Three Strip Trial 2014-2020: no dig, forking, different composts
This one is now in year seven. since I created its current layout in 2014, testing for the effect of forking soil rather than digging. The 2019 video has more on this and you see it in other videos on my You Tube channel.
An infographic by Soul Farm in Cornwall:
Also within this trial are some explorations of no rotation (link to video made September 2016).
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.
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
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:
2017 & earlier
2016 Table of harvests
2015 Table of harvests
2014 Table of harvests