Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Update on the Straw Bale Garden

Well I was so excited back in March to set up my straw bale garden. It seemed like such a neat and tidy way to create a raised, well-draining garden without all the trouble.  I arranged four bales of hay (I couldn't find straw) in a square pattern with a hole in the middle.  Then I poured one bag of compost into the middle, and spread three more on the surface of the hay bales.  For ten days, I watered with a dilute solution of fish-emulsion fertilizer, to "begin the decomposition process."  Here's how it looked before the fertilizing started, on March 28:
Don't you love it?  It's very neat and tidy.  Ten days later, I planted seeds, 'Purple Queen' bush beans in the back and 'Cocozelle' summer squash in the front.  I figured it might be hard to keep them watered.  The instructions I read said to use a soaker hose, so I installed one and crossed my fingers.

April warmed up nicely here, and I had good germination.  Both the beans and the squash began to flower well. It's true I had to water every single day, though.  When the seedlings were small, the soaker hose wasn't ideal.  The water would run right through the hay bales, straight down, and never really spread out.  Unless the hose were almost touching the seedling, it didn't get watered.  But I persevered.

As April drifted into May, the plants got bigger and bigger.  The soaker hose was essential, and even still, it was hard to keep the plants well-watered.  May was one of the warmest on record here in the Houston area, and it will show up on my water bill.  I believe it rained once during the month, over a weekend. 

All that water, though, had a terrible side effect on the straw bale garden.  The hay that formed the foundation began to rot and collapse but unevenly.  The top surface of the garden was no longer level, and watering became even more problematic.  Even using the soaker hose wouldn't work:  water ran to the low areas, causing them to sink even more, and leaving the high areas completely dry.  The picture below doesn't really show the collapse in progress, but it's the best one I took.

I think I harvested a grand total of 9 beans.  Although I had lots  of flowers, I can only find one squash in that mess.  I believe this experiment is rapidly headed for the compost heap! 

Note to self:  even bush beans would be better with a trellis or some sort of support.

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