The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Fun with Compost and Straw Bales.
Flowers and Vines Sprout from Compost and Straw Bales

Let me guess -
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.


Above is one of those ideal compost piles, with layers of soil, grass or greens, and straw or dried leaves. Why is it in the bright sunlight? Compost belongs in the shadiest spot, but this one may have been posed for a gardening article.

All those ingredients are fine to use. Various manures are good in for introducing moisture, organic matter, and bacteria. However,  dog and cat manure are avoided because they may carry pathogens that hop into the human system. Raise some rabbits and you will never lack for Rabbit-Gro.

The fertilizer salesmen and their puppets warn that the NPK rating is low for manure and compost, but NPK is misleading. Dow Chemists used to laugh at how little the ingredients cost and how much they could get for them in the right packages. Besides, inorganic fertilizers are not good for the very creatures that make soil productive and healthy.

To show that the layer cake is not required, some of us plant on damp straw bales. The are Lego blocks for gardeners. Now that the potatoes are growing, I am fond of the homely lumps.



Flowers and Vines Sprout from Compost and Straw Bales
Last year I planted a pumpkin vine, rather late, in the compost. The vine grew slowly at first and really took off after establishing its roots.

This year I have already planted strawberries on top. My contributors (Mr. Gardener and our helper) know I do this, so they add their contributions around the newest plant.

When it warms up I will plant pumpkin or gourd vines in the compost, since little will be added on top for a period of time.

I have already planted flowers in the straw bale sides. Some things are sprouting already.

The fun comes from seeing how well the plants do in compost and straw. That can only happen because the soil creatures - fungi, bacteria, nematodes, protozoa, earthworms, slugs, springtails, and many more - work together to decompose the material and swap soluble elements.

The plant roots do far more than grow and absorb moisture. They attract this Vanity Fair of microbes with stuff they exude from the root hairs. In return for the carbon and materials offered by the roots, fungi draws the needed compounds from its decomposing mechanism. Fungi do not tear and chew and rasp, the way earthworms and slugs and springtails do. Instead, fungi dissolve into the food and take what they want. They can trap nematodes and pull out the high nitrogen insides. Bacteria help in all this, but fungi are the giant digesters needed to make it happen.




Earthworms mix and tunnel and sweeten the last stage of decomposition.

A gardener can get seeds to sprout in wet paper towels, but it takes a growing medium for the plant to be established and productive. Compost and the straw bale are two ways to create that medium.

Apart from getting straw wet and starting to decompose for a few weeks, I truly doubt the bales need any more "conditioning" - as various people suggest. They sit on soil and get the creatures they need from the soil. They do not need soil added on top. Nor is a nitrogen product needed. Soil can be put on the top, but why? Adding inorganic fertilizers? That is really crazy. "Let's get all the creatures going in this ideal growing medium and then stun and kill them with inorganic salts."

Rove beetles eat the creatures living on decay.


FAMILY Staphylinidae NORTH AMERICAN SPECIES 3000+ 
This family has the honor of being one of the largest families of beetles in North America. A distinctive feature of most rove beetles is the short wing covers that leave their segmented abdomens exposed. When threatened, many species of rove beetles curl their abdomens upward in scorpion fashion. No need to worry, though, as these beetles have no stinger. They are generally brown to black and measure 0.08–0.78 inch (2–20 mm) in length (though some species can reach much larger). 

Rove beetles are predators of insects that feed on decaying organic matter (a handful of parasitic species exist as well). They commonly consume bark beetles, slugs, snails, ants, termites, root maggots, and many others and are found in plant debris, in manure and compost piles, under stones, and in woodlands. Their fast-moving larvae feed on the same prey species by capturing them with sickle-shaped jaws. A few species can produce skin-blistering chemicals or defensive odors when attacked.


Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 1035-1043). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

I suggest using straw alone to grasp the concept
of decomposition as designed by the Creating Word, the Son of God.