Sunday, 28 March 2010

Haybale Cold Frames and the Question of Dead Fish

by: Danelle at My Total Perspective Vortex

I want vegetables now. I always kill my seedlings and I just don't have the space yet to dedicate to the seed flats. I have had success with direct sow, a lot of success, but this just doesn't work with tomato and peppers.....luckily I get plants from wonderful friends and neighbors, but I still want to be self sufficent in this matter. I am still a beginner, a beginner farmer too. I have so much to learn, perhaps more than one lifetime's worth of knowledge was not passed to my generation and learning from books and the Internet is surreal sometimes. There is a lot of trial and error.

Enter the haybales. I read about this here and here. Basically you place 4-6 bales in a square and then top with plastic or old windows. Our neighbor delivered to us all the old storms off their house last fall. Wonderful!

So here is the first haybale green house/ cold frame. We have 5 weeks until last frost date so I'm not going to bother starting cold weather stuff that I can just directly seed right now. I am going to try...tomatoes. Brave, daring, and maybe a little naive. That about sums up my entire adult life!

Once the cold season has passed and the plants can stand alone, the bales break down and make excellent cover mulch. I did this last year with cut long grass and had major weed problems- to address this I read here that heavily watering the bales so they sprout, then letting them dry out again, kills the seed sprouts and fixes the weed sprouting issue once they are spread as mulch. I also used old paper feed bags as a biodegradable landscape paper under the mulch. Excellent for weed control and they completely break down by the fall turning.

One of the other things I am going to try this year is dead fish as fertilizer. We had a fish kill in our pond and pulled out HUGE grass carp. Lily is 3 feet tall. The fish is the same size she is, maybe a little longer. Wow.

I will not be using those though, the smaller fish will break down easier and were scooped up with other organic matter from the pond. It will all be wonderful soil nutrition. I'm not going to use nearly as much as we actually have though, just a few buckets full as a trial. I know they will be great, but the guy who runs the tiller (my Dearest husband!) is concerned that they will tangle up in the tines. It is a small walk behind model but I have put on my wish list a pull behind for the tractor. He's also concerned about attracting wild predators. I don't know about that. I would think that compost heaps and gardens in general attract wild animals, but once the fish are tilled in it shouldn't be a problem. Right?

 Just look at those nutrient dense little fish! I'm excited for this trial and will be doing before and after soil testing out of curiosity. I picked up the soil bags and forms last week. We are testing the orchard grounds as well.

This is the other garden bed that will get the fish treatment. I can't wait for the soil to dry out and be workable but we have a warm dry stretch next week and if we can catch the end of it and till then, I think we'll be good to go.