Deep inside our tropical quarantine, some precious seeds are germinating; ones which could hold a solution to the deforestation caused by slash-and-burn agriculture.
They’re from the Inga plant, a fast-growing tropical tree that subsistence farmers in Honduras, Central America, are being encouraged to grow as a way of reclaiming land exhausted by slash-and-burn farming.
Slash and burn is the practice of cutting and burning forest to create fields, and while it can be effective in sparsely populated areas, intensive cropping can drain the soil, meaning farmers have to move on to repeat the process on virgin forest elsewhere.
What makes Inga edulis so special is that it has been shown to rehabilitate abandoned, infertile land, adding nitrogen to the soil and encouraging beneficial fungi to grow.
UK charity the Inga Foundation is educating and supporting Honduran farmers to grow Inga trees in rows on tracts of land, in between which they can cultivate other crops such as beans and corn, or even high-value spices like vanilla or pepper.
This ‘alley cropping’ technique requires trees to be planted close together and pruned heavily to allow in the light. It works so well because when the Inga trees drop their leaves they not only smother weeds, but also provide a rich mulch for the crops below. What’s more, the sweet, pulpy flesh surrounding the Inga seeds taste delicious.
Our own Inga seeds were harvested in Honduras by the Inga Foundation’s Mike Hands, who plucked them from the tree as they ripened and brought them over to our nursery just in time for them to germinate.
Once they’ve grown big enough we’ll be planting them in our Rainforest Biome, where visitors will be able to see alley cropping first hand and learn about the potential it has to reduce pressure on tropical forests.
Find out more about Inga on the Inga Foundation website.
With thanks to Neville Evans
On Saturday 28 April we’ll be hosting a screening of ‘Days of Clay’, a selection of archive film of the china clay industry, some of which has rarely been seen.
The film, featured recently on BBC Spotlight, has been put together by Wheal Martyn, China Clay History Society and Azook CIC to help communities in the Clay Country explore their cultural identity.
The film will include historic footage and oral history recordings of local people who worked and lived within china clay industry, mainly from the 1930s to the 1970s. A compilation of archive photographs will also be on display.
Eden’s a fitting venue for the screening as it was built within a disused clay pit, known locally as Bodelva, which had been mined until 1998 when it reached the end of its working life.
Admission to the screening is free and pre-booking is advised. Places can be booked by calling 0845 0509 429 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Doors open at 7pm and the show will start at 7.30pm. Refreshments will also be available.
This weekend St Austell will be hosting its first annual Spring Fayre.
There’ll be arts and crafts, delicious locally produced food and drink, plus live music and entertainment. Families will also be able to get involved in green-fingered activities including a flower show and a ‘flower power’ parade.
We’re supporting the event with storytelling at the Eden Cafe on Saturday, and the Big Green Bus will be in Biddicks Court on Sunday with a member of our Pollination Team entertaining children throughout the day.
Spring Fayre details
Entry is free and events will be taking place in the town centre on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 April 2012, between 10am and 4pm.
If you’re interested in green building and sustainable construction, whether you work in the industry or are planning to retrofit your home, come along to Green Build Cornwall on Thursday 17 May 2012.
Organised by Cornwall Sustainable Building Trust, the event is a chance to find out what green building options are now locally available, and to get the latest news on emerging companies in the renewable energy and green construction sectors in Cornwall.
On the day there’ll be:
- Stalls from green building and energy companies, where visitors can learn about cutting-edge technologies and speak to experts.
- Short seminars on subjects such as energy in buildings and integrating renewables into construction.
- ‘Ask an Architect’ sessions with RIBA South West (Royal Institute of British Architects). If you already have plans, bring them along with you to one of these free half-hour sessions with a local architect. (Please book for these – see below.)
Visitors can also find out about the Green Build Hub, an exciting project by Cornwall Sustainable Building Trust due to be built at Eden. Currently seeking planning permission, the energy-efficient centre is designed to be a test bed for building elements such as walls, windows, living roofs and renewable energy systems.
The Green Build Hub would also demonstrate what can be achieved in Cornwall to improve the sustainability of construction, and collaborators would also be able to use the facility for training and to engage with the public. Many of these collaborators will be at the event.
Eden’s Sustainability Manager Caron Thompson said: ‘The interest in building sustainably is increasing rapidly and Cornwall is well placed to be a leader in this field so we are delighted that this event is being held at the Eden Project. It’s a great opportunity for visitors to Eden to see some of the fantastic work and innovation going on in and around Cornwall.’
A lively audience packed out Eden’s Gallery last week for a fascinating rainforest debate chaired by George Alagiah, ‘Are the rainforests for sale?’
The debate sparked discussion on solutions to deforestation, ranging from global financial incentives to sustainable palm oil to ecotourism.
The expert panel, who had some 150 years of combined experience working in rainforests and campaigning for their protection, shared their infectious passion for these incredible places and revealed a bit about what inspired them to devote their lives to this cause.
The audience heard how a chance encounter with a three-toed sloth in Panama first got Andrew Mitchell [picture above], now Executive Director of the Global Canopy Programme, hooked on rainforest protection and canopy exploration.
He’d bought the animal off a local market seller who was about to sell it for meat. Having rescued the tenacious sloth he released it back to the wild; as he watched it climb slowly and majestically up to the top of the trees he knew he needed to find out more about the rainforest canopy and the amazing life it holds.
Some considered questions from the audience got the speakers offering their take on pressing topics.
Emma Rundle from South Devon College asked about palm oil: ‘I try to avoid using palm oil as I know it causes rainforest destruction, but what are the alternatives?
Andrew Mitchell explained that ‘Palm oil itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important that it’s sustainably produced palm oil. At the moment this is more expensive so very few people use it. We need to support sustainable production and understand the real cost of cheaper palm oil; environmental destruction.’
The panel also mentioned the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a consortium of groups working together to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil
Eden’s Fiona Dunsmore asked what penalties companies faced if they were found operating illegally in protected rainforests areas.
Simon Counsell, Director of the Rainforest Foundation UK, explained that the real problem is that there is no way to enforce laws and penalties. National laws are undermined by corruption, whilst fines for illegal logging are small in comparison to the profits logging companies make, and are rarely enforced.
Fierce debate ensued from the floor and the panel over whether the law of ecocide should be introduced. ‘Ecocide’ refers to holding individuals or companies legally accountable for large scale environmental destruction or over consumption of non-renewable resources. It proposes a system being put in place that would be the equivalent of the International Courts of Justice in the Hague, to deal with ecological crimes.
Two thirds of the audience voted in favour of recognising ecocide as a crime, but there were more doubts over how it would be implemented.
The evening ended with an important question from Chris Salisbury: ‘What is the most useful action an individual can do or make at a personal level, to sustain the rainforests?’
‘Use less stuff,’ said Simon Counsell, Chief Executive of the Rainforest Foundation, who suggested that we need to be more careful about sourcing products from rainforests, on a large scale.
‘Start a revolution!’ was Andrew Mitchell’s answer. He believes we need to use the power of the internet to create a social revolution and campaign on rainforest protection.
Plant specialist Professor Sir Ghillean Prance FRS insisted that: ‘We must be politically active. This is one of the most important things we can do.’
By Robyn Cummins
Here’s a really simple gardening project that even the least green-fingered of you can succeed at. Not only will you have the pleasure of seeing your plants grow, you’ll also be able to harvest leaves to use in tasty and healthy salads.
This short video from the Eden Project’s gardening experts gives you simple step-by-step tips on how to grow your own speedy salad leaves easily and, as the name suggests, quickly.
Free ‘Grow your own Big Lunch’ event in Cornwall
If the video above has inspired you, and you live in Cornwall, come along to Eden’s family-friendly seed sowing workshop in Truro Library at 10.30am-1pm on Saturday 28 April.
Eden horticulturists will help you to produce your own salad for the annual neighbourhood get-together, The Big Lunch (this year held to coincide with the Queen’s Jubilee). As well as watching practical demonstrations, you can have a go and take home your efforts, and take some seed to practise with later.
Contact the Library now to book your place: call 0300 1234 111 and ask for Truro Library or email email@example.com.
With parts of the country in a hosepipe ban following the UK’s third driest month on record in March, you might be wondering how on earth you’re going to keep your garden well-watered this year. Water used in the garden can amount to half of a household’s total water usage. But if you’re smart with your watering, it is possible to have a lush and productive garden while saving water and money at the same time. Here are five simple tips.
1. Water efficiently
When it comes to watering the garden, little and often is not always best. In fact, your plants will appreciate a good soaking so the water can penetrate deep into the roots. It’s better to water the garden first thing in the morning, so it doesn’t evaporate away in the warmth of the day.
Don’t over-water your plants – leave them until they show the first signs of wilting. This will encourage deep, healthy roots and therefore stronger plants.
2. Avoid using a hose
Hoses typically use 225 litres in 15 minutes, which aside from anything else will stack up to a costly bill. Switch to a watering can instead, which will use far less water and give you a more direct flow. We keep compostable watering cans on our webshop, made out of the carnauba tree. When it reaches the end of its life, simply chuck it on the compost heap to decompose.
A useful tip to get water right where the plant wants it most is to cut the bottom off a plastic bottle and remove the cap. Bury the bottle bottom up into the soil next to the plants, so when you pour water down the bottle, it saturates the roots.
When watering hanging baskets, place potted plants underneath to catch the excess water.
3. Invest in a water butt
Harvest rainwater from your roof with a water butt. Did you know that 24,000 litres can be collected off the average roof in a year? A water butt is well worth the investment. Your plants will thank you too, as they prefer rainwater to sterilised tap water. It’s reassuring to know that, despite the current hose ban in parts of the country, rain water can be conserved so you can still give your thirsty garden a good soaking.
4. Plant drought-tolerant plants
There are plenty of drought proof plants that will thrive in even the driest spells. Lavender, for example, looks at its best when it hasn’t been over-watered. Also, its heady aroma will make your garden smell divine as the evening draws in. The pomegranate tree, with its juicy ruby red jewelled fruit, does well in dry conditions too.
5. Increase your plants’ natural resistance
Give your plants the fuel they need to thrive without relying on water. This powdered plant boost actually increases your plants’ drought resistance by improving its water and nutrient uptake. Mix some of this in with your compost and you’ll also reduce the chance of infection by soil pathogens. The formula contains beneficial fungi, which form a protective layer around the roots, helping to strengthen them and promote growth. And of course healthier roots leads to healthier plants. It also comes in a formula specifically for fruits and one especially for seedlings and young plants.
The Eden Project Digital team is developing a new iPhone app to help visitors plan, enjoy and remember the best parts of their visit to Eden.
We’re looking for beta testers to try out the app during a visit to Eden and afterwards share their experiences with us.
Ideally, we’d like to find people to help who:
- have not visited Eden before or have not visited for several years
- are considering or would consider a visit to Eden in late April or May
- have some experience of smartphones (not necessarily iPhones) and using apps on them
- are happy to meet with members of the Eden Project Digital team at the start of their visit to discuss testing the app and again at the end of their visit to share their experience.
In return for helping us out, we’ll arrange free entry for two adults to Eden on the day of testing plus two annual passes that allow free entry for a year.
We’ll also provide meal vouchers, which you can use to buy food and drinks at Eden during your visit. For the purposes of testing, we’ll loan you a test iPhone (or iPod touch) as we can’t install the test version of the app on your own phone.
If you think you might be interested and would like to discuss it with the team, please email us in the first instance at firstname.lastname@example.org with some contact details so that we can get back to you.
At Eden we tell the story of man’s relationships with plants, cultivated the world over for food, medicine, materials and beauty. But why is it that some species are nurtured by man, in fields and gardens, while others have ended up on the wrong side of the fence – as ‘weeds’?
What is a weed, what makes them so rampant – and how can we learn to love them? Hannah Bullock spoke to nature writer Richard Mabey, who shed some light on the species that grow in the spaces between.
The word weed is a cultural label
‘Take, for example, the rise and fall from grace of common horse tail. It’s now regarded as a pernicious weed in gardens, but is actually a perfectly brilliant scourer, and was used for cleaning pewter right up until Elizabethan times. I’ve used it as a pan cleaner and it does work!
‘A bundle of it can also be used as fine sandpaper, because the marvel of the plant is that it deposits minute silica crystals on the outside of its fronds.
‘Horse tail is one of the most ancient plants, a relative of species that were around when the coal measures were being laid down several hundred million years ago. They’ve had time to evolve some canny survival techniques, like their very deep underground stems.’
In reality, all plants are useful
‘When we consider how ‘useful’ a plant is we tend to think of its practical and immediate use to humans, asking ‘can you make materials out of it, can it beautify our gardens…?’ But any organism which contributes to the smooth and rich workings of the planet is by definition, useful to us, because it keeps the great machine going.
‘Consider the host plant of a predatory insect that preys upon another insect, which eats one of our crop plants. Through a long chain of connectedness, this first plant is actually as useful to us as the crop plant.’
Weeds thrive on human ambition
‘The human definition of a weed is a plant that has got into the wrong place; into a space that humans want to use for something else.
‘The major failing in our understanding of them is that they are where they are precisely because of our habit of doing rough things to the ground.
‘Long before farmers and developers came along, a whole raft of often unrelated plants evolved to take advantage of disturbed land, such as changes on the edge of tide lines and flood plains, falling scree or disturbance cause by volcanoes.
‘Most of them were annuals that dropped their seeds and were carried far and wide, or had root systems that broke off easily and were capable of generating new plants.
‘As soon as humans created copies of these naturally disturbed environments – ploughing soil, having battles or undertaking development – these species had a whole new range of territories to invade.’
Weeds have hitchhiked on humans throughout history
‘Kentucky bluegrass sounds from its name as American as apple pie but it’s actually annual meadow grass, thought to have arrived with 17th-century European settlers as seeds in the mud on cattle’s hooves. It very rapidly took over the prairies, outcompeting the much more delicate indigenous grasses, which had never experienced the hooves of grazing animals before.
‘By modern conservation standards it would be regarded as an invasive alien, but in farmers’ terms the spread of this nutritious fodder plant was a great boon.
‘Another common weed of urban spaces, Canadian fleabane, came over here in the most bizarre way; its seeds had been used inside a stuffed bird, and when it was thrown away these established themselves on the South coast of Britain. I’ve seen the plant on roadsides in France and industrial sites across Europe – all thanks to that one shipment in a stuffed bird.’
We gardeners need to learn to live with weeds
‘Of course I remove weeds when I need to complete a project in the garden, so I’m not being holier than thou. But my advice is to avoid that kneejerk reflex of ‘oh, I know that’s a weed, therefore I must get rid of it’ and instead ask yourself ‘why is that weed growing there?’ It hasn’t come there entirely arbitrarily; usually it’s your fault!
‘As you start to trace the story of how it arrived there, you begin to realise that it’s an individual with a character and modes of behaviour – which may make it possible to find a modus vivendi with it.
‘I’m happy to have weeds abundant in my vegetable patch in between the rows – particularly shallow-rooted ones. They brighten the place up, they’re great moisture conservers and they harbour a much greater variety of insects, so your pests are likely to be fewer.
‘If you opt for a dedicated ‘wild patch’, the bigger the better. People get very sentimental about these, but they may have to be ugly and they’ve got to be really wild. You have to judge it from the wild’s point of view, not your own. No butterfly or bee can grow into a nectar-eating insect unless it starts as a grub, which eats things like nettles and dock.
‘If you want pollinators in your garden, you’ve got to allow weeds for caterpillars to eat, as well as beautiful sweet williams and buddleia.’
My favourite of all is the giant hogweed
‘It’s so utterly magnificent; an 18-foot-tall cow parsley with flowers the size of lorry wheels. I also love the little speedwells that grow in the spring and can turn a whole lawn blue for a week.’
Richard Mabey is author of some 30 books including the bestselling plant bible Flora Britannica, Food for Free and Nature Cure. A regular commentator on the radio and in the national press, he is also a Director of the arts and conservation charity Common Ground and Vice-President of the Open Spaces Society. His latest book, Weeds: The Story of Outlaw Plants, is published by Profile Books. Richard Mabey was in conversation with Hannah Bullock.
Over a billion people will join together for a mass celebration around the globe on April 22 this year.
So what is Earth Day?
This is a day to raise a glass to the planet – from our familiar shores to the deepest oceans; the intricate eco-system within our rainforests, to our vast deserts. Ultimately, Earth Day is a celebration of every living person and creature.
The planet will be the subject of discussion this Sunday, as a series of global conversations take place that hopefully might just lead to something bigger. This annual tribute to our planet fits hand in hand with the ethos here at Eden: to preserve and enrich the environment. And as David Attenborough said, ‘Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy, inhabitable by all species.’
On this thought-provoking day, we’ve teamed up with the buyers from our webshop to offer a few simple additions to your home and garden that have a positive impact on the planet.
According to the British Beekeepers’ Association, one third of the food we eat would not be available without bees. So why not find space for a beehive and encourage them to your garden? You’d not only help increase the population of bees – your very own resident bee colony will also help your garden along, resulting in a better yield from your veg patch.
This must-have book outlines many of the ethical challenges that surrounds 21st century living. It gently inspires positive change by looking at the decisions we make on a daily basis and the impact these choices have on the planet. A bestselling resource you’ll wish you’d read years ago.
Plant a tree for Earth Day and sleep soundly knowing that it will help absorb carbon dioxide and release life-preserving oxygen. The mighty tree fern is one of the oldest varieties in the world and can grow up to six metres. It’s really hardy, so should survive even the harshest winters.
Attracting beneficial insects can do a marvellous job in keeping your broccoli free from pests and pollinate crops so you ensure a great yield. So here’s the solution to encouraging insects back into the garden – a garden plot just for insects. This box has a solar light that turns on at dusk, attracting moths and butterflies. There’s a shelf for bee nesting holes, and you can put plants through the access door to encourage all sorts of other creepy crawlies. It’s all made from FSC wood so it promotes responsible management of the world’s forests.
Did you know that the average roof can harvest 24,000 litres of water in a year? Collect it in a water butt or two so you can conserve water, energy and money by using rainwater where you can.