Thursday, December 29, 2016

Germination & Growth Tests

Winter is a good time to test some of the compost materials we made over the past year. We use small pots in a climate-controlled growth chamber. Each treatment has 5 replicates. We plant 10 cucumber seeds in each pot, water it, and add a humidity dome. We grow for 2 weeks without any additional watering. At the end of two weeks, we count the germinations and the number of secondary leaves. Then we harvest the plants and dry them in a food dehydrator for 24 hours. Finally, we weigh the biomass produced by each type of soil amendment. This gives us a way to compare the effects of different treatments on plants. Here is a collage of photos that illustrates the process:

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Visit to Siskiyou Alpaca

It was time to take some samples of compost at Siskiyou Alpaca. John and Christine Perala-Gardiner raise alpacas for their many values including fiber and the wonderful compost made from their droppings. We have two experimental compost piles with different amounts of added biochar, and control piles with no biochar.

Taking samples from the compost experiments.

Helper Nancy with Christine and John at Siskiyou Alpaca.

Current practice is to clean the barn and pile manure in windrows to compost.

These intelligent animals have the right idea about where to poop!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Making the Fungal Compost

Our gardens appreciate a good balance of helpful fungi. Good compost will help promote that balance. Don's biochar compost is looking pretty good.

Fungi (toadstools and mycelia) are growing on outside hay of my oldest pile that is currently 110-120 degrees F in the center. Mycelia in attached photo are on my recent pile started a couple of weeks ago.
-Don Morrison