Compost experiment – phase 1

I know that the first rule of successful experiments is to reduce the number of variables, but I think this one scrapes in as phase one of a longer term test of two canonical chunks of gardening wisdom. the two statements are:

  1. You must never plant carrots into newly manured ground because they will fork.
  2. You must always prepare the ground deeply to get long roots – so we’re testing Charles Dowding’s ‘no-dig’ method.

There’s a third subsidiary aim which is to test the claims made on behalf of ‘Early Nantes Frubund’ carrots that they can be sown successfully in August and September . Will they give an early crop? We shall see.

We’ve got two cold frames set end to end on a patch of ground that has never been dug, only mulched for about eight months with a thick layer of cardboard covered with 4″ woodchip. So I took out the woodchip and disovered that the cardboard had pretty much disappeared.  Then I simply added about 4″ of two types of compost, one in each frame. I was testing composted farmyard manure in one, and Sylva Grow peat free compost in the other. In the photos the Sylva Grow is on the left.  Then I sowed the same seed on the same day (14th August) in both sides along with some winter lettuce grown in coir plugs. Since then they have been treated identically with the roof lights added in October when near frosts were experienced.

What I’m hoping to establish is the relative merits of the two mediums, whether the carrots can penetrate the undisturbed surface layer of the soil substrate, and finally whether there’s any more forking in the roots grown in composted manure. The early results are pretty clear, germination was quicker and early growth more plentiful in the composted manure. The other tests will have to wait until the spring, but if the no dig methos is successful we’ll implement it on a wider scale.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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