The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Planting Between the Raindrops - When Straw Bales Are the Best Option

Bee Balm is also attractive to hummingbirds.


We had a break in the rain and drizzle for a short time. The postman brought strawberry plants, bee balm, and potatoes. The potatoes had to be sliced and dried a bit, so I planted strawberries and three monarda (bee balm) plants. I dunked the bee balm plants in rainwater while I worked on strawberries.

I hope to capture rainwater more this year, very handy for many gardening uses - like manure, compost, and mulch.

This is my first straw bale gardening experience. I poked the strawberry plants into the bales and wetted them down with the hose. The rain continued to fall and should continue tomorrow as well.

Borage is one of those bee plants that will nurture
the hard work of the bees by providing constant supplies of food.
The flowers are herbs, good to eat.
"I borage, give thee courage."


Someone suggested planting flowers in the front side of the bales. I decided not to bend over or kneel in the mud, so I put about 200 Borage (bee bread) seeds on the top of the bales and soaked them in.

Potatoes will go in tomorrow, God willing.

Earthworm Paradise
How fertile is the soil, you wonder? The norm is one earthworm in a shovel of soil. I had several worms per trowel in the soil I was digging. It was fun seeing them come up out of the soil. I tossed several over the fence from the backyard into the straw bale area. I could see one wiggling to grasp the straw, fail, and drop to the ground, only to bury itself underneath the bale. Earthworms do not like the sun and plant themselves fast when exposed.

I have earthworms in abundance because I distributed red wigglers twice last year and fed them with mulch, dead weeds, mushroom compost, and newspapers all winter. The straw bale garden is sitting on newspapers on top of mulch and ragweed from the explosion of ragweed there last summer. Our helper said, "What are we going to do with all the weeds?" I said, "We will leave them alone, harvest the tomatoes from them, and cover them with newspapers for the winter.

No need to get hysterical over ragweed. When a former ragweed area is covered with newspapers and mulch, the weds will not grow. Instead, seeds and plant material will decompose and feed the soil creatures and ultimately the plant roots. Fresh, growing ragweed will blacken and rot when covered with newspapers and wooden mulch.

Bee Balm
Bee balm (monarda) is also called Oswego Tea, Horsemint, and Bergamot. The plant has several medicinal uses.

I planted the three varieties in the open sun, in relatively new garden space. During our earlier outbreak of spring we created a new row of garden with newspapers and mulch. The grass was still rotting under the newspaper and mulch, but it was easy to dig and loaded with earthworms.

Scarlet runner bean flowers.
Order early, because supplies dry up.

Nearby I will have scarlet runner beans, whose flowers are also attractive to hummingbirds. I am too lazy (or cheap) to fill hummingbird feeders, so I grow them. If all goes well, many vines in the yard will provide addition food and shelter for the tiny flying rainbows.

Bird Spa Update
The birds had a riot eating and bathing today. They were wary of the new digs, since I mulched the area. Once a scout starling landed and found no trouble, all the rest came in for the feast and pleasures of the bath. A male cardinal showed up again for the seeds and suet. Mourning doves covered the area looking for seed.

Now the tiny birds are dominating the feeder by the bedroom window. Nothing compares to having a bird land a few inches from my face, swing on the Jackson EZ Bird Swing, drop down for food, and fly away.

"Birds? Where?"