Thursday, 3 April 2014

Practical Session Report - March 2014

We had planned to plant some bulbs during our first practical session of the new year, but weren't able to get the bulbs in time. So, we decided that we'd switch things around and perform the soil testing this month and plant the bulbs next time.

We tested the soil in three locations in the churchyard, as shown on the layout below.

We also used three different techniques:
1) Water and pH strips, which requires soil from a 20cm depth.
2) a soil tester which uses a probe pushed into the soil and provides a pH reading in around a minute.
3) a tester kit that uses dried soil samples and chemical reagents to provide a pH reading of the soil.

We were expecting that over such a long period of time, the dropped leaves of the Yew trees may have made the soil more acidic. But instead, when averaging out the results from the three methods of testing, we found that the soil was neutral (7) to slightly alkaline (7.5). So, I had a quick look in a couple of books and found that things such a pine needles (for example), which are acidic don't have much of an impact on soil pH (Hodge, 2013). I also read that Yew trees prefer drier lime-rich soils (Sterry, 2007). These results will help us in future if we decide to try and grow any new plant species in the churchyard. The results will also help us over time if we find that a certain plant species is doing particularly well or decidedly poorly. The full results can be seen in the table below.

In the photos above, a pH strip and the probe soil tester can be seen in action.

It was great fun being back at the churchyard after our winter break and we had lots of new volunteers.One such volunteer was Abel, who is fascinated by worms and was a great help digging the holes we needed for our soil testing. He can be see in the photo below with Liz, one of our coordinators, who is explaining some of the biology of the worm to Abel.
Liz, Abel, and the worm.
So, that's it for this time. Next time, we'll hopefully be planting some bulbs. Hope to see you all there!

Paul Sterry, 2007. Complete British Trees. Edition. HarperCollins UK.
Geoff Hodge, 2013. RHS Botany for Gardeners. Edition. Mitchell Beazley.