In this episode of Sound Builders, we went to Los Angeles, to meet with Mileece. She’s a sonic artist and environmental designer who’s developed the technology to give silent seedlings a portal to their own sonic expression.
Channeling a plant’s sentience into an instrument is no obvious feat. Mileece’s background as an audiophile and programmer dovetailed to turn a garden into an organic medium for music. She pulls this off by attaching electrodes to leafy limbs, which conduct the bio-electric emissions coming off living plants. The micro-voltage then gets sucked into her self-authored software, turning data into ambient melodies and harmonic frequencies.
It’s simply not enough for these green little squirts to just spit out noise. All this generative organic electronic music must sound beautiful, too. As a renewable energy ambassador, Mileece’s larger goal behind her plant music is to enhance our relationship with nature. And if plant music can have a pleasing aesthetic articulation then hopefully we all can give a greater damn about our environment.
While some may see the paradox in an organic medium generating electronic music, Mileece does not. She sees this as a symbiotic relationship, a vital one, and one that hints to a larger relationship she’s been trying to unify, which is that between humans and nature.
English – and Kentish – wine is flourishing, with record harvests and millions of bottles produced.
At the 2018 International Sommelier Awards, English and Welsh wines won more awards than Champagne for the first time. And Champagne house Taittinger has also invested in land in Kent to plant their own vines.
Despite all the accolades, English wine is still somewhat under-appreciated by Brits.
But an entrepreneur from Kent has launched Cycle The Vineyards, to be one of the first to guide small groups on tours to a selection of English vineyards – by bike.
Will Males aims to help cycling and wine lovers get to know the wines better through guided wine tastings and winery tours, as well as enjoying the scenic road biking routes of the South East.
The two-night Wine Garden of England tour stops at four vineyards that are part of the Wine Garden of England group. As well as being able to taste their wines, guests will be provided with food pairings, from platters of local produce for lunch at Hush Heath and Gusbourne Estate, to five and six course meals at Squerryes Winery in Westerham and the Swan at Chapel Down, Tenterden. As an added touch, dinner on the first night of the first tour on May 15 will welcome guests into Squerryes Court – home of the eighth generation of Wardes to live there.
Will, founder of Cycle The Vineyards, said: “We wanted to create something that was more hands-on for guests than your typical wine tasting, so we have worked with the vineyards to create some really exciting experiences on the tours.
“From a ‘sabrage’ masterclass at Chapel Down, to disgorging your own bottle of Gusbourne’s sparkling wine, as well as a private dinner at Squerryes curated by the head chef and their Master of Wine, our tours will be filled with unforgettable moments,” Will added.
The first two tours will run from Wednesday, May 15 to Friday, May 17 and Tuesday, June 26, to Thursday, June 28.
There will be two further two-night tours and two four-night tours running later in the summer.
Use an ice cream cone In the short video, a dry wafer ice cream cone is used to place seeds inside to help them grow. After the seeds have blossomed, the cone is then placed into a larger pot outside where it will eventually naturally decompose. It acts a biodegradable seed starter and will help flowering plants.
Growing green onions in an empty egg carton The next brilliant tip is to regrow green onions in an empty egg carton, instead of throwing them away. Turn the egg container upside down, pierce a small hole in the top and place in the ends of the green onions. Ensure there is water in the bottom and watch them grow overnight.
Rusty nails can help revive plants Not sure how to put your old rusty nails to use? This trick is an easy and smart way to save your plants, using something as simple as an old metal nail. Simply place rusty metal nails with water into a bottle and leave for a few days until the water has turned a brown-like colour. Then pour the water onto your wilting plants and watch their leaves revive again. The rust releases iron which is crucial in helping to nourish dying plants.
A study of England’s farmland has found key earthworm types are rare or absent in two out of five fields and has led to the majority of farmers affected vowing to change the way they farm.
The results indicate widespread, historical over-cultivation, and may explain observed declines in other wildlife, such as the song thrush, that feed on these worms.
The #60minworms project was the first comprehensive worm survey concentrating solely on farmland and was carried out by farmers themselves – 57 percent of whom said they would now change their soil management practices as a result.
The scientist behind the survey, Dr. Jackie Stroud, a NERC Soil Security Fellow at Rothamsted Research, said: “Earthworms are sensitive and responsive to soil management which makes them an ideal soil health indicator. The aim of this research was to find a baseline of farmland earthworm populations that would be useful and used by farmers to assess soil health now and in the future.”
Biologists categorise earthworms by ecological role—with surface dwelling and deep burrowing worms the types most sensitive to farming practices, whilst the topsoil worms are generally unaffected by over-cultivation.
Earthworms perform a number of useful ‘ecosystem services’, and high numbers of earthworms have been linked to enhanced plant productivity.
This new citizen science project published today in the journal PLOS One, has revealed most fields have good earthworm biodiversity – meaning an abundance of all three types of earthworms were seen.
In Spring 2018, the average field had 9 earthworms in every spadeful of soil, with top fields having three times that number. One in 10 fields had high earthworm numbers of more than 16 worms per spadeful.
However, the study also revealed that 42 percent of fields had poor earthworm biodiversity – meaning either very few or none of the surface dwelling and deep burrowing worms were seen.
The absence of deep burrowing worms on 16 percent of fields is concerning, says Dr. Stroud, because they are ‘drainage worms’ with vertical burrows that aid water infiltration and ultimately helps combat waterlogging.
“The deep burrowing worms have slow reproduction rates so recovery in their populations could take a decade under changed management practices. In fact, we know very little about earthworm recovery rates.”
More than 1300 hectares were surveyed from all over England for the project, including fields managed under arable, potatoes, horticulture and pasture.
Each farmer volunteered to dig 10 regularly spaced pits across their field to make the observations, and an identification guide allowed them to allocate any sightings to one of the three main types of earthworm.
The success of this pilot project has already led to a much larger study, which recently concluded, says Dr. Stroud.
“Working with farmers led to the redesign of the pilot survey, culminating in a shorter, more efficient field assessment and a co-created earthworm identification guide, to help improve farmer confidence in earthworm monitoring.
“These improvements were well received, with farmers all over the country spending an hour of their time digging five soil pits and assessing their earthworm populations in the Autumn.”
Empowering farmers to survey their own soils would save about £14 million in soil health monitoring if rolled out nationally, she added.
Healthy Soils were not a headline indicator for the draft DEFRA 25-year plan for the environment, so the DEFRA policy aspiration of achieving sustainable soils is currently unclear.
Despite this, soil health is widely regarded as vital for both farming and the environment.
Dr. Stroud said: “Decisions made above the ground, whether by farmers or policy makers, influence the billions of earthworms that are engineering the soil ecosystem below the ground.
“Earthworms influence carbon cycling, water infiltration, pesticide movement, greenhouse gas emissions, plant productivity, the breeding success of birds and even the susceptibility of plants to insect attack.”
However, she added, as earthworms are sensitive to various farming practices, including tillage, rotations, cover cropping, organic matter additions, and pesticides, we need to do more to look after them.
“Crucially, working together with farmers, we now know typical earthworm numbers in agricultural soils and between us have developed a quick method for ongoing monitoring. Many farmers have reported they plan to survey again this Spring following benchmarking their fields last year.
“Soil health is complicated, but the path to doing things differently has to begin somewhere.”
Here’s a very interesting article by Sarah Johnson, PhD Researcher in Environmental Science, King’s College London.
Not all wildlife is created equal in our eyes. Take the earthworm, which doesn’t have the widespread appeal of larger, more charismatic animals such as gorillas, tigers or pandas. Worms are never going to get a strong “cute response”, and they won’t ever be the face of a conservation campaign.
But what Darwin rightly recognised is that – panda fans avert your eyes – worm conservation is much more important once we factor in their provision of what we now call “ecosystem services”, which are crucial to human survival. Darwin spent 39 years studying these animals for a good reason. In fact, earthworms have even been ranked the number one most influential species in the history of the planet – above dinosaurs and humans.
Why care about the worm?
Ecologists consider earthworms “keystone species” because of how much they influence the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil. Here are just some of the reasons why:
Earthworms are recyclers. They play a crucial role in breaking down organic matter and fertilising the soil, simply through their constant eating and pooping (about 1.5 times their body weight a day). What comes out the other end – known as a worm cast – is full of nutrients and bacteria that are beneficial for plants. Scientists have measured up to five times the amount of key nutrients in worm casts compared to surrounding soil.
A study in Hawaii found that replacing a portion of standard fertiliser with vermicompost (compost from worm casts) increased yields of crops such as tomatoes and strawberries by 30%. It’s hard to generate industrial amounts of worm cast, of course, and vermicompost remains more expensive than commercial fertiliser. But it’s an intriguing example of how earthworms can help humans.
Earthworms are great “soil engineers”. As they move through the soil, earthworms loosen and mix it up, helping to aerate and drain it. This brings nutrients to the surface, making the soil more fertile, and helps prevent flooding and erosion.
Earthworms are barometers of soil health and toxicity. They’re very sensitive to soil pollutants such as pesticide residues or unwanted heavy metals (zinc, lead and so on), and they are badly affected by changes in land use such as deforestation to clear the way for intensive farming. This means the health of local worms is proving to be a useful tool to assess the impact of different land usage and pollutants.
Juicy earthworms are an important food source. They are protein-rich and feed a number of animals, such as the European badger.
Earthworms can help repair damaged soil and may provide solutions to man-made problems. Research suggests that earthworms could help to clean up land contaminated with toxic heavy metals such as lead.
Other studies show how earthworms can speed up the restoration of degraded land in the tropics, while research in northern Vietnam found that reduced earthworm diversity due to land use change also had a significant knock on effect on soil fertility, water drainage and soil erosion.
So, earthworms are our underground allies – if we treat them right. Earthworms make it possible for us to live on the planet, simply by eating and pooping, and ploughing up, ventilating and fertilising the soil along the way.
Climate change and human intervention are fast-tracking the world’s loss of biodiversity. The plight of the tiger in India and the orangutan in Indonesia are well known, but scientists are also becoming concerned about earthworms and other animals that we are less familiar with, but which we can’t afford to lose.
If pandas go extinct, it will be very sad. But, a world without earthworms? Arguably without earthworms in our soils, life could vanish pretty quickly. We would have less food, more pollution, and more flooding.
No matter how cute a panda looks, it is Darwin’s “lowly” earthworms that are doing dirty, but crucial, work in the soil below.
Here’s a great video from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is in Richmond on the outskirts of London, and is one of the most amazing gardens in the world. It has an extraordinary diversity of plants, over 14,000 trees and it is all set within a vast and beautiful landscape layered with history and heritage.
There is always something new happening at Kew Gardens; new festivals, new events, new displays to see and enjoy.
Kew Gardens’ Top Attractions featured here are:
Kew’s Old Lions
These old trees include the ginko (or maiden hair) tree which is one of Kew’s oldest, dating back to 1762 when it was planted by Princess Augusta and Prince Frederick.
A rich history spanning nearly 400 years, it is also here that the original botanic gardens at Kew began. http://bit.ly/1qv5FwY
Built in 1762 for Princess Augusta, the Pagoda is open to the public the first time in eight years. Don’t miss out on a rare opportunity to climb to the top — until September 7th 2014. http://bit.ly/KewPagoda
The Waterlily House
Designed and built in 1852 by Richard Turner, the star in here is the Victoria cruziana, the leaves of which can grow to 1 metre across. We also have the smallest waterlily in the world which no longer exists in the wild — so we’ve saved it from extinction. http://bit.ly/waterlilyhouse
The Marianne North gallery
Showcasing more than 800 paintings of plants and flowers http://bit.ly/marriannenorthgallery
A living library of trees, every tree is a page, every tree has a story – a wealth of information and knowledge.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory
With ten different climatic zones this is the most complex glasshouse at Kew. You can feel the changing environments from the desert to the rain forest. http://bit.ly/TMn9H1
The Davies Alpine House
Where spectacular alpine flowers grow http://bit.ly/1mhqoCN
The Treetop Walkway
At 18m high, you can walk 100m through the tops of the canopies, experiencing the smells and sounds, and getting a bird’s eye view right across the Gardens. http://bit.ly/treetopwalkway
The Palm House
One of the world’s most extraordinary glasshouse structures, it was built in the 1840’s and constructed in a way that meant no supporting columns were needed. It is an amazing and iconic building, both in its design and in the plants that grow inside it. http://bit.ly/KewPalmHouse
One of the most joyous times of year is during the first days of spring when you can watch your garden come to life. Fragrance is bursting forth from beautifully coloured beds and the chirping of happy little birds and lush greenery are all around you.
A springtime garden is a real delight, so full of life and potential, however, there’s also a bit of work involved in maintaining a healthy, beautiful garden so here are some great spring gardening tips.
After winter, you may find that your raised beds are now filled with mud, vegetation laying on the ground needs to be cleaned up and your tools may need a thorough cleaning.
Before starting any large tasks, make sure to check your inventory. Figure out what you have on hand make a list of what you need. This is a great time to stock up on supplies as there may be spring gardening sales near you. Creating a list will help keep you on track and prevent over-buying of things you may not need.
Examine and care for your raised beds.
After winter, your beds may need to be repaired or even replaced. Check to see if there’s anything left alive in them and clear out any dead plants and leaves. Make sure to remove all the weeds and prune overgrown shrubs. Early spring is the best time to work on your raised beds to make sure they will be fresh and ready for planting. This is also the time to Divide your perennials if they’re getting to big. Simply dig them up and divide them. If you have extra, you can give them to your friends, family or neighbors. It’s a nice way to share your gardening experience and you just never know what you might get in return.
Planting, sorting and preparing.
Your ground may be too soggy to plant in right now. If that’s the case, use this time to organize. Sort your plants, cuttings and seeds. Decide which you will plant first, maybe even mark the planting locations on paper or actually at each location with a marker. Kudos to you if you already had your seeds sorted into warm and cold weather categories so you don’t need to do it now, in the spring.
Once your soil is dry enough, start planting your spring cool weather plants. There are many choice when it comes to planting in the spring, including kale, lettuce, radish, broccoli, spinach and peas just to name a few. Remember to use your organic compost to add important nutrients to your soil.
Since seeds are less expensive than plants, you can save some money by planting warm weather plants, indoors and then relocated to the garden once it warms up. These warm weather plants include cucumbers, runner beans, tomatoes, peppers and melons just to name a few.
Repair damage from pests.
Look for mounds of soil which could be indicative of gopher and mole tunnels. Fill in the holes and collapse all the tunnels. Reseed with grass and keep checking to make sure these pests don’t return. Check also for rodents that may have gnawed on your wood, wires, strings and ropes. Also check your bags for chewed holes. Check to make sure pests haven’t moved into your birdhouses.
How are your garden stones structures doing?
After a long winter, take some time to examine your garden stones. Are the stepping stones in your pathway uneven, are there cracks or missing stones in your walls? Do you have tumbling or crooked dry stacked stone walls? Right now is the best time to repair or replace these stone structures.
Take care of your birdhouses.
Spring is a great time of year to clean out your birdhouses. Make sure there’s no mold, mildew or parasites living in them and make sure they are firmly attached and in good condition. If you want to be really helpful, you can leave some piles of nesting material near the birdhouses, which will surely make our feathered friends happy. After you take care of the birdhouses, make sure you don’t neglect the bird feeders and bird baths. These should be scrubbed and carefully examined.
Proper gardening can be a very rewarding, year round endeavor, however here are some ideas for springtime gardening chores:
Remove debris from ponds and other water features.
Clean gutters to facilitate proper plant to water disbursement.
Remove dead wood from trees.
Remove suckers from shrubbery and trees.
Cut perennials back to almost to ground level.
Remove parasites from trees and shrubs.
This is the time to move or plant dormant shrubs and trees.
Scrub out your pots.
Check hoses for leaks, kinks and clogs.
Here are some more simple tips for springtime gardening:
Rotate your crops. This reduces crop specific diseases from building up in the soil and keeps the soil from being depleted of certain nutrients the previous plants thrived on.
Avoid gardening in the rain or walking on wet ground. Doing so can cause the ground to become compacted, ruining the structure of your soil which can cause your roots to suffocate.
When planting rows, run them north to south to allow your crop equal exposure to the sun.
Remember, to use care when digging early in the season as some of your perennials may be slow to appear and difficult to see.
Plant half of your vegetable rows now and the rest a couple of weeks later so you don’t get overwhelmed when it’s time to harvest.
Wondering what UK gardening zone you’re in? Here’s a helpful list of gardening hardiness zones from PlantMaps.com
We are Cowen Landscapes, and landscape gardening and design is our passion. We’d love to speak with you about your garden and landscaping needs in Kent. https://cowenlandscapes.co.uk Please give us a call or send us a message.
01622 320277 The Old Dairy, Court Farm, Thurnham Lane, Maidstone, ME14 3LH