Monday, February 22, 2010

It's In the Bag

Saturday morning's garden chore was a good deal messier than I'd expected--in part from lack of practice and weather conditions, but also lack of forethought. Next time will be better, and there will certainly be a next time. This was notable largely for being my first garden bag.

Since posting my intent to try this, I've acquired two small testing spaces to plant them in, one I'll be administering, and one that will adopted by someone else after I've started it. Haven't decided yet whether I'll be trying the same mix and technique in both or not, but it was time to decant a curing bucket and I had all the necessary supplies, so I figured I might as well mix up a bag and worry about the details later.

Problem the first: declaring a top. The paper leaf and lawn bags are designed to stand on their narrow bottom for ease of filling, but to use as a garden, you would logically set it on its side. If I wanted a thick soil layer in the top of the bag once it was placed, I'd have to take care how the bag was filled, stored, and transported. After a few minutes of fiddling, I decided it wasn’t going to happen that day; for this bag, I’d do limited soil mixed in with the leaves and bokashi, and add more soil at planting-time. Which meant there was no need to declare a top immediately. (Phew!)

Problem the second: "dried" leaves. Our drought has officially been declared at an end--temporarily, if you ask me, but that's irrelevant. What matters is that, while it wasn't actually raining Saturday, the sky'd been doing what my grandparents would call "spritzing" off and on the past few days. Some of my leaves were damp enough to make kitchen gloves a better option than the ones made for the garden. Not sure how much excess moisture that added, but paper's breathable enough that it won't go anaerobic; my major concern was that the soggy, relatively heavy, acidic leaf-mats, together with the wettish bokashi, might damage the bag’s integrity too much for me to able to neatly move it later. Guess we'll see.

Problem the third: vermiguilt 2010. A garden bag needs soil; I decided this particular bag needed to start with about a gallon of what some gardeners call "living soil," soil with microbes and perhaps some macro-digesters, plus organic foods for same in all stages of decomposition, and the odd inorganic for bulk and drainage. Procuring this was simple: The planter stack is now shorter by one layer, its contents gone into the bag. Worms and all. While more caring and reasonable vermi-people might be willing to separate out the worms from the food/bedding/humus/soil/whatever, I am not. In the first place, I'm lazy. In the second, garlic-scented worms? Okay, so they're not so repellent as BSFL, I still have no desire to handle the things. And in the third, it's not like they're scarce around here, not these days. Verne's done so very much colonizing I recently accused him of having gone feral. (Was he ever domesticated? Sorry, not on point.) He wriggles is way into any welcoming environment, and there's at least a chance the smarter ones might manage to survive the bag, if they're careful, maybe. Then again, maybe not. Fresh-cured bokashi is acidic, plus there's an almost inevitable heating reaction when mixing cured bokashi and dried leaves. Not sure about wet dried leaves, but if moisture content's the only retarding factor, the reaction should occur once sufficient evaporation has taken place. The bag's not tight-packed, so the reaction will fizzle--nowhere near enough dirt in there to add significantly to the pressure--but will it end in time to keep the worms from cooking? No idea, hence the guilt. But whether or not this particular set of Verne-aggregates thrives, I'm confident more will want to move in once the contents have cooked awhile.

Which brings me to problem the fourth: storage. Ideally, a garden bag might be assembled in place, wedged into a bed-box and left to cure. But that's not yet possible for me, as the raised-bed dimensions have not been marked out in either testing space, nor the edging materials acquired. Leaf and lawn bags are too identifiable to leave them in plain sight, since helpful neighbors might cart them down to street-level to be hauled away, or other greedy gardeners take them to add to their own compost piles. I had thought to just stick this bag beneath the porch, but that’s perhaps not the best option with our imminent inclement weather--better it be under a tarp and on something that will shed water, I think. And, um, maybe a wee bit insulated for the worms’ and microbes’ health? The curse of the groundhog is upon us here in Austin, you know...

Might not have been the best time to start this bag. But, hey, I'll learn something from the experience! Even negative results can be helpful, and about the worst that'll happen here is that I'll have to rebag the bag.


--image from the brilliantly named GardenSnob

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