Please Note: This website is out of date. The Steward Community Woodland sustainable living project ended in 2018 for legal and planning permission reasons. The contents have been left here as a historical archive.

Growing food at Steward Wood has its own special complexities:

The underlying granite of this part of Devon causes the natural soil to be stony and acidic; combined with the high rainfall here, nutrients are washed out of uncovered ground.

Altitude may have a subtle effect on some of the plants we wish to grow – maritime plants in particular seem not to thrive. We have slightly cooler temperatures and higher rainfall relative to sea-level.

Mice, voles, deer and the huge red wood ants all do their bit to munch through seeds, young annual plants and even established perennials. We can’t complain really as this is the sort of thing you get when you live in a wood. 

A temperate ‘traditional vegetable garden’ demands full sun, no competition from nearby perennials, flattish ground and near-neutral, fertile soil. We don’t have any spaces like this in the woods! But we don’t clear trees to make way for food growing – this is the kind of deforestation that, on a larger scale, is helping to mess up our planet.

There are strong arguments for trying to grow your own food, however problematic it seems. These include less damage to the planet, control over how food is grown, and the beauty and taste of just-from-the-garden fresh vegetables! These points may seem small, but they encompass ways of empowering ourselves and taking responsibility for the environmental and social impacts of our consumption.

So, while our food producing space is a very small proportion of the woods, we do grow food in different settings and utilising different methods (all without pesticides) and want to increase the amount we produce.

Last updated: 2009-04-25

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