What a’lot’o’ allotments! Soil Sampling Summer Fieldwork

As you know, the MYHarvest project is looking at just how much fruit and veg’ people harvest from their own gardens and allotments. What you might not know is that MYHarvest is part of a much bigger research project – led by Dr Jill Edmondson – investigating many aspects of urban food production, allotments and soil quality. To really look into this, we need to collect data, and lots of it.

Over this Summer and next Summer, we’re visiting 40 allotment sites in 10 different cities right across the UK to collect soil samples, conduct questionnaires and map growers’ allotment plots (and, of course, publicise MYHarvest as far and wide as we can!). This Summer we visited five cities and we’ll return to the field next Summer to visit another five to complete our dataset.


You might be wondering quite what we’re going to do with these 1400 allotment soil samples… The short answer is: quite a lot! We’re going to spend most of this Autumn, Winter and Spring conducting various analyses to work out different indicators of soil quality. These include:

  • pH (how acid or alkaline the soil is)
  • nitrogen content (a fundamental nutrient for plants)
  • organic carbon content (a key indicator of soil health)
  • water holding capacity (how much water the soil can absorb)
  • soil bulk density (an indicator of how much pore space there is for water, air, roots and worms)
  • heavy metal content (soil pollutants from industry, domestic burning, transport etc.)

We’ll hopefully finish all of these analyses by next Summer, when we’ll go to the next five cities to collect more data and start the whole process again!