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Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

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Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Wed 20 Mar 2013 - 17:16

I have a 5x10 large raised bed and 3, 4x4 table tops that are SFG and added 10 straw bale gardens this year to house the really big stuff that takes over the SFGs.

Anyone else done SBG? What was your experience? Did you do it organic? I'm using mostly organic, I have a little bit of a couple fertilizers I'll probably get rid of and then replace with organics.

Here's my bales:

This has potatoes growing in it and the bale to the top has purple bush beans planted in the front and pole beans in the back half. They'll grow on the trellis over their bale and across to the top of the potatoes as well.


These have Roma Tomatoes.

Spaghetti Squash, Roma Tomatoes with carrots, onions and radish underneath.

I spent the money to buy this book for my Kindle: https://www.facebook.com/learntogrowastrawbalegarden/app_251458316228

It's pretty thorough. I bought spoiled straw bales from the family that runs cattle on our land. They were perfect to use once seasoned and started composting. You can start gardening 2-3 weeks earlier than normal with the SBG method as the bales' temperatures will be 30 degrees or so warmer than the air temps.

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  FamilyGardening on Wed 20 Mar 2013 - 19:26

we have not tried this type of gardening, but i think its pretty neat Very Happy but there are others on here that have..... Very Happy

please keep us posted on how it does....love the pictures too!

happy gardening
rose

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  jazzycat on Wed 20 Mar 2013 - 19:35

I've heard of this and thought about trying it. Keep us posted on how it does. Maybe I will try it next year, or for the winter.

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  Coelli on Wed 20 Mar 2013 - 20:16

I'm really curious about this too. My back yard is at capacity and I am now eyeing the front yard, with a lawn we don't want anyway (besides, the back of the house faces north and I can't grow there all year - it's warm enough, but not enough sun). I'm not sure my neighbors will appreciate a bunch of straw bales in the front yard, but... Razz

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Wed 20 Mar 2013 - 20:45

@Coelli wrote:I'm really curious about this too. My back yard is at capacity and I am now eyeing the front yard, with a lawn we don't want anyway (besides, the back of the house faces north and I can't grow there all year - it's warm enough, but not enough sun). I'm not sure my neighbors will appreciate a bunch of straw bales in the front yard, but... Razz
You can plant flowers in the sides Laughing They actually don't look bad when done. I have sweet peas in the sides of some and will have lettuce and herbs in others.

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  Coelli on Wed 20 Mar 2013 - 21:00

@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:You can plant flowers in the sides Laughing They actually don't look bad when done. I have sweet peas in the sides of some and will have lettuce and herbs in others.

Oh, that's a good idea! I'll have to look into this some more. I'm also curious about what happens to the bales at the end of the season, but won't bug you guys with a million questions. In our climate (hot and dry) I imagine we'd have to water often too.

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Wed 20 Mar 2013 - 22:17

@Coelli wrote:
@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:You can plant flowers in the sides Laughing They actually don't look bad when done. I have sweet peas in the sides of some and will have lettuce and herbs in others.

Oh, that's a good idea! I'll have to look into this some more. I'm also curious about what happens to the bales at the end of the season, but won't bug you guys with a million questions. In our climate (hot and dry) I imagine we'd have to water often too.
You can often use the bales for two seasons, and then you just compost the rest of what's left and use it in your other gardens and then start over.

I've heard quite a few people from hot and dry say they have to water twice a day, but that's what I have to do all summer in my SFGs anyway. We're 95-105 almost 3 months of the year and low humidity. I just noticed where you're from, I'm in the foothills outside of Fresno.

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First of April Garden Report

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 12:39

Things are really progressing here in sunny California. Our last frost date is 3-15 and our last actual frost was the beginning of March.

Here are my bale gardens.

In the front of this bale are purple bush beans, heirloom variety, in the back are pole beans. I have had less success rate of surviaval with the pole beans. I had half of them come up and the shells wouldn't crack open and the first set of leaves died and they haven't recovered. I planted replacements after soaking them over night.



My potatoes are getting huge. I've interplanted red romaine on the back side of the bales and another romaine variety in the front. I also have planted a couple of Armenian Cucumbers in the back to trellis on the vine. I'm hoping I haven't overloaded the bale. If I have I'll try to make up for it with organic fertilizers.

My other bales are under netting so you can't really see things well. My Roma tomatoes are about a foot tall or more and about a foot wide. They are looking really full, green and have their first blossoms. My squash are all doing well. About their 4th or 5th set of leaves and so far no mildew or any signs of problems. Half of my lemon cucumber seedlings are struggling, not sure what the issue is there. but if half survive I over planted so we'll do well.

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 13:32

Here are my SFG table tops next door:


I took the greenhouse covers off today as it's getting a little too warm now for them. The trellises for the north side of each box will go on this week. On the right is a Butternut squash, on the left is my broccoli.

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  bnoles on Sun 7 Apr 2013 - 3:35

Your straw bales appear to be doing very well. I brought home 4 bales about 2 weeks ago and just finished "conditioning" them before I left out on vacation. I hope to get them planted as soon as I return. I have some left over Tom, pepper and zuke seedlings from my Good Friday planting that I will be putting in them along with some bush beans and pumpkin vine seeds. I am doing mine out of curiosity and interest, but if it proves productive, it will be good to fill in that less useful part of my yard with left overs in the future as well as for plants that love to sprawl and need more room than I have allotted in my beds.

Nice job on yours and please keeps us posted on the progress.

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Where to get straw bales

Post  Windmere on Sun 7 Apr 2013 - 7:08

@bnoles wrote:Your straw bales appear to be doing very well. I brought home 4 bales about 2 weeks ago and just finished "conditioning" them before I left out on vacation. I hope to get them planted as soon as I return. I have some left over Tom, pepper and zuke seedlings from my Good Friday planting that I will be putting in them along with some bush beans and pumpkin vine seeds. I am doing mine out of curiosity and interest, but if it proves productive, it will be good to fill in that less useful part of my yard with left overs in the future as well as for plants that love to sprawl and need more room than I have allotted in my beds.

Nice job on yours and please keeps us posted on the progress.

Hey bnoles,

Where did you get your straw bales (maybe Swint's?) Also, what do you mean by "conditioning" the straw?

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  Nonna.PapaVino on Sun 7 Apr 2013 - 8:50

Fascinating, your SBG. We've grown extraordinary squash, potatoes, beans and cucumbers in beds made from spoiled hay bales, but used them a bit different than you are using yours. We placed six bales in a rectangle around hardware cloth laid on the ground, then filled the empty rectangle in the middleof the bales with forest compost up to about 8 inches from the tops of hay bales. Topped with Mel's Mix, it was beyond fertile, I'm here to tell you. Like you're discovering, the soil warmed up much earlier than the surrounding beds. The first experimental bale bed from two years ago is now all broken down into a rich, black dirt, which I keep scooping up on top of the center combination soil, and hope to build a wooden bed surround later this spring. Last year's bale bed's hay bales have sagged, but not begun to fully decompose, so the interior (where cukes were last year) are planted with Chieftan potatoes which are doing fabulously. Love your idea for individual bales, and certainly will try it, too, if there are any more intact bales down in the barn. Thanks for the jump site. Nonna

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Sun 7 Apr 2013 - 8:58

I'm running off to church, when I get home I'll post the conditioning procedure. It's basically getting them started composting so that there is some nutrition in the bales for the plants.
aj

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  bnoles on Sun 7 Apr 2013 - 18:08

@Windmere wrote:Hey bnoles,

Where did you get your straw bales (maybe Swint's?) Also, what do you mean by "conditioning" the straw?

Hi Windmere,

I got the bales at a local landscape company near me called CCS. "Conditioning" consists of watering and adding nitrogen to the bales over a 10 day to 2 week period before planting to get the composting started before you plant. If you have a real interest, there are several youtube videos you can pull up and watch and even a book on the subject that would explain it better than me.


Last edited by camprn on Sun 7 Apr 2013 - 18:13; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : fixed quote box)

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Very intriguing

Post  Windmere on Sun 7 Apr 2013 - 18:21

Thanks for the response bnoles. I definitely want to look into this.

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straw bale gardening

Post  Sprite on Mon 8 Apr 2013 - 14:04

I'm curious as to how they hold up during the season. Do they get messy looking? I did read that someone got 2 seasons out of them. That couldn't have been Minnesota??? My quandary is that I wonder about using them in an area that's visible to the street. Thanks for any replies! Teri

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  walshevak on Mon 8 Apr 2013 - 16:56

I've seen these in action planted on the top. I wonder if you could cut pockets in the sides, fill with MM and plant something pretty to cover the sides visible to the street. Maybe vining nasturtiums.

Kay

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Mon 8 Apr 2013 - 17:08

@walshevak wrote:I've seen these in action planted on the top. I wonder if you could cut pockets in the sides, fill with MM and plant something pretty to cover the sides visible to the street. Maybe vining nasturtiums.

Kay
Absolutely yes!!!

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Mon 8 Apr 2013 - 17:09

I don't have any long term answers as my garden is a first year attempt, however about 1/2 of my bales were old ones that had shrunk significantly already. They're basically what 2nd year bales look like. They are falling apart. I wish I had sort of "re-baled" them before planting. I lost a couple of seedlings because the straw slipped away from their roots.

They don't have to look bad though. I'm planting flowers around the sides. You could put the bales basically into a box to hold things together and keep things neat. If I like the straw bales I just may do that next year. I'll create a standard bale sized box the length of my rows and the the 2nd year bales can just be stacked on top of each other and they won't go anywhere. I could use house siding sheets with an open to the ground bottom and 4 x 4 corner posts or something similar. EDIT: I just found this picture on Joel's FB page


As to info on conditioning, here's what the author of the book I bought says.

DAY 1
Using an organic Nitrogen Source, such as blood meal, feather meal or chicken manure mixed 50/50 with a bagged nitrogen source - sprinkle 3 cups all over the bale. Water in thoroughly so that it penetrates deep into the bale.

DAY 2
Water thoroughly

DAY 3
Repeat Day 1

DAY 4
Water thoroughly

DAY 5
Repeat Day 1

DAY 6
Water thoroughly - you may start smelling the composting, that smell will be temporary.

DAY 7
Apply 1 1/2 cups of your organic nitrogen - water in thoroughly.

DAY 8
Repeat Day 7

DAY 9
Repeat Day 7

DAY 10
Add 3 cups of bone meal or fish meal (potassium) mixed with 50% wood ashes (potassium)

DAY 11
water

DAY 12-18
You may begin to plant, but be careful that the temperatures have already reached a heated level and are cooling off. You shouldn't plant at temps above 85* I cooked a tomato plant that way. I would recommend being patient (which is easier said than done!)

To plant, push the straw aside and push some Mel's mix into the opening, plant your seedling and push back together.

To plant seeds, put a 2 inch layer of Mel's mix, or 50/50 compost and manure mix, plant your seeds. I experienced the mushrooms disturbing my seeds as they grew so large they shoved things aside. I watched closely and pulled any mushrooms that were causing problems. I lost a couple of seedlings to this process.

This is the Facebook page of the author (whose book I bought) https://www.facebook.com/learntogrowastrawbalegarden?fref=ts
I highly recommend this book, you can find it under the "store" tab. I bought it on Kindle.

Audrey


Last edited by audrey.jeanne.roberts on Mon 8 Apr 2013 - 17:32; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Mon 8 Apr 2013 - 17:26

Here's a short TV video showing his gardens last year and a little it about planting etc.
http://www.kare11.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=2282084882001

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straw bale gardening

Post  Sprite on Mon 8 Apr 2013 - 17:50

Thanks for all the great replies!

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Update 4-29-13

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Mon 29 Apr 2013 - 16:41

My experiment thus far:

Beans, Potatoes, Cucumbers

The closest bale is the potatoes. I have some small bugs that are eating the leaves, but I'm picking them off every time I go out there and they seem to be holding up. I have 2 Armenian cucumber seedlings at the back that will go up the trellis and have romaine lettuce red and green interspersed under the potatoes.

We bought out bales from some young girls who's father died this winter and are running the cattle on our land. Most of the bales they brought must have been a couple years old and they're disintegrating fast. We may have to get creative pretty quickly. There's decent soil underneath the bales so they might just root down into it and be fine. Otherwise, I'll probably make some temp planters around the bales and add some MM to finish the season. The bales that were new ones are doing great.


These are the worst of the bales. I woke up to two sink holes in one of them this week and had to shore up a tomato. These were too loose when we got them, but I didn't know that that was bad. Live and learn. Second year bales should still be tightly wound or don't use them!


How are your bale gardens growing?
Audrey

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  bnoles on Mon 29 Apr 2013 - 16:58

Hi Audrey, your SBs are looking great and appear to be an awesome growing medium. I have not made any new pictures of mine yet, but maybe I can get out there in the next day or 2 and do so. I must say that I am very impressed with this method so far and my plants are doing very well. This is working well for me in the lower part of my yard away from the main SFG area where I hope to use these for large and vining type plants such as squash and pumpkins and gourds. You have me wanting to try some potatoes after seeing yours.

Thanks for the update and pictures.

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on Sun 16 Jun 2013 - 9:33

I thought I would update how my experiment is doing. I'm very happy with the bales and how they have allowed me to plant more than I could have afforded to add with raised SFG gardens this year.



The middle section on this was a bale that was a couple years old when it started and is now only about 6 inches and virtually all compost. This is what they break down to eventually. Most bales will last 2 maybe 3 years. The bale to the left was a brand new bale. The hillside behind was planted with lavender, sunflowers and cosmos to bring in the pollinators.


6 feet tall and 2 spaghetti squash have produced at least 16 squash at last count.


Armenian cucumber over planted on potatoes that are starting to die down and the second bale over is planted with purple bush beans in front and Kentucky Wonder climbing the trellis behind. This has worked especially well.

I love the trellis set up that was recommended with this system. I have 7 ft fence stakes at either end with wire wrapped between them at 10" intervals. As plants grow I just feed their main stem or with the zucchini the large new leaves up between the wires and it holds the entire plant up.


The zucchini is one bale from the far end. It's an heirloom variety and I've had incredible fruitfulness with it already this year. There are also Roma Tomatoes growing here that I'll have fruit in another couple of weeks. Far end is a pumpkin that isn't doing so well. I'm not sure what it's issue is, it was doing super well until we hit 105 for 3 or 4 days. It might just not like that kind of heat.


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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

Post  plantoid on Sun 16 Jun 2013 - 9:42

That looks good AJR .
re the older bales falling apart. Perhaps roll a bale up in some cheap garden netting turning it at least twice to hold every thing together .. the sort of cheap net used to keep birds of the fruit crops and use cable ties ( zip ties ?? ) to close the ends off .
Then all you need to do is stab holes in the bale where you want to plant once the decomposition stage has taken place. . it will stay together for a long time , keeping the area tidy and also ending up as a pile of useable composting material .

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Re: Any Straw Bale Gardeners Out There?

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