I have to admit, I can be a bit of a magpie when it comes to new growing methods, plants and products. Over the past few years I’ve sown or planted and attempted to grow all sorts of new and intriguing food crops (oca, yacon, Chinese artichoke, cucamelons, tomatilloes, goji berries, wonderberries, to name but a few), plus some interesting-looking varieties of common staples (white and purple carrots, globe cucumbers, trombone-shaped squash) as well as trying out a number of alternative growing methods (crop protection, no-dig) and enhancers (soil / compost improvers, comfrey / nettle fertilisers) just to see what works and what doesn’t.
As a result, I’ve learnt quite a lot (especially, if I’m being honest, about what doesn’t work…) and have come to the general conclusion that whilst it’s fun to try out new and intriguing things, there’s always the opportunity cost to consider – in terms of the time, effort and growing space invested – that doesn’t always pay a good return in terms of the quantity, quality or enjoyability of the end result.
Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for just getting the basics right and doing simple things well. So this year I’m taking a step back from the weird and wonderful and focusing in on the foodstuffs that Jo and I actually like and want to eat on a regular basis and growing them by methods that I’m pretty sure ought to be successful. The aim is to supply as regular a supply as possible of fresh, tasty varieties and cultivars of fruit and veg; particularly ones that we can’t buy in the shops, or can grow much more economically, or in a more environmentally friendly manner, on our own plot.
That means there will be hopefully be lots of beans, squash, onions, elephant garlic, soft fruit, top fruit, asparagus, sweetcorn, courgettes etc. and we’ll feast on fresh fruit and veg all summer and autumn long, then freeze, pickle or dehydrate the surplus to see us through the winter months.
However, I will be still be running two rather interesting trials this year: one on a new bit of growing kit and one on a new bit of growing media production kit.
Trial #1 – Melcourt Peat-Free Planter (vs. growbag)
First up: a brand new growbag product, one that’s full of organic, peat-free Sylvamix growing medium.
The plan is to use it to grow a pair of tomato plants down in the Plot #59 greenhouse, alongside another pair grown in a bog-standard, supermarket-bought grow-bag. I’ll be keeping track of the plants’ general progress and taking a look at things like texture and moisture retention within the growing media itself, as well as weighing and recording the (surely bumper!) harvest as the season progresses.
Trial #2: Soilfixer’s SuperComposter
A few weeks ago, the folks at Soilfixer put the word out that they were on the look-out for potential trialists to test their new SuperComposter hot composting system. Anything to do with composting – especially composting well and composting quickly – tends to get my attention, so I immediately put my hand up for the assignment…
…and I was picked! Which means that I, along with four other keen composteers, have been selected to beta-test said SuperComposter before the design is finalised for market. The 300l version (the smaller of two) is on the way and I’ll be installing it down on #plot59, taking pics and sharing details here on Notes From the Allotment, with progress reports to follow.