Author Archives: Richard Pitt

Manure Day

Pitch fork in compost

Manure is very important for us to keep our soil healthy.

We are very fortunate that our friends at nearby Down to Earth Farm keep a variety of animals and as a consequence have a large pile of manure we can get our hands on. (Well, not our hands, our pitch forks!)

Our good friend Andy the Acorn Tree Specialist is helping us with transport.

So all we need now are lots of good friends to spend the morning with wheel barrows and pitch forks to load and unload.

This is what me mean by Manure Day !

  • [times have changed!!] We will meet on Sat 7 Oct at 2.30pm at Aldermoor Community Farm or 3.00pm at Down to Earth Farm on Green Lane (SO16 9FQ).
  • We will load up using wheelbarrows and pitch forks loaned by Down to Earth.
  • We will return to Aldermoor Farm to unload and distribute the manure to our veggie beds.
  • We will enjoy a hearty cup of tea!
  • If you want to arrive early and have lunch with us, please do – we do lunch at about 12.30

We are hoping for 12 helpers (the dirty dozen??). It would make us less nervous if you could sign up below if you can help.

Thank you.

Kefir – Prebiotic | Probiotic | Postbiotic – what and why?

Do you know your prebiotic from your probiotic and your postbiotic?

[CLUE: it is something to do with the good bacteria that live in our intestines and are vital for healthy digestion]

One of our volunteers (Mark – pictured below) has been making his own probiotic for a while now – he makes kefir from kefir grains. He is going to lead a course to further our understanding of this and show how to make kefir from kefir grains.

Volunteer Mark puts finishing touches to washing up station

This is Mark who will lead the course, on the day he helped make our kitchen sink!

Mark will run the course from 1100 to 1230 on Saturday 30 September. After the course we invite you to stay and join our regular Saturday bring-and-share lunch.

There is no charge for the course, but we would appreciate what you can afford as a suitable donation to support the work of the farm.

To book a place, please fill out the form below:

Permaculture Southampton 2017-09-16

3. Obtain a yield.

[Please book in further down the page]

Last time we looked at catching and storing energy to rebuild nature’s capital. This month we are looking at the more immediate issue of designing our systems to give us a reward in the short term.

Put simply, it’s no good planting a food forest for our grandchildren but in the mean time not having enough to eat ourselves!

We will look at what kind of yields are important, and how we obtain a yield without betraying our ethical principles or the second principle to catch and store energy.

  • [optional] 1000 Volunteering: Come and do some work on the farm to immerse yourself in what we have been learning about permaculture.
  • [optional] 1230 Bring-and-share lunch
  • 1330-1700 Obtain a yield: We are working through the 12 principles of permaculture as defined by David Holmgren. The hosts will introduce the topic and help us as a group consider how the principle applies to us here in Southampton.

Please book in here:

Permaculture Southampton 2017-06-17

2. Collect and Store Energy
This is the second principle of permaculture. We thought about this on 17 June 2017.

We live in a culture where energy is consumed in all sorts of forms and often without a thought to where it comes from and where it goes, or what effect we are having on future generations.

As we delved into what we mean by energy – what it does for us. We went beyond the physics of the fuels and energy sources that underpin our lifestyles to also consider the energy that is needed to get things done in a wide range of contexts. We looked at issues of wealth and waste.

We considered where energy is wasted and could instead be stored in all areas of our lives.

Here are some outputs from our time:


Previous Meeting – where we looked at the first principle: Observe and Interact
Permaculture Southampton – the home page for our meetings.

Permaculture Southampton 2017-05-20

1. Observe and Interact
This is the first principle of permaculture. It is the foundation of design.

These are some notes (taken by Leesa).

We have a rough recording of the main session, which you can download here or play here:

Observation is collecting information, usually directly. Our culture is filled with opportunities to let others collect information for us – indeed others may now apparently report to us “alternative facts”.

Interaction in this context means to make some kind of change to what we are observing in order to influence it towards the outcome that we want. This process is at the heart of gardening, but can be applied in any context.

Design thinking guidelines

  • all observations are relative
  • top-down thinking, bottom-up action
  • the landscape is the text book
  • failure is useful if we learn
  • elegant solutions are best – simple or invisible
  • make the smallest intervention necessary
  • avoid too much of a good thing
  • the problem is the solution
  • recognise and break out of design cul-de-sacs

What next?

This is an idea for digging into this principle.

  1. Choose a topic to focus on – something you are interested, a problem or a new thing to do
  2. Summarize your observations about it
    1. what patterns do you recognise?
    2. what details can you appreciate?
    3. where are the boundaries of this system?
    4. what other systems influence it?
  3. Let the design thinking guidelines help you analyse what has already been done and suggest actions for the future.


Previous Meeting – where we looked at the ethical principles of permaculture.
Permaculture Southampton – the home page for our meetings.

Organic Radish

Today at 0530 I got up to pick 30 bunches of radishes for Robin at Veg Shed. This is a great day of fulfilment for us at the farm – our first bulk harvest for a customer this year.

I actually began to well up as I knelt by the bed and again and again eased plump radishes from the mini forest of green. They were growing so thickly, forming a lush green carpet, with strong flashes of pink and red showing through. Even though radishes are small, the abundance of them in the bed connected me with the bounty of the land that we have nurtured. And picking 350 of them in one go with all their variations in size, shape and colour emphasised to me their individuality and vitality.

Here is the story of our radishes.

Many many seeds
On Friday 10 March, two of our volunteers (Milo and Liz) planted a 3m bed with ‘cherry belle’ radish seeds, at a 5cm spacing. Each of our beds is 90cm wide, and allowing for the edges tailing off a bit we get 16 on each row. The bed is 3m long, so that’s 60 rows along the bed. How’s your mental maths? 60  x 16 is 960 radish seeds planted one by one.

Why don’t we scatter the seed along a line and thin it out later? We favour the careful sowing now over the pain of thinning out later. It is worth putting the time in now rather than later.

The bed was then covered with clear plastic to keep the moisture in and raise the temperature a bit when the sun shines. By the following Thursday the two strong green germination seeds were showing through for about 90% of the plants. Radish is rewarding!

Slugs and snails
We have had ducks roaming our market garden beds over the winter, but there are still some slugs around and as soon as the tasty green leaves started to show, so did the slugs. We don’t use pesticides to get rid of them. To focus my energy to the maximum I waited a week and then one night went out after dark – about 2130 – with a head torch and some tweezers. I collected about 30 very small slugs that were feeding on the leaves. I got a similar number from our other bed of radish planted at the same time. A week later I did the same thing and got a similar number. The ducks had a nice surprise when i got them out in the morning – slugs on their doorstep.

It’s fiddly getting the small ones, and it’s a pain having to go out in the evening, but I’d rather catch small ones than big ones!! It is interrupting the life cycle of the slug at the best time (before they’ve done lots of damage and before they have reproduced). Also, at night they seem to be up on the leaves and easy to see and catch compared with any other time. So it’s efficient on time and effectiveness, which makes it worthwhile.

It would be good to do this slug patrol once a week and maybe reduce to fortnightly if numbers are down. I’ve not actually been out to check again because I don’t see so many when watering them in the mornings. Lesson for us to learn – put a reminder in the diary to make these important observations so you can be sure what is really happening.

We also leave bricks at the end of each bed – having seen slugs finding shelter under these during the day, it seemed a good idea to offer that shelter. We are encouraging our younger members to go slug hunting when they visit. It is again something we need to put in the diary as a reminder as we keep forgetting.

We have our own spring on site, so we have plenty of water and in dry weather I gave the bed a 10 litre watering can every morning. Since then we have sorted out a tank, a pump and some sprinklers, so there is much less effort for us on watering each day.


We have been taking a few radishes from the bed for the last two weeks. Picking out the big ones. They are crunchy, refreshing and flavoursome. A bit peppery, but it’s a gentle heat. They make shop-bought radishes taste like crunchy water by comparison.

It was exciting to harvest such a large number in one go. Certain patches of the bed were a forest of perfect radishes with hardly any gap between them – the 5cm spacing has worked well. Very few weed seeds had germinated amongst them. So far we have pulled about 400 radishes. There were about 50 that were too small to sell. There are about 150 to go. That is approximately 2/3 of the seeds we planted we get to sell.

We like to work out the numbers – we need to learn from our experience each year.

It is interesting to me that some of the radishes bear the evidence of the attentions of woodlice or slugs. About half of them have some surface blemish. I was shocked at first. I said to Adam “We can’t sell them like this!” but he challenged me – would I eat it? – of course I would, I’d just cut of that little surface blemish.  This is the reality of real food. I realised that I have become conditioned by the supermarket standard of every item of produce conforming to an imagined perfection. As I now grow my own, I am getting used to the reality of organic produce. And anyway, as time goes by we will continue to reduce the slug and snail population by our physical methods and the damage they cause will be reduced.

Open Days

Our open days are designed to introduce local people to the farm and make an enjoyable time for all. We choose to do them on bank holiday Mondays so that can have a good day out in the country without having to go too far!

We open the gates at 10am and provide special activities for all the family. We recommend bringing a picnic (although sometimes we are able to to provide a lunch) and allowing yourself plenty of time to wander around, exploring and enjoying.

  • Monday 17 April – Easter Hunt and Picnic
  • Monday 29 May – Grow Your Own –
    • this open day will be with only minimal extra activities as we are short staffed.  There will be shop, plant sale and refreshments with a few simple playthings put out for you.
  • Monday 28 August – Harvest and Preserve
  • Sunday 15 October – Apple Juicing

Permaculture Southampton 2017-04-08

Saturday 8th April – the first meeting of Permaculture Southampton.

About 25 people attended.

We spent some time sharing our personal contexts for permaculture and then considered the 3 permaculture ethical principles.

Ethical principles

Permaculture has foundation of values expressed in these ethical principles. The principles guide us towards good and right outcomes and away from bad and wrong outcomes.

  • Care for the earth – rebuild nature’s capital
  • Care for people – self, kin and community
  • Fair share – set limits; redistribute surplus

Our natural inclination is act in our own interest. These principles help us remember that we are part of something bigger, something more long-term that our immediate self-interest.

These principles acknowledge the ecological reality of our needs – we depend on the earth for our very survival. Yet in our culture we are generally disconnected from the living earth.

These principles are unashamedly human-centred and do not neglect our personal responsibility. Yet as I take care of myself I am actually reducing my dependence on a global economy, which is a good thing. I am growing up through self-reliance.

These principles tackle both abundance and scarcity. If you apply permaculture principles you will learn the word abundance and will create a surplus of resources! We have it is an ethical principle to redistribute that surplus. We also acknowledge the ecological reality or our existence and set limits to our consumption of resources. This is quite counter-cultural!!

Feedback and Comments

If you would like to add your feedback from the session, please feel free to contact us with it.

* Just wanted to share with you how much I enjoyed meeting you all today, how much it means to me to find like-minded individuals in the city where I live. Sometimes it seems everyone is all (kept) so busy it’s impossible to make that level of contact these days. So, thank you for the opportunity, and it was great to reflect about what we it means to us and what we would like to achieve.

* Thank you for setting up the project, it will be interesting to see how it develops. I’m with the person who said they’d like to see practical examples of the principles in action. Possibly each of us could take on one aspect on our sites but the farm is the obvious candidate as we will continue to congregate there over the next 12 months. A great deal to think on but how about 10-1 working on the land and then 1.30- 3.30 on the theoretical side?

* Thanks for a most enjoyable session at the farm on Saturday. The session provided exactly what I needed: relaxed atmosphere in delightful surroundings; getting to know a range of people who all seemed to share similar values – wonderful; a slow pace of introduction – listening carefully to everyone; a small group activity which got me closer to three other people and helped us share deeper insights; a plan of action – using the chapters in the book as a focus each month; a close up look at the ethical underpinning of permaculture – I’ve already used those in a discussion during lunch on the Walk the Waterfront walk on Sunday! For me, the session was sufficient entirely and of itself and very good for me. For the people who hadn’t been to the farm before, I picked up some curiosity about wanting to know more about what you’re doing there. Very much looking forward to the next session.

Easter Monday Picnic and Open Day

We were blessed with a mostly sunny day on Monday 17 April 2017.

Through the gates came 124 people, and we all seemed to have a very happy day on the farm!

Activities included the crafty barn, easter egg trail, fishing game and golf ball runway. We all enjoyed the sunny weather, meeting the animals, the tranquil atmosphere and seeing the blossom and new growth. Many picnic lunches were enjoyed.

Thanks to those who brought cakes to share.

Thank you very much to our team of volunteers – Sophia, Becky, Tracey, Paul, Gill, Zoe, Nathan, Adam, Richard, Mauri, Kathy.


Bio-Cycle is a student-led food waste recycling scheme (see their Facebook page).

In the absence of a council scheme to collect veg peelings and other waste food for compost, students from the University of Southampton devised their own scheme.

In preventing unnecessary food waste from going to landfill, by re-using it locally, they hope to encourage sustainability within Southampton and the strong student community, changing the way people view recycling.

The scheme provides student households with food waste caddies and bin liners for a small fee of £10.

This also registers them with a regular weekly food waste pickup service.

There are 35 student households in the scheme.

Each week volunteers go round on bicycles to collect the liners full of compostable materials.

All collected food waste comes to Aldermoor Community Farm – and it comes by bicycle.


We put the liners into our custom-built compost bay, layering the fresh material with wood-chip. It is a great recipe for compost.

Bio-Cycle is one of many projects organised by Southampton Hub, a nation-wide charity whose aim which supports students to tackle social challenges. Find out more here: