I recently went through and picked the final winners in my seed leek trial. This time I went for some short stout ones, but all were still probably at least 18 inches long. I think size and up to almost 3 inches diameter are probably a little more practical than the really tall and somewhat more slender ones. the leeks will now flower in their new home and seed should be ready by fall.
Apparently I can't keep up with myself. Here is a backlog of recent videos on everything from rawhide to roads.
The difference between the different sections of the leek bed are even more obvious now, confirming more what I observed this summer, which is that the soil with charcoal (biochar) has what is generally referred to as heart. That is to say it has staying power and isn't easily used up without regular additions of fertilizer. I've been very negligent with this leek bed and it really shows on the control end with no charcoal, but not much on the 10% char end. The 5% section is better than half way between the two others, but there is an obvious difference except that within one foot of the 10% section, the plants are nearly indistinguishable from most of the rest of the 10% section. The very end of the 10% section drops off in size, but that may be due to the shape, of the bed, which is pointed on the end. Also, many gardeners will have observed that plants tend to do less well on the ends of beds. If you took the difference between the control end and the 10% end as at least 600% difference, that could be interpreted as the 10% char end making 600% better use added amendments. That is a sloppy interpretation and doesn't take into account all possible factors, but it's still impressive and probably on the low side if anything. The leek seed from this project will be ready in the fall for planting about this time next year.
ROAD SERIES PRIMER
This one is a quick primer for what will be a series on the design of graveled roads based on what I learned and have observed building mine, as well as paying attention to other unpaved roads and what happens to them in various circumstances. It will have to potential to save a lot of people, time, money, unpleasant driving conditions, all while saving resources ultimately and keeping sediment out of stream beds. In the meantime, you can download the handbook for forest and ranch roads for free here. It is a dry read, but very worth putting to use if unpaved roads are a regular part of your life. http://www.pacificwatershed.com/sites/default/files/roadsenglishbookapril2015b_0.pdf
RAWHIDE HANDLE BRACE FINAL
This is the final part of the rawhide axe handle brace. As usual for me, this series wasn't just about making this one tweak, but about rawhide and sinew and hide glue and context and related stuff.
Third and final installment of my look back at 2016
Some overdue tending of my seed leek project. From here out I just need to keep fertilizing and watering till spring when I select the best leeks and allow them to go to seed. The seed should be ready for sale in fall of 2017 Related videos linked below.
Some related videos...
About three years back I set up my first biochar test bed. I divided the bed into three sections of 10% charcoal, 5% charcoal and 0% charcoal. The sections were all treated the same, except the 0% section was amended with a small amount of wood ash in an attempt to approximate the amount that would have been added incidentally with the charcoal. I even dug the 0% section exactly the same as the 5 and 10% sections.
The first year the char sections of the bed performed poorly. Lettuce failed to thrive in the char sections, but did fine in the 0% section because the charcoal sapped the soil of nitrogen and who knows what else. several growing seasons later though, it's a different story. I forgot to mention in my leek planting video that the bed I used was this test bed. now that the leeks are established and growing, there is an obvious difference in the three sections with the 10% doing the best and 0% by far the worst. While there could be some other factors involved, it's pretty clear that the charcoal is having a very positive effect. I would say that the 10% section could be doing as much as 600% better than the 0% section. The weeds look a lot happier too.
What the exact effect is, I don't know, and while I'd like to know, I don't necessarily need to. It is just working and that is the important thing. It seems that the charcoal amended sections are making better use of whatever resources are put on them. We'll see how the leeks progress through the season.
What I learned from this experiment so far is that 10% is better than 5% and 10 inches deep makes a difference. I'd like to put in a similar experiment with 10%, 15% and 20%. I'd also like to do sections of a bed at a constant percentage, but one dug to 2 feet and one dug to only 12 inches. And there are many more experiments I could do. Each bed I install will be a different test of some kind. It is easy enough to set them up and I could potentially learn from them for years. I hope some of you out there will start collecting or making charcoal and setting up your own experiments. If you already are, leave a comment and tell us about it.