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  • Writer's pictureRachel Cobb

Science Experiments and Farming

I always wanted to be a scientist. Turns out a farm can be the perfect laboratory! Last summer my cantaloupes were struggling to thrive in the very sandy soil they were planted in, no matter how much fertilizer I gave them. I remembered my mentor from Colorado using humic acid from time to time on his vegetables and thought I'd give it a shot. Humic acid, if you're not familiar, is basically liquid black dirt. It's not a fertilizer so much as it enhances the soil (to get technical about it, it increases the cation exchange capacity of soil, making minerals and nutrients available to plant roots.) Well we have to follow the scientific method of course, so I left half the cantaloupes untreated as a control. Within a week, the treated plants were larger, healthier, and darker green! I'll keep humic acid in my toolbox this summer, at least until the soil is improved with more organic material.

My other science experiment from last year was winter growing in a greenhouse. I've never really had a greenhouse to work with for year round growing, and I wanted to see what I could get away with, especially in Minnesota. In November I planted one of our greenhouses with broccoli, celery, radicchio, onions, daikon radishes, and lettuce. These were all varieties chosen for their cold hardiness, so I provided no additional heat. All the plants basically withered and froze by the end of December, but by March they were growing again, and the broccoli is now forming little heads! There's some things I'll need to change for next year (the soil was too moist going into winter, so mold was a problem) but I'm excited about the possibilities for year-round growing!

I have a couple more experiments planned for this summer, and I'll keep you updated about how they turn out.

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