Today is another day with, for West Cork, fairly high temperatures (29.7C in shade), and we are so enjoying this lovely warm weather. For the plants this is a different matter. We have water restrictions in place which means of course that we cannot freely water our vegetables and herbs. So far I have only lost one ornamental fir growing in a tub, I guess that the reason is that I am giving most of my gray water to the vegetables and only very little to the ornamental plants.

And so today it became time to give a good update of my soil experiment. Though it is too early yet to make final conclusions, I can see how overall the plants are not growing as lush as I expected, probably due to the drought (since the 8th of May we are without substantial rain, only once did we have a shower, but not enough to really wet the soil thoroughly – only 2.5mm during May, and 8mm during June).  The soil looks to be very coarse and dry, pale in colour and hard to put a shovel in.  In places the soil has come away from the raised bed frame, a sure sign of dryness.
While both plots had a moisture content figure of over 3 during May – today’s readings were as follows:


MOISTURE CONTENT: DRY the needle stood at 1
PH: 8


MOISTURE CONTENT: VERY DRY the needle did not reach 1
PH: 8

When I compare the light on both plots with the May figures there are quite a few changes due of course to the normal changing season but also due to the very warm & dry summer. Light in both plots seem to have increased from 1000 to 2000 measured in full sun. PH of soil has gone up a few degrees in both plots and is now 8 which is too alkaline. Moisture of course has gone down from 3 to 1 and even less than 1 in plot two. Soil temperature has increased from 13C in plot two to 19C today, and in plot 1 it has increased from 15C to 21C.

Overall the bean plants did not do so well, they look fairly poorly and did not grow lush, there are, however, some beans ready to be harvested in both plots, and there are more flowers showing.

One of the observations I have made is that the bean plants which I sowed inside early in spring – and then planted out, did not do as well as the beans I sowed straight in the garden at a later date – these plants became very robust and grew fast – they will have a later harvest as they are only at the flowering stage. I will take that into consideration for next years sowing.

In both plots all the spinach plants, which looked very healthy to start with, bolted immediately and I have had no produce from them at all.  But in plot 1 where I sowed the radish early I had about 150gr of edible produce.  The radish in plot 2 have not matured yet due to a later date of sowing.

As regards weeds, plot 1 has had many, partly probably because of the compost I used from the garden bin where perhaps seeds were not destroyed during the composting stage, for example, I have seen tomato plants starting to grow in between the beans plants. I also made the mistake of accidentally spilling some of my spare heir-loom double poppy seeds among the bean plants, and once I realised and saw the plants I could not bear to pull them up, so right now the bean plants growing side by side with the flowering poppies. Good for attracting insects to pollinate the bean flowers anyway.

Plot 2 has had no weeds growing to speak of, the leaf mould here has done a good job keeping the weeds down. I find that the bean plants here have not taken as well as the ones in plot 1.

Both plots have had some slug damage in the past week, but due again to the drought there has been very little slug activity in the garden.

Some photos of what is going on in the experimental plots, and also in the extra plot where I sowed the bean plants straight into the garden soil,  (the ball is there to chase the cats away).   I notice from the flower that one of those bean plants is actually a different bean (a runner bean).

I must say also that the moist/light/ph measuring tool I use is a simple one that I bought in a garden centre.  I doubt if it is very scientific, and having checked the Internet on moisture of soil measuring tools I fear that I am only playing at this.  But on the other hand it does tell me a little of what is going on in my soil and that for the moment is good enough.  I do know that my soil is lacking in potassium and in nitrogen and I mean to address that organically – but I have not found out how I should go about it, apart from using banana peels and growing leguminous plants on my soil both of which I am doing.

I think any attempt however small at understand more about our soil is worthwhile, and I love what I am doing right now.  I intend to see my soil increase in fertility, and also I intend to get a much better understanding on how it all works together.


  1. When the experiment was set up by GROW, I doubt very much they expected us to be facing drought and high heat this summer! Spinach doesn’t grow in my garden at the best of times (because it’s too dry), so I’m glad I didn’t attempt it. However, the sweetcorn is fab (I did get a quick maturing variety) and the beans are okay so far.

    Urine and coffee grinds will add nitrogen – or try mown grass. Not sure what adds potassium apart from banana skins.

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      1. Agnes, I’m just reading an article about what ‘weeds’ can add to the soil and apparently yarrow is good for potassium. Not sure if it is the roots or the decomposing stalks and leaves which add the K, though.

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  2. Though our temperatures are no where near as warm as yours, we too are lacking rain. Our beans are not doing too well either. We’ve started giving them grey water mainly from the shower and hoping it will make a difference.

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  3. Fascinating stuff. Anything we can do to observe our plots closely helps us, I think. There are so many myths or rules that are not relevant to our own plot; I think the answer is to find out what is true for our own little space, and to keep learning!

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  4. I sowed Custard wax bush beans both direct and in modules. I also found the direct sown beans to grow better. Too early to count yield. Will follow your experiments with interest.

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  5. An interesting experiment. We have actually had a day of rain yesterday on the east coast which my pot plants appreciated.. I have been collecting all our grey water and using sparingly.. That bit of rain perked everything up again. We have a very tough clay soil and they hydrangeas seem to love it. We are only just putting it together as we had to clear 10 years worth of undergrowth that had ventured over the house and take out dead trees. This next year will be interesting as we plot and plan.. thanks Gaia..

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  6. Hier is de droogte ook dramatisch.Wij mogen niet meer sproeien en de tuin ligt erbij zoals in een vroege herfstdag.De appelbomen laten hun bladeren vallen door de droogte.De hortensias laten hun kopjes hangen.Zo spijtig maar de tuin ligt er verslagen bij.

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    1. Ja ik weet in Belgie heel warm en droog. Spijtig voor je appelbomen en de hortensias. Hier is het weer verandert en is meer normaal voor een Ierse zomer, ongeveer een week geleden is de temperatuur gedaald naar 15C en is heb begonnen regenen,,en is nog bezig! Het land en de tuin is heel gelukkig 🙂


  7. We are experiencing a dry winter though it is supposed to be our rainy season. Does not seem fair that India is getting destructive floods. Looks like you are doing well despite of the drought.

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