For the last 6 months, a troop of enthusiastic volunteers have been working away at improving the soil in our Triplespan Greenhouse to get the ground prepared for growing food.
We chose the greenhouse because of its location down on the floodplain and because the old structure meant we could grow in an area protected from pests. We started by removing the benches in the first span so we could grow directly in the ground. The SESL lab kindly tested our soil for us and found that it was not a bad base, despite it’s solid clay look and feel. We had chooks roam over the entire area and in addition decided to undertake a variety of comparison approaches for improving the soil.
Greenhouse Experimental Beds
BED 0 – No Dig
We laid down cardboard to suppress the grass and weeds and then layered on top chook manure, pea straw mulch, cow manure and sugar cane mulch. Then we sowed a green manure crop of buckwheat and mung beans, which was then slashed and mulched.
BED 1 – SESL
We added topsoil and the recommendations from the soil testing including 150g/m2 of gypsum, 150g/m2 of lime, 150g/m2 of Yates Blood & Bone Plus K, 30g/m2 of sulphate of potash. We sowed a green manure crop of buckwheat and mung beans, which was then slashed and mulched.
BED 2 – Mushroom Compost
We added topsoil, Margin’s beautiful mushroom compost (which works so well for John Seed’s veggies) and topped with pea straw mulch.
BED 3 – Diversity
We added to the topsoil a fantastic mix of soil enhancements dreamed up by Deb A: mushroom compost, chook manure, compost, pea straw mulch and worm juice! We also sowed a green manure crop on this bed.
BED 4 – Lasagne
On top of the topsoil, we layered cow manure, leaves, grass, compost, coffee grounds and topped with wood chip mulch.
BED 5 – Chooks
The chooks were kept on this bed, pecking away at the kitchen scraps we added and fertilising the topsoil, chicken manure, coffee grounds and pea straw mulch.
In the meantime, we held a seed propagation workshop for our first seedlings for growing in the Triplespan. We were lucky enough to get guidance from a commercial farmer, Rob Greatholder from Warrah Farm. We combined coir peat (Trish advised us of the environmental perils of using peat moss!), compost and vermiculite for the starter. Under instruction from keen local gardeners, Megan and Andrew, we sowed a wide variety of lettuces, spinaches, silverbeet and parsley.
The seedlings went in the ground last week and we are excited to watch how the different soil improvements perform. The kids have had a great time contributing to this project and have just harvested some direct sown Mila radishes which they loved pulling straight out of the ground, barely brushing off the dirt before they gobbled them up!
We are excited to show off our work for Mad About Dirt!