Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Straw Bale Gardening

Today's letter in the A to Z Challenge is S and I'm using it for something we are working on here this year. Straw Bale Gardening, Never heard of it? I'm not surprised, while it's a great idea I'm not really sure it's caught on yet. There is a great book,that you can get, and it's been updated just this year.

It's available on Amazon or maybe at your local Library.

The concept is that you plant directly in to a Straw bale that has been conditioned with fertilizer to compost inside by feeding the bacteria that is already present in the bales. So this is a method that is great for those that want to garden but don't have much space or no yard at all. It is also for those who want a garden but just have clay or rocky soil. The straw bales are like a self contained raised bed with out the hassle of tilling and digging, They are also great for those of us with back problems as the bales are up off of the ground and easier to access for planting and harvesting. And the best part, after a season or two you have a great mulch. The reason we did this was due to the state of the soil we had available. It had been part of a tobacco/cotton field and we just didn't want to plant in that with out a bit of conditioning first. 

The conditioning takes any where from 10 days to two weeks. If you're in a cooler climate you can even use them with row covers to create your own mini green houses. If you have plenty of time you can just keep your bales moist and nature will run it's course or you can speed up the process by adding fertilizer every other day to the top of the bale and then watering it in. The second process will still need to be watered every day. Once you are ready to plant top your bale with a couple of inches of compost or garden soil or using a trowel you can spread the hay and plant directly into the bale with a bit of compost. Once the bales are working well you will be able to plant in the sides as well. There are instructions for using organic fertilizers as well as commercial lawn fertilizers. 

Since they are above the ground they will have a tendency in the beginning to dry out quickly. Drip hoses or soaker hoses work great in this situation. Once the bale is decomposing it will hold a good amount of water, and you can water less often. It is important for the whole process that you don't let them dry out. A word of warning, make sure the bales are where you want them, once they get wet they are very heavy and hard to move,
We've started 300 Tomato Plants!

You can see how the decomp is working in the bales.

And of course you always need a helper in the garden. Bales are great because they keep the dogs out of trouble since they can't step in the plants..lol and it's above the chickens so they leave the plants alone too. 

Along with the book there are lots of sites dedicated to talking about how easy and great these gardens are. Wither you want to grow tomatoes, herbs or greens they work wonders for all kinds of plants. Plant early crops and then reuse them for fall crops. Once they have totally given all they have either rake it up and use it in another garden or leave it in place to nourish the soil underneath.

If you are sourcing your bales it is cheaper and easier to buy directly from the grower, Around here bales can go from 1.00 in the field to 4 or 5.00 from a garden supplier. Still it's much cheaper than building a raised bed and in all reality not everyone who wants to garden has that ability.

Check back in a month or so and we'll update the progress. This is our second year and we couldn't be happier. Let me know if you give it a try we'd love ot hear about other success stories!

Thursday's letter is T and I'll be talking about another option for growing "up"! Thanks for stopping in!