New to the forum, and gardening for that matter. I did have a very small raised bed last year with a few herbs, cherry tomatoes, and banana peppers, but never-the-less, I know next to nothing about gardening.
I first heard about straw bale gardening from some of my wife's family who were at one of our baby showers last year. I was really wanting to try it last year, but the timing was all wrong... it seems fatherhood is very time consuming ;) I have researched it a little bit and ended up here.
Anyhow, I just acquired 20 bales from a local farmer. They are not wheat, he described them as "broom straw". All the wheat bales I was able to locate had herbicide/pesticide from the farming process, these were chemical free.
I plan on planting tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, and perhaps a cantaloupe.
I have two questions (to start with) on preparing the bales...
1) Is there a preference to the orientation of the rows, (North to South / East to West) in reference to the sun shining on the plants?
2) I have read the "prep recipes", and it seems that if I get the bales out early enough I would not have to use any fertilizer, and thorough watering will suffice to get the bales cooking. I have nearly a month before I plant... Is there a watering schedule anyone can recommend to prepare the bales... once a day, twice a day, every other day, etc?
Thanks for any help and I look forward to learning a lot this gardening season.
I'm kind of the 'Black Sheep' of the StrawBale family; I grow my garden in Hay Bales (after trying both the first year). It's a wonderful way to garden, and this is such a friendly and informative community - you'll learn a lot!
Susan,your YouTube video won't play past 1:13 for me. Maybe later? IDK what's wrong.
I'm a newbie, too. I have no idea how "aged" my hay is. I got what hay I could find, it was very hard to find. I found 4 bales off of a truck set up on the side of the road where you drop your money in a pay box and get your own bales, and then 16 more bales from Lowe's...they definitely look different. The hay from Lowe's is bermuda hay. But they didn't know how old it was.
I have them lined up N to S, and have been keeping them wet for 6 days now. It's been in the 70s and 80s here. I have felt no "heat" from my bales, but I did put down thick white plastic sheeting alongside each bale to discourage grass from growing so badly (I loathe weedeating), and when I water the bales, now I am seeing a dark brown, rich, tea colored liquid seeping from under the bales onto the white plastic.
I have added no compost, fertilizer, nothing but water.
I'll take a pic tomorrow, I"m thinking the bales I got off the truck on the road are older...the hay just looks older.It sure holds water better...but it is for sure a different kind of hay.My husband said it was "junk hay". LOL. (he saw some briars in it) Well, so far I'm liking the "junk hay" so much more than the Lowe's hay. Wish I could have gotten more of it!
I'm planning on planting all kinds of smaller things.
Do yourself a favor - PEE on your bales! (Or save up your urine in jugs and use that to get your bales cooking!) I've been using Urea, purchased in 50 lb bags at AGWAY, but why pay for pee?? If you use that on your bales every other day for a week, it'll get them 'cooking' and you won't need to worry about weeds.
After the bales are hot, you have no further need of pee/nitrogen; are they GOOD and hot? Now you need to let them cool down (keep the dog away) and then plant them. If you're using hay, you won't need a lot of fertilizer. Last year, I only used fish emulsion in one of those dispersal bottles that you attach to your hose - it was amazing. This year, I'm also making 'compost tea' to supplement it, just to see what works the best.
I never collected any pee, I got sick. My bales are hot inside, and have been for 6 days now. But...aren't they supposed to cool off on their own, as I stop watering them every day ? I haven't had to water them, and won't according to the weather forecast, we have had, and will have , rain.
I'm scared to plant until they are just slightly warmer than the air outside of them. (60's, 70's, 80's, depending on the day)
The high temp in my wheat straw bales typically reaches about 145 degrees sometimes 160. On the cool down side when the temp reaches about 95 - 85 degrees I plant and start watering everyday until the plants take off, usually about a week to ten days.
I still do a modified version of Kent's formula for preparing the bales. Keeping the bales saturated with water I use Ammonium Sulfate at the following rates: Day one - 1 cup per bale, Day 2-6 - 1/2 cup, Day 7-9 - 1/4 cup, and Day 10 one cup of 13-13-13 with Sulfur. After day ten I don't water until the temp drops to around 90 degrees. This usually takes 5-10 days. Now I plant and start watering just about every day for the rest of the season.
Ggirl, In the dirt rows I side dress a couple times a season on just about everything except onions and I us the triple 13. Sometimes I get the urge to side dress some veggies in the raised beds and will use it their too.
13-13-13 is no more a magic pill than any other balanced NPK. It just happens to be a little higher percentage so I use less than if I were using say 10-10-10 but it is still NPK. In my area the sulfur is good because our soil is very alkaline.
I had twenty bales delivered because my local feed store that was worth driving back and forth with four bales at a time, has closed down. A farmer down the way several miles, looked at me strange when I said I wanted to get 20 but could only take 4 at a time, so he said for an extra $20 on top of $2.25 per bale he would deliver them when he was taking his wife out to dinner that night. So now I have twenty bales and a farmer who thinks I am a nut, but his wife looked pleasantly curious when I gave her a copy of one of Kent's pages and his links.
Okay after that long stupid story, I noticed that this guys bales are nicely formed and seem tight like last years bales but they are not as dense or heavy. The straw is more hollow and less grassy that last years, and it reminded me of the broom straw from this thread. That is not what he called it,but its kind of like the stiffer straw from brooms, and I am wondering if I will have to use a little more potting soil around the roots when I plant them? Also it seems like they may not hold water as well as the bales last year did, if I hadn't gone broke on the straw bales I would buy a few hay bales to run a comparison.
One year I used some loosely baled straw and they definitely collapsed a lot sooner. You indeed may want to consider adding some potting mix when you transplant to give the roots a little more medium to grow into.
P.S. - which reminds me of the videos I watched of renown Ruth Stout as she kept adding straw on top of straw as it decomposed. She added what she needed when she needed it.
I remember Kent posting a photo either on DG or in an article he wrote showing his okra. It was incredibly tall but strong! I grow it here in the north in straw bales but it never gets as big as it would in the south. Straw or hay bales are a good place to grow it. If you need to get some stakes to hold it up you can always use bamboo or something cheap. Do give it a try and post your pictures when it reaches the sky! LOL
My okra goes in the ground, mostly because I want LOTS of it *G*. I've cut back on bales this year (the cows needed to eat), so they're planted with tomatoes ( i cut back there, too) and peppers (as always) but also with cukes and a coupla cantaloupe. Some squash will go in later. Maybe beans, depending on the space issues.
If you want to try the okra, maybe put a fence by the bale to tie to? Easier than individual supports, I'd think, and I'm all for easy. All my things that need support get fence...
I've gone to doing two plants per bale, whatever it is. Okay, not beans or small things that are usually row planted, but tomatoes, Peppers etc. I think I could have planted more cukes per bale, but I alternated them with the peppers. Just an experiment on something climbing with something bush. I'm in a somewhat humid climate, and I figure the more air circulation, the better.
My bales seem to be smaller this year, as well. I'm not sure if it's just because they're farther along in the decomp, or if I'm just lazier...
I should probably also add that the tomatoes I grow are all indeterminate, and get HUGE in the bales. I'd really considered one per bale, remembering the incredible tangle I ended up with on the fence last year *G*.
I have to agree with catmad (at least, as far as hay bales go) The plants get so huge that putting more than 2 tomatoes, squash or cukes per bale wouldn't give them enough room (although I do companion plant basil in the front of the tomato bales) Peas/beans can go 3 to a bale if teepeed.