Category: Trials and Observations

Soilfixer Trial Part V: First Results

I’ve harvested the first batch of produce from the SoilFixer trial beds down on Plot #59.

Quick Recap

I’ve been carrying out a soil improvement product trial this year at the invitation of the folks at SoilFixer.co.uk, testing two of their compost and/or soil enhancement products, versus ordinary compost and untreated soil.

It’s a very rough, ready and rather unscientific method that I’m following: I set up four small raised beds, planted broad beans and sowed two varieties each of turnip and beetroot. In mid-June I reported on the good growth so far.

Harvesting

I took a look at the beds last weekend and realised that it was past time to pick some crops. I freely admit, I’ve left the harvesting a bit too late, and should probably have done so sooner, but Jo and I were on holiday in mid-July and things have been hectic before and since.

There was really no point in picking the broad beans; the blackfly had all-but wiped them out and the few pods left on the plants had all gone over anyhow. So, I decided that for comparison purposes I’d lift the four largest ‘Boldor F1’ golden beetroot (the ‘Detroit 2’ don’t look like they’re worth harvesting yet) and the largest ‘Purple Top Milan’ turnip. Just the one? Well, yes, because frankly I’d let them get a bit out of hand:

July 2017 SoilFixer Harvest
Nice-looking golden beetroot and… turnip, or deadly weapon? You decide.

Here are the results, table-wise:

Bed Crop Weight
One (C.H.A. Compost) Boldor F1 Beetroot 290g
  Purple Top Milan Turnip 935g
Two (Compost) Boldor F1 Beetroot 305g
  Purple Top Milan Turnip 1147g
Three (Soil & SF60) Boldor F1 Beetroot 414g
  Purple Top Milan Turnip 1678g
Four (Plain Soil) Boldor F1 Beetroot 371g
  Purple Top Milan Turnip 1141g

And here’s a quick graph I threw together:

That’s right folks, I’ve picked almost 5kg of turnips so far, and there are plenty more to come. If anyone knows any good turnip recipes, please do post links or details in the comments (I’m begging you…)

Conclusions?

Well, what can I say? Based on this very small and not-at-all statistically significant sample there’s a clear winner in terms of yield – the soil that had been enhanced with SoilFixer’s SF60 product – as long as by ‘yield’ we mean sheer mass, rather than anything relating to how usable and tasty the veg might actually be. (I hasten to add that the beetroot were fine, it’s the massive turnips I’m worried about.)

Would I be happy to use SF60 again? Most certainly, and I plan to use up the rest of the tub I was sent in next year’s greenhouse containers. Likewise, I’ll be adding a good scoop or two of C.H.A. to my home compost bin when I put the lid on it at the end of the year.

But would I be happy to put my hand in my pocket and buy a supply of SF60 or C.H.A. for my personal use? Well, that will depend on my doing some further testing, and also reading the results of the other triallists’ efforts (which were hopefully a bit more usefully clear-cut than mine).

Hedging my bets, I’d say that if I was trying to grow a specimen crop – super-hot chillies, say, or something tropical in a greenhouse, or a heritage vegetable that I wanted to save seed from – and wanted to give my growing medium a boost, then I think SF60 would be a good product to use. Commercial growers might want to investigate further.

I’m not so sure about the C.H.A. for my own use. I don’t think my compost quality requirements are stringent enough to require much in the way of amendment. Again, if I was producing a lot of compost for a commercial or specimen growing project then it might be worth trying. But I’d need to see more evidence of a clear-cut and dramatic compost improvement before I’d be able to commit.

Room For Methodological Improvement

On reflection (hindsight being a wonderful thing) I could have designed and executed the trial much better; either by growing a smaller selection of crops, or even a single crop – ideally one that wasn’t quite as prone to pest-problems as broad beans (blackfly) or cabbages (slugs) – and assessing how many plants of usable size and quality had been grown by a particular date. Either that or growing something simple to assess, like potatoes (again though, potential pest and disease problems there) and simply harvesting them all at once and weighing the yield from each bed. Or I could have tried something like strawberries; grown the same variety, then assessed both yield and flavour with a blind taste test.

I could also have done better with the production of the compost used in the first two beds. Unfortunately I used too much touch grass in the original mix (the stems didn’t break down properly) and the bags I used didn’t drain as well as I’d hoped. Plus, I started the compost off late, or rather, early in the year, which didn’t give it enough time to break down fully into the humus-rich material that the C.H.A. product is designed to produce.

What I can (and will) do next is harvest the rest of the turnips and beetroot from the trial beds and weigh them, to add to the data-set, on the off-chance that clarifies anything. Although after eating a few meals’ worth of roasted beetroot, I reckon that’s going to leave me with around 25kg of turnip to dispose of. They’ll be destined for a return trip to the compost heap, unless I can think of something more intelligent to do with them. I know for a fact there not room in the freezer for that much turnip soup…

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

A Quick Mint-Cuttings Experiment – Conclusion

Back in April and May I posted about three different mint cuttings that I’d taken from an old ‘Eau de Cologne’ mint plant that I wanted to propagate.

Here are the original cuttings again, for reference:

April 2017 mint cuttings
Various amounts of stem, root and leaf left on the propagules, to see which, if any, perform better.

All three cuttings have grown strongly in the nearly three months since they were taken and potted.

July 2017 mint cutting

This cutting was taken mostly bare stem, with a small amount of leaf, seen at the bottom of the original pic. The main stem has developed really nicely, there are several leafy side-shoots developing, and runners have begun to colonise the edges of the pot as the plant seeks to expand its territory. All signs of a healthy mint plant.

July 2017 mint cutting

This cutting was originally taken as a length of bare stem only, seen top right in the original pic. Again, once main stem has grown well and started sending out both side shoots and runners to extend its reach around the pot. Growth hasn’t been quite as vigorous as it was for the plant that started off with a little extra leaf on it as well.

July 2017 mint cutting

Finally, this cutting was one that was taken with a couple of decent-sized leaf clusters attached and it seems to have performed the best of the three. Growth is strong on two main stems, and a strong runner has circled a third of the inside of the pot and sent up another vertical stem.

To conclude this brief and not-very-scientific-at-all observation: it seems as though the best way to take mint cuttings might be to trim a length of stem that has one or two leafy nodes already in growth, rather than just a bare length of stem, but the latter method clearly works just fine as well. This does make some sense: the leaves will provide energy through photosynthesis that the cutting can use to establish its new roots.

On the other hand, if the cuttings were taken at a different time of year, the rate of moisture loss from the leaves might have depleted the cutting’s stores before it could take, and killed it. And of course, this conclusion doesn’t take into account all the various and sundry factors that could have affected the relative growth of these three particular plants, such as the possibility that predation – they all look a little slug-bitten in places – could have held them back at times. But it was an interesting little test to run.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

Soilfixer Trial Part IV: Strong Growth So Far

Let’s take a look at how the SoilFixer trial beds are coming along.

Quick Recap

I’m participating in a trial for Soilfixer.co.uk, testing two of their compost / soil enhancement products against regular compost and plain soil. In mid-April I’ve set up four small raised beds, and planted broad beans and sowed two varieties each of turnip and beetroot in each. The simple aim of the trial is to assess whether the product-enhanced beds result in better crops.

Planting and Sowing

Each bed was planted with two broad bean ‘The Sutton’ plants (stated off in modules in the greenhouse, in identical, shop-bought compost). I also direct-sowed a row each of beetroot ‘Detroit 2’ and ‘Boldor F1’, and turnip ‘Purple Top Milan’ and ‘Petrowski’.

Good, Strong Growth

The beetroot and turnip seeds germinated well – I made a note that the germination in the SF60 bed seemed to be slightly stronger than the others, although not by much – and, along with the broad beans, have grown strongly in all four beds. Here’s a quick comparison of just one bed (the plain soil control bed) to give you an idea of how much growth they’ve put on:

May 25th – Just over a month after planting / sowing, and following an earlier thinning of every row, and everything is starting to grow away nicely:

May 25th 2017 - trial bed #4
May 25th 2017 – trial bed #4

May 31st – A few days later and the increase in leaf-mass on the turnips in particular is quite considerable:

May 31st 2017 - trial bed #4
May 31st 2017 – trial bed #4

June 11th – Another 12 days’ worth of growth and the plants were beginning to choke each other:

June 11th 2017 - trial bed #4
June 11th 2017 – trial bed #4

At this point all four beds were thinned to 10 or 11 beetroot and six turnips per row.

Comparison

As for the comparative growth rates between the four beds, I have to say that there’s not much in it at this stage. Here are the four beds on the 25th May, which probably gives the clearest indication of how the individual plants were growing, before the mass of foliage makes differentiation difficult:

(Click on the images for a larger version, if you’re interested in more detail, and your screen-size allows)

May 25th 2017 - trial bed #1
May 25th 2017 – trial bed #1
May 25th 2017 - trial bed #2
May 25th 2017 – trial bed #2
May 25th 2017 - trial bed #3
May 25th 2017 – trial bed #3
May 25th 2017 - trial bed #4
May 25th 2017 – trial bed #4

As you can see, much of a muchness. But the end result that matters is the quality of the crops, so there’s still a way to go before I can draw any firm conclusions.

Next Steps

I’ve planted out a pair of ‘Redbor’ kale in each bed, to start filling up the as yet un-planted half. I’ll be adding two or three cabbages before too long as well.

Pest Problems

Unfortunately, the broad beans in the trial beds have been hit pretty hard by an aphid infestation of assorted blackfly and greenfly. Or at least, three of them have, so far. Here’s a pic from June 11th of the beans in bed #4, the plain soil control bed:

June 2017 - broad beans, many blackfly
Trial bed #4, plain soil, major blackfly infestation

The same problem was spotted on the broad beans in beds #1 and #2. However, bed #3, the SF60 bed, was pretty much pest-free:

June 2017 - broad beans, no blackfly
Trial bed #3, SF60, no blackfly?

A couple of days later I checked again, and there were now a few blackfly on the bed #3 beans. It could be that the pest just hadn’t found these beans when I took the pics on the 11th, or it could be that something in the SF60 imparts a quality to the beans that makes them less attractive to the fly. It would need a much larger trial to reach a firm conclusion, of course.

And I’m happy to say that a small tribe of ladybirds has since moved onto the beans and is hopefully making short work of the blackfly problem:

June 2017 - broad beans w. ladybird
Organic pest control, ladybird style.

Additional Observations

As I mentioned, it did seem as though the SF60 bed produced slightly stronger seedlings, but as all the others have performed as well in the long run, it may just have been a quirk in the seeds.

Also, all four beds have been quite weedy – as you’d expect on an allotment site such as ours; very windy and so open to incomers from all directions – but the two compost beds were the weediest. That’s more likely to do with the quality of the home-made compost that was used. Sterile, shop-bought compost might have resulted in fewer weeds, but the point of that part of the trial was to see if the C.H.A. produced better home-made compost, so the weed seeds were probably inevitable.

I’ll continue to observe and record, and the next update will hopefully include a cropping comparison.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

A Quick Mint-Cuttings Experiment – Update

About a month ago I posted details of – well, not really an experiment, more an observation – of three different mint cuttings that I’d taken and potted up. As a few people were interested enough to comment, I thought I’d post a quick follow-up.

Here are the original cuttings – all taken at the same time from the same stock plant, an ‘Eau de Cologne’ mint – for reference:

April 2017 mint cuttings
Various amounts of stem, root and leaf left on the propagules, to see which, if any, perform better.

All three cuttings have shown signs of new growth:

May 2017 mint cutting - leafy stem

This first pot was the one at the bottom of the first pic. As you can see, the existing growth has increased dramatically (and it’s picked up a few greenhouse whitefly or aphid passengers…) but there hasn’t been any new growth from elsewhere along the stem. It seems that the apical dominance of the growing tip has ensured that one node continues to grow, and others are being suppressed.

May 2017 mint cutting - bare stem

In contrast, this pot was originally the bare-stem cutting (top-right, original pic). As you can see, three new growth points have developed at nodes along the stem and are developing at varying rates. I’d expect that they’d all eventually continue to develop to roughly the same size.

May 2017 mint cuttings - assorted leaf

Here (originally the top-left pot) there are two different growth patterns, a mixture of the above. On one cutting the two existing leafy growths have developed. One the other the original (very small) leaf growth has died back and two new ones have developed instead.

Interesting, no? I’ll keep an eye on all three pots and see if the situation changes.

Edit: For an alternate and soilless take on rooting mint cuttings, see Mal’s Edinburgh Allotment Blog.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

Help a Researcher – Record Your Yield with MYHarvest

MYHarvest.org.uk

One thing Jo and I have been wondering, over the past three years of allotment growing, is: just how much fruit and veg are we harvesting from Plot #59? I’ve thought in the past of trying to track and measure the weight of the crops that we pick, lift and cut from the plot, but the sheer faff of weighing and recording has always seemed likely to be more effort than it was worth just to satisfy our curiosity.

Well, now we have an excuse for taking those measurements, and a means of recording them, and a good reason to do so, in the form of MYHarvest.org.uk.

The website is the front-end of a research project by three academics from the University of Sheffield, who are interested in getting in touch with home and allotment-based grow-your-own gardeners. The aim of the project is to “estimate the contribution people who grow their own fruit and vegetable crops are making to UK national food production”. They hope to gather significant evidence to support the use of land within towns and cities for growing food. And if that means more allotment sites are made available, then that has to be a good thing.

The research is focusing on the 25 most popular UK food crops – simply because there won’t be time to collate the data on every possible species and cultivar – but you’re welcome to record anything outside the list as ‘other’. And I’m sure the researchers will enjoy spotting the more unusual and/or interesting crops that participants end up recording.

Anyhow, we’re going to give it a go, for as long as our good intentions hold out. We’re up to (an estimated) 7Kg of rhubarb so far, and counting.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

Soilfixer Trial Part III: Setting Up the Trial Beds

Old pallets, as long as they’re in reasonably good nick, are a great boon to the allotmenteer. Especially if you need to knock together a few small raised beds. Such as these four, which I set up yesterday for the trial of four different soil mixes that I’m running this year for the folks at Soilfixer.co.uk.

April 2017 Soilfixer trial beds
Half an hour with a saw, a hammer and a bag of nails did the trick.

I nipped back down to Plot #59 this morning, lugging a tub of Soilfixer’s SF60 along with me, and back-filled the four beds. In all four cases, I’ve re-used the soil from last year’s carrot bed, which I know is of a reasonably uniform texture and plain composition, as it was all sieved through last year and didn’t have any fertilisers or other amendments added to it.

April 2017 SF60
Soilfixer’s SF60 soil improver. Looks a bit like someone set fire to a compost heap…

In bed #1: a mix of soil and the compost that I made with Soilfixer’s C.H.A. (composting humification agent) over the winter.

In bed #2: a mix of soil and the non-C.H.A. enhanced compost.

In bed #3: a mix of soil and a few measures of Soilfixer’s SF60 Soil Improver.

In bed #4: plain soil, no enhancements.

Here are comparison pics of the contents of the four beds (as above, clockwise from top-left) just after the relevant amendment had been added (or not), before final raking in and levelling.

April 2017 Soilfixer trial soils
The contents of four beds, amended (or not) as required.

The pics were all taken at roughly the same time of day, in similar light conditions (direct sun, little or no cloud cover) so I think we can safely conclude that the C.H.A.-enhanced compost is a little darker in colour than the non-C.H.A. compost. Whether that’s down to an increased amount of colloidal humus or simply the darkening effect of the C.H.A. (a charcoal-dust-like black powder) I’m not able to say. But the darker colour might help the soil to warm marginally quicker.

I’m going to leave the beds to rest for a few days, then I’ll be back at the weekend to plant out the first crops: a couple of broad bean ‘The Sutton’ plants in each bed, for starters. I’ll also be sowing a few seeds that I think will be reliable germinators: beetroot and turnip. Later on I’ll add some more veg plants, maybe a tomato and a kale, and probably a couple of flowers as well, perhaps some Tagetes or French marigolds, and possibly a mignonette Dahlia or three.

Then it’ll be a case of observing and recording any observations as often as I’m able to, including rates of germination, any noticeable differences in growth patterns, the degree of weed infestation, and anything else that I notice.

I’ll keep you posted.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

A Quick Mint-Cuttings Experiment

I brought back an old, tired, ‘Eau de Cologne’ mint plant from Plot #59 yesterday. The pot is disintegrating and is destined for crocks, and the plant itself – which isn’t in a good condition at all – is likely to end up in the compost. Before that happens though, I’ve decided to take a trio of cuttings of slightly different types so see which, if any of them, takes and performs noticeably better.

April 2017 mint cuttings
Varying amounts of stem, root and leaf left on these propagules.

In this highly unscientific experiment, I’ve put the propagules into pots of gritty seed compost. In one (top-right), a bare stem with no established roots or shoots. In another (middle), a rooted stem with a small amount of leaf already established. In the third (on the left), a couple of quite well-rooted stems, with a slightly larger amount of leaf. Mint is hardy enough, so they’ve been left in the unheated greenhouse, rather than the heated propagator indoors.

Theoretically, the leafier stems should be able to photosynthesise straight away and use the energy to produce more root and stem material, establishing quickly. Then again, they’ll also be losing moisture by transporation and evaporation from the leaf surfaces and using up their internal energy stores; it’s a race between the processes to see which one wins out. At the other end of the scale, the bare stem will need to use its stored energy to produce root, shoot and leaf material, but shouldn’t be losing much moisture at all. So it might take longer, but could establish a stronger plantlet in the long run.

It’ll be interesting to see whether there are any noticeable differences between the hare and tortoise approach. Although of course I’d need to set up a larger sample to establish any sort of definite pattern.

Edit, 17.05.17 I’ve posted a quick one-month-on update if anyone would like to see how these cuttings are doing.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

Soilfixer Trial Part II – Post-Winter Check-In

This year I’m trialling two soil improvement products on behalf of the folks at SoilFixer.co.uk. The first, a Compost Humification Agent, was added to a bagful of compostable material back in December. A second bag of compostables was set aside at the same time, to act as a control.

Checking In

This past weekend, I checked in on the two proto-compost samples to see how they were getting along. The bags have been sitting around on plot #59 over the winter, so I wasn’t expecting anything to have changed massively, what with the lack of heat to kick-start the decomposition process. But as I dumped each sample out into a plastic bucket, I was pleased to see that actually there had been a fair bit of break-down, even in the colder winter conditions

Non-C.H.A. Sample

March 2017 Non-C.H.A. compost sample
Reasonable decomposition, as it happens. Except for the tough grass stems.

C.H.A. Sample

March 2017 C.H.A. compost sample
Similar decomposition, perhaps a little darker in colour..? Hard to tell.

Hard to tell at this stage whether the addition of the C.H.A. has significantly accelerated the decomposition process, but the second sample did seem a little darker in colour. But of course, the proof will be in whether or not the trial crops actually perform better in C.H.A. compost enhanced soil.

Topping Up

Each sample was churned around, to get some air into the organic matter, before being re-bagged. I removed a couple of handfuls of tough, grassy stems from each sample. The stuff didn’t seem to have broken down at all – some shoots were even showing signs of re-sprouting – and it’s not the sort of material I want to add to the trial beds in due course. I then added a few scoopfuls of home compost from our recently-emptied bin and added more C.H.A. to the relevant mix.

Each bag will be re-aired and re-mixed a couple of times over the next week or two. Ten, before too long, it will be time to start the trial proper by setting up the four trial beds, adding the appropriate amendments (or not) to each, and planting out some of the seedlings that are already coming along in the greenhouse.

I’ll tell you what crops I’m planning to grow in the next Trial update.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

Crimson vs Persian Clover: The Results

Last year I volunteered to take part in a growing trial for Garden Organic. The aim of the trial was to assess the suitability of Persian Clover (Trifolium resupinatum) as a green manure crop, against the more regularly-used Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum).

In my last update, back in October, I suggested that it wasn’t looking good for the Persian variety. The year-long trial period has now come to an end, and I have to say the situation really hasn’t improved.

Results

Here’s a photo of the Persian trial patch, taken a couple of weeks ago:

February 2017 Persian Clover final
No sign of the Persian clover, just grass and weeds.

As you can see, the clover has all-but disappeared, and the Poa annua grass, Ranunculus repens creeping buttercup and other assorted weeds have moved in en-masse.

By contrast, the Crimson clover patch is at least showing some evidence that clover was once sown there:

February 2017 Crimson Clover final pic
Mostly clover straw and weed seedlings here.

Again, there’s a fair bit of weed growth in evidence, but the clover straw remains and will at least be usable on the compost heap.

Conclusions

On the evidence of the above photos, it’s very tempting to suggest that Persian clover isn’t such a great green manure crop after all. However, there are a few provisos that need to be taken into account before drawing any firm conclusions.

1. Sample Size

Obviously, this is just a single result from one particular site. A rather windy, weed-prone site at that. Garden Organic will be collating results from all their participants and I’ll be very interested in seeing the aggregate view in due course.

2. Duration and Parameters of the Trial

Garden Organic asked participants to run the trial for a whole year, specifically to assess whether the Persian clover would degrade better than the Crimson, which does tend to leave straw behind. On the evidence of my own trial I’d say that yes, it does. The problem being that it degrades too quickly, leaving bare soil behind for weeds to colonise.

But that’s not how green manures tend to be used, at least not on a small to allotment-sized scale. Rather, the crops are grown to the point just before they set seed – or earlier if the ground will be needed for sowing or planting sooner – and then either dug into the soil (or maybe shallow-rotovated, or just cut back and allowed to decompose on the surface, if you practice a no-dig methodology – discussions are ongoing). The idea is that their green growth provides organic matter to improve soil structure, and eventually degrades to release nitrogen and other minerals.

That being the case, there may be an argument for Persian clover being sown, as long as it was dug in at the appropriate stage. However, based on the update I posted last August, I’d have to say that, on our site at least, Persian clover is too slow to germinate and develop to be of any real use. It would still allow annual weeds to establish and potentially set seed before it had established enough ground-cover foliage to prevent the weeds from getting started.

To summarise: I, personally, wouldn’t use Persian clover as a green manure on our site. Not when the stronger, faster-growing Crimson variety does a much better job of quickly covering the ground and puts on a lot more soil-boosting foliage in the process. Digging in the Crimson clover at the appropriate time would avoid the issue of tough straw lingering and being slow to decompose in the soil.

2017 Trials

This year, I’m running another trial on behalf of SoilFixer.co.uk, testing the efficacy of two of their soil improvement products. Details of the initial setup can be found here. I’ll also hopefully be taking part in a wildflower growing and bumble bee counting project for Garden Organic. Details to follow.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

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.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail