Chance and I have been scratching our heads over our Hay Bale garden beds. First we had some things bolt really early in the season,then some of the tomatoes were not doing well and despite our diligent efforts nothing was eager to grow. Over the past couple of weeks we have given one more push to get the bales to do better and there's no change.And after comparing our front garden beds with the bales we have come to a cross roads, one way leaves the bales to do what they will do and the other is to knock down the bales and start mostly over.
We have opted for the second path,knock it all down and start again and this is how we came to that. We planted Flashy Backed Trout Lettuce from the same packet in both the hay bales and the front beds, as you can see from the photo there is a huge difference even though the larger heads from the front were planted a good 6 weeks after the little ones from the bales. Besides the lettuce doing better in the beds everything else planted in the beds are verdant and right on track in their growth.We have used the same methods of care in both places and even tried giving the bales closer attention since they were new to us. The soil from both places is even the same load of soil we bought this spring.So where did we go wrong?
I am not so sure it is a matter of going wrong or over looking some important point.Chance and I have both come to the same conclusion that is based on what we know about building soil , erosion and compost here in Oregon.Making compost in wet Oregon takes work; the rain tends to wash away the surface of the compost,cause it to be to wet and cold and the rain washes away the nutrients we are trying to create. To make good compost one has to be on top of things,sometimes this means covering and uncovering your compost pile daily being sure to turn it often and being patient helps too.The rain also causes a type of erosion called Real Erosion.This type of erosion is small and slowly washes away the soil on the surface.This is a concern when your soil is shallow like on top of the hay bales.
With these two points in mind this is what we think.Our idea is the shallow soil is not holding on to the nutrients because of the watering washing it down into the bales bottoms.When we started our bales we used new bales that we sped up the composting with Blood Meal.From what we read it should work.Although some sources state to use bales that are a year old so they have already started to break down on their own.(but without a forklift I don't know how on Earth one would ever get those bales moved) So we are thinking the combination of erosion concerns and maybe old bales are better ours did not prosper.
Today we take down the bales.We have an elderly neighbor who lives kitty corner behind us named Dick.Dick makes compost that is black gold.I know if that man put it in bags and sold it he would quickly become the king of compost.Dick has offered us the rest of his pile,which is several wheelbarrow loads.We will be sure to work out a trade with him most likely some wood cutting since he only heats with wood.We will save the tomatoes with the hopes they survive and then knock things down, layer straw and compost and see if we can still make our garden work.
Sometimes when things don't go well it can be disappointing.We are a bit disappointed but not defeated. I think the best part of this learning moment is we were able to have the comparison of the Hay Bale Beds and the in the ground Front Beds.It was like running some sort of field science test and when you think about it was one.We tried something new,applied knowledge,made our observations and like in science even though things did not go the way we hoped we still learned from it.
I also should admit I enjoy the front beds more.I like grubbing around in the dirt and the smell of good healthy soil is a good scent to me.With the bales I missed that.But my bias did not keep me from taking care of the bales,it just was not the same.
So there we are folks, on to the next thing to come along. Before we start in the garden I have yet another round of raspberries to pick,after this round I almost have enough to make jam.If anyone is looking for a new type of lettuce to try I suggest the Flashy Backed Trout, a leaf lettuce with brownish red spots we are enjoying it and plan to plant more.
My next post I will write all of you about making Jerky. We are making some for each of our boys to take with them to camp,it should give them plenty of trading power with the other boys.
Have a good weekend,enjoy your weather and those you hold dear.