Soil testing

We have never tested the soil here ever since we moved in. I think that it is fair to say that our success with growing vegetables has been “variable”. Some, although not all of it, maybe due to the quality of the soil. It is time to do some tests!!

Jo found a kit online that contains enough chemicals for up to 40 individual tests. Given that we are growing vegetables in a number of different locations on the property, it makes sense to do a number of tests in different locations.

The tests are easy to do once you get the hang of it. There are four separate tests: PH, Phosporous (P), Potassium (K), and Nitrogen (N).

For the PKN tests, the results all follow the same categorisation:

4 = Surplus

3 = Sufficient

2 = Adequate

1 = Deficient

0 = Depleted

So we tested four different locations where we are growing vegetables. The results are shown below

TestLeft Veg PatchRight Veg patchPolytunnelGreenhouse
PH5.05.255.56.5
PP3P3P3P3
KK2K0K0K0
NN0N0N0N0

With the exception of the greenhouse, all of the soil is a little bit acidic and can do with being raised. Ideally, the PH should be between 6 and 7. All of the samples, including the veg patch where we have been growing peas and beans, is indicating that it is low in Nitrogen.

I am not sure how accurate these test kits are. Having read the reviews for various test kits on Amazon, the feedback on these kits seems to be “mixed”.

This particular kit seems to be available under a number of different brands, but it is the same kit inside. They all retail for around £25. How accurate are they? Mmmm. Not sure.
Using the test kit on the samples from the vegetable patches
This bed had broad beans and peas in it until very recently. This is the left hand bed in the vegetable patch.

Runner beans

I have always liked runner beans ever since my dad used to grow them in the garden when we were kids. Jo’s not very keen.

I thought we would have a go with two varieties this year – Galaxy and Scarlet Emperor.

They were both propagated in pots for a week and then put in the greenhouse before they were planted out this week.

In hindsight, we are a bit late getting this going but let’s see what happens.

Galaxy on the left, Scarlet Emperor on the right. These have been in the ground for around 3 days.

Carrots

We had a bit of spare space for some carrots. In fact, we had two spare spaces, so I have sewed a couple of rows of carrots in both locations. Just to be able to compare how they fare!

Jo has been trying to grow these in the new greenhouse. However, I suspect that it is too hot in there for carrots! Let see how they do in outside in the vegetable patch.

Three guesses where we got these from?? Not sure that they are the best variety for us, but they were free!

Potatoes – one set up, another set down

I spotted some seed potatoes to harvest at Christmas time. But we didn’t have enough space in the current vegetable. However, one of the previous sets of potatoes really seems to be struggling and I decided to clean one row of these to make way for a new planting of Christmas potatoes.

So the poorly performing potatoes were the Second Earlies – Nadine. The main crop – Golden Wonder – are doing really well. However, just because we have a lot of greenery doesn’t mean that we have a lot of potatoes. But we will have to see. I decided to sacrifice one row of Nadine to make way for a row of Maris Piper.

Having decided that the Nadine potatoes weren’t doing very well, the 5 or 6 plants that I dug up produced quite a few potatoes – all small, but in good condition.

Space for a row of Christmas potatoes. The beetroots are in the bottom right coner.
Not too bad for just 5-6 plants given that there wasn’t a lot of greenery on the surface!
From the local garden centre – should be ready well in time for Christmas

Potatoes

The two sets of potatoes seem to be doing well and I reckon the first crop (Golden Wonder) should be ready by Mid August – if the estimate of 16 weeks is anything to go by! They have been in the ground for 10 weeks now. I couldn’t really have planted them any earlier because of the frost. There’s lots of green growth above ground, but I wonder how much growth there is underground!

The other set (Nadine) seem to be quite a bit behind the first crop. This is a bit surprising as both were planted at the same time and they should take the same about of time to mature.

In hindsight, I think the potatoes plants were probably planted too close together. Re-reading the guidance – they should be 12 inches apart and 30 inches between the rows. Next year I think it should be one variety in this plot with three rows of better spaced plants.

The space to the right in the photo is occupied by some beetroot plants (variety: Bolthardy). I sowed them originally in pots in the greenhouse and put them into this spare space above a week ago. some of the plants looked a bit sorry for themselves when first transplanted, but it looks like all but two will survive.

Vegetable patch

Last year we cleared out some land to the side of the house to use as a vegetable patch.  It was hard work – the top soil was thin and full of large stones.  We had a go at clearing it and topped up the top soil from a left over pile of soil in the top field.  We had some success with it (the onions were very good, the cabbages were a disaster), but it was a really pain to keep on top of the weeds.

With the wall along the top field now being clear, we thought we might put some raised beds along this wall.  However, we thought it might be worth giving our original vegetable patch one last go.  This stretch of field is also under the trees that seem to stuck the water out of the ground – while they do provide some shelter, they take most of the water.  We had planted some onions in the original vegetable patch earlier the season, but then lost heart as the weeds took over.

We have been at home for the last week and decided to clear the vegetable patch up.  We had used a JCB earlier in the year to dig it over when we had a machine on site to fill in the ruts, so much of the soil was quite loose.  It still took Jo a lot of effort this week, but it does look good.

Jo has been digging over the vegetable plot over the last couple of days.  Much of it had been turned over previously with a digger, but some of it had never been dug before.

Jo has been digging over the vegetable plot over the last couple of days. Much of it had been turned over previously with a digger, but some of it had never been dug before.

This is the view from the other end and it is a big plot - 3m x 15m.  The potatoes that you can see in the middle distance were left over from last year - we have dug up some of the other left over plants and the potatoes are surprisingly ok.

This is the view from the other end and it is a big plot – 3m x 15m. The potatoes that you can see in the middle distance were left over from last year – we have dug up some of the other left over plants and the potatoes are surprisingly ok.

All Jo's efforts this week have made a huge difference to the vegetable patch.  We have had 2 or 3 dumper fulls of stone out of here in the last few days, not to mention the undergrowth and weeds.

All Jo’s efforts this week have made a huge difference to the vegetable patch. We have had 2 or 3 dumper fulls of stone out of here in the last few days, not to mention the undergrowth and weeds.

We managed to purchase some cheap patio slabs from a local supplier and have used these to make pathways between the beds.  If we decide to reconfigure the beds the slabs can be picked up and moved.  We aren't quite sure what to do with the one end of the patch so we have covered it with geotextile to keep the weeds down.

We managed to purchase some cheap patio slabs from a local supplier and have used these to make pathways between the beds. If we decide to reconfigure the beds the slabs can be picked up and moved. We aren’t quite sure what to do with the one end of the patch so we have covered it with geotextile to keep the weeds down.

Update on the vegetable patch

The vegetable patch seems to becoming on in leaps and bounds.  No doubt due to some of the (very) wet and (slightly) sunny weather we have had over the past few weeks.

The weeds and grass seem to be doing particularly well.

In terms of vegetables, we have potatoes, onions, cabbages (although the pigeons seem to have had these), cauliflower, broccoli (the pigeons like these too), sweet corn and some leeks.  We haven’t attempted to grow anything in this soil before, so it will be interesting to see how the vegetables do this year.

We have also planted out some tomato plants in grow bags.  While there are a couple of plants in the polytunnel, we have put the rest against the wall outside my study.  This gets a fair amount of sun, particularly in the afternoon, and having tomato plants both inside and outside will hopefully spread the harvesting season.  We will have to see.

We have only planted from the other side of the piece of wood down towards the end wall.  We haven't got around to clearing the last patch.  I guess we will as we start to need the space.

We have only planted from the other side of the piece of wood down towards the end wall. We haven’t got around to clearing the last patch. I guess we will as we start to need the space.

All I can say, is that they must be desperate!

All I can say, is that they must be desperate!

MMmm....without exception, the pigeons have managed to munch their way through all the cabbages that I planted.  They are probably so fat they can barely fly!

MMmm….without exception, the pigeons have managed to munch their way through all the cabbages that I planted. They are probably so fat they can barely fly!