Back to Basics

More than just keeping the plants up: soil feeds everything; so this green manure crop will help put nutrients and organic matter back there in the spring when incorporated

Phew, I’m pooped: just got back from a two-day Soil Symposium, put on by the Soil Association, and held at Coventry’s Transport Museum (really surreal but cool venue, wandering around loads of old and new cars and racers, bikes, props from films etc in between sessions). These events are always such a good reminder of why we’re doing what we’re doing: and also full of practical advice of how to do it better.

As well as looking at why soil is so important (well, it’s what everything is made of, comes from, and returns to for a start), we covered biochar benefits, composts, agroforestry and soil compaction. Quite a lot to cram in; but it was all really useful.

Now it’s time to work out how to follow on from that in the field. I think some of the things which I’m going to do as a result of the conference are: turn my compost more to improve aeration (especially in the first month, I’ll try to do it every week!); get involved in earth worm surveys, by joining the Earthworm Society; look at designing really efficient mini agroforestry strips (though this might have to wait until I have a piece of land of my own); try more trials with biochar in the soil next year, and look at trying to start some trials making and using my own/local kilns; and try to find some old solid tines to go through the field in spring, in case the rotovating is causing soil panes and compaction (the wet has shown that it doesn’t drain terribly well in patches).

Really it’s a shame that people don’t value this most basic resource more highly: we do abuse our poor soils. I’d also like to try and build up the soil organic matter, both in and around the polytunnels, and in the field, by adding more manure and especially homemade and green waste compost. The trouble for me is moving material in quantity to the field, and my transport isn’t a tractor and trailer, but me and a wheelbarrow. Still, food for thought over the winter…

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