Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hay and Potatoes, Potatoes and Hay

Funny how quickly your plans can change when you get new information. I was on the phone today with Shari—friend of the blog—and she has a lot more experience with hay than I have. She was describing in very clear language what happens to hay that gets wet and stays wet. I can't remember her exact words, but I got a clear image of a big pile of moldy compost so wet and heavy you can't pull it apart to spread it, or if it's big enough to get hot, it catches on fire. Not exactly what I want to have happen, so when the showers broke for a while this afternoon I went down and threw a tarp over my bales.

My goal was to stop them from getting rained on but let air circulate enough in hopes that they will sort of dry out.

I also decided—since my potatoes are already sprouting after just ten days out in room light—to go ahead and plant the ones I have room for now, and start using some of the soggy hay. I planted the Rose Finn Apple Fingerlings and the All Blues, ten of each. Then I spread the hay—just about the outside inch all around was wet, so it wasn't hard or too disgusting to pull it into loose hay.

The really surprising thing was how far it went. I put 6" to 8" of loose hay over the whole fenced area except one path, and used only two-thirds of ONE bale! Unless the hay breaks down really fast, those eleven bales are going to last me a long time! At this point I just don't understand why Ruth's friend Dick Clemence would say you need twenty-five bales for a 50x50 garden. I'll have to measure my garden again. The third of a bale chunk I left sitting in the garden, where it will continue to get wet. I'm curious to see what happens to it as it gets wetter, and it's a small enough amount to not be a nightmare if it just makes a mess.

I did not check the soil temperature today, and after the 1.7" of rain we've had in the last three days, the soil was pretty wet. I hoed a shallow trench, popped in the potatoes, covered them with an inch of soil, then 8" of hay right on top of them. Sort of a compromised Ruth planting.

One thing I am really happy about is that there are lots and lots of nice big earthworms in the dirt where I put the mini-poop. More worms than in the surrounding soil that didn't get pooped.

I have more plants that will be ready to be planted soon.

On the left front  are my five cardoons, and the rest (except for the suspiciously weedy looking ringer in the lower right corner) are kohlrabis, and one collard that got mixed up with them while I was potting up the peat pellets. Only one of my collards came up, and after I got them mixed up I found some pictures on the web that show that collards and kohlrabi are pretty much indistinguishable at this age. Oh well. I was really disappointed that the collards didn't sprout better, but I'm sure it was something I did, like planting them too deep. I'll try again. I checked my seed packets and I've got eight more different kinds of seeds that I can plant outside now, before our guaranteed frost free date.

Obviously, I need to make putting up the rest of my fencing for the second area a real priority. At least I know I'll have enough hay!

Sunday, April 2:
I just went out with my tape measure and measured the fenced garden, and it's not 13' x 15', it's only 8' x 15'. That makes it only 120 sq. ft. that I spread that 2/3 of a bale over. So if Ruth's garden was 50' x 50', that was 2500 sq. ft.! So my little plot is 1/20th the size of Ruth's! Well, yes, I guess I do have enough hay. The extension I'm adding (I got the fence up last Friday but didn't level it or anything else) is 9' x 15', so I'll have about 255 sq. ft. total. So if the hay amounts scale—and they should—then 11 bales is probably 2 years' worth for the whole spread. Not bad. Not bad at all—that's completely manageable for me.

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