Saturday, June 12, 2010
Straw Bale Gardening!
Straw bale gardening is a great way to garden for those not having much space, poor soil, or grub or gopher problems. It's almost like container gardening, but you get to compost the container when finished and it's a pretty easy process! You can get one, probably two years from your bale(s). First, get your bale(s) of straw - make it wheat or oat straw and stay away from hay as it has too many seeds and you'll have weed problems. For about 10 days, water your bale(s) daily and keep them very wet as you're wanting to start a composting process. It's also good to add an organic fertilizer to speed up the composting process. Many people use ammonium nitrate, but I know organic gardeners will want to find an organic substitute. If you're not worried about being organic, then ammonium nitrate is the best thing to use during this 10 day stage of preparing the bale(s). Composting won't really kick in for a while down the road, but you don't want to wait too long and introduce new plants to a hot compost mix. Next, separate the straw where you want to plant your plants, add composting soil in these places to create a top dressing, and make your garden! You can plant just about anything in your straw bale garden - annual vegetables, herbs, and flowers and get quite creative. Tomatoes are good but best to let them hang and grow over the sides as staking can be difficult in the bale. Corn and okra are not a good idea either as they are a bit top heavy for the bale. About every week or two it's a good idea to supplement the bale(s) some organic feed or worm tea. After a year or two when it's time for a new bale, the old bale makes wonderful compost - nothing goes to waste here. Straw bales aren't very expensive and are sometimes found on Craigslist for free. By the time you added up the costs of a container and bought soil, the straw bale is definitely cheaper and there is no waste. Happy gardening!