Keep These in Mind

There are tons of different home gardening tips, indoor gardening tips, organic gardening tips, Vegetable Gardening tips – no wonder the average gardener finds it so overwhelming to figure out just which specific tips are going to be most useful to them. If this is your situation, you should know that out of all of these, there are a few home gardening tips in particular that are going to be useful for you to learn.

Before you can properly or fully understand these tips however you are going to need to learn a bit more about home gardening and what it is all about.

What it is

Home gardening is a type of gardening that continues to grow in popularity. Home gardeners can product tasty, nutritious vegetables and beautiful flowers, and to be a successful gardener you really need to take advantage of the different home gardening tips that are out there.

Home Gardening Tips

One of the best home gardening tips is to choose the right garden site. This will depend on the particular type of plant that you are working with of course, but most plants need an area that is exposed to full or near-full sunlight, with deep, well-drained, fertile soil. The location should also be near a water outlet and free of competition from existing shrubs or trees.

Of course this is one of the most important tips of all because if you do not choose the right location for planting, you are not going to have any success.

Another of the most important home gardening tips is to select the right crops. As a home gardener, this is going to be one of the most important processes that you are going to have to worry about, and so one of your first major decisions is going to be deciding what vegetables you should grow.

Vine crops such as watermelon, winter squash and cucumbers are going to require larger amounts of space and more work, while if you want to take an easier route you should stick to vegetable plants such as tomatoes and potatoes.

It really all depends on your skill level and the amount of time and effort that you are going to be willing and able to put into this, which will determine how serious you can get into your gardening. Regardless, these tips are going to come in very handy and help get you started.

Raising gardening to a new level (Google / Reporter News)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Raising gardening to a new level

By Mattia Bray
Special to the Reporter-News
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Growing and harvesting vegetables just got easier thanks to ingenious ideas from two gardening buddies. Abilene neighbors Raymond Rice and Charles Reed have devised raised beds on their properties, ideal for producing quality, homegrown vegetables. Both experienced gardeners, the friends had always gardened the old-fashioned way by planting directly into the ground. After years of fighting weeds and watering excessively, they put their heads together last winter to draw up plans for something different — a new type of raised garden bed. Neither had seen raised beds in Abilene residential gardens, so they decided to put a different spin on the typical “above the ground” garden.

Making a plan Continue reading Raising gardening to a new level (Google / Reporter News)

Let gardeners have the good yards (Google / SFGate)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Let gardeners have the good yards

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sometimes the gardening bug chooses to infect the wrong people. For instance, I know a woman who is an ardent environmentalist and would grow her own tomatoes if she could. At some point in life she caught the gardening bug, but it’s all for naught. She lives in a condo. A shady condo at that. Which means her desire for growing tomatoes is wasted. That’s a shame. On the other hand, I know plenty of people who can’t catch the gardening bug to save their lives. I’ve seen their backyards and have surmised that they don’t know one end of a shovel from the other. Every once in a while, they might add some water to the mess of dead weeds or grass, maybe once every few weeks, which, I’d like to point out, is not what thirsty lawns are looking for. Of course, that’s all right by me. I don’t see the point of wasting water on grass, anyhow. I’d just as soon fill an unkempt yard with chickens. Or rows of corn. So I have a proposal to make. I suggest rezoning all of our urban neighborhoods into two categories: homes that can support a garden and homes that can’t. We could even divvy up the homes among people who garden and those who don’t. We would start by selecting locations with the most fertile soil and declaring their inclusion in a new “Urban Farming Zone.” Continue reading Let gardeners have the good yards (Google / SFGate)

Community gardening : City garden grows in many ways (Google / UticaOD)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

City garden grows in many ways

Posted Jun 08, 2008 @ 08:23 AM
Last update Jun 09, 2008 @ 08:23 AM


A group of refugees from Russia, Bosnia, Somalia and Belarus spent several hours Thursday morning at the community garden located at the F.X. Matt/Adrean Terrace/N.D. Peters housing complex in East Utica, replanting bean, onion, pepper and tomato plants originally planted in Hamilton College’s greenhouse. The event marked the final step in a year-long effort to establish a working flower and vegetable garden for the housing complex residents. The garden is representative of many successful endeavors in Utica made possible through the coordinated effort and generosity of business, government, foundation and educational entities as well as individual citizens. Continue reading Community gardening : City garden grows in many ways (Google / UticaOD)