Have you heard the one about the hapless backyard farmer who forgot to re-read the instructions from an old article in the NY Times on straw bale gardening before she bought the veggies and now has to wait a week for the fertilizer to heat up before she can finish the job (due yesterday)?
No? Well, let me tell ya about it!*
First of all, I can’t wait a week. I’ve already put this off for more than a month, okay, almost two months when our spring clean-up team moved the bales from the duck pen to their new site covering up the patchy lawn under the old pumpkin, er, patch.** As you may recall, we used the straw bales during the cold season as a windbreak. The decaying matter is naturally warm (just sit on one—it’s real cozy!) and the ducks enjoyed poking through the straw for mushrooms and critters and what have you. But after six months of rain, snow, nor’easters, etc., the bales were no longer their pristine harvest festival selves but had turned into heavy, sodden masses of near-mulch straw—perfect for gardening!
Now if you go by the Joel Karsten method as relayed by the NY Times, you will not do what I did/am doing. The article says to water the top but, of course, we had already placed the even-more-decayed straw heaps on their sides and I didn’t want to attempt to turn them over again and risk total collapse. So I’m watering the sides instead of the face and we’ll see how that goes (strike one!)
The article says to use three pounds of organic fertilizer over a period of a week (how do you weigh fertilizer anyway?) but I don’t have time for that so I used some extra Coast of Maine lobster mulch under a layer of potting soil and figure that’ll just have to do (strike two!)
Also, as I said, I Have No Time so I’m planting the baby veggies directly into the wrong side, a week early (or six months late) with one installment of fertilizer (and a dollar short!) and taking my sorry chances. (Strike three!!!)
The things I do for science.
Anyway, it’s important to remember that I did not initially set out to plant cauliflower in my cast-off Halloween decoration-turned-duck-heater system. If I had purchased the straw bales for eventual food use I would probably have paid a bit more attention to the provenance of the bales (i.e where did they come from and have they been sprayed with anything nasty?) So even though I’m going to grow lots of beautiful, edible stuff in this straw, I may not, in the end, actually get to eat any of it.
Guess I’m just a sucker for a pile of free mulch.***
*Resistance is fertile. I mean, futile.
**Ah ha! Now I get it!
***When life gives you manure, make veggies!
Copyright 2013, Lori Fontanes