At Coleshill Organics we’ve been busy this week digging holes! Alex, a soil science student from Aberdeen University, is helping us to take soil samples from across the garden to measure the fertility of the land, as well as the micronutrient status and soil carbon content.

Different soil

We carefully divided the garden into 6 plots–even in our relatively small market garden there are distinct areas with a different soil ‘feel’ and productivity–and then took 10 samples across each plot. Tony’s job was to dig the holes 120 in all. The 10 samples from each plot were then mixed up, giving us 6 bulk samples for testing, which should give us a good idea of the state of the soil right across the garden.

Tony in the garden

Tony in the garden

We’ve never carried out such a detailed soil test before, so it’s great to have the opportunity. In case you think Alex and I were drinking tea while watching Tony, we did dig some of the holes but we also measured each plot fairly accurately, including our tracks.

Increase usability

The walled garden is obviously a contained space, with no possibility of expanding so our brainwave was to expand into the tracks. We worked out we could increase our usable land quite substantially by doing this. We won’t be able to simply plough and plant, there will be a couch grass inheritance and we will sow a green manure ley in order to increase the fertility. We could, however, end up with up to 10% more growing space. Which could be seen as an exciting way of increasing our productivity or a lot more work, depending on your view point!

Soil samples ready for Aberdeen University

Soil samples ready for Aberdeen University

We generally use green manures and compost to build and maintain our soil fertility, and we know it’s in pretty decent shape. But the tests will help us identify any underlying problems, such as key nutrient deficiencies.

We can ask the Soil Association (our organic certifier) for permission to take appropriate steps, like applying seaweed extracts or even a targeted trace element supplement. You can’t just chuck any old nasty fertiliser on certified organic soil! Our samples are ready now to be sent off to Aberdeen University.

It’s really exciting stuff… honest! ;-)

The results will take a little while to come through but we will let you all know the exciting news as soon as we get word.

Walled gardens have a lot of history and it will all be mapped out in the soil so we are looking forward to it telling us its’ story.