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Would my amendment experiments work for everyone?

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Would my amendment experiments work for everyone?

Post  boffer on 12/8/2014, 1:38 pm

Many row gardeners make the mistake of thinking that when a gardener in a neighboring  state has positive results from using a particular amendment, they will get similar results from using that amendment.   Since native soils vary so much from region to region, expecting similar results is unrealistic.  Possible, but not probable.

I'm thinking,  that for those of us who make our MM by the book  and have successfully grown veggies in that MM, that our growing medium is very similar regardless of where we live.  Therefore, if I conduct an experiment with an amendment that gives me a noticeable improvement, is it reasonable to think that you would get similar results if you conducted the same experiment?

(Obviously, weather variations are going to have an influence, even in my own garden, but that's why it's important to have control plants for comparison with the amended plants.)

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Re: Would my amendment experiments work for everyone?

Post  yolos on 12/8/2014, 2:02 pm

Many of us make our own compost and others buy different types of bagged compost so there is still that variable in our MM.  So it really depends on the amendment.  But on the whole, I would say that you are correct about the amendments if we are talking about things like rock dust (or whatever that stuff is called).  But if you are talking about an amendment that is a type of fertilizer, then your hypothesis may be wrong.

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Re: Would my amendment experiments work for everyone?

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/8/2014, 2:55 pm

I have three reservations:

1. Our composts may vary considerably. Having to use five different types of compost to make MM can be burdensome, but it isn't all that limiting. Those five can come from so many different sources and be of such differing types that pH and nutrient levels are likely to vary.

2. Environmental conditions may change MM on a regional basis. The heavy rains in the Pacific Northwest, for instance, tend to turn even balanced soils acidic over time. Places with less rain that started out with identical soil may not remain comparable.

3. The "grew crops successfully" metric is inherently subjective. It also does not depend entirely on quality of MM. The implied verification of how good or suitable as a basis for comparison with other MM's that any particular MM is by way of it having produced good crops previously is a shaky one.

The first two considerations address that while native soils will vary, it's probable that different MM's will vary too, both when first made and then later as their environment begins to work on them. Put the two together and the combined result might be that MM varies considerably, especially as it ages.

So I propose that while there is a basis for comparison between different people's MM's, there is reasonable expectation that the difference between them may effect experimental results.

That doesn't mean your experiments would not be valuable, because there is some inherent similarity between MM's, on the one hand, and if you simply discover broadly applicable science, it may apply well to both MM and non-MM type soils and growth mediums. It just means we SFG'ers are not exempt from variability and having to locally adapt whatever we might learn.

Marc Iverson

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Re: Would my amendment experiments work for everyone?

Post  plantoid on 12/8/2014, 2:56 pm

Probably not Boffer,
 As the compost element of MM and the home made composts for everyone beds are different , adding a set improvement formula that works fantastic for your beds could kill someone else's or make for too much lush lank growth .

 I found that my well composted nine  different animal/ bird dungs & associated bedding plus other compostable materials was a bit too rich.  In that the plants grew too quickly for a strong cell wall development .

The tomatoes I grew in tubs of MM made with it did not have the best of sweet aromatic flavours of those that had a gentler form of home made compost in them .  ( This years toms )

It could be that I should have reduced the amount of the more initial made aggressive composts I made in my MM and for the harvested squares replenishment compost.

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Re: Would my amendment experiments work for everyone?

Post  jimmy cee on 12/8/2014, 3:00 pm

Bring on your amendments, I'll try anything...
jimmy cee

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Re: Would my amendment experiments work for everyone?

Post  Judy McConnell on 12/8/2014, 5:08 pm

How much variation can be found in the different foods fed to our manure-source animals and birds and what effect would that have on the "finished product"(manure)?

If I fed my birds only chicken feed and you added greens and different veggies (and worms) wouldn't there be extra nutrients passing through their GI tracts??
Judy McConnell

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Re: Would my amendment experiments work for everyone?

Post  boffer on 12/8/2014, 5:50 pm

The simplistic beauty of using 5 different composts  per the book's guidelines, regardless of the type we use, is that we all end up with a growing medium with  a pH and major nutrients that are in a range suitable for growing most vegetables.  The values will differ from batch to batch, but  should be in the suitable range.  That's the foundation that ANSFG is based on.

I included the  phrase 'successfully grown veggies'  to specifically address the issue of poor quality store-bought compost, which seems to be a problem.  It's a very general term of evaluation, but it's the basic objective for which we all strive: to grow plants to maturity that we can then harvest.  At that point, we can analyze the harvest.  For most of us, evaluating the quality  of our harvest (flavor, aroma, appearance) is subjective, based on our experience and preferences.    Yield measurements are objective, whether we're measuring weight, volume, units, or size.

The scientifically conducted amendment research papers that I have read, follow a similar pattern:

1. Select two fields in close proximity that have been similarly maintained, and are successfully producing a marketable harvest.

2. One field is used as a control; the other has the amendment applied.

3. The experiment is done at 3 different times of the growing season which, depending on the crop, could take more than one year.

I have no idea if that's a standardized and accepted procedure;  it's just what the research that I have read  had in common.  The research focus was increasing yield for commercial farmers.

1. assumes that a farmer has already conditioned his fields to grow marketable veggies.  I'm suggesting that our MM is comparable to a professionally maintained field, in so far as they both already produce a harvest.

2. is a given, to minimize variables.

3. looks at  variations due to weather.

If the experiments work for commercials farmers, why not for SFGers?  

Hmmm...perhaps my original question should have been:  How would one go about improving MM in a manner that would benefit everyone?

MM is good, but nothing is perfect.  Challenge the status quo; that's how SFG was created!

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