My Friends

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stawbale gardening.

There seems to be quite a bit of interest in my straw bale gardening so I am going to post the instructions that I used to start mine about 4 years ago.
I learned how to do this from Kent Rogers at Daves Garden Forum.

Do not use orchard grass or hay. Use only wheat straw or oat straw but preferably wheat straw.

Here are the instructions for preparing the bales for planting. You will love the ease of planting in the bales. and for more information to to Dave's Garden Web site.

Straw Bale Gardening
by Kent Rogers~

I've been a traditional gardener all my life, but tried straw bale gardening last year as well.

I tried several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, cukes, squash, and zucchini in the bales and they all did outstanding.

You can start your garden with seeds if you use some topsoil on top of the bales, but I transplanted all of my vegetables from flats and trays purchased from local nurseries.

I initially used 20 bales of wheat straw. The plants in the wheat straw were doing so well that I got 10 more bales of oat straw to see how that would do. (Pine straw won’t work.)
I recommend getting bales that have been tightly baled. The oat straw bales I bought were lighter and baled looser than the wheat straw, and I learned that they don’t hold as much water. I paid about $2.50 for each bale.
Use bales that have synthetic twine if you can find them. The twine won’t rot and it will hold the bales together longer. If the bales use regular twine, that’s no problem. You may have to put a stake at the end of the bales. The bales I used had regular twine, and they started to rot and break, but I arranged 10 in each row, so the bales tend to hold each other together.
I oriented my bales with the strings off the ground. You can do it either way, but I like the twine off the ground. The transplanting seemed easier with the bales oriented with the strings off the ground. You can decide which way to orient yours.
If you make more than one row of bales, put them wide enough apart so your lawnmower can get between them. And because you’ll be watering them, I recommend placing the bales where the water will drain away from your house or away from where you’ll be walking.
How many plants per bale? Try two tomato plants per bale, three peppers, two squash, two sets of cucumbers.

Be prepared to stake the tomatoes, peppers and any tall growing plants. I recommend 6-foot stakes for the tomatoes. I used tobacco sticks last year, but they are too short. My tomatoes grew way over the tobacco sticks. This year I'll be using stakes and a horizontal trellis and arch way-type trellis.
I didn’t plant any okra last year, but they will probably do well. You’ll definitely have to stake them. I don’t think corn will work too well. The plants will be too top-heavy. I water the bales in the morning and after sunset. You can’t over-water because any excess will just run out of the bales. Soaker hoses will work. The main thing is not to let the bales get dried out between watering.
I started out using some Miracle Grow once a week for a couple of weeks. Then I sprinkled in some 10-10-10. You don’t want to over fertilize.

The bales will start to sprout wheat or oat straw, but that is no problem. If the grass gets too much for you, just whack it off with a knife. I give my bales a “haircut” every so often with a steak knife. It takes no time at all.

One thing I’ve noticed—and this could be just a fluke—is I have not had to spray my plants with any pesticides such as Liquid Sevin. I haven’t had any worms, bugs or other pest bother my straw bale garden. Maybe it has something to do with the plants being off the ground.

Be prepared to use new bales each year. I don’t think they will be suitable for two years in a row. You can burn them, use them for mulch or bust them up and set new bales on them next year.
Preparing Your Bales

It takes 10 days to prepare your bales.

Days 1–3: Water the bales thoroughly and keep them wet.
Days 4–6: Sprinkle the bales with 1/2 cup of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) per bale per day, and water it well into the bales. I didn’t have any trouble finding ammonium nitrate from my local ag-supply store. They sold it in 50-pound bags. I have heard, however, that some people have had difficulty finding it in more urban settings. Ask around. (See more about ammonium nitrate at the bottom of this page.)
Days 7–9: Cut back to 1/4 cup of ammonium nitrate per bale per day and continue to water it in well.
Day 10: No more ammonium nitrate, but do add 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per bale and water it in well.
Day 11: Transplant your plants into the bales. I used a spatula to make a crack in the bale for each plant. Place the plant down to its first leaf and close the crack back together as best you can.
Other straw bale reference

For those of you who may have physical problems doing tradtional gardening, you may want to try this method. Even wheel chair-bound folks could garden with this method.
I didn't invent this method, but I have become an avid proponent of it.

I'm adding a photo of a portion of my garden.

Regards and have a blessed day,

Kent Rogers
Deputy Sheriff
Wake County">

P.S. - the recipe for preparing your straw bales calls for a little Ammonium Nitrate (34-0-0). Because of some Homeland Security concerns, you will probably have to give your name and phone #/address to the Seller. Ammonium Nitrate is just a fertilizer-type catalyst that acts like vitamins for the microbes that help decompose the straw bale to make it a great host for the vegetables you're going to plant. Farmers/gardeners have been using this product for years. However, if you can't find any Ammonium Nitrate or don't want to purchase a 50 lb bag, just add a week or so weathering process to your bales before you add your transplants. Be sure to wait until all danger of frost is over for your area.


~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

What great information! I always loved growing strawberries! I love carrying a little stool around to pick them! I'm sure sorry for your loss, my friend! I hope you feel some better every day...I know it's not easy! Sending you some extra HUGS!!! ♥♥♥

Jan said...

Thank you Diane. It has been very hard this time. I have lost two others about 13 years ago and It never gets any easier.

Debbie said...

This is great information Jan. I had heard of doing this but haven't researched it yet. We always have so much trouble with weeds and such. With my hubby having MS, this may be a good way for him to garden.

Thank you for sharing!
Debbie K

Julie said...

Thanks for all the info!

A Primitive Place Magazine said...

Hi Jan, we just got a comment to enter you in the giveaway - but it ended weeks ago. Perhaps you didn't see that part or maybe blogger is all messed up (again!!!) because we got another comment to be entered as well.