By Diane Lockspeiser

Spouses can be great at pointing out our errors. Shortly after sending in last month’s article about berries, I put a beautiful bowl full of fresh mixed berries on the table to snack on. When I saw how my husband Steve skeptically eyed them, I realized that he was probably concerned about the possible “extra protein” in them. I quickly reassured him they were safe, no bugs, and that any that I have ever found to be infested with gnat larvae were mushy and not at all appealing to eat unless you are a chicken. Or other bird. I should have mentioned this in the previous article and I apologize if anyone got put off from eating berries because of it.

Another day, Steve was surprised and disappointed when a Japanese beetle on our grapevine flew off instead of dropping to the ground. I guess that I should have mentioned that the purpose of cupping your hand over the bug is to discourage them from flying away instead of dropping into your container of soapy water, and also that it does not always work. Sometimes they fly anyway.

About hay bale gardening, someone asked me if the bales don’t easily dry out. That would certainly not be an issue this year with the more than ample rainfall we have been having! The bales do retain moisture, yet don’t seem to get overly soggy. In drier summers, whenever I have had to open a bale to move a plant or poke a finger in to see if it was dry, I have almost always found it to be surprisingly warm and damp, almost steamy. In very dry conditions, you will need to water on occasion. You don’t need to water the plants directly, so you don’t have to be very careful when hosing down the surrounding bale.

Someone else was concerned about possible seeds in the hay causing more weeds. I cannot be sure about this because my garden is on a former hayfield surrounded by meadow, so I am already dealing with just about any kind of local weeds there are, but I have not had a problem with weedy bales. The bales are compacted, not spread out like mulch, so maybe that helps somehow. Perhaps all that hot steamy action inside helps.

Last but not least, I came home the other day to find my chickens once again on the road. They were further up the road, by meadows and not in anyone’s gardens, but still…WHY are the chickens crossing the road? I have no answer.~