Saturday, April 25, 2009

"You're going to use what to make a garden?"

Straw Bale Gardening is not a new concept, but it sure is new to me. I took a three hour class through my local community education program last month and was sold on the idea. Not only do I get out of the physical labor of tilling, hoeing, and weeding, but I will create a more hospitable environment for growing food. I'm not going to go into much of the detail of how to make a garden - there are other websites out there for that, but I will document the steps I'll be taking in my particular garden...with pictures of course.

I purchased 10 bales of straw from a neighbor across the lake.

I doubt they are organic, but my fertilizers all are. The kind and patient manager of a nearby garden center was so helpful in helping me locate just the right combination to put the needed amount of nitrogen into my bales.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...
First we set up the garden:

Bales go on their sides, cut end up (so the hollow shafts of straw can absorb water and nutrients easier).

Staking the ends serves two purposes - 1) the bales are forced to stay together and 2) the stakes provide a way for me to create a trellis for peas and beans to grow up.

There was an extra bale of straw sitting around the park so I added it to my garden. The guy who taught our class uses a minimum of 50 bales in his garden. I had to agree to grow wave petunias out of the side of my bales (the bales will get brown and decompose - making them rather unattractive) in order to get approval for my 10 bales so 50 is out of the question, not to mention out of my price range. Fertilizing 11 bales organically costs $60. Sound high? Remember, I'm using organic products and even if I was using a traditional garden, I'd need to get fertilizer. I'll admit, paying money for manure is a bit strange after growing up on a horse farm.

I find comfort in the fact that I'm using a tested "recipe" for my fertilizers so God-willing, this will be a sound investment. Time will tell.

Speaking of time...It will take at least 2 weeks to condition the bales for planting. The recipe calls for fertilizing on certain days and watering every day.

Once that process is complete I should be able to feel the heat coming out of the bales - (up to 150 degrees!) and then it is time to transplant my veggie plants. I will do some direct seeding as well which will require an inch or two of top soil placed on top of the bales.

So there you have it, straw bale gardening 101 - or at least the first edition of it. I will explain how the plants are planted into the bales in a later post.

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Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom April 25, 2009 at 8:35 AM  

Very interesting! I look forward to seeing the progress--I may try this next year!

Anonymous April 25, 2009 at 11:30 AM  

I agree. Very interesting and I can't wait to see the process! Never have heard of this. I may have to try next year...

Pam April 25, 2009 at 11:38 AM  

Thanks for posting this! I'd researched online the other day but not gotten such precise info.

My hubby refuses to let me garden "in the ground" as he says HE will be the one doing all of the work. Not to mention, it would ruin his yard work routine. I keep thinking I'll just container garden but then hate to think of going and buying all of the pots needed. This sounds pretty cool.

Good luck and I can't wait to see the progress!

Cathy April 25, 2009 at 1:01 PM  

I have to confess, when you first mentioned it, I googled it. Because I had NO CLUE what you were talking about. But now I'm totally intrigued so I will following you through the process, because this just might work for me!

Jenney April 25, 2009 at 10:13 PM  

Wow, that is interesting. I planted our garden (most of it) yesterday as well. I compost everything I can and then use organic manure. I am not planning on using any fertilizers at that bad?

Ra April 2, 2010 at 8:20 PM  

A place near me is selling old rolls of hay for $10. I'll bet I can grow trees in those monsters!

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