Sunday, 3 June 2012

Garden Organic Members' Experiments Progress

A while back m'lady and I decided to take part in a couple of the Garden Organic members' experiments. We opted for the garden scale wheat trial and the blight resistant tomato tests.  After a tense couple of weeks of waiting to see if we were accepted (being new boy late comers to this game) we received a pleasingly chunky envelope containing the required seeds, some background information and the data sheets we needed to complete for each trial.

We quickly got a bed at the allotment prepared for the wheat - cleared of weeds, levelled and then had the wheat seed broadcast across it.  A quick raking over and that was the wheat trial under way for us - all done by the middle of April.  Within a couple of weeks the first little green leaves were already showing, although the progress was a bit slow after that thanks to the rather odd Spring weather this year.  Still, nothing much to be done with the wheat now until late July when, hopefully, we'll be harvesting golden ears and working out how to thresh, mill and bake with them (which is really the main reason behind the experiment - can a small patch of wheat be grown by gardeners and then turned into something useful).

Meanwhile the tomato experiment could get underway indoors, despite the toms actually being outdoor varieties.  The point of this experiment is to trial four different tomato varieties and see what their resistance is to the evil blight (Phytophthora infestans for those playing along at home).  Blight is something we've been cursed with before - we lost an entire main crop potato harvest three or four years ago, and then some almost ripe tomatoes the following year - so this an experiment we're obviously rather interested in.  I can't tell you much about the varieties we're growing as they are only known to us as the mysterious labels A, B, C and D.

Once 10 seeds each of A, B, C and D were sown, they rested in the propagator in m'lady's lounge window sill, alongside our normal indoor toms.  The weather decided to be grey, manky and cold for weeks on end, so germination was a bit slow at first.  Eventually A, C and D got going (along with our normal, non-experimental toms) and between 5 and 9 little seedlings appeared in the pots.  Tomato B steadfastly refused to germinate though - we thought at one point it was going to be a complete no-show.  Eventually one little 'B' appeared and after waiting for some weeks (during which A, C, D were growing madly) we resigned ourselves to only having one Tom B for the trial
The tomato experimental subjects
Today was "potting on and putting out" day.  One each of A, B, C and D got put into 8 litre pots containing a mixture of home made compost topped off with some Vital Earth vegetable compost and a handful of slow release organic fertilizer.  Due to my poor planning and thus a slight lack of veg compost we then potted up two more each of A, C and D, and all of these got popped outside on m'lady's patio to soak up the gentle Summer sun.  Or as it turns out on this royal Bank Holiday weekend, soak up the gentle English rain.

We've sourced some more compost (last bag of Vital Earth veg compost at Charlecote Garden Centre, which I think demonstrates how good it is compared to the masses of some other brands still stacked on pallets there) and we'll pot up some more of A, C and D later today.  These will also get squeezed in somewhere in m'lady's increasingly well filled back garden.  Who wants scented roses when there's some serious garden science to be done, eh?

Then bizarrely we actually need some more of the warm English rain, as that's what spreads the blight spores.  Apparently this experiment is a rerun of a similar trial made last year, when it wasn't wet enough during the tomato growing season and thus few people had blight hit their trial toms.  I'm in two minds really.  I'd like to get some useful results for the Garden Organic folk from this experiment which may help long term in providing blight resistant tomato strains.  On the other hand I'd really like to see what toms A, B, C and D actually taste like.  After all there'd be little point in growing blight-proof toms that taste like supermarket commercial varieties!

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