Getting Experimental On The Allotment

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A large focus of our Gastronomy MSc just now is soil science – with horrifying losses on a global scale (75 billion tonnes of soil are being lost each year due to erosion and poor land management and it takes nature 50-100 years to make 2.5cm of soil) and with a growing population this is a very real concern with regards to the future of our food supply.

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We’ve been studying the history of agriculture and different methods being used and have decided to get experimental on our own campus allotment and see how it goes. It’s fair to say that it’s very exposed and was certainly very windy out there for yesterday morning’s session. Note to self to take warmer clothing next time!

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We decided to try a no-till approach to two beds by cutting down the existing weeds, laying them down back down on the beds, covering them with cardboard and then heaping compost over the top and then covering them with burlap sacking. The aim of this is that the existing organic matter and microbes will continue to do their thing in the soil and we’ll keep the weeds out until we’re ready to plant in our lovely healthy soil in the Spring.

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In our existing¬†perennial bed, which has a bio-diverse approach we decided to try out some green manure seeds in some barren areas to help regenerate the soil. We removed the burlap sacking in a few areas and lightly tilled the area and sowed a mixture of Phacelia, Clover, Italian Ryegrass and Winter Tares. The aim of this is to fix Nitrogen back into the soil and to help prevent erosion from the winds through the Winter. We’ll then cut them back in the Spring when we’re ready to plant other things.

I’ll also be trying out both of these methods in my own garden with a view to starting a brand new bio-diverse garden next Spring – very excited about that!

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