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Improving Soil Health on Horticulture Operations: London

  • Hawkwood Nurseries 115 Hawkwood Crescent London, England, E4 7UH United Kingdom (map)

------------------ Roots Make Soil ----------------------
Apply the soil health principles to transform your soil into a crumbly, friable state that's easy to work & produces healthy crops.

A one-day course on promoting and preserving soil health, using problem-based learning.

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The soil health principles work. From large farms to market gardens, when implemented doggedly they bring real results: better soil structure, healthier crops and more consistent yields. What's more, the growers that have most rigorously applied these principles have the more profitable operations today.

Think differently about the “farming problem”, and find solutions that work for you in your situation.

• Cash crops, cover crops, cultivation, amendments, propagation, composting etc.
• Rotation planning for reduced work & better crops.
• Road testing novel practices on your operation with minimal disruption.
• Simple testing methods to monitor soil health and measure success.

Who is this course for?
• Market gardeners
• Commercial growers
• Nursery workers
• Horticulture managers
• Apprentices, trainee growers

About the Venue
Organiclea is a community food project based in the Lea Valley in north-east London. They produce and distribute food and plants locally, and inspire and support others to do the same. With a workers’ cooperative at their core, they bring people together to take action towards a more just and sustainable society.
The site is an excellent example of how commercial growing can work at scale in a periurban situation, using stock-free organic methods.

Empirical case for good soil management
• How different strategies affect soil structure
Defining soil health
• How it's articulated and how to measure it
Evidencing soil health
• Aggregation, spade tests, visual soil inspection
Soil food web
• Theory and relevance
Soil organic matter and soil carbon
• What is it and how it differs from straight organic matter
Composting systems
• Fast hot composting, no-turn methods
Soil Management Practices:
• No-dig, min-till
• Tarping & sheeting down
• Mulching
Cash cropping
• Intercropping, relay cropping
• Reducing losses & grade-outs
Cover crops
• Selecting/designing mixtures appropriate to your situation
• Keeping costs down
Selecting appropriate soil management practices, to:
• Preserve soil structure and biology
• Minimise weed burdens
Rotations planning for success
• Exercise - based on student's own examples
• Identifying points of intervention in existing rotations
Propagation strategies
• Ensuring a healthy start for healthy crops
Site planning
• Sizing operations for best returns
• Maximising productivity
• Biochar, compost, minerals etc
• Mulching and top-dressing strategies
Weed Control
• Selecting strategies that work and don’t compromise soil health objectives
Monitoring and testing
• DIY soil health tests
• Lab tests
Measuring plant health
• Brix, plant sap pH
Trials and experimentation
• Setting-up and running your own small-scale trials
• Comparative, split-field and controls

What you take away from the course
• Printed hand-out
• PowerPoint Presentations

Course Schedule
• Morning – theory & first principles
• Lunch – packed lunch
• Afternoon – site tour & rotation planning exercise

What to Bring
• Packed lunch
• Warm clothes
• Waterproofs, wellies, brolli
• Notebook, camera, smartphone

“Inspiring course, taught me so much. Very enjoyable”
“Highly recommend this course, packed full of informative content. I have left full of ideas that I can’t wait to implement”

About the Tutor

Niels Corfield has been working to deliver a truly sustainable food system for over 10 years.
He is an advisor, researcher, educator, designer, grower and nurseryman. Working to create sustainable/regenerative landscapes, farms and spaces in the UK and Europe. He is focussed on agroecological systems that are low maintenance and productive.

He advises and consults on: soil health, agroforestry, planned grazing and setting-up on-farm crop trials.
He provides whole-farm planning and design services for transition farm operations, through an inclusive/participatory framework.

He also offers a specialist mapping service to growers and farmers to facilitate decision-making and planning.
He is a soils researcher, technician and demonstrator and is coordinating the PFLA soils monitoring project - establishing an empiric case for healthy soils on pasture and mixed farms. As well as conducting a cover crops trial on arable and horticulture operations in the UK. He has carried-out on-farm soil assessments with a number of farmers and growers in the SW, Wales, the SE and the North.
He delivers specialist training courses for farmers, growers and land managers. He is a demonstrator of in-field monitoring practices and surveying on-farm.
He is committed to an information-lead approach to land-based decision making and management practices. He works closely with Sectormentor, SoilBio Lab & Field Margin.
He designs and installs rainwater harvesting and irrigation systems for growers in the UK.

Later Event: November 12
Soils in Practice: North