Ecological food production


September 2015

Soil sampling – Counting earth worms in Sawmill orchard

The easiest way to test soil health is to dig holes and count earth worms. So thats what I did. I found two limp and small ones in the first line. IMG_1408

I found two earth worms in eight bulb planter samples of 20cm x 5cm. Their bodies were limp and small reminiscent of an overworked under nourished miner after a seven day week. The sick looking worms were struggling to find food in the thick synthetics soup that is consistent with 30 years of western agriculture common in the UK. The field has been intensively framed – corn and wheat – for 30 years. The soil would of been privy to a holiday every now and again, but basically it was used as a holding ballast for the synthetics of the chemical industry, long since shamed by Rachel Carson in Silent spring, helped by James Lovelock (Lovelock, J, 2014). I can see the soil is devoid of health, the plants are tiny, the Viola flowers are the size of a babies finger nail, and the touch of the soil is hard unforgiving, but I still feel the need to test for earth worms to enable comparisons further down the line in soil improvement. I would of liked to of tested for respiration, but I don’t have a budget for that as its £700 for a single test, so earth worms are a grand substitute for gaging life and health in the soil.

Because of the lifelessness I have embarked on a mission to build the organic matter back up:

Wood chip compost. Working with landscapers and tree surgeons to build piles of wood chip

Working with a local wood yard to build piles of sawdust – I’ll add plant matter as the year goes on.`

Talking to Devon county council to look at the possibilities of building a community compost for Dartington

100’s of tonnes of top soil from local sources built onto the field

The nest stage is a horse and harrow to level the top soil and disturb the top layer of the rest. I’ll then plant the following seeds – in kg’s to the right:

White Clover – small leaved    £8.00/kg   or  £14.00/kg *organic*  1-3kg/acre


White Clover  – medium leaved £7.00/kg    1-3kg/acre


Alsike  £6.00/kg   2-4kg/acre


Late Flowering Red Clover    £5.00/kg   3-4kg/acre


Sainfoin    £5.00/kg *organic*    25kg/acre minimum


Egyptian Clover  £6.50/kg


Persian Clover  £7.00/kg   3-4kg/acre


Crimson Clover  £6.50/kg *organic*   5-6kg/acre


Yarrow     £23.00/kg   1kg/acre or less


Ribwort Plantain    £11.00/kg    3-4kg/acre


Puna Chicory   £11.50/kg     3-4kg/acre



Bye for now, thanks for reading.

Grain of truth – the field

Today is a day of transition for the field. We are testing the soil for earth worms.


  1. Mark out three lines in the field
  2. Dig holes with a bulb planter every 20m
  3. Count earthworms in every sample

I had hoped to find some money to have the soil tested for respiration, but at this present point that hasn’t happened.

What is happening:

  1. We are filling part of the field with topsoil
  2. We are building woodchip and wood shaving composts
  3. Thinking about education space
  4. Planning what seeds to plant to complement the other plants and build soil nutrition

IMG_1408IMG_1410 IMG_1424

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