Last winter Teresa asked me if I had ever heard of growing vegetables in straw bales.
"Straw bales. You know, wheat straw. The stuff people put over their lawns after they plant grass seed. You buy it out the back of a big truck..."
"I know what wheat straw is. But how are you going to grow vegetables in it? Last time I checked, plants needed dirt to grow. They've got these things called roots, and they're sort of important."
"Here, read this." She handed me a sheaf of printouts from various websites.
"Well. I stand corrected. If it's on the Internet, it must be true."
"Look. You buy the bales in winter and let them sit out for several months. They start to break down and get all soft, then you make a hole in the bale, put in some dirt, and plant your vegetables."
"I don't know, Teresa. It sounds sorta gimmicky to me."
"It might work. It's sort of like planting stuff in your compost pile. Remember that pumpkin that came up last year?"
"I remember the pumpkin."
"I want to try it."
I was gratified that for once, Teresa wanted to begin a project that did not require any tool more complicated than a trowel, so I was more than happy to get the straw bales. They sat behind the butterfly garden all spring, soaking up rain (yes, it's actually rained!) and getting nice and soft. The other day I plunged my hand into the center of a bale and found that the consistency was similar to that of rich compost. I could maybe envision a plant growing here.
We went to the farmer's market last week and came home with squash, zucchini, beans, peas, and asparagus. (The asparagus went in the ground, since it's a perennial.) Yesterday, Teresa spaded some dirt into the bales and planted her crops. She said they would need to be watered more frequently than a regular vegetable garden--I volunteered to water in the mornings if that meant I didn't have to make up the bed. (The latter seems such a waste of time--I'm going to get right back in it at night...)
So we'll see what happens. Stay tuned...