Hi! you guys saved my tomatoes last year,cuz i wasnt feeding right. well, i was wondering,should i start seeds in the bales? or start them in the house? Im in NH,and its been around 25-50 degrees off and on for the past couple weeks. I really wanna grow broccolli.Last year I tried it in the ground,and the chipmunks stole it all,then the Agway lady said i was cuz it was too warm to plant more.grrrr. So who here has broccoli know how? I eat it everyday,and must have it!!! Also, since this is the 2nd season ive had the bales,how do i prepare them?Should I be dumping some plant food on them before putting anything in?
Tomatoes will work best if you start them from seed about now and plant them in the bales when all danger of frost is past. That's true of peppers and eggplant as well. I've never grown broccoli in bales but it should work. Plant them in the bales when you would normally for your climate in the ground. However, chipmunks will find them in the bales as well since they got to my tomato plants last year. I finally resorted to putting sticks around the tomato seedlings and wrapping a cloth like Remay around the sticks, using clothes pins to hold the cloth in place. The chipmunks couldn't snap the stalks then. I also caught the chipmunks in rat traps using sunflower seeds as bait. That solved the problem but ignore this if it bothers you!
I always use a combination of new and old bales each season. How much did your original bales break down? I find I need to put two old bales together to make the equivalent size of a new one. You don't need to re-perk the old ones - you can plant directly into the old since they will be like a fabulous compost. Then feed the plants normally throughout the season.
Of course, you can add other supplements at the beginning if you wish. I usually add some worm castings as fertilizer and maybe some gypsum for the tomatoes. Then I feed everything all season about every two weeks with liquid fish and kelp fertilizer (both new and old bales).
Last fall I put out all my new bales to reduce the expense of "perking" them (getting them to soften using nitrogen fertilizer). They are looking good and should be perfect by May when I plant in them since we have had a lot of snow and rain this winter. At the beginning of May I will put about a cup of general organic fertilizer on each of the new bales and gently water it in. When I plant them I mix my potting mix with worm castings, rock phosphate, and gypsum, make the planting holes in the bales, put in about two cups or more of potting mix and plant.
This will be my fourth year of strawbale gardeningand I think I am getting the hang of it now! Even got some neighbors trying it for the first time this year. I had the best crop ever in 2010. Keep us posted on how it goes. I love broccoli too! Good Luck!
If you have the facilities in your house you can gain 8 weeks on the tomato growing season by starting indoors. Tomatoes are easy to start indoors and they transplant well.
The straw bales in the pic below are placed on three layers of decomposing bales or about 9" of decomposing straw. Thanks Kent for putting me on to the Straw Bale thing. To me there is nothing easier as far as gardening goes.
In another forum texasrockgarden gave me an idea with one of his pictorials for planting sweet potatoes. I have eleven straw bales from last season which I thought about using to make a frame for growing the sweet potatoes in-between, however I am wondering about using new bales to encompass the old bales which could serve as the growing medium. I am a complete novice at this straw bale gardening so any tips here would be appreciated. I have less than 90 days growing season which makes sweet potatoes nearly impossible in the garden so I would have to cover these bales initially with some old window panes for early planting added warmth. I do have worm castings as mentioned above and some composted cow or horse manure to add to the last season straw bales. For the location I have chosen, growing inside a double row of hay bales seems like an ideal solution to growing 120 days to maturity crops. I don't know if this ideas fits the concept of straw bale gardening but I thought I would give it a try.
I appreciate the link T-Rock but it didn't work for me. I have had problems here in DG in the past with some links. I really don't know the reason but my computer locks up and if I try it a second time it seriously compounds the problem. Last time it happened is when I tried to pay my dues. I tried twice and the second time it took me three hours to get my computer back to working correctly. If it wasn't for SharonLovesWorms I would no longer be a member. But thanks for trying Jerry.