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Experimenting to learn

I just passed 1000 seedlings for the spring so time to write something down. Always the struggle. Documenting the effort so that should someone ask, 'What the hell are you doing' I can go back through my notes and reply.....'this'. Broccoli, Lettuce, Basil, Beets, and Tomatoes, are all planted and growing in the greenhouse. In fact, I have potted up into 4 inch Cow Pots, many of the Tomatoes. A change I'm making this year in my potting mix (Lambert All-Purpose), I'm adding vermi-compost extract to mix prior to planting any seed. (Vermi-compost is the compost you get when using worms like night crawlers, to breakdown food waste, compost, green litter, etc.) Trying to establish a biological food web and subsequent nutrient cycle, right at the beginning of the plant lifecycle. After attending a Living Soil Summit @utahfoodcoalition, I decided to take another step and conduct an experiment. When I pot up from my initial mix, I make an extract using about 1 pound of compost in a paint bag and a small amount of dechlorinated water (1 gallon +/-) that has sat out for 24 hours, work or massage the compost in the water for a minute or two until it's dark brown, dip the root ball of the transplant directly into the extract, pot it up and take some pictures. My first trial is on Broccolini (variety Happy Rich), two dipped plants(left), two control or undipped plants(right).

A small sample but should yield something. My plan is to run the experiment for 4 weeks, take weekly photos, March 16- April 13 and evaluate. My hypothesis is something along the lines of getting a substantial population of microbiology in the very near vicinity of the plant root will enhance early growth. I verified the biological activity under my microscope (my favorite market garden tool) so we'll see. What am I looking at under the scope? Here's what I know. There were multitudes of bacteria, fungal fragments, some protozoa and nematodes. Not being a microbiologist (much the pity) there is much I don't know, but I'm working a numbers game. I heard Dr. Elaine Ingham say once that 98% of soil life is beneficial. Those odds, I'll take all day.

Broccolini is a Brassica and a fun fact about the Brassicas, they prefer a bacterial dominated soil. Vermi-compost tends to be bacterial dominated.

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