Live Chat from Veganic Gardeners’ Question Time Episode 1

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00:13:17 Eva Lindberg: Hello, I am glad to join! Eva from Sweden
00:21:34 Karen Wilson: I have trouble with slugs and snails and want to manage them veganically please
00:23:23 Colleen Pereira: Karen, I have the same. I use wire half-moon loops which I cover with netting and stake that netting close into the ground. I actually use those convoluted mesh things that you shower with – once they are old and finished. I simply boil them and use them. I do this for my radishes and other root crops.
00:25:27 Karen Wilson: Thank you Colleen, that’s definitely something to look at.
00:25:53 Colleen Pereira: The holes in the mesh are too small for molluscs to pass through. If you can get hold of leopard slugs – they eat the others. And leave off manures and fertilizers – that attracts the molluscs.
00:27:11 Karen Wilson: I do have leopard slugs and I’m trying to cover the area with sharp wood chippings from my garden shredder.
00:28:26 Colleen Pereira: Karen, what also defers them are citrus peels scattered all over the planting area.
00:29:07 Karen Wilson: That’s a good tip thank you
00:30:03 Colleen Pereira: Karen, some people also use coffee grounds to dissuade them from coming in. And coffee grounds also tend to enrich the soil.
00:30:40 Karen Wilson: Marvellous!
00:32:34 paul paine: if you don’t want to waste avocado stones you can try this…
00:32:48 Colleen Pereira: We grew all three in Natal in South Africa.
00:37:58 Sue Nicholson: Very difficult to source Happy Compost and other vegan friendly compost at the moment
00:39:33 Jake Rayson: Sue, it is possible to bulk buy peatfree compost, I put together a leaflet for gardening clubs for #PeatFreeApril
00:39:48 Jake Rayson: Might be too much for 1 person tho!
00:41:32 Jake Rayson: Smallest amount is from Fertile Fibre, they do 1/4 pallets, but it is pricey
00:41:50 Sue Nicholson: Thanks Jake will follow up
00:43:36 Petra Wynbrandt: Do you consider vermicomposting or purchasing bags of worm castings to be veganic?
00:45:12 Carl Duffin: Leaving the lower leaves is great until the slug has eaten the whole seedling in its first week in the soil!
The answer to this has been to have back-up at home to replace or to use the damaged spot to grow something else – often a spot will be bad for one plant but ok for another.
00:45:16 paul paine: I use hops from the brewery as a mulch on my beds…
00:45:33 paul paine: my whole plot smells like IPA!
00:47:26 Jake Rayson: Re slugs, this is one of the reasons I want to transition to perennial vegetables. I always find it’s the seedlings that are most vulnerable
00:48:47 Anna Clayton: Claver Hill in Lancaster uses no dig on a 3 acres site- great!

00:49:15 Carl Duffin: One great thing against slugs is a pond, which will attract the slug’s arch enemy – the frog!
00:49:36 Colleen Pereira: Jake, that is true – re the seedlings. And especially when it rains. What I have done in the past was to grow them to a certain height indoors and then put them in the ground.
00:49:48 Karen Wilson: Yes Carl, I just built a wildlife pond and do have a frog!
00:50:21 Carl Duffin: Good job Karen 🙂
00:50:30 Jake Rayson: Yay for wildlife ponds!
00:50:49 Colleen Pereira: Carl, also if you can get a hedgehog or two to take up residence – that works too!
00:51:21 Jake Rayson: @Colleen how do you encourage a hedgehog to take residence?
00:51:32 Sue Nicholson: I’ve just built a wildlife pond and am hoping!!
00:51:41 Carl Duffin: I’ve never found coffee grounds to be successful against slugs – tried rings around seedlings and they still got munched.
00:52:28 Karen Wilson: Clay soil, my purple sprouting broccoli has done very well
00:52:34 Colleen Pereira: @Jake – who knows? I just had one move in for a while and then I never saw her again.
00:52:52 Carl Duffin: I have an open compost heap and also a hog-house in a quiet part of the plot but neither have been used by hedgehogs – yet …
00:53:35 Karen Wilson: Carl, they need to be able to get in the garden. On Hedgehog Street, you need about 7 gardens joined up?
00:54:27 Karen Wilson: hedgehogs – They say make a hole in fence or a hole under it to allow them to move along the territory.
00:54:32 Carl Duffin: My allotment plot is in the centre of a large allotment site. Unfortunately, most plotholders use slugs pellets.
00:54:53 Sue Nicholson: Would you still need cardboard if you used upended turf?
00:55:00 Colleen Pereira: This was great! Big thank you to VON!!!
00:55:02 Karen Wilson: Oh no, that kills hedgehogs and their babies!
00:55:20 Karen Wilson: Yes big thank you VON 🙂
00:55:27 Jake Rayson: 😞 need to spread the education about slug pellets to allotmenteers
00:55:38 Carl Duffin: True KAren, although new rules on the plot say not to use copper slug pellets, ferrous only.
00:55:52 paul paine: thanks everyone. very enjoyable. And far better than the BBC version!
00:55:58 Colleen Pereira: Y’alls, do you know you can eat the greens from radishes, beetroots and carrots?
00:56:08 Jake Rayson: Thank you all panellists and everyone! Learnt a lot, really useful 😀
00:56:40 Carl Duffin: THANK YOU 🙂
00:56:52 Anna Clayton: Thank you
00:56:58 Amanda Stracey: Thanks everyone.
00:57:01 Karen Wilson: Colleen Ive eaten carrot and beetroot tops
00:57:08 Carl Duffin: and thank you to everyone on Webinar chat!
00:57:10 Sue Nicholson: Really helpful session
00:57:43 Colleen Pereira: Beetroot leaf curry is magic!

Free Download of all Issues of Growing Green International

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Covers vegan organic network magazine vegetarian animal free

VON’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

How the world has just changed in just 3 months. In the United Kingdom we are now in our 2nd week of lock down and no real idea of when normality will be restored, or even what the new ‘normality’ will look like.

It is very hard to forecast for instance how food supplies will be affected over the short (we have seen hoarding), medium (changes to supply chains such as reduction in variety) and longer term (workforce, distribution issues).

In the last few weeks there has been a surge in interest in ‘growing your own’ both on social and in mainstream media. In response to this VON has decided to make all of the back issues of Growing Green International Magazine freely available to the public (rather than just members) until the end of June 2020, to help encourage more people to grow fresh fruit and veg during this challenging period. We hope that this will enable some people who have suffered financially or who cannot for any reason get access to healthy food.

VON would really appreciate your help spreading this offer via Instagram, Facebook, email, websites or in any other way you can by using the text below.

Many thanks, Tony (Editor of GGI)

The Vegan Organic Network has been running for over 20 years producing Growing Green International magazine (currently issue 44). Our purpose is to encourage the growing of fruit and veg without the use of animal products or chemicals. We have a wide range of articles including biochar, pollinators, growing mushrooms etc, and a regular section from permaculture teacher Graham Burnett.

As some people are having problems getting fresh fruit and vegetables due to the disruption caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Vegan Organic Network is giving open access to all back issues of GGI Magazine until the end of June 2020 (normally only available to members). Please feel free to link to and/or share any or all of the 44 issues (over 1700 pages) as well as our growers guide “Growing Veganically”

Link to free download


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We are longstanding VON members. Due to changed family circumstances we are with great sadness leaving the UK. We wish to sell our house and c.10 acres of land as soon as possible. We have had an informal valuation by a local estate agent of around £580,000 but we would obviously prefer it to go to fellow vegans and would reduce the price to genuine vegan purchaser/s.

The location is approximately 10 miles north of Shrewsbury.

There is a three-bedroom detached cottage, large lounge, conservatory, utility room, etc., the oldest part dating from c.1780, and also a separate large oak-framed and -clad building which we had built five years ago as a workroom and office, but which could quickly and easily be adapted as accommodation for a second family (subject to Change of Use Consent), about an acre of garden with a polytunnel, a further approx. 1 acre which was probably once used as a paddock, but which we have allowed to grow wild, apart from planting a few apple trees, and a further 8 acre field which drains well into the nearby river. We have fenced off a small corner of the field and are trying to encourage tree growth as an extension of existing neighbouring woodland. There is a detached double garage, and further parking space.

The garden has several heritage apple trees, mulberry, quince, medlar, sloe, pear, damsons, morello cherry and a productive fig tree as well as a wide range of hardy perennials and shrubs. The polytunnel has a white dessert grapevine.

The cottage has two log-burners, and the workroom has three Fischer ceramic-core programmable storage heaters. An Economy 7 day/night tariff is in force for the property. We have solar photovoltaic panels fitted to both house and workroom totalling up to c. 4kw feed-in capacity. As well as lowering electricity consumption, this also produces Feed-In earnings in excess of £1000pa (actually £1070 in 2019, and index-linked). The workroom also has a solar thermal panel, so plenty of free hot water in spring/summer/early autumn.

There is an hourly daytime bus service to Shrewsbury (2-hourly to Oswestry) from the village two miles away, and there is a closed (by Beeching in the ‘60s) railway station in the village through which trains pass hourly, which has been the subject of a vigorous local re-opening campaign which, after many years, now looks like it may be successful in the fairly near future. Otherwise, the nearest stations are Shrewsbury (c.10m), Gobowen (c.11m) and Yorton (c.8m). Rail-based connectivity to Hereford/Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Telford/Birmingham, Wrexham/Chester, Merseyside, Manchester and North Wales is therefore reasonably good.

When we moved here 14 years ago we inherited an informal tenant with the field, a small local farmer who was using it to grow wheat and barley. The previous owners had agreed with him that in return for a low-ish rent he would not use chemicals. We extended this to exclude animal slurry.

He recently retired and asked us if a local smallholder who had lost the use of some land he had been renting could keep some cows on it. Obviously we weren’t keen but as we knew this person and he certainly looks after his cattle a lot better than the average animal exploiter we reluctantly agreed on a short-term basis, and have now told him that he has 3 months to make other arrangements.

We would like to complete the sale by mid-summer preferably, but absolutely by, say, August, so please, if you think you might be seriously interested, call us on 07986 457523 and leave a message, we’ll call you back the same day.

If we haven’t heard from anyone who thinks this genuinely might be right for them, we have it in mind to instruct estate agents formally no later than mid-March, so please don’t delay if you want to come and have a look.

Self-fertilizing gardens

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Quick intro

Self-fertilizing gardens are a way of growing fruits and vegetables through creating diverse ecosystems that rely mainly on natural processes. These gardens have permanent raised beds, with water points and trees, to create a system that largely self-regulates. Self-fertilizing gardens (SFG) are part of the wider world of permaculture, since this method of gardening minimizes human actions and management, and allows nature to play its role. 

The self-fertilizing approach is based on the synergistic garden approach from Emilia Hazelip of France, and was further developed by Rejean Roy of Quebec (learn more here). Emilia’s focus was adapting permaculture and Fukuoka’s natural farming to temperate climates, and her first inspiration was nature itself, based on how undisturbed ecosystems would work.

The self-fertilizing garden approach has been taught for years in Quebec. This article focuses on sharing the principles, techniques and influences so that others can try the same method, in complement with the instructional article How to Make a Self-Fertilizing Garden.

The basics – Do’s and don’ts

In self-fertilizing gardens, the soil is seen as a living organism that needs air, water and nourishment in order to thrive. The priority is to protect and care for the soil and the surrounding ecosystem, while also reducing the amount of time and hard work spent in the garden. Self-fertilizing gardens include:

  • Permanent raised beds
  • Permanent soil cover
  • Surface compost
  • Diversity of plants and families in each bed
  • The presence of living roots at all times in the beds (e.g. perennials plants, overlapping crops)
  • The use of the vertical plane (e.g. climbing plants in the centre of the beds)
  • Biodiversity settings (e.g. ponds, hedges, trees)

Self-fertilizing gardens work directly with natural processes to maintain fertility and equilibrium, so no inputs are used in the gardens, and we avoid interference with the natural cycles of the soil and the plants:

  • No chemicals (pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones)
  • No tilling
  • No digging (aside from the first year)
  • No bare soil
  • No monoculture
  • No compaction
  • No added compost (with the possible exception of demanding transplants)
  • No treating plants (i.e. for insects, illness, etc).
  • No pulling out plants (except for root vegetables)

Interrelated elements: beds, water points, trees

The three main elements that we find in self-fertilizing gardens are the beds, the water points and the trees.

The beds are the places for plants to grow. In each bed, we find annual and perennial plants from different families with different shapes and needs. Between them, paths allow us to walk and reach the middle of the beds without compacting the growing area.

The water points attract, retain and protect a diversity of animals, including natural predators. An irregular shape increases the pond’s perimeter, creating a more productive environment from a similar area. The depth should also be irregular, offering a larger range of habitat. These small ponds (from a few centimetres deep to many meters deep) can have many positive effects: 
 Store water 
 Control competing species 
 Habitat for wildlife 
 Heat accumulator 
 Grey water treatment system 
 Reflect light for house and greenhouse 
 Can serve as a pool

Trees are another essential part in the design because of their multiple functions, not only as food, fuel and wood producers, but also for a wide range of other beneficial impacts. Here are a few of their functions:

 Bring up nutrients from deep down 
 Fertilize soil by providing organic material: leaves, branches, bark, wood and root exudates 
 Encourage soil activity (micro-organisms, myccorhizal fungi)
 Prevent soil erosion by keeping the soil together 
 Take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and give oxygen 
 Absorb atmospheric pollutants 
 Accumulate carbon 
 Host natural predators and attract natural pollinators 
 Create shade 
 Beautify the landscape 
 Act as a wind break (reduce soil erosion, reduce heat costs, allow snow accumulation to protect soil) 
 Provides food, medicinal compounds, building materials, energy, fertilizers

The interaction between these three elements (beds, water points and trees) produces a whole that is bigger than the sum of each separate part.

Creating a self-fertilizing garden

To create a self-fertilizing garden, we make permanent raised-beds and permanent pathways, as well as installing water points and planting supporting perennial plants. Check out the article Creating a self-fertilizing garden for detailed instructions with photos.

Nature’s principles

According to practitioners of self-fertilizing gardens, certain principles need to be respected, in terms of soilplants, landscape and biodiversity settings, and avoiding harm. If we have difficulties with diseases or insects, we should revisit these ideas and ask ourselves if certain principles have been neglected.

Soil principles

The soil is the most important aspect. All plants and animals originate from it. And like us, the soil breathes, drinks and eats.

Always keep the soil covered with organic material: this prevents the sun, the water and the wind from touching the ground. It prevents erosion, keeps moisture in, brings nourishment for the soil life and, as a side effect, brings nutrients to the plants.

How to keep the soil covered
 Living mulch, ground cover plants (i.e. strawberries, clover)
 Mulch with dead plants (i.e. grass or meadow clippings, leaves, straw, hay) 
 The mulch needs to be produced in the surroundings of the garden.

The sun mustn’t touch the ground: otherwise, it raises the soil temperature, which increases evaporation and hardens the soil. This creates an environment less favourable for life. 
 To be useful, the sun’s light must touch the plants. Plants use the sun’s energy to create new plant material and sugars through photosynthesis.. Sunlight that touches the ground is lost.

Weeding is done manually 
 In a non-compacted soil, weeds are easier to pull out

Plant principles

A diversity of plants is essential to keep the soil alive. Each species has a different root system; each one needs and produces different compounds; and each one attracts different insects and micro-organisms.

 as opposed to monoculture, polyculture means there are a diversity of plants grown together, with no sizeable areas with only one type of crop. 
 Association (mixed cropping) with a minimum of three families of plants per bed, the best being seven per bed. 
 Density should be as dense as possible

 In a succession, we just avoid planting the same kind of plant in the same place the following year, though there is no formal multi-year crop rotation. 
 Plan the succession for each bed (yearly), as well as ensuring there are plants growing everywhere throughout the seasons (spring, summer, autumn). 
 Think in three dimensions (including the vertical plane).
Ex. A row of climbing beans in the middle of the bed, with cabbage on one side and carrots on the other, and courgettes on each end.

Keep roots permanently in the soil 
 The roots is the location in the soil where there is the most intense activity. 
 Never pull them out, apart from root crops like carrots or beetroot.


Never take the plants out of the growing area (i.e. to make compost) 
 Removing plants is time consuming 
 Taking them out means that the nutrients contained in the roots, leaves and stems are removed from the gardens 
 The micro-organisms are taken away 
 Composting these plants is less efficient and brings losses (i.e. heat, leakage). 
 To finish a crop, just cut the plants at their base and let them compost directly on the beds.

Varied types of roots 
Ensure that plants with different types of root systems are planted in the same bed. In particular, do not plant several root vegetables side by side, as there will no longer be living plants in the soil when they’re all pulled out. Plant a mixture of root systems together: nitrogen-fixers next to perennials next to root vegetables, etc.

 Pulled out (i.e. radish, carrot, potato, parsnip, beetroot) 
 Dead and kept in place (i.e. tomato, sunflower, broccoli, lettuce) 
 Nitrogen fixing plants = legume (i.e. pea, bean, lupine, alder) 
 Roots that survive through winter = perennial or biannual (i.e. trees, rhubarb, gooseberry, forget-me-not) 
 Roots of the onion family protect other crops (i.e. onion, garlic, chive, leek)

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Exemple a bed design

Introducing plants with complementary functions
(mainly on the sides, ends and outline of the bed) 
 Sweet smelling plants (herbs) 
 Medicinal plants 
 Climbing plants

Let plants finish their cycle 
 This also allows you to get seeds.

Introduce as many perennial plants as possible 
 They host wildlife, start earlier in the spring, and save time not having to restart them from seeds every year.

Permanent landscape

Start small: also keep in mind the development for the coming years.

Fill the beds with plants: these permanent beds are the space reserved for plants.

Keep pathways between the beds: these permanent pathways are the space reserved for humans.

Permanent watering systems: it’s recommended to install drip systems under the mulch.

Develop a vertical plane: install permanent props and stakes.

Recreate natural landscapes: lets nature do the work. 
 water ponds: 10% of the area 
 trees: 10% of the area 
 habitat for allies (beneficial insects and others): piles of stones, heaps of old wood, perches for birds, sacred sites for humans.

Avoid harmful action in the garden

Let the organisms do the work for which they exist.

Care for the soil 
 No compaction 
 No tilling, never work the soil 
 Don’t bury plant residues: leave them on the surface

Don’t rest the soil (no fallow) 
 Without roots, the bacteria and micro-organisms will die 
 Without micro-organisms, the soil is dead 
 Only a dead, forced-fed and unbalanced soil needs rest 
 On the contrary, we must keep the soil active, like us!

No external inputs 
 No pesticides 
 No fertilizer (chemical, mineral, animal, compost, lime, basalt) 
 No inputs of mulch or leaves from outside the garden area (initially you can use local sources of leaves and mulch if needed, but make sure you plant perennials by the garden that will later provide mulch from your own land) 
 No wood ashes 
 No compost (except in the transplantation hole for demanding plants) 
 No purposeful additions of allies (i.e. natural predators)

Never regulate a deficiency 
 By correcting it, we create a new one

Use plants that are indicators 
 For acid soil, use for example mustard and buckwheat (cut it without burying it)

Accept intruders and some loss of plants 
 Accept certain plant losses without treating with organic pesticides, as this will help a more complex biodiversity become reinstated 
 Only treat with organic pesticides when you consider the losses significant or interruptive (e.g. when at least 10% of the crops are affected)

No sprinkled water 
 The plants should be watered with a drip-irrigation system, or by using a hose to water at the base of the plants. If we sprinkle water on the leaves and stems, this can lead to fungal growth.

Avoid buying any unnecessary materials

Source your plants and seeds 
 No use of hybrids (if you want to keep seeds) 
 No use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

A few words about compost

Compost is not a direct part of the fertility in this growing system, other than the plants which decompose straight in the garden as they would in nature. But for sustainability, having a compost pile is still an important action for the environment for any organic waste you have at home. Two different types of compost could be done.

Kitchen waste compost

To avoid filling the landfill and losing these precious nutrients, keep all your kitchen waste (i.e. peelings, rotting vegetables, leftovers) and make a compost heap. Attention should be given to having one part of green (nitrogen rich, soft or slimy) for about two parts of brown (carbon rich, dry and fibrous). Straw, leaf mould and dried grass clippings are particularly good when added to kitchen waste. Mix it well and let it compost. Cover the heap with plastic or a roof to prevent nutrient lost and water clogging.

The resulting compost is perfect to start seedlings. Potting mix can be made by mixing one part compost, one part soil and one part leaf mould. Also, for highly demanding plants (i.e. brassica), a handful of this compost can be added in the hole when transplanting.

Humanure compost

In order to close the cycle of nutrients, ideally human wastes should also be composted and returned to the soil. While this may seem unappealing at first, in our current system we defecate in our drinking water supply, which brings a heavy environmental toll for the resulting sewage treatment. In home gardening, composted humanure doesn’t need to be used in the vegetable gardens: it can be used on surrounding trees and shrubs, eventually bringing nutrients back to the gardens through the leaves. To learn about the options available for composting humanure, check out the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins free online. Note that humanure must be composted using specific techniques in order to be safe, so proper research must be done ahead of time.

History and influences

At the Veganic Agriculture Network, we originally learned about self-fertilizing gardens through workshops being offered in Quebec by Rejean Roy. He was influenced by the work of Emilia Hazelip, who came to Quebec in the late 90’s to teach her method called synergistic gardens, before she passed away in 2003. Emilia’s work was inspired by permaculture principles and by Masanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming, and she aimed to adapt these ideas to temperate climates. From Emilia and Rejean’s teachings, hundreds of people have taken classes in self-fertilizing techniques, mostly in Quebec and France.

While the ideas of self-fertilizing gardens may at first seem radical, their origins are numerous and many people directly or indirectly influenced them. To give an idea of this interconnected web of knowledge and experience, here are a few of the people that stand out:

Hans Peter Rusch (Switzerland) developed a method to evaluate the soil fecundity (productivity and fertility). He found similarities between the way the soil and the human body work. He described the two main zones that we find in the soil (the decomposition area = the litter; and the assimilation zone = the rhizosphere). He also observed and introduced the idea of the cycle of living compounds (plants don’t build themselves only with mineral elements, but also with macromolecules and virus-like compounds). So he stressed the importance of doing surface compost to feed the soil and prevent soil disturbance.

Masanobu Fukuoka (Japan) developed the natural farming approach with the four do-nothing principles: no chemicals, no treatments, no compost and no till. He brought forward the importance of observing Nature.

David Holmgren and Bill Mollison (Australia) first introduced the concept of permaculture. This holistic approach for designing an integrated and sustainable environment rests on three core ethics: earthcare, peoplecare and fairshare.

John Jeavons (United States) stated the importance of a light, uncompacted and deep soil (he was using double digging) to produce more vegetables on a smaller area. He experimented with high density cropping with companion planting to increase productivity while creating a micro-climate.

Ruth Stout (United States) proved the feasibility of permanent mulches for vegetable growing and showed the efficiency in reducing time and hard work in the garden. Already in 1930, she was gardening stockfree (veganically).

Gilles Lemieux (Canada) did research on the importance of Chipped Branch Wood as a way of sustaining life in the soil, reversing the process of soil degradation (called aggradation) and ensuring long term fertility. All of our good quality soils comes first from forest land, and we can recreate this when fungus (basidiomycetes) transform this woody material into stable humus.

Robert Hart (England) presented forest gardening with the seven different layers of vegetation (canopy trees, dwarf trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, root plants, ground cover plants, climbers).

Robert Kourik (United States) has been designing diversified landscapes that can be both aesthetic and edible, with an emphasis on the importance of varied root systems.

Allan Smith (Australia) explained the existence and the importance of the ethylene cycle and the way it works. The natural cycling between oxygen and ethylene gases in untilled soils leads to increased mobilisation of nutrients and resistance to plant pathogens. It takes three years to come back after we stop disturbing the soil.

And even if none of these people were specifically focused on veganic techniques, these are great pieces of information from here and there that fit together into the larger picture of self-fertilizing gardens.

Recommended links

 French veganic website with information and photos about self-fertilizing gardens 
 Photojournal of creating a self-fertilizing garden with instructor Rejean Roy, Quebec 2005 
 Photojournal of a self-fertilizing garden for a full season, Victoriaville Quebec 2005 
 Photojournal of creating a self-fertilizing garden, Isle-aux-Coudres, spring 2005 
 Information in French about self-fertilizing gardens


Synergistic Garden 
 Film with Emilia Hazelip (English version) about the synergistic gardening technique (this technique was the forerunner of self-fertilizing gardens; there are only minor differences between the two techniques).


 Plants for a (database of all useful plants)


 Soil food web, learn more about the ecosystem within the soil