Salad Days: Experimental Salad

Hello and welcome to April's Salad Days, our monthly get together to see how everyone's been getting on with their Salad Challenge :)

April's miserable weather here in the UK has seen plant growth slow right down after March's unseasonal warmth. Ironically it also means there's been no need to use hosepipes during their ban! This must be the wettest drought in living memory ;)

For me, allotment time is taking precedence between the showers, so I've been trying some quick experimental salad growing on the windowsill this month.

I've been given some biochar seed compost to trial and having a couple of identical little trays to hand, I decided to compare rocket sown using the biochar in one tray and John Innes seed compost in the other. The biochar tray is the one on the right.

I put the same amount of seed compost and then sowed 80 rocket seeds (from a freshly opened packet) as evenly spaced as I could on each tray. I covered the seeds and watered lightly. Initially I used a little water sprayer so that the compost was relatively undisturbed.

Germination was quick. 49 seeds (61%) germinated in the John Innes tray and just 29 (36%) on the biochar. As you can see the biochar seedlings are much larger now, but this could be because their lower germination rate means they have much more room to grow and compost to draw nutrients from.

If you look very carefully at the biochar tray, you can also see a small white patch at the bottom right. I think this might be the mycorrhizal fungi showing through (this is one of the other additives used in the biochar compost mix and is a beneficial soil organism).

Soon I'll be transferring the seedlings to pots to see how they fare. I have some biochar to trial for this stage too.

As an experiment it's too small a sample size and there's too many variables at play to draw firm conclusions. For a proper trial, I would need to start with exactly the same compost base and then add some biochar to half of the compost to see what effect it has on germination and growth. However, it was an enjoyable little experiment to do and soon I'll be eating the results :)

How are you faring with your salad this month? Are you trying anything new compost or salad-wise?

Mr Linky is set up below for your posts for April. NB our next Salad Days will be on May 25th.

BTW @FennelandFern has let me know that May is National Salad Month. This is a USA based campaign which has been going for 20 years and is designed to celebrate freshly prepared food, especially salad. The Taste Spotting blog has a salad making challenge set up for next Monday/Tuesday in which you might want to take part. We won't be able to use the salad brand featured, but I'm sure we can do MUCH better with our home grown stuff!


  1. Well I'm pretty quick off the mark this month! Having a lot of fun growing a lot of salad... and eating it regularly now too :D

    Interesting to read how you're getting on with biochar - never know whether it's worth the extra expense & effort with these things so I'll follow your progress closely. Good luck!

  2. Fun experiment. Hope you enjoy eating the participants.

  3. Interesting to read about your Biochar experiment. I put my name down to trial some but after several weeks had an email asking for a fiver for postage as they've run out of funds. I thought I would be getting enough to do a square metre of growing space but you say you've only had a small sample? Hmmm, now I'm wondering whether it's worth it. (The experiment, not the fiver!!)

  4. CG - thank you squared!

    Liz - that's going to be the best bit ;)

    Caro - I had a sample of the seed compost from the manufacturer. Like you I'm also taking part in the Oxford Uni experiment which is a completely different thing. Your fiver will net you 4x60 litre bags of biochar! Mine arrived today and hubby wasn't vety happy about taking delivery of it in the rain ;)

    I'm going to trial courgettes or squash with mine. What are your plans?

  5. Mmmmm - interesting to read about your Biochar experiment - I am inclined to think that the Biochar seedings are bigger because as you say they have more room to spread out. Hope to do a salady post of sorts next week.

  6. Really enjoying the salad challenge, even hubby is going out to the garden to pick a few leaves for his sandwiches!!!
    I make my own compost which includes the manure/straw from the chicken coop.When its well rotted down i dig it through the top 20cm soil prior to planting new seeds/seedlings and so far always had great results.

  7. hi, I read Gardeners World (April edition) about growing salad in pots in rotation and decided to give this method a try. Earlier this month I started some large pots in the garden and the seeds have germinated but the birds tried to take my home made compost and the lack of sun means they are way behind where they should be. But looking forward to harvesting some in May. Amanda


    Ignore my above reply to Caro re the biochar I received yesterday. They're also from the company NOT the Oxford Uni experiment as I originally thought. Looking at their website, volunteers receive 1 bag of biochar for their 1m x 1m experimental plot.

    If you're interested in taking part in the biochar experiment, here's their website details.

    NB All new joiners are asked to pay £5 for their bag of biochar to cover postage costs

  9. Anna - it would be interesting to weigh the seedlings to see if there's a biomass difference between the 2 trays.

    Andrea - so glad you're enjoying the challenge! Chicken poo is great for the garden :)

    Amanda - I'm doing quite a bit of pot grown gardening too as part of my 52 week salad challenge. More on this to come :)

  10. In my autumn garden I'm still finding plenty of greens for salad. The tomatoes are nearly finished though... and then what will I do? I won't be buying supermarket ones, that's for sure.
    Thanks for hosting the challenge!

  11. Ruth - you're most welcome :) I love the variety of colours in your tomatoes - as you say the supermarket ones won't come close.

  12. We are conducting a trail of biochar, but rather than on vegies, its comparing two new beds in the garden.

    Will be interesting to see how it compares.

  13. Mark and Gaz - welcome! I have a couple of spots in my flower bed which will be getting a similar comparison too - thanks for the idea :)


Post a Comment

I love hearing from you and welcome thoughtful conversations :)

Comments aiming to link back and give credence to commercial websites will be composted!

Your essential reads

Salad Days: Mastering Lettuce

Merry Christmas!

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: 'Just Add Cream'

Happy Easter!

Jack Go To Bed At Noon

Wildflower Wednesday: There's an orchid in my lawn!

Please read if you follow this blog by email

Happy New Year!

Chelsea Fringe 2014: Shows of Hands - Episode I