Friday, March 18, 2011

Dismal Experiment Turned Amazing Success

Remember last summer's experiment with hay bale gardening? Remember the sad results (i.e. plants that started out healthy, then within a couple weeks turned sikcly and died)?

Huge discovery as to the reason for that: I bought my hay bales at a commercial provider (a home improvement store that starts with L) not knowing that the growers that supply them automatically spray herbicide on their product, to curb weed growth. Unfortunately that also curbs the growth of desired plants.

So as quickly as I planted young healthy plants, the herbicide did its job and began killing them.

Fast forward to last fall, and when my least favorite garden chore (fall cleanup) came due, I blew it off. There are no words for how much I *hate* fall cleanup.

Sadly, when one blows off fall cleanup, it merely becomes spring cleanup. Therefore this afternoon, I discovered these decomposing hay bales.

They were hidden behind all this.

And this.

A couple hours later, most of the weeds had been piled up on the plastic, and then rolled into a giant weed taco, and hauled away.

Meanwhile, the hay bales have wintered over, the herbicide has disappated, and now they have become some of the finest organic material around. Rich, moist, decomposing- home to earthworms, etc. Perfect for spreading out over the garden.

Couldn't have planned it better if I'd tried.

The name of this year's game plan is budget. In order to conserve water, I'm pulling the veggie crops up into containers close to the house and the rain barrels. This should eliminate most of the need for extra watering. The large beds out in the yard (like the one above) are going to be herbs - basil, lavender, comfrey, oregano, sage - and gourds. All of those do very well with minimal water even in Virginia's heat (worsening every year thanks to global warming-no, don't send me "there-is-no-global-warming" emails). Blooming herbs also attract bees, which will encourage pollination for the veggie crops.

As of today, that's the plan.