On November 6th, one of Solana Center’s compost beds was split in to two equally sized plots (120x18x13) using a layer of non-permeable aluminum foil. One plot was filled with local topsoil and clay dirt (control), while the other was filled with freshly completed compost from the Solana Center.
In the first 36x18x13 portion of each plot, an equal number of radish seeds were planted. This would be the quantitative focus of the comparative gardening experiment. The second section was planted with lettuce seeds, while the third section was filled with cilantro seeds. These two sections would be for qualitative analysis.
Over the next two months, each plot was watered equally. In this time, staggered observations were made comparatively between each set of crops. Composted crops were noted to have germinated and sprouted earlier than their control counterparts. Compost sections also boasted more foliage via greater growth per seed.
On January 14th, the radishes were deemed ready for qualitative and quantitative comparison. Each plot was harvest with all vegetation left on initially. In the compost plot, a total of 56 oz of vegetation was harvested, where only 26 oz were harvested from the control plot. Once these crops were weighed, the vegetation was removed and a head count of “viable” radishes was taken. Radishes were assumed viable if they had proper coloring (top portion red, bottom portion white, no mixing) and were at least the size of the evaluators thumb. Compost boasted 42 viable radishes with numerous non-viables discarded, while the control group grew 27 viable radishes with many non-sprouting seeds. It was also noted that the control plot had developed stinging nettle and other weeds, as it had no method of hindering weed growth in a way that compost could.
The cilantro and lettuce plots were grown merely as a visual representation of the growing capabilities of plants in compost. While there was some significant cilantro growth in the control plot, the compost plot almost doubled it in size and germination. In a qualitative taste test, the compost cilantro was notably stronger in flavor, while the texture was less rigid and dry compared to its counterpart. Compost lettuce grew slowly (though it was officially matured), whereas the dirt lettuce was barely able to sprout before dying off. This was assumed to be a result of the compost’s ability to retain heat and moisture well enough to help the lettuce through the winter rains of December and early January. The fact that both plots were able to grow in such cold, damp weather with limited direct sunshine can be attributed to the natural protecting and supporting qualities of composted humus.