From the Path to the Shop: Natural Community Food Production

From the Path to the Shop: Natural community food production.  With all the worry about climate change and food production, it feels important to get to know one another to develop good practices for improving soil fertility and the production of local organic food. When working on my recent book, ‘Growing Together, Horsham’s Town Allotments’, I found that each allotment site and its committees tended not to know much about what was happening on other sites, and there are great opportunities for exchanging ideas and know-how by getting together and chatting.  For example, I have begun to use peat-free biological charcoal (biochar) compost for sowing seeds and potting on. There is also now a biochar product for regenerating old compost which is a great idea, made by Carbon Gold and available from the Organic Garden Catalogue. I’ve also been using their mineralised straw garden mulch called Strulch which is excellent for putting around plants in borders and allotments. It keeps the weeds down and nourishes the soil as it breaks down.

There are also great local alternatives in Horsham Market; Wool Shed sell sheep wool which can deter slugs and snails and breaks down to benefit the soil, while educator Clive Cobie, who manages and owns woodland locally and sustainably, is keen to produce biochar, as well as aerated compost tea and green wood chip for our local allotments. He is planning talks over the summer so we can all learn how this is done.

Horsham is privileged to have ten allotment sites within the town. Although this land is owned by Horsham District Council, most sites have an Allotment Society in which volunteers form a committee to oversee the management and maintenance of their site, which can vary according to the interests of these individuals and their plot holders. If you want to enquire about obtaining a plot on a site near you then go to Most sites though, have a waiting list of three to four years.

There is one Community Allotment plot in the town, on the Chesworth site.  The ethic is low impact and sustainable growing. It’s a great opportunity for local people who are unsure of how and what to grow or don’t want a whole plot themselves.  It has two working parties a week, on Tuesday and Friday mornings, with every fourth Saturday afternoon 2pm to 4pm. There’s lots of chat and ideas aired over tea breaks, and in mid-summer at an evening barbeque. In conjunction with the Community Allotment, Transition Horsham has organised seed swaps and seedling swaps at various venues. If you are interested and would like more information email: .

By Dr. Maggie Weir Wilson