Since lockdown, there has been an outbreak of skips where I live. People have been taking the opportunity to alter or add to their house and garden. Sadly, in one particular case, I noticed that the majority of the content of one skip was top-soil. I didn’t know the people who lived at the house, but would hazard a guess that they weren’t gardeners. They could perhaps benefit from advice always available from the gardeners of St Ann’s Allotments:
“Now all perfection of culture is reached on the Hunger Hills – a piece of poor, comparatively worthless, sandy soil, that a few years ago would not have paid for labour or seed. It would do the farmers as well as the gardeners of Britain good to spend a day amid these gardens. If anyone wants to know what the earth will bring forth when man feeds it well, attends it lovingly and skilfully, let him go to the Hunger Hills around Nottingham – mark, learn, and inwardly digest the full purport of all he sees and hears there. He will be sure of a hearty welcome from the enthusiastic horticulturists that he will find there swarming like bees…”
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 4 August 1871
It seems that our allotment predecessors recognised that soil is a vital resource. But what they might not have recognised was that because it can take up to 400 years to form and up to 3000 years to accumulate enough substances to make it fertile, soil is a non-renewable resource. It is used and abused by humans and once it has been destroyed, it is lost forever, so I hope that the soil in the skip was positively recycled.
We forget that it is the basis of all life on Earth, and that it is an important store of carbon in a world facing a climate crisis. So, STAA will continue to promote the value of top-soil through the growth of fruit and vegetables and will teach others how to grow them. To paraphrase a Chinese proverb – “Give a man a cabbage and you can feed him for a day, teach a man to garden and you feed him for a lifetime.”