Straw bales

Last autumn I bought about ten straw bales with the intention of making a straw bale garden for the first time. As an experiment it was hopeless. Firstly, I should have bought the bales in spring but I was afraid I wouldn’t find any so I got them when I saw them on sale. Secondly, the bales began to sprout oats after the first rains. Thirdly, I just left them to look grey and ugly for months on end, realising that I probably had enough vegetable space already with 14 raised beds. However, they did afford some protection for three young citrus around which I put the bales for our snowy winter. Two of the citrus seem to have survived and although Buddha’s Hand isn’t supposed to tolerate sub-zero temperatures, it’s looking OK even though we got as low as minus 10.

I could stand the mess no longer so this morning I moved all the straw bales. My intention was to leave them in a big heap in the potager to just rot down, but when I started to take them apart I realised that they were decomposing beautifully in the centre. So I’ve used several of them as mulch, putting down a thick layer between all the larger plants – on top of the dripper watering system. I’m hoping that this will seriously reduce evaporation, especially as we have house-sitters coming and I’d like them not to have to worry about watering the vegetable garden at all during our three weeks away. I have enough straw left to fill the compost/manure bay and I found the most gorgeous slow worm in the middle so I’m hoping s/he’ll take up residence permanently.

Here’s how it’s all looking.

As for the rest of the garden, the paths are looking pretty crunchy from lack of rain, although we’ve had a couple of good storms in the past two weeks. I still have 10,800 litres in the rainwater tanks in case it all gets too much, but for now the main borders are coping perfectly well despite high temperatures and very little rain. I have yet to water them at all thanks to lots of bark mulch. At the moment I’m using some of the water to top up the pond. It evaporates to the tune of about 100 litres per day which is unsurprising really given that there’s a waterfall of about ten metres before the pond and a fountain to help aerate it.

These were taken just after sunrise this morning, 22 July 2018 :

I’m quite happy with how the house is starting to disappear behind the trees. This was a barren hillside six years ago having previously been an overworked, then grubbed-up vineyard. Just a reminder, this was 23 July 2012.