Tag Archives: garden guilds

Straw Bale Sprouts

Straw Bale Sprouts

Dear Reader:

An update on how the straw bale garden is coming along. Following Joel Karsten’s instructions, I have been watering and fertilizing the two rows for about nine days. (Was keeping track and now realize I’ve thrown away my paper!) I’m a little concerned that all these sprouts are bursting up out of the straw, making my bales look like long, rectangular Chia Pets!

Hopefully this is a good sign that the fertilizer is doing its job; however, I’m wondering if this burgeoning hay won’t choke out tomato plants when I get them settled in to their warm and cozy home in a week or so. I’m waiting until Memorial Day Weekend–the traditional start of Maine gardening.

Up-slope in front of straw bale

Evidence is mounting that the fertilizer is also seeping through the bale and into the surrounding lawn. Above shows the decrepit state of my “lawn” on the upward side of the slight slope on which I plunked the straw bales. Pretty sparse and horrible, right?

Now, here is what the grass looks like on the downward slope where the run-off from my watering goes.

Between the Bales

These are not retouched photos! Can you believe the difference? I’m still wondering what to do about my leach-lawn. Maybe putting down some compost, some grass seeds, some fertilizer, some straw and a bunch of watering would make it look like a typical suburban plot of lawn. I could add a round “wildflower” plot perhaps, as I’ve read that wildflowers typically have more surface-loving root systems. The dandelions rioting out there certainly aren’t short-rooted, though. They are doing their very best to bring nutrients up to the surface with their long taproots. I should help them out, don’t you think? I also have some lime in my garage stash. The wouldn’t hurt either as the soil acidity if probably high from all the pine trees.

Crab Apple Tree Guild

I began planting a mini “apple tree guild” around my flowering crab as an experiment. In the inner circle, I stuck bulbs of MOFGA garlic that I will harvest as scapes, or green garlic. Then I transplanted two cuttings from a comfrey plant. Comfrey is a good “living composter.” You can cut the leaves off and compost them in place to provide nutrients to the soil. Comfrey is also known as “knit-bone” and has been used for hundreds of years to help heal bruises and bones. (As always, check with a trained herbalist before dosing yourself with anything!). I also transplanted a dandelion as they bring nutrients up from the deeper soil. In a week or so, I hope to plant some fava beans as nitrogen accumulators and some pretty nasturtiums. In the fall, I’ll put a ring of daffodils around the drip-line to discourage foraging creatures from getting into my guild.

If all goes well, I hope to plant a couple of medium-sized apple trees out front and create similar guilds. I want a good crab-apple for making jelly and maybe a regular apple for pies. I do need to research this as they should flower at the same time for cross-pollination.

Mystery Shrub

The mystery shrub on the north corner of my house is no longer a mystery. It is Kerria japonica. This is a double-flower variety I picked up as a very small perennial plant at a sidewalk sale in front of the beverage store/redemption center in Waterboro about seven years ago. It has grown to nice proportions and I can divide it easily to many spots around the yard beneath the trees. It seems to do quite well even in very sporadic dappled shade.

How is your garden journey going so far this spring? Do tell…Outside the Box.