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Reform Magazine | October 23, 2017

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Sonia Christie – Eco-Gardener: Bidding Reform farewell

sonia_cropAlex was looking for inspiration with his homework: he had to design a superhero and it was fascinating how the suggestions mirrored the family’s passions:

“Spaghetti-Man?” suggested my forever-ravenous Ollie. “He could zap out pasta strings to tie up the villains!” Ellie raised her head briefly from Les Miserables: “How about Book-Woman? With a swirl of her cape she could produce any tome, thus providing the answer to all conundrums.” Bruce lifted off his headphones: “Music-Man? He could make music to soothe or strengthen through adversity.”

I enthusiastically joined in: “Oooh! Oooh! I know! What about Seed-Girl? She could drop large seeds to stop baddies in their tracks, or lots of small ones to make them slip over and she could solve world famine.” Heads shook sadly all around. I clearly need to work on my superhero ideas.

Not that I am trying to justify my lame idea, but I think there is something amazing about seeds, I think the most magical are beetroot seeds. Apart from their strange gnarled appearance, most are multi-germ, meaning that one seed can produce several seedlings. Beetroot lowers blood pressure, protects against liver disease and depression as well as being nature’s Viagra – a fact known for centuries as images were painted on the walls of Pompeii’s brothel.

It grows best in an open, sunny site, manured before sowing with an added sprinkling of multi-purpose fertiliser. Sow seeds 10cm apart and 2.5cm deep in rows 25cm apart, or 15cm apart if block-planting, at fortnightly intervals from mid-February (with protection until late March) to June for a succession of tender roots, best harvested from golf ball to cricket ball size. Slugs can be a problem: I use the three-pronged approach of Advanced Slug Killer organic pellets, and watered in nematodes (both from the Organic Gardening Catalogue) and hand removal. I water (from the water butt) in dry conditions or they can become woody. It is tolerant of salt so can be grown in coastal gardens and the round ball varieties like “Regala” are also suitable for growing in containers, virtually the only condition beetroot doesn’t thrive in is acid soil. My favourites are the heirloom variety “Barbabietola di Chioggia” which has concentric rings of pink and white and “Boltardy” resistant to bolting caused by cold weather when young.

Alex came up with his own superhero, deciding on Lego-Man, with the ability to build anything at a super-speed, and it made me smile. It would have been nice to have Lego-Man help us as we attempted to make our home and garden more eco-friendly.

This year our eco-garden-work continues. We are planning a flock of chickens; planting a native hedge; making our own fertiliser and growing asparagus (you can follow our progress on http://hairygooseberries.blogspot.co.uk/).

As this is my last article I would like to say that it has been a pleasure sharing my family’s eco-antics with you over the last five years. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. It was these words from Native American Chief Seattle – read when Ellie was born – that first started my environmental questioning and so it seems fitting that I end with them: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”.

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This article was published in the March 2013 edition of  Reform.

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