Tonight it will be a week since Don delivered our straw bales. Things are cooking along now as I loosely follow the bale conditioning process from this blog. I'm keeping the bales moist and applying about 3/4 cup of ammonium sulfate very other day, and then watering it in. Temperatures in the bales are varying a bit, with the lowest being around 90, and the hottest around 110 degrees F. The bales are still very firm, and I can't imagine trying to plant in them.
I'm watering by hand after nitrogen application to make sure the crystals dissolve into the bales. Then, for deep watering I'm using a temporary drip hose setup, to be replaced by a cleaner design later.
|Temporary watering setup.|
Anyway, what's going on in there is that a heat-loving family of bacteria called actinomycetes (a fungus-like bacteria found naturally in the environment) is multiplying and helping the decomposition process. There are mesophilic bacteria that are most active from 70-100 degrees, and thermophilic bacteria that thrive from 113-160 degrees. The bacteria have an earthy, forest floor kind of fragrance, and looks white or grey, like a fungus. When these organisms are done decomposing the straw and the nitrogen (which won't be finished by the end of the 10 day conditioning period, but much later), there should be a rich humus replacing the straw.
With that scientific digression, here are a few things that are helpful to remember:
- Keep the bales moist, but not dripping wet or dry. Your mantra should be "moist as a wrung-out sponge".
- Check the temperature with a composting thermometer (photo below).
- Outside heat has nothing to do with this process - it can happen in the middle of winter, or even in a shady area. It's a chemical reaction.
- Make sure you add some form of nitrogen to the straw.
|You can get a long composting thermometer like this at your local home improvement or garden store.|
University of Illinois Extension Service
Santa Clara County Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission
My clematis this year are outRAGEOUS! And yes, if you were wondering, they grow in a container on the deck, and I do fertilize them with worm poo...
Now, off to the studio to melt some glass!