Three Strip Trial 2014-2019

This one is ongoing, see the 2019 video. It morphed into the current form in 2014, so 2018 is fifth year of this version.

See more on this and other videos on my You Tube channel.

Also within this trial are some explorations of no rotation (link to video made 09/16). The beans are fifth year same place, leeks fourth year, potatoes + broad beans 3rd or fourth year.

The three strips are 2 metres wide, 9 metres long; each strip comprises six small beds.

  • STRIP 1 soil loosened by forking 10-11in/25-27cm depth each autumn/early winter without inversion, then 2in/5cm bought* compost on the surface. A different method to my dig/no dig trial.
  • STRIP 2 no dig, was mulched initially with polythene 2013, and 2in bought* compost is spread on the beds each winter.
  • STRIP 3 no dig, 2in composted cow manure on the surface each winter; in 2017 and ’18 this manure was finer and older when applied.

*bought compost was green waste for 2014-15, mushroom 2016, half each for 2017 – 2019

See below for four years’ graphics and results.

2019

Winter salads finished in June, with last picks of Grenoble Red lettuce – sown last September. Yields were 21.3kg leaves altogether and the highest on strip 3.

Broad beans cropped in June from a planting in November, of home saved Aquadulce Claudia.
Fifth year in the same place and the yield was higher than any previous year, with 45.5kg pods altogether,
The cabbage are cropping in October and one Filderkraut on strip 3 weighed 5.9kg, heart only after trimming outer leaves.

Potatoes on bed 4 also yielded the highest so far, 48.18kg for the three strips.

On 13th June we took a last harvest of spinach (bed 6) and broad beans, then cleared the latter to plant brassicas, with mesh over against pests.

We pulled (not dug!) the Charlotte potatoes on 11th July, and planted multisown leeks.

Through July and early August we watered by hand, then on 11th August it rained 52mm. The rain total for August of 116mm/4.6in, and then for September of 110mm/4.4in resulted in heavier cabbages than 2018, and beans slower to ripen.

Completed harvests as of 3rd October 2019 are Bed 1 winter salads, bed 2 winter (kuri) squash, Bed 3 broad beans, bed 4 potatoes, bed 5 lettuce and chicory, and bed 6 spinach.

Still to finish by December are harvests of bed 1 dry beans, bed 2 spinach, bed 3 cabbage, bed 4 leeks, and bed 6 kale.

I shall post a table by year’s end of 2019 harvests.
So far (3rd October) total harvests are strip 1 94kg, strip 2 108kg and strip 3 101kg

2019 table of harvests to follow, end December


2018

On 12th January I planted December-sown broad beans, Aquadulce, in the same beds as for several years.
We made plantings on 2nd April of lettuce and spinach, in the same beds as 2017. Meanwhile the salad under mesh cropped well through winter, mostly mustards, but most pest damage to leaves was on strip 3.

  • Results of the salad beds up to final harvest on 17th May were:
    strip 1 4.61kg, strip 2 5.89kg and strip 3 4.50kg of saleable leaves. Then on 24th May these beds were planted to two week old Borlotti and Czar runner beans, for the sixth year consecutive, see photos below.

On 13th August, Steph held a stepladder while I took photos of the two pairs of strips. Near the camera was spinach, now kale. Then the lettuce beds are now chicory, and potatoes (see video) are now leeks. Broad beans finished in June and are now cabbage, the Kuri squash are close to ripe, and beans look strong.

There has been a similar pattern in the harvests of 2018, compared to previous years.

  • The forked strip gives consistently lower yields, although plants often look similar.
  • Strip three, cow manure sometimes gives bigger harvests but has a few strange ‘failures’ as with squash in 2018. Growth generally is stronger than before.

 

Harvests to 6th December are as follows:

Three strip trial harvests kg 2018 up to 06/12/18. First number in column 1 is the bed number of each strip, from 1-6. if it says 1-2 that means second crop of bed 1.

 

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2017 & earlier


 

2016 Table of harvests

Harvests from the three strips in 2016

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2015 Table of harvests

Table of harvests 2015 three strip trial

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2014 Table of harvests

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7 thoughts on “Three Strip Trial 2014-2019

  1. Hello Charles. My name Malcolm. We have a allotment ina place call Alsager .at the moment we are in Spain. We always get back in April time after been away for the English winter. We I get I am going to start to do the no dig the same as you. I will take some photos before and after , and then forward them onto you. Can’t wait to get started , by for now.

  2. Charles,

    Thank you for your willingness to experiment.

    Is one possibility that root crops like carrots and beets produce higher yields when their beds are forked? The carrot yields are striking. The beet yields are mixed.

    It might make some intuitive sense. Whether it is true or not, I don’t know.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Billy Joe, an interesting question.
      The % of carrots forking is not high enough to influence results.
      Perhaps if enough of them obligingly made two nice roots, it could make a difference!

  3. Dear Charles,

    I’m following you for a long time now and I worship you and your work!

    Your findings with no dig are already quite revolutionary and awesome. They kind of match the whole soil food web theory.

    What I find even more striking though is, that your yields on the same area more than doubled across all three stripes! I feel like this is the real revolution here. Do you have any idea as to why that is? Did you plant more seeds? Did you change anything else?

    Also, before you started those three stripes, what has been there before?
    If there has been green lawn before it kind of would make sense, as the soil structure would be building up over the years where you add the compost, with subsequent crop yield boosts.

    But again – what do you think is the reason? Because again… more than doubling the overall yields across all stripes is the actual revelation!
    I would really appreciate an answer from you on this topic! 🙂

    Keep on doing your great work and thanks for it!!

    Best wishes from Germany
    Marco

    1. Hello Marco

      Thanks for writing, and nice you had a read here.
      Yes it’s a good increase, explained partly by my late start in year one, so the dying pasture roots were taking some nutrients to decompose, and also in 2013 I added no compost to 1 and 2.
      So discount 2013.
      In 2014 there were some leatherjackets eating roots, not too much though.
      I have increased cropping and that is some of the reason.
      There is also the no rotation trial happening across all strips and this year the squash (year 6 of 7 in same place) were poor so I may swap them with lettuce & chicory.

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