Saturday, 31 May 2014

Garden Organic Members experiments 2014

This year, I thought I would have more time as I am not employed full time, but only now teach 2 1/2 days a week; but it seems I am busier than ever as running a business, getting new funding and designing and delivering new courses is a very time consuming job! 

I had signed up to do the members experiments and wanted to document them on here to remind myself to make the necessary records as much as anything. 

Firstly; the Biochar experiment.

 We received a bag of biochar - enough to cover one square meter of soil.

I duly measured and marked out the area and spread the biochar over one half of the two square meter trial area.

I then dug the bio char in and marked out the rows, and sowed the seeds. I didn't have time to sow the cabbages and replant so I had to sow those half in each side, just like the carrots and beetroot that were also provided. The sowing date was 5 May 2014.

I will update herewith photos as the trial progresses - with the biochar side always on the left.

20 June 2014...I have counted 15 beetroot on the non-biochar side and 9 on the biochar side. I have harvested 2 of the non bio chat beets as they are at eating size.
27 June - harvested one carrot from biochar side. Notable comment - loads of weeds on the non biochar side but very few on the biochar side.

Harvests to date:
2 Carrot 124 g                
1 beetroot - 339g    
1 beetroot - 180 g

Non Biochar
3 beetroot, 220, 200, 251g
2 beetroot total 194 g

Secondly - Oca. I have grown Oca several times and already have tubers but I'll follow this through properly this time. Again, sown on the 5th May 2014.

Thirdly - I have Bronze Arrow lettuce that I will be sowing but I'm not going to sow until after 22nd June as I have so much lettuce already and I want to see if the trial also works on lettuce not bolting if sown after mid summer's day and it grows quickly enough to get a crop in before the autumn so it's win-win.

Organic gardeners do not use peat...

And in any normal context I wouldn't even consider it. 

However at college, in one of the compost bins that we 'manage' [even though other people put things like whole trees in there and we have to regularly take them out again] I found someone had emptied around 10 very large pots into it. They had obviously bought the pots, filled with peat and mixed shedloads of slow release fertiliser in, planted them up and then forgotten to water them. So the plants died and instead of r-eusing the pots, they had been tipped straight into our [until then] organic compost bin. 

A dilemma then ensued.

As a group, we have no funds to buy compost so we make our own. And this peat is in fine condition, barely used. Seriously a complete waste of resources. What to do..leave it, where the fertiliser [not needed] will continue to rot down and infest our lovely compost....bin it as it is not organic or take it out, remove the remaining roots and fertiliser pellets and just bin the pellets and reuse the compost in our own pots. 

Of course, the cornerstone of organic gardening is that if you try to spend no would be pretty much organic even if you don't know much about organic gardening...and on that note I decided that there was no way I could let this precious resource slip through the net. 

So we have been sieving and picking out all the balls of fertiliser...and all the roots...and mixing it with our own leaf mould to bulk it up and using it for our potting mix

I would never buy peat, I find that my own compost and leaf mould mix is more than adequate and our dalek compost added to worm compost is wonderful for the more greedy cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes grown in pots; whilst everything else is fine in the ground...but I just can't see this resource thrown away and added to a general compost mix that won't get used until after I have left the college. 

So for the first year in many, I have used peat. Weird.