I garden in two raised beds, 4 x 8
ft., at the South Hadley Community Garden. My two beds are across the
path from the Food Pantry Garden, a 50 x 50 ft. area, managed by Master
Gardener Sue Brouillette, her husband Len, and a dedicated staff that
works so hard to grow food for the South Hadley Food Pantry. I see
firsthand the hard work and sweat that goes into the garden. I wondered
if I could find an approach to increase the production of her garden
and my own by increasing yield. I didn’t want to experiment with
planting a larger area and working harder, but by using cultural
methods, along with quality seeds, to increase yield of the crops we
already plant. I wondered how to go about this. I had been told that
Alpaca manure really improves the soil and results in abundant plant
growth. I really wanted to know if alpaca manure is better than cow
manure at improving the harvest, so the experiment was launched.
April 27, 2015 was an overcast day with a slight wind and temperature of 49°F. I started turning the soil in the beds and adding the compost, new soil with 10-10-10 fertilizer, and the manure.
The control for this experiment was that the soil in both beds was prepared using the same compost, fertilizer and soil. I divided each bed in half and added Rockwood Farms cow manure to one half, and naturally composted Tall Grass Alpaca Farm (Whately MA) alpaca manure to the other. I took the alpaca manure from the same pile and divided it between the two beds. I used 20 lbs. of each type of manure for each section of the beds. All the amended soil was prepared on the same day and worked into both beds. The working soil was six inches deep over the existing soil in the beds. I watered the soil and allowed it to rest for two days before planting anything.