‘P’rojects and straw bales

I am someone who is always in the middle of a project: writing, gardening, work, painting, decorating, volunteer. Ok, I’m lying. I’m totally in the middle of all of those projects right now.

I think, though, that the happiest projects I have are garden related.

I have a vision of my yard and garden(s) that I just know I am going to make a reality someday. The last few years have been tough. If I wasn’t struggling with money to buy some essentials (like seeds, plants or mulch), then I was absolutely struggling with my health and inability to tend to plants. Even when I would go a cheap and easy route — like planting free transplanted shrubs in pots I already had — I wouldn’t be able to maintain them and would watch through my window as they would shrivel up and die.

I am hoping to turn that around this year. While my yard has never been perfectly manicured or had sharp lines of mulch around every tree, I have had a very nice yard in the past. I would love to look out my window and see the slope of my front yard looking very much like a park. I would be so thrilled when a flower patch would start to take shape and colors would begin popping up in places both planned and spontaneous. The year I planted half of my front yard in a mix of flowers and vegetables was one of the most exciting years of my life! It was beautiful AND productive! It was awesome and my plans for expansion knew no bounds!

Then I got cancer. Kersplat.

For the past several summers, some health issues (some cancer-related, some not) have either derailed my gardening or prevented it from starting. My yard is in shambles from an unfinished drainage project. My garden plots are just total shit from neglect. One is so overgrown I can’t get a shovel through the networks of weed roots and another has become compacted to cement from the lack of steady mulching I normally would provide it.

I am feeling better, but not enough better to really attack this mess with the energy it needs. In fact, a small army might have trouble reshaping this landscape. After a discouraging few weeks in March — when we had unseasonably warm weather and I could not muster the strength to start my lawn mower — I decided if I were going to get anything done, it was going to have to be a plan unlike any I have ever hatched: one with low expectations. Yes, I needed a plan that was modest, flexible and absolutely devoid of goals.

This could be a total failure. I’m prepared for that.

I have come up with a few ideas and, with keeping “no goals” in mind, I may or may not be doing this and I certainly won’t be expecting anything to grow or produce if I do. So, my ideas that probably won’t work and even if they do I definitely won’t care one bit, are: straw bale gardening, container gardening and lasagna gardening. (And thanks to Pinterest, Daphne and Amy who pointed me toward these ideas.)

Each of the above are low cost, low effort, minimal weeding and no digging. These are all aspects my body can wrap it’s feeble self around.

I decided to start with the straw bale idea. It seemed like the one with the best plan “b.” If my body were to “give up” after I started the straw bale garden and I had to watch the garden decay, it would actually not be a bad thing. Next spring, I could simply spread the decaying straw in the garden plot that has compacted itself into cement and the straw would help aerate the soil. 

I will let you read the links for more on each of these garden techniques, but I’m very excited that I made some serious progress on the straw bale garden today. A few weeks ago, I started collecting some straw bales. Oh – another restriction this year – no truck. So, whatever I do, I have to be able to fit supplies in the back of my mini-van. I can fit three straw bales in there. Whenever I would go past the farmer’s market, I would buy some straw. Five trips later, I had my collection, so I fertilized and watered it. That was about two weeks ago. In the interim, you are supposed to water and fertilize some more. Well, I got: tired, achy, busy and didn’t get that done. Mother Nature helped me out with a few rainstorms, but I didn’t do any more fertilizer.

I actually like how this cleans up the edges
of my landscaping timbers. At least it
will kill the weeds.

So, today, I added more fertilizer. It’s going to freeze tonight, so I decided to focus on planting seeds today. From what I had read, if you are sowing seed, you want to put compost on top of the bales and plant into it. Thankfully, they sell compost in bags (who knew? I miss having a truck. I have to buy compost in bags like all of you other plebes.) and mushroom compost doesn’t smell bad at all.

Fertilizer: meet straw bales.

Colleen and I patted a few inches of compost into the top of the straw bale and sowed carrots, basil and snow peas. My other whatever-we-aren’t-calling-a-goal this year is to plant all of the seeds I’ve been accumulating the last few years (and those I bought over many, many winters and misplaced before spring time) and see what happens. So, half of the carrots are new, while half were purchased in 1999. Half of the peas are from this year, but the other half were from 2006. The basil was bought when my daughter was in first grade from her school fundraiser. She turned 11 yesterday.

(Well, actually, according to the date on this post, I turn 41 today and she turns 11 in three days, but you don’t really believe my blog post dates, do you?)

Of course, none of this will work.

Some colorful carrots purchased this year and sown into
mushroom compost on a straw bale. It’s an idea so crazy,
it just might work.

Author: rosie

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