Victoria Burton

Victoria Burton

Citizen Science Designer and Facilitator for the GROW Observatory. Also busy writing up my PhD thesis on how soil biodiversity responds to land-use change. You can follow me on Twitter @SoilScholar.

Location Portsmouth & London, UK



  • It's a .csv file which is opened by spreadsheet software. I just managed to download it successfully, do you receive and warnings or errors when you try?

  • You can certainly get an idea of the pH of your soil by looking at which plants grow well. It is also easy to test using pH strips, some information on testing your pH can be found here:

  • @HenrikHaller some of the Permaculture Association research, including citizen research is available on our website:

  • Yes you can use pH strips for soil and they are fairly accurate. Mix 1 part soil and 2 parts of (ideally distilled) water together and shake. Leave to settle and then dip the paper strip in the liquid part. GROW has a guide here: which also includes...

  • Some people have reported it works on their iOS or Android tablets, although it may not be supported for all versions.

  • Hi @KiraBramley GROW has European partners because it is funded by a European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

  • Hi @NormanWoollons I'm not sure why you are unable to download videos (the links are working for me), it could be virus protection software blocking the download, I will ask our technical team for advice.

  • Apologies @NormanWoollons I will try and get this added.

  • @KasperKannik Sorry about that, the links should all be working now.

  • Parrot supplies the soil sensors for the GROW Changing Climate Mission:

    They partnered with WeForest to plant trees but I don't know if they still do.

  • @StevenGaber it has been a while since I used LibreOffice but I believe you should be able to import .csv files from the menu: File - Open.

  • HI @JohnMehta unfortunately Parrot's Flower Power sensor has been discontinued. Here is a list of alternative sensors but please note these sensors have not been tested or integrated with GROW. There is also a section in the course on building your own sensor.

    1) Xiaomi Plants Monitor - Ollivan
    2) 2 in 1 Metal Probe Plant Soil pH Value Moisture Tester...

  • Hi @LaurenceMcManamon I believe the fatal error is when the artwork tries to launch but fails, please could you email with the error message so they can investigate.

  • The sound is a representation of data from soil moisture, temperature and light data from the cluster of GROW sensors closest to you, as is the graphics, so it is different every time.

  • Hi @StevenGaber yes as GROW is funded by the EU sensors are only available within Europe currently, but for other ways to be involved in GROW visit:

  • Sensors are only available to those in GROW Places but for other ways to be involved in GROW visit:

  • Hi @AnnemiekvanMoorst they are .csv files so should be able to be imported into any spreadsheet program

  • Sorry to hear that @JayneStrang I will chase this up with the team.

  • Hi @AnnaSarahFazendeiro trees can indeed change the microclimate of a place and are often valued for this in cities where they reduce temperature and increase humidity. You may be interested in some research on this by the Woodland Trust in the UK:...

  • There is a section on making your own soil moisture sensor later in the course which I hope you will enjoy. The Flower Power sensor is discontinued but is being used by participants in the GROW Changing Climate Mission.

  • Hi @PatrickDeBruyn thanks for this feedback, I have passed it on to the app team. GROW is hoping to update the app at some point.

  • HI @MojcaS We do not have a GROW Place in Slovenia currently but for other ways to get involved with GROW visit: if you know an organisation which would be interested in setting up a GROW Place you could ask them to email:

  • Hi @AnnemiekvanMoorst and @NormanWoollons the GROW Changing Climate Mission is just part of the Observatory, for other ways to get involved with GROW visit:

  • Hi @AnnemiekvanMoorst we do not have a GROW Place in Italy currently but for other ways to get involved with GROW visit: if you know an organisation which would be interested in setting up a GROW Place you could ask them to email:

  • Hi @DebbieMann soil sealing refers to when soil is destroyed or covered by layers of completely or partly impermeable artificial material (asphalt, concrete, etc.).

  • Hi @AnnemiekvanMoorst The Flower Power sensor has been tested by the GROW team, you can read about this and how it compares to professional sensors in our blog post:

    Influences on sensor readings are covered later on in the course.

  • The GROW Observatory is using Flower Power sensors which are no longer made. Here are some similar sensors although they have not been tested or integrated with GROW. There is also a section later on in the course on building your own sensor.

    1) Xiaomi Plants Monitor - Ollivan
    2) 2 in 1 Metal Probe Plant Soil pH Value Moisture Tester Sensor Garden Portable...

  • Hi @JaneGiffould that's interesting that your water board are giving out a water stick, do you know who makes them?

  • Hi @FilipaQuadrado the growing areas the the Edible Plant Database covers are broad so will not take into account differences in microclimates. Planting dates can vary, and the next step introduces a project to help improve the data behind the database.

  • If you follow this link: you should be able to download the app to your Android phone, you will need to sign up for Google Play if you have not already.

  • Hi @SusanH the link for the survey is the green symbol, or you can use:

  • We don't currently have a GROW Place in the Canary Islands but other parts of the GROW are open to everyone.

  • Hi @NeilMunro sorry you are having problems logging into the GROW Forum, are you using your GROW Observatory account rather than your Future Learn one? If you are not already registered for GROW you can do that here:

  • What a great project! We have a similar one in the UK run by the Royal Horticultural Society called 'Greening Grey Britain' to reverse the trend for hard landscaping in front gardens:

  • Hi @KENYAS I am unable to check this unfortunately, you will need to contact Future Learn using the support button at the bottom of the page.

  • Hi @MichelQ the problems with the Padlet Board should now be fixed, if you have any more problems let us know. There is a user guide available here: which we will also add to the learning step, thanks for the suggestion.

  • Hi @CatarinaRP apologies there seems to be a problem with the Padlet board, I will see if it can be fixed.

  • There are no pictures submitted yet. I will feedback your comment on having a guide to explain Padlet and other tools.

  • Yes I was surprised the French soil texture translates as silt what we call loam, but countries do vary in their names and definitions. For example the USA system classifies sand as particles 1.00 - 2.00mm in size, and the World Soils Reference base sand as particles 1.25 - 2.00mm in size! The main thing to remember is that loam is a equal mix of all three...

  • Hi @andybunn in that case I found Essential Soil Science by Mark Ashman and Geeta Puri or Soil Science Simplified by Neal S. Eash and others good introductions.

  • I believe Grow Veg is a gardening planning app:
    The GROW Observatory app talked about in the video is only available on Android and iOS

  • Hi @SalynaD yes, some activities are aimed at those in Europe, others are open to everyone, everwhere. For a full list of how to get involved with GROW visit:

  • @DianeHills sorry to hear this. Are you able to login to the GROW Observatory at: (this is different from your Future Learn account)

  • Hi @annehugh-white the app shows plants suitable to grow direct outside or start indoors - details are found under each crop.

  • Hi @TetDeHaas there are no photos on the erosion Padlet board yet, you do not have to make an account to upload them.

    GROW Observatory is the group that writes and runs these courses. There is a complete list of how to get involved with GROW here: hope that answers your question.


  • Hi @PatriciaSéquier in soil science terms loam is a type of soil with even mixture of sand, silt and clay particles, there is a French soil texture triangle here: which calls it limon. However loam is also used as another term for compost, which has a lot more organic material as you note.

  • Hi @andybunn is there something particular you are interested in? A good popular science read on soils is 'Earth Matters' by Prof Richard Bardgett. For soil life a good place to start is the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas, which is free to download at: or where you looking for something more textbook?

  • @RichardDugi where you trying to login to the GROW Observatory website? Please make sure you are using your GROW account details not your FutureLearn account. If you are still having difficulties please email with the error message.

  • Good old Nokia! I still have mine of a similar age I keep for emergencies but got seduced by the apps available on Android phones.

  • HI @KerryForides.Heritageseedsupporter If you can form a ring without any cracks it is a heavy/full clay, if it cracks it is a light clay. Hope that clarifies!

  • Hi @TetDeHaas we are not collecting soil data in the course this year. You are right that the information in SoilGrids is coarse, it is a good illustration that these sorts of maps cannot replace 'on the ground' measurements for some purposes.

  • Thanks for the feedback, I will pass it on to the app developers to consider allowing manual entering of location in any updates. It would be interesting to compare different places too.

  • Growing is the topic for discussing soils and growing, although it has been quiet lately as no online courses or other activities were run over the winter.

  • Use of the app is optional. Regenerative growing practices will also be covered in this course and through articles on the GROW Medium Blog

  • Earthworms come in all sorts of colours! In the tropics there are even bright blue ones.

  • Because I am a soil biologist I often peer into roadworks and wonder what (if any) soil organisms still live under sealed soil! I imagine they would eventually use up any organic material in the soil and die off/migrate away. On wet nights I do sometimes see earthworms poking out of cracks in pavements pulling down leaves and other materials though.

  • Update - it seems to be working this morning so I think the server may have been overloaded. Give it a go and if there is a error message maybe try again another time.

    Sorry everyone the SoilGrids website is having problems at the moment, coming up with 'unknown soil mask' - I have reported it. In the meantime you could check some of the other soil texture...

  • Hi @CatarinaRP yes you need to log in using your GROW Observatory account. If you haven't registered already you can do that here: or via the link in the app.

  • You don't have to use Facebook. You can also share your planting and harvesting information via email: or the GROW forum:

  • Hi @RobertMiller sensors are available to participants in GROW Places, for more information on where they are and how to get involved is available here:

  • Hi @DanielMuir use of the app is optional. Regenerative growing practices will also be covered in this course and through articles on the GROW Medium Blog

  • Hi @EnidCruickshank no unfortunately the app can only be installed on Android and iOS devices but it's an optional part of the course.

  • Hi @JHRoss There are also other ways to get involved with GROW that we will cover in this and future GROW courses, you can also find out more here:

  • Biomes are defined by geography and climate, so when people change the land use they retain the same biome despite the vegetation being different. So much of the UK is still classified as temperate forest, even though the land is now only 12% forest - you could think of a biome as the 'natural' state.

  • Hi @DebbieMacLeod we cover more about soil texture including clay in week 2. Adding organic matter is a good way to improve clay soils, or you could try a no-dig approach or raised beds.

  • Soil classifications are mainly based on agricultural and forestry areas so don't tend to fit well in this classification. The National Soil Map ( simply calls soils with rubble etc. 'man-made soils'.

  • What a good idea to share rainfall measurements! Do you find they differ from the weather station much?

  • Winds can reduce moisture in the soil by increasing evaporation from soil and evapotranspiration from plants - in the same way washing dries quicker on a windy day. Soil moisture is determined by many other factors too though, such as vegetation cover, type of soil, rainfall so increased wind may not necessarily lead to drier soil.

  • Hi @MarianneGibson, yes ground cover does affect evapotranspiration. Deciduous trees tend to have a higher evapotranspiration rate than grasses, herbaceous plants and coniferous trees as they have more leaves. Evapotranspiration is also influenced by a plant's level of maturity, percentage of soil cover, solar radiation, humidity, temperature, and wind. As you...

  • Yes organic matter includes any organic compounds that have come from the remains of plants, animals and their waste products.

  • @AllmendeWaldgarten additional GROW Places

  • We don't know yet if there will be additional GROW Places, but you could get in touch via our website: to discuss. Thanks.

  • Hi @SandraDavison yes you should continue to have access to the course after the live period has finished.

  • Hi @ShovkatKholdorov have you tried opening Excel first and then open (ensure that you can choose from any file type)?

  • Hi @JannaHolmstedt there are lots of websites and apps which track satellites e.g. you would need some programming skills and an API to accces this data I suspect.

  • @JeffDean I did meet a scientist once who was designing ways of measuring earthworm movement using electrical measurements (I can't remember how exactly). Using this information to visualise earthworm activity could make a really cool artwork!

  • Yes @AgnesGoyvaerts & @IonutBarbu New Zealand flatworms can reduce earthworm populations but are mainly a problem in the north of England and Scotland. My friends at OPAL are tracking their spread:

  • Hi @TonjeMeyer I don't think there is a comprehensive list but you could try the city search at: or the list on Wikipedia:

  • Hi @PaulineFairclough sensors are part of the Changing Climate Mission which takes place in 9 GROW Places around Europe, see section 2.5 There are no GROW Places in England or Wales currently, but there are in Ireland and Scotland.

  • Hi @MauroCavalcanti i will pass on your message to our GROW Places team to see if they can help.

  • Hi @MauroCavalcanti There is a map of GROW Places here: sensors are spread over each GROW Place so there are no exact co-ordinates.

  • Hi @WD glad you like the app! If you are happy to write a review for the Google Play Store or Apple Store that would be appreciated. I love pea shoots too, that reminds me to put them on my growing list for next year.

  • Sadly I wasn't able to attend but back in 2016 Plymouth did a brilliant soil art and culture exhibition called Soil Culture: Deep Roots

    I once had a talk from Daro Montag who creates art using soil microbes:

  • Hi Susan. The design of the experiment was indeed covered in an earlier course but you can also read about how it was set-up and the reasoning behind the plot sizes in Dr Naomi van der Velden's Medium blog:

  • That's strange as you should have received a welcome email, if it is not in your spam box please email with the subject "welcome email not received" and the email you used to register.

  • Sorry to hear you have not received a reply from GROW, could you let me know which email you used so I can investigate? Soil nutrient kits were available to those registered for the Experiment - it's probably too late to take part now if your weather has been as dry as mine but we are hoping to run it again next year.

  • Hi Kenya, you can register for GROW at:, it's probably too late to take part in the Experiment this year if your weather has been as hot as mine but we are hoping to run it again next year.

  • Hi @CaroleeA if you would like to catch up with the webinar a recording is here:

  • Hi @SarahTemple yes there is still time to sign up to the GROW Experiment which includes a soil testing kit for those in Europe. You can find out more and sign up on this webpage:

  • Hi @PaulHopper thanks for taking part in the Experiment. Sorry we have had some delays getting the form for your harvesting results put on the website so please make a note of these for now and an email will be sent when the form is available on the GROW website.

    The instructions and forms available so far can be found at:...

  • Hi @CecilieMossige great to hear you have managed to find a plot for the experiment! I will find out how you can amend your land survey results and let you know. Sorry we have had some delays getting the form for your harvesting results and time spent etc. put on the website so please make a note of these for now and an email will be sent when the form is...

  • @SarahTemple sorry we have had some delays in getting the record sheets up on the GROW website. I'm glad you and others have managed to make your own and have not been put off taking part in the Experiment.

  • Thanks @JulieWinnard for your useful feedback, I will collate that with the rest for when we amend and re-run the course in future, particularly the time taken to do the course as it is supposed to take 3 hours a week.

    We are looking to start sign ups for experiments sooner in future as many people have said their space and/or planting was already committed...

  • Our Jerusalem artichokes grow happily without any attention at all - sometimes even where we don't want them anymore! But they are easy enough to dig up.

  • Hi @AlejandroPerez there is still time to join the Experiment this year, more information is available here:

  • @KENYAS Sorry to hear you have not received your email, please try signing up again and if there are any problems email with a description of the error. In the meantime the instructions for the experiment can be found here: you can also...

  • Hi @JuditVojczek instructions for the experiment, including how many seeds are needed, can be found here:

  • Hi @KatherineQuinteros it's not too late to start the experiment and the instructions can be found at: if you have problems logging in please email with a description of the error message. Hope that helps.

  • Hi @IsisBrook if you are trying to sign up for the Experiment it is part of GROW not the Future Learn course site. You can register for GROW at: hope this helps.


  • Hi @SueQuick the sign up for the newsletter is near the bottom of the homepage, or follow this link:

    Hope that helps.