soil


garlic1643
Garlic Estonian Red, grown by Søren, Anne and Kirsten

We are three seedsavers who privately made our little garlic competition. Who grow the largest garlic? It was very interesting, as we went in to long talks on how we grow our garlics, and how our local soils affect the garlics.

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Garlic Inchelium Red, grown by Anne, Søren and Kirsten

After these two pictures I’m proud to present the results of the competition:
Kirsten is the winner of our little competition – congratulations 🙂

Estonian Red is as usual a big garlic with few big cloves. The garlic is heavy, as the few big cloves makes it compact. If you eat a lot of garlic, there is no better garlic to grow in Denmark. The huge cloves are easy to peel, taste is strong and it keep very long time in storage. I know some have been eating it from their own harvest as late as early june. It is mentioned in Heirloom Vegetable Archive. Pictures (and danish text) can be seen in Karna Majs diary. Estonian red is a hardneck, a Marbled Purple Stripe variety. Bifurcated Carrots garlic types.

Inchelium Red we have grown for two years now. It didn’t get as big as last year, and this year we had many smaller garlics in this variety. The big ones are still big. Hopefully it will stabilise with a big size and few small ones, in a few years. Inchelium Red is a softneck of Artichoke type.

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Anne in her allotment

What is the secret in Kirstens garden?
She has a sandy soil next to a stream. Annes garden is almost next to. They have water down in the sand all year round, in reach of any plant that has started well. Kirsten dig in a lot of compost deep in the soil. It makes her soil light and black, noutrisous, full of microorganisms, that functions by prolonging the roots of garlic (and onions). She also add a little lime and woodash. Garlic are gratefull for this kind of tender loving care.
Anne work to improve her sandy soil. Who knows, in few years Anne and Kirsten might have to share the first prize?

Why don’t I (Søren)do like Kirsten and Anne?
My soil is heavy clay with lime. If I dig that deep, the organic matter will pack airtight. Instead of an aerobic proces, I will have an anaerobic, rotting the organic matter and producing growth restricting substances, not enriching the soil as wanted.
My soil needs patience. Patience, lots of organic matter and earthworms. The earthworms are experts in dragging organic matter in to the soil, and never too deep. I can see a huge improvement by now, and there is still room for more. I’ll continue, and hopefully I can match the garlics of Kirsten and Anne sometime in the future.

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Mobile Eco Garden1140
Work has started on the new recycled plantboxes

Ørestad Mobile Eco-gardens is transforming. Name has been changed to Ørestad Urban Gardens, and they have started to build large plantboxes.

“The garden project change character by becoming a part of the future Plug N Play area in Ørestad South. Emphasis will be on a strong and experimenting urban garden plan, compact, shielded from strong winds and with more common spaces for the benefit of all users” (from newsletter)

Gardens must move a little distance, expected in august. No ground parcels will be grown this summer. Plantboxes functions as nomadic gardens, and can be relocated by a forklift truck.

Mobile Eco Garden1139
Claus with a plantbox, ready to fill with expanded clay pellets and compost.

The plantbox is build on a pallet. On top two folding frames. Wood is treated with linseed oil, and after drying the box is covered inside with a tar. In the bottom is put a layer of expanded clay pellets, and topped with compost. It should be faily light, to be transportable.

As I have the same heavy mix of clay and lime, I think it’s a good idea using plantboxes. The soil is very fertile, as long as it gets some manure or compost, and it’s not leaking the fertile elements. But in summer it dry out to a rock hard concrete like surface, allmost impossible to weed. Not likely to encourage a new gardener.
If I keep weeded in the often short periods when soil is neither wet or dry, it’s a wonderfull rich soil to grow. But this kind of soil punish you hard if you don’t understand it.

They have a newsletter in danish: nyhedsbrev

Behind Ørestad Urban Gardens stands the Area Development Company, Copenhagen Municipality, Agenda 21 Amager, The society Ørestad Urbane Haver and local citizens.

Area Development Company let the ground be used, helped preparing the area and led water to the site.
Copenhagen Municipality, Agenda 21 Amager offer finacial support.
The society Ørestad Urbane Haver take care of gardentools, the mobile shed, outdoor furnitures, and are in charge of the distribution of plots and plantboxes.

I wish Ørestad Urbane Haver a good season and a fertile future.

Many people suggest one should do a soil test, and principally I agree. On the other hand, I think I know what my soil lacks, better structure, a thicker layer of black soil and more earthworms. For that reason I save my money and study my weeds instead.

Perennial weed indicates how the soil was at the time when they established themselves. The annual weed indicates the actual state of the soil and environment much more accurately. One shouldn’t look for the most rare of the weeds in the garden, but concentrate on the major weeds as indicators.

At da.wikipedia.org I have found the table below. The translation is mine:

Ph is acidity, where 7 is neutral soil.
Lv is conductance. Salts, f.x. from NPK, increase the electric conductance of the soil.
Indicatorvalues shows the conditions statistically preferred by the specie. The number gives the placement on a nine-level scale, always shown in the same order: Light, temperature, seacloseness/continentality, moisture, acidity, nitrogen. If value is indicated by “x”, the species does not react on differences in this environmental factor.

Plantenavn pH lv soil type fertilizing Indicatorvalues
Viola arvensis low pH low lv low Ca-value 6; 5; x; x; x; x
Cirsium arvense Low humus content 8; 5; x; x; x; 7
Corn spurry < 6,5 low lv sandy, humusrich soil 6; 5; 3; 5; 3; 6
Viola tricolor < 6,5 sandy soil low P-value 7; x; x; 4; x; x
Sonchus oleraceus 6-7 7; 6; x; 4; 8; 8
Elytrigia repens low P- and Mg-values 7; 6; 7; x; x; 7
Deschampsia flexuosa low pH low lv low N-value 6; x; 2; x; 2; 3
Poa annua high lv high K-value 7; x; 5; 6; x; 8
Stellaria media high K-value 6; x; x; x; 7; 8
Plantago major humusrich soil 8; x; x; 5; x; 6
Artemisia vulgaris < 6,5 7; 6; x; 6; x; 8
Anemone ranunculoides) humusrich soil high N-values
Glebionis segetum < 6 7; 6; 2; 5; 5; 5
Calluna low N-value 8; x; 3; x; 1; 1
Erodium cicutarium < 7 low lv low humus
Hop v humusrich soil high N-value 7; 6; 3; 8; 6; 8
Chenopodium album low lv low Mg-value x; x; x; 4; x; 7
Anchusa arvensis sandy soil
Ranunculus repens high lv humusrich soil high Mg-value 6; x; x; 7; x; 7
Urtica urens 6,5-7 high N-value 7; 6; x; 5; x; 8
Myosotis arvensis < 6 low lv
Veronica arvensis < 7 low lv
Anagallis arvensis high pH high lv clay, humuspoor soil high Mg-value 6; 6; 3; 5; x; 6
Lamium purpureum high pH high lv claysoil high P-value
Rumex acetosella low lv sandy, limepoor soil low P-value 8; 5; 3; 3; 2; 2
Fallopia convolvulus low pH low lv humuspoor soil low K- and Mg-values
Solanum nigrum high pH high lv claysoil 7; 6; 3; 5; 7; 8
Urtica dioica humusrich soil high N-value x; x; x; 6; 7; 9
Veronica persica high pH high lv clay, humuspoor jord high Ca- and P-values
Atriplex patula high pH high lv claysoil
Polygonum aviculare humuspoor soil 7; 6; x; 4; x; 6

Table originates for dk.wikipedia.org

In my kitchen garden weeds are mainly Poa annua (7; x; 5; 6; x; 8), Ranunculus repens (6; x; x; 7; x; 7) and Stellaria media (6; x; x; x; 7; 8).

The mean values are as follow:
Light 6,3 half light plants 20-30% rl. (relative light intensity).

Temperature x, My weeds do not indicate anything about temperature.

Continentality 5, average.

Moisture 6,5, well moist, but not wet

Acidity 7, Only Poa annua indicate light acid to alcaline soil. Less common weeds in my garden indicate more alcalinity.

Nitrogen 7,7, light to more nitrogen rich soil.

There is also indication for richness of potassium and magnesium, and quite as important no indicator of low values of phosforus.

This analysis confirm my first asumption – my soil have a reasonalble content of fertilizing elements, and gives me no reason to invest in a chemical soil analysis.

Do you have a different oppinion, I sincerely hope you will leave a comment. Click on “comments” at the top of this post.