2018 Members Experiments
We're pleased to announce the subjects of our 2018 Members' Experiment.
To mark 60 years of members' experiments, and to tie in with our citizen science research project run in partnership with Coventry University, we have delved into the archives and picked three experiment topics that relate back to our early days.
We do hope you'll join us in taking on these experiments...
Experiment 1 - A survey of comfrey use
Comfrey is considered one of the pillars upon which this organisation was formed in 1958. At the time the plant was respected for its many uses. It could be grown to produce large amounts of forage; it helped wounds to heal and it could be used to make a very good plant feed. It was the latter that was of most interest to the organisation.
Lawrence Hills first set up his comrey trial ground at Bocking in Essex. He was particularly interested in which strains worked best, and how the nutrient content compared with proprietary plant feeds. Since then, there is no doubt that Garden Organic has made a huge impact in promoting the use of this plant.
Sixty years on, we would like to investigate the extent of this impact, by producing a map of comfrey use around the country and recording the ways in which it is used. If you use comfrey in your garden, whether it is to put in your compst, make a plant feed or to attract bees, we would like to hear from you. Equally, if you've never considered comfrey, we would like to identify where we still have work to do.
Experiment 2 - Growing edible lupins
Most of us have seen decorative lupins growing but not considered them as a food crop. Many of the decorative varieties of lupins are full of toxic alkaloids so must not be eaten, but there are edible 'sweet' varieties with a very low alkaloid content. They can be used in a wide variety of dishes such as salads, sprouted of ground into a high protein flour. The high protein seeds could one day become a viable home-grown alternative to replace imported soya.
We last tried growing edible lupins in 1979, but concluded the varieties were not very well suited to the UK climate. Things have moved on, and new low alkaloid varieties have been developed. We would like to test the viability of growing these edible lupins in your back garden, and what you think to eating them.
We will provide the seeds, all you need to take part is a minimum of 1m2 of growing space, preferably in full or partial sun. Lupins prefer a free draining soil but can also be grown on clay. They are best sown from the beginning of April onwards and should be ready by September. It doesn't matter if you've never grown them before, or if you are an experienced lupin grower - we would like to get as wide a range of opinion as possible.
Experiment 3 - What is the best way of trapping slugs?
The one thing that has united organic growers across every decade is a shared hatred of slugs! Many growers, who would otherwise claim to be organic, turn to the use of metaldehyde slug pellets, causing potential risk to surrounding wildlife.
The beer trap has long been a traditional alternative method. Slugs are attracted to the smell of fermenting or rotting material, so are natually drawn to the beer traps. We are keen to understand if different types of beer improve the effectiveness of slugs traps. Or is there an alternative tipple they enjoy even more?
We would like participants to construct four slug traps, one containing lager, one bitter, one cider and one 'wildcard' drink of your choice, then check them twice a week for catches. We will provide full instructions on construction and monitoring of the traps.