We were at a local Starbucks for our usual Thursday jaw flapping session a few weeks ago when Kevin mentioned planning to start his straw bale garden soon. Neither Betsy nor I had heard of such a thing but found ourselves quite interested so we asked many questions and started browsing around the web to try to learn enough to give it a try for ourselves.
Jim, who is also a regular at the BS sessions, found a local farmer with enough two or three season old bales for sale which got us even more excited to begin this project. On a Thursday in mid May, immediately following the chat group, we headed off to meet Daryl the farmer and purchase 30 of his old, nasty straw bales. Jim, also very excited about the possibilities insisted on forking out the cash for the bales as his first contribution.
Daryl’s bales were stacked loosely in a corner of his field and many of them were already quite soaked from recent rain, stuck in the mud on the bottom, and already starting to compost. Perfect. A jump-start on the process. Of course, these pre-soaked bales were quite heavy, with many of them weighing in at Many-Grunts-And-Moans-To-Lift. I hope I didn’t break Jim as he valiantly assisted in pulling these things from the mud and getting the trailer loaded. Just where are all the 20 year-olds when you need them?
Bert, the Turn Pig, had no difficulty in pulling the trailer full of soaked mud-laden straw back home. To start, I first needed to grab a mower and take down all of the tall grass in the garden area. I suppose I could have mounted the Bush Hog to the tractor, but the area wasn’t all that big to start. Of course, the garden area looked so good when mowed down that I decided to hand mow the rest of the southern barn yard as well. A little extra exercise never hurts. Right?
With the area prepared it was time to unload the straw and arrange them into a somewhat garden-shaped configuration. Jim ( remember Jim? ) had offered to help with the unloading as well but, as it turns out, I had lied and told him that I had too much prep work to do and probably wouldn’t even get a round tuit until the following weekend. I swear the bales just kept on adding weight as I placed them in their new homes, hoping all along that Betsy would be happy with my chosen arrangement when she returned home to see the progress. ( She was ) Six rows of five arranged like three rows of ten.
After a brief recuperation and break from the warm sun it was time to start the first watering and soaking of the new bales. The plan, as I read on the Internet, is to spend ten to fourteen days fertilizing and soaking the straw in order to get the decomposition kick-started. As the sun was setting I was finishing up that first soaking and fully enjoying the beautiful scenery and thoughts of our latest gardening adventure.