The garden of the white house is organic and following closely behind is Gordon Brown’s patch. Recommendations from the Soil Association have encouraged Number 10 to introduce the natural approach to gardening.

Organic gardening promotes a healthy benefit for bees
Organic gardening promotes a healthy benefit for bees

Sarah Brown’s recent changes have been praised by the soil association-both Organic food production and bee friendly flowers have been added to Number 10.  Since this turn around there is even speculation of renaming the infamous “Britain in Bloom” to “Britain in natural bloom” with the hope of reducing harmful pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, from effecting the counties bee population.  This would also present the flower growers with a new challenge – many consider spraying pesticides and steroid like fertilizers to be a short cut in the art of flower growing.

Benefit now by going organic

1)  Your health and wellbeing- Organic food is much more nutrient dense, it contains significantly more beneficial minerals, essential amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants. Organic milk for example is 68% higher in omega 3 essential fatty acids.

2)  Animal Welfare – Most people don’t know that by being organic it is automatically free range! Organic standards are vigorous regarding their regulation of the way animals are reared fed and slaughtered – animals are given plenty outdoor space so they can behave as naturally as possible. Organic standards prevent cruelty and stop animally being constantly drugged with antibiotics.

3)  Wildlife Flourishes – Organic farms have up to 50 percent more wildlife than their non organic counterparts- meaning that birds, insects and plants can coexist in farms. In fact they are actively encouraged, hedgehogs love to eat slugs, and worms and insects help to aerate the soil.

4)  GM Free – Genetically modified crops are not permitted on Organic farms. Furthermore, GM ingredients and animal feed are not permitted – currently over one million tonnes of GM animal feed is imported every year to feed non Organic animals.

5)Cost savings – Well, like most people you may think that Organic food is vastly more expensive than non organic, however the reality is not quite so true. Yes a pint of Organic milk may cost around 25% more, but you can get much more than 25% more nutritional value, meaning that the nutrition you get per pence can actually be higher with Organic food.

 

The allotment – a small parcel of land rented to individuals usually for the purpose of growing food crops. This was the reason that I decided to follow thousands of other before me, dating back to Saxon times in fact, and put myself on the local allotment waiting list. Almost a year ago my time came and I began the adventure, and shall we say learning curve of being an allotment owner.

The old patch
The old patch

Let me start by introducing myself. I’m Chris, I’m 25 years old and I live in the market town of Morpeth in Northumberland. Hobbies include running, tennis and watching the ‘mighty Sunderland’. Certainly no history of green fingers in the family.

So, I had my plot. Ahead of me was months of fresh fruit and vegetables, and most importantly, huge savings on my weekly food bill. So I thought. In fact, there were a number of hidden benefits waiting to be discovered.

The first is the obvious one, fresh organic vegetables on tap. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to grow vegetables, and how successful my debut year would be. I’ve spent the last few months trying to find things to do with swarms of leeks, potatoes and spinach. Never again will you have ‘nothing to eat’. A quick trip to the allotment and you have a veritable feast at your finger tips.

Now for the less obvious benefits that I can share with you. Birds, they love allotments. Well, that’s obvious you may think. A multitude of worms and bugs just waiting to be eaten. No no, I’m not talking pigeons and tits. I’m talking about birds, the non-feathered variety.

I became single shortly after gaining my membership to Morpeth’s Allotment Association. I was back on the market, and needed to get out there and tell the female population of North-East England what a great catch I was. No problem I thought. I own my own house, nice car, good job. Surely I’d be batting them off with a stick. Well, I’m not one to kiss and tell, but it’s safe to say today’s lady is a little harder to impress. On a particularly bad first date on a grey Tuesday evening in Newcastle I searched for anything, absolutely anything to fill the classic awkward silence. I mentioned my allotment and watched her ears prick up, and eyes open wide. Bingo. It seems for some reason that the ladies of today like a man with a big plot. Maybe it’s the hunter gatherer image, or the thought of a summers’ supply of strawberries. Maybe it’s just because it sets you apart from the other people on ‘the market’. Whatever it is, they love it. A reason in itself to get yourself on a waiting list.

Now the health benefits. An obvious one you may say. Indeed, the vegetables you grow will contain many vital nutrients and vitamins to keep your body ticking over, but there’s more. You’ll be able to cancel that expensive gym membership. A weekend of digging, forking and weeding will leave you as stiff as any workout. And don’t forget all the fresh air you’ll get when working on your patch. In particular, the vitamin D that your skin produces when exposed to the sun will keep your bones healthy and increase your protection against a number of cancers.

So, have I convinced you? Your new allotment won’t only improve your diet, but also your lifestyle. You’ll be healthy, tanned, fit, with a girl on each arm. What are you waiting for? And if you can’t find a local allotment association then why not dig over some of the garden? After all, what use is grass?

This month Hello Eco Living is loving “Method” – an all purpose non-toxic cleaner. Love is a strong word for a cleaning product and perhaps I’m taken a little by the pink bottle – but this really is a neat product.

Who thought cleaning could smell so good?
Who thought cleaning could smell so good?

The idea is that it works by absorbing dirt rather than chemically degrading it and it is biodegradable so you can clean your home without flushing super-toxic chemicals down the drain into our rivers, lakes and oceans. Sound good?

It also smells delicious – of grapefruit in fact. Nice.

Oh and to add to its eco credentials it comes in a lovely bottle that is 100% recycled and 100% recyclable. It also comes in French Lavender – perhaps I’ll get this one next?

The RRP is £3 and you can find it at B&Q, Homebase, John Lewis, Ocado.com, Waitrose Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Whole Foods and many small independents.

The ancient black and yellow flying warrior gardeners, patrolling the world in a never ending quest to pollinate flowers are now under serious threat!

magazine_honey-bees_610x380
Bees: so important to our world

The commercial world of farming puts the monetary value on them in the billions, for most plants to produce fruit and veg – the bee is essential.

Given Albert Einstein’s  famous prediction – “when the bee is extinct humans will have only 4 years left”, perhaps we ought to be more concerned at the rapid rate of decline in their population. Last year, the minister responsible for animal health, Lord Rooker, said if nothing is done the British honey bee could be wiped out in 10 years.

Part of the reason is due to modern agriculture methods – pesticides and fertilizers – potentially very harmful to the navigation systems of bee’s, also the fact that huge area’s of land covered with the same crop all flowering simultaneously leave huge gaps in the food supply for bees through out the season. Given these problems coupled with the dreaded mite – for the first time in 35 million years the bee is under attack. Cities with there large variety of flowers and lack of pesticides are, surprisingly, becoming havens for the struggling bee population-with bee keepers in these regions doing far better than their country counter parts. Random and freak weather events, as a result of human produced carbon emissions, are also causing major problems for the vulnerable bee.

So what can you do in such a situation? Well often it is the simple things that make the biggest difference. Buying organic food will promote a reduction in the use of harmful pesticides. Growing plenty of flowering plants, especially lots of varieties that flower at different times will provide sustained food for bee’s as well as giving your garden plenty of colour year round. Chives are great and are delicious to eat. Also, you can check out future articles in hello eco living, on how to become a bee keeper – we’ll give you the low down on to make money from honey, how to get setup fast and the health benefits you will receive, not to mention the delicious golden nectar you’ll have on tap!