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Plot #59 Trials and Observations

SoilFixer Trial Part I: Compost Preparation

Soilfixer.co.ukA few weeks ago, I was contacted by the folks at soilfixer.co.uk who wanted to know if I’d be interested in trialling their soil improvers.

“We’d like to send you some of a new product we’ve been working on,” they said, “a compost humification agent.”

Humification, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is the process by which organic matter decays into humus, a dark-coloured, sticky substance that’s an extremely important part of the organic fraction of the soil. Humus increases the soil’s water holding capacity and improves nutrient retention, whilst also helping fine, sandy soil particles to clump together into just the sort of lovely, crumb-like granules that provide really good growing conditions for a wide range of allotment crops.

I’m always up for a spot of experimentation, especially if the results are likely to involve improved soil health and/or crop yield – Soilfixer’s notes estimate a 20% – 100% improvement is achievable – so I readily agreed, with thanks.

I was expecting a 500g-ish pack, so was rather surprised when an 18 litre bucket of Soilfixer C.H.A. arrived a week or so later. “Blimey,” I said to meself, “how much compost are they expecting me to humificate..?”

As it turns out, just enough for a 1m x 1m trial plot. I’ll be setting up four such plots on the allotment next year. One will remain untreated, another will have the C.H.A.-enhanced compost incorporated, one likewise with regular (garden) compost, and the fourth with a second product that they’ll be sending me early next year. I’ll then aim to grow the same crops in all four plots – I’m thinking a selection of broad beans, kale, beetroot and turnip, to give a bit of variety – and record the results to see what, if any, noticeable improvements occur.

In the meantime though, I needed to set myself up with a trial batch of C.H.A. compost. Which I sorted out on Saturday, like so:

1) Mix up a blend of fresh green material, dry woody material, half-composted grass waste and nearly-done (one year old) compost in two trugs:

December 2016 C.H.A. trial
Two trugs/buckets of untreated compostables…

2) Open the C.H.A. tub and see what it is I’ve been sent:

Compost Humification Agent from Soilfixer.co.uk
A mix of biochar and other stuff, or so the accompanying paperwork tells me.

3) Add a measure of C.H.A. to one of the trugs at the roughly-prescribed rate and mix well:

December 2016 C.H.A. trial
The trug on the left has a mugful or two of C.H.A. added.

4) Bag up the two mixes in old compost sacks, label the appropriate one, add half a watering can of water, punch drainage holes in the bottom of the bags and then store to let the composting process do its thing:

December 2016 C.H.A. trial
The treated and untreated mixes are bagged and watered before being stored.

That’s pretty much it for now. I’ve not made up a full sack of each as I only need enough for that 1x1m plot to begin with, so I’ll keep an eye on the volume of material in each sack – which will reduce over time – and top them both up if required.

Hopefully by April or May I’ll have two lots of ready-to-use compost and a selection of seeds and/or seedlings to sow/plant out. Then we’ll see what we shall see.

2 replies on “SoilFixer Trial Part I: Compost Preparation”

Hi Darren, I have just been pointed towards your blog and project. I have shared your blog on my FB Compost group to spread the word! I have also sent you a private message.
Regards Dawn

Hi Dawn – Thanks for dropping by. I’m a member of ‘Keep Calm and Make Compost’ on FB, I just haven’t been joining in much recently for one reason or another. Many thanks for the mention though, much appreciated. I’ll try to remember to post links to updates here as and when I put anything out. I’m afraid your message didn’t reach me though – did you send it via FB Messenger? Best best might be to email me via nftallotment {at} gmail.com.

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