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Gila's Place

A menagerie of eclectic things…

After spending the past decade and a half living on a clay hill I finally scored some flat ground with actual dirt. There was no “garden” on that hill but I tried to compensate with a deck full of growing things and a couple of beds full of herbs.

I chomped at the bit for months after moving, dreaming of how I would place my garden in the ground, finally.

When the time came to actually tear up the dirt several things transpired setting off a couple of lightbulbs.

The guy that was supposed to bring a tractor by to tear things up, didn’t show, stopped answering his phone and texts, and I got tired of chasing him. (Thanks, Bob- you ass) I didn’t know anyone else with a tiller or tractor and I wasn’t about to turn it all with a shovel. I’m just not that spry anymore.

The spot I wanted the garden in is low, might be pretty muddy if left that way, so I considered raised beds.

And alas, I had no idea where to get enough dirt to raise the beds and not sure I could afford dirt and the wood to build it all, considering how Covid has driven the price of everything through the roof.

Then I remembered seeing this crazy method using straw bales. So I did the research watching a ton of videos, reading a dozen articles online, even bought a book. I mastered container gardening, how hard could a bale of straw be?

I was sold. Straw bales it would be. So I bought a truckload of bales and a couple of big bags of organic fertilizers. I spent several weeks feeding the bales; fertilizing and watering daily.

The goal is to break down (decompose) the bales from the inside out creating all the organic matter I will need to grow my choice of fresh veggies. By doing this I’ll be making dirt. At the end of the season, whatever is left of the bales, gets turned under. By all accounts the bales should only last one season but I have a friend who says hers lasted two.

A few years of this process and that low spot will be filled and I will have a good organic base to raise a few beds. I’m hoping this year’s bales will be next year’s strawberry beds if I can figure out how to keep the squirrels and birds out of them. I’ll just do the next dozen bales a few feet over.

Once I started seeing mushrooms pop from the bales I knew it was time.

Things below the surface were decaying nicely and all those lovely spores were leading the way to planting. I dropped a few tomato plants in to test the waters. The image below shows the tomatoes in about a week and I had set them when they were about six inches tall. I just peeled the bales apart and slipped the small plants in with a small amount of potting soil.

They’ve grown although I have seen a little leaf curl. Other than that everything seems to be working out just fine.

I am pretty excited.

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