Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Attempt at an experiment

I've been using MiracleGro potting mix for my plants. I thought about making my own potting mix, but for me, that is too stressful. I would like to be as "organic" as possible but I definitely have my limits. I decided my goal for this year is not to use pesticides and do my best to deal with diseases organically. I will also try to get organic fertilizers but I started off with MG potting soil which has fertilizer mixed into it (I didn't get the organic type either). When I went to Lowe's to get soil, I initially got garden soil thinking it was the same thing. Fortunately I read that they were different before I opened the bag so I returned the bag and exchanged it with potting mix.
  I was listening to an episode of "grow your grub" podcast where Steve talks about seaweed fertilizer. This reminded me that I have several packages of very old and stale nori seaweed in my pantry (that is not edible). Steve sent me a great link about making fertilizer using kelp. I also have kelp in my pantry but they are still good to eat so I will not use this. I think that nori can be used instead but I want to test if this homemade fertilizer is effective. So I decided to set up an experiment. I had basil, peas (the ones I tried germinate in a paper towel), and tomato seedlings that I could use.
tomato seedlings that are quite cramped and stunted, subjects of the experiment
To set up this experiment correctly, I needed to find potting soil without fertilizer. This prove to be very difficult. I finally found one at Lowe's called Garden Pro Potting soil. I set up 5 conditions per plant (MG=miracle gro; RS=Garden Pro): MG, RS only, RS + liquid MG fertilizer, RS + compost tea, RS + seaweed fertilizer. The compost tea is actually the water that is dripped out of the compost bucket I talked about some time ago. I went all out and set up the 15 cups for this experiment.
Top row: peas, Middle: tomatoes, bottom: basil. The column on the left is MG, the rest of the "regular soil"

The Garden Pro potting soil was really strange. It looked like it had a lot of sand or clay maybe, but the texture was totally different from MG. It looked really dense so I added some perlite. After setting up the cups it occurred to me that this soil will not work for this experiment (ie: not comparable to MG), but at that point it was really too late to look back. I watered each cup...and the RS dissolved to about half the volume and the water that drained out was brown. So at the end, I'm not sure this experiment is gonna work. If the seedlings don't die in the next few days, I'll start the experiment.
After watering, soil dissolves to about half the volume
The coffee colored liquid that is seeped out
Chilling on my windowsill
I'll end with some pictures of mesclun greens that I a) thinned out b) used for salad. They were more mesclun-y than my previous "salad".
The salad was good

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