Friday, 8 May 2009

And now for the science bit!!

Jemma and I are both scientists by profession, I am a microbiologist and Jemma is a biochemist, so of course we couldn't turn down the opportunity for some field science....CSI style!!! Complete with soil pH test kit we set out to check if our soil was acid, alkaline or a neutral pH. For the uninitiated the pH scale runs from 1 to 14 and measures how acid or alkaline a material is with 1 being extremely acid, such as battery acid, and 14 being extremely alkaline, such as lye. Both extremes of pH will cause burns. A pH of around 6.5 -7 is neutral and would be the ideal for growing most vegetables and fruit with the exception of a few acid lovers such as blueberries. On our soil pH kit very acid was indicated by dark orange colour, acid by dark yellow/light orange, neutral by green and alkaline by very dark green/blue
So with expert precision, a bottle of water, soil sample and test kit we shook it all up and waited patiently for the sediment to separate and show us what way our soil was......please be green...please be green... was yellow/orange...indicating we had acidic soil. So our plan of action began. We will have to get some garden lime to spread on the soil and hopefully bring our acid soil to a more neutral level. This is particularly important for brassicas such as cabbages, cauliflower, sprouts and broccoli, all of which have yet to go in. Brassicas don't like acid soil and it can harbour the clubroot fungus which will damage your crop, and cabbage can develop a condition known as whiptail where the leaves fail to develop properly around the stalks. So we will dig over the brassica beds before sowing/planting out and dust with some garden lime and see how we go. This however leaves us with quite a predicament. As we got the allotment late in the season, we haven't manured the beds and were planning on using manure as a top dressing during the growing season and supplementing with a feed. Problem is when you mix lime with fertilizer or manure you get urea formed as a by-product which really smells and isn't very good for your crops. The lime and fertilizer also cancel each other out so you don't get the effect of reducing the acidity as well. So, we'll try liming before we sow and plant out the brassicas and hold off feeding for a month or 2 to give the lime some time to soak in and hope for the best when we do apply a feed. I only hope we won't get complaints from neighbours about 'smelly' plot 103.

Late on Sunday evening Cillian and Eoin quit digging for the day and just had to try out their new fishing rods in the river at the back of plot 103. After an hour or so their catch came to a grand total of....a rather damp stick!
However, we did get some inside information from one of our allotment neighbours that another allotment holder had gone a little further up river and caught a total of 16 lovely brown trout in one day!! and another 12 the day after!! I 'kind of' learned how to cast fish and will therefore be heading down to Lidl this Saturday to try and pick up one of the cheapo trout fishing rods for 25 euro and try the new spot at the weekend. Keep the BBQ warm I plan on bringing home a whopper!!!


  1. Some digging and then some R&R to provide the dinner that is some cool allotment site, make sure to photograph the said whopper! I bought cauliflower and red cabbage plants and repotted them into a mix of compost, lime and blood fish and bone and kept them at home for a few weeks before planting out and so far so good.

  2. Its one of the main reasons we went with this one, it really does provide a day out as opposed to going for a few hours digging and then going home, it makes it that bit more enjoyable. There are also plans for a BBQ area and allotment shop which will be nice. Best of luck with the cabbages, we'll be planting out some of ours next week and have more started from seed on the balcony.