I'm keeping a physical journal, but I thought I'd also keep the same information in an online journal. This way, I have easy access to my notes from anywhere, and also I might get some tips from more experienced gardeners out there. So, if that is you, feel free to comment. I need all the help I can get!
So here begins my gardening journal...
Straw Bale Gardening, Day 1, 4/20/09:
I purchased 7 bales of wheat straw at $3/each at the local grain elevator. One of these came untied when loaded into the truck. That was OK, though, because only 6 bales fit into my little raised bed.
Before arranging the bales, I lined the bed with newspaper and wet that down. I don't know if this will serve any purpose, but it seemed like a good idea to do this to discourage weeds from coming up around the bales.
I placed 6 bales in the bed with the straw running perpendicular to the ground. I read that having the twine parallel to the ground will help prevent it from rotting. I have also read arguments for having it arranged the other way. I chose this way because it allowed me to fit all six bales into my garden.
I used some of the remaining loose straw to fill in any gaps between the bales. I also piled some up between the end of the last bale and our fence, careful not to let it lay against the fence in case it were to cause the fence to begin to rot. This may be unfounded, but I didn't want to take any chances. I'm not really sure what to do with this loose straw, but I wanted to prevent weeds, etc. from growing up in the leftover portion of the raised bed. Maybe this was a bad idea? I might place some potted plants on top of this straw. Suggestions?
Finally, I thoroughly saturated all of the straw. I know that keeping the straw really wet is important to start the process of it breaking down.
Questions I have at this point:
- Will this straw, even though it's wet, encourage mice & snakes to take up residence in or around our house?
- Should I remove the loose straw at the end of the bales, or what should I do there?
- I'm thinking of adding some earthworms to each bale to encourage the breaking down process. Is this a dumb idea?
- Instead of ammonium nitrate that I've read so much about, I'm thinking of putting layer of horse manure on top of all the straw and wet it down to help it sink into the straw. Would his help to start the "cooking" process?