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Strawbale Gardening: General Discussions - 2012 - Chapter 37

Wake Forest, NC

In honor of the New Year, let's start a new chapter!

Happy New Year, all!

Looking forward to March 1st when it will be time to start some seeds!

Kent

Thumbnail by KentNC
Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Happy New Year to you all. March sounds good to me Kent.

Jeanette

Holly Ridge, NC(Zone 8a)

Happy New Year! Time to start some fresh bales!

Mike

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Happy New Year Kent; and everyone!!!!
March sounds good to me too.
Got my first seed catalog before the new year, guess they are anxious too. lol

Wake Forest, NC

Product question.

Thinking about this electric tiller to use in my raised beds: http://www.amazon.com/Joe-TJ600E-14-Inch-Electric-Cultivator/dp/B002IC1CBO/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Anyone have any recommendations about this or anything similar?

I thought it would be good to use to keep the soil loose and mix up any manure, top soil, compost, etc.

I'm tired of using a pitch fork! lol

Kent

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Kent, I would say you should try one first. Years ago I got a Mantis. After I got it I discovered the way it worked was that you had to walk backwards with it!!! Very difficult to do without walking on plants etc. I gave it away. A brand new machine. Totally wrong for what I wanted. Jeanette

Wake Forest, NC

Good tip, Jeanette!

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi all,
I have learned that many of the things you find online and elsewhere is: one, junk, two, doesn't do what it is supposed to do, or three too expensive for the use. Most of these are designed to catch the buyer, much like most of the fishing lures you find on the market.
I am going to begin the new year by wintersowing some milk jugs tomorrow with my grandkids. I think we are going to start, carrots, broccoli, peas, and some flowers, don't know what kinds yet.
Even if the milk jugs don't have very many sprouts, it will be fun to get the grandkids hands dirty.
Paul.

Wake Forest, NC

Paul: I listened to that tiller run on youtube and it sounds like it's gonna fly all to pieces. Plus, so much dirt is kicked up and it can't help but get in the electric motor that's not protected at all.

Have fun with the grandkids!

Kent

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

My sister bought a Stihl and loves it. (she doesn't use it, her sons do. lol, no wonder she loves it huh?) But seriously, he sons do. Jeanette

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi Jnette,
I have used a Stihl chain saw for years. They make quality products that do as they are designed
Stihl is a German company, I think.
Another point, if you buy a Stihl little tiller, plan to spend some money.
Paul.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Yes, we have stihl chainsaws also. And, yes it will cost more for a Stihl tiller. However, better to spend the money and get a good one than spend the money on a machine you can't use.

Toss up.

Hi Paul :0)

Wake Forest, NC

Gonna stick with the pitch fork and pass on the electric tiller. :-)

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

If you don't have a lot to do, the exercise is normally needed by us all Kent. :0) Maybe we should all come over with our pitch forks. Sounds like a manure fork is needed here. Jeanette

Wake Forest, NC

Jeanette: yep, the manual labor will be better for me! Good idea on a manure fork, too!

Gotta head by Home Depot today or tomorrow for some 3" exterior screws for my additional raised beds. Will look for a manure fork, too.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

:0) Have fun Kent!

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

Quote from KentNC :
Jeanette: yep, the manual labor will be better for me! Good idea on a manure fork, too!

Gotta head by Home Depot today or tomorrow for some 3" exterior screws for my additional raised beds. Will look for a manure fork, too.


Manure fork? Is that anything like a salad fork???? Does it go on the left or right side of the place setting??

Sorry Kent, just couldn't resist!

Doug

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Doug, depends on whether you are left or right handed. LOL, Jeanette

Wake Forest, NC

Doug: now that was funny!! :-)

I never made it by Lowes. I'm cutting the top row off of my raised beds and reusing the old screws. They are just like new.

Also, my standard pitchfork, which can also sub as a manure fork (LOL) got a lot of workout over the weekend!

Kent

This message was edited Jan 8, 2012 6:41 PM

Wake Forest, NC

Got my Trinidad Scorpion pepper seeds in today!! Gonna try these along with some more Ghost Peppers for my hot ones!!

Definitely got to make some pepper jelly this gardening season.

No heirloom tomatoes for me this year, either, except for maybe a few Cherokee Purples.

Going with just the hybrids: Better Boys and Lemon Boys.

Diseases have just take their toll on the heirlooms for last couple of years. Not wasting the space.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Kent, are you seeding direct, or starting them inside?

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

I have the cultivator that goes with Black & Decker 18volt system- It is small enough to use in confined spots and for an old woman to handle! It doesn't rotate, just oscillates back & forth. I love it.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Jo, is it electric, or gas?

Wake Forest, NC

Jeanette: I will seed the peppers inside. Had good success last year with the warming mat, grow lights, etc.

Looks like Jo is talking about an electric cultivator since she mentioned 18 volt system.

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

It runs with an 18volt rechargeable battery- they go forever on a charge!

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Google Black & Decker 18volt system- there are 5 or 6 tools that all use the same battery- I have the hedge trimmer, cultivator, blower & string trimmer, and love them all. I have 6 chargers & 8 batteries, so I'm never out of power. They are a great investment- no cords or gas to mess with.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

You were right Kent. Not thinking right. LOL

Wow Jo, that is quite a collection. Good for you!!

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8b)

Hi Guys! I'm back! Hopefully I'll be able to stick with you again this year. The past two years were a nightmare for me as a home gardener.......just didnt have the time! I even had the bales .....left to compost away...Waaah! But this year is going to be much different and I hope to have new bales soon. So glad to be here with you again!

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi Eufaula,
You could take the old bales and pack the hay/straw into some of those plastic storage bins and use them for grow boxes. Kent has built wooden containers for his old bales but you could do the same with plastic storage bins. Make sure to poke holes in the bottom for drainage.
I have some of those rope bins you can buy at WallyWorld that I have tamped full of leaves from last fall. I am going to add some soil on top and see how they do as grow bins.
Paul.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Paul, what are rope bins? Oh hi Paul, LOL

Jeanette

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8b)

Thanks Lonejack! Actually I tried it last year with plastic (4) milk crates...no luck! So Im going to try my best with true strawbales again. Ive already created a raised bed with the broken down bales and have manured them once, last fall, and will put one more spread from the chicken house compost and water in this weekend.

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi Jnette,
Rope bins are the plastic bins you see at Lowes and Wally World with the rope handles. They are about 10 gallons, but
seemed to have been getting smaller and smaller as the years go by. I have been using them for years.
They make a handy bin to do many things around the house, including cooling beer in the summer.
Here is a picture of some I bought at Wally World to use in a wading pool garden this next summer.

Thumbnail by lonejack
Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Lonejack I come across some of those cattle & Horse mineral tubs. some times the farmers re use them for water and other feeds but most just throw them away after the mineral is gone. they are about 21" across and 18" deep. they hold enough material to hold most root systems for garden produce. I have found that the red ones deteriorate out in the sun but the green and the black ones hold up real well. I would think that if the red ones were painted to reflect the sun rays they could hold up longer. I got them for free.
Like any container however, watering is required quite often. I also found that strawberries don't winter well in them here. May have freeze dried I'm not sure. I'm back to doing stoop labor for straw berries. Mostly hands & knees ha ha ha oh well at least they survive in the ground.
Winter here has been strange so far this year. We only had one snow in December, 2". It was gone in a couple days. and we have had maybe an 1" and 1/2 so far in Jan. and it has been unseasonably warmer than normal. usually by now we have had around 20-25" of snow on the ground. so I've been watering my fruit trees. I'm sure that by spring we will get some precip in one form or another. Or I will be doing a lot of watering.

Eufalla, how many chickens do you keep? I'm wondering about the cost and weather to keep any for eggs or just raise a small lot for the freezer, and just let them free range around the garden, so I don't have to carry them through the winter. They wouldn't be pets. lol

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

I would love to hve chickens Russ. But, too many predators around here. If you figure out a deterrent to spray on the chicken, let me know.

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Chuckle chuckle, - - - I wonder if you could use wolf or coyote pee. I never thought of that before. I was only thinking of investing in fencing and putting them inside at night.

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi randbponder,
Here is a link for a strawberry system I have used for many years. I just sold all of my system when I moved; of course, NOW I regret the move. Isn't that the way it goes.
I have had great luck with bush beans and cucumbers. I plant purple beans so I can see them growing on the tower. Of course flowers do really well. I plant impations on the North, low light side. That way I have some color.

These things might seem to you to be expensive but they will last forever, unlike the foam towers of some other systems.
You can see comercial strawberry growers using these in California.
I called one of the growers and he said he doesn't try to over-winter his strawberries. He just discards them and buys new plants. That way he avoids disease. Look for DAY NEUTRAL varieties.

http://www.agrotower.com/default.aspx

Paul.

This message was edited Jan 19, 2012 7:31 PM

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi Jnette,
Have you investigated a chicken tractor. In Portland, there are several people who use these.

Thumbnail by lonejack
Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Yeah, I have seen all those. Many bucks. I would do my own, but they need a place to run without overhead hawks etc. My area is so hilly, that I can't really make a chick run. Plus you almost have to have a floor and top on them for protection.

Eatonton, GA(Zone 8b)

Good morning Russ and everyone!!!! Yes I have Chickens, they are my therapy and Sanity!! LOL! I am down to 13 chickens right now from 50 or so this last spring. Because of family obligations and a lot of travel between my home and my Parents, I had to drastically downsize. Sooo I still have a LOT of compost and manure "cooking" .
Gardens and Chickens really do not go together unless you have your garden area really fenced in! Remember Chickens can fly too, so unless you clip their wings, your garden isnt protected from them. They tend to really love straw blaes. They just love picking and scratching your nice neat bales into scraggly messes! Let them free range but protect the garden area.
By all means though , their compost is wonderful for your gardening needs. But you must age it first. The nitrogen is way too high at first to use it "green"!
Jnette, my chickens ( large Fowl) free range during the day only. They are penned up in their house at night. Ive learned never to let my Bantams free range unless Im close by. The Hawks during the day are horribly aggressive especially in the spring. At night I have to protect everyone from Possums mostly.
Russ you would be surprised to know that the cost of food for my Chickens isnt so bad. I mainly give them cracked corn and scratch ( mixture of grains) in the Winter. Feeding them this in the afternoons means their systems are still working through out the night to digest their food which keeps them warm. In the laying season I give the laying mash. I buy from a local feed and seed, where they mix their own feeds, so the cost of a 50 lb bag of scratch, Chick Starter or layer usually runs around $10.00 for each.
Back to gardening now! The one thing other than fertilizer that my Chicks do help with is the fact that I can turn them loose in my area where I have started preparing my raised beds . They have a ball scratching through it and getting rid of all the nasties like cutworms and other unidentified pest larvae! This is a big help.

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Yeah, I knew chickens don't distinguish garden plants from other green grass and weeds.
I had planned for fences to keep them out of most of the garden.
Paul I will have to check that out but I haven't had any problem with the straw berries wintering in the ground. just have to run the mower through once in a while and follow that up with the tiller to keep a path open. I don't need a lot of berries to last through the winter, as long as I freeze most of them.

I do have plenty of lumber, that was for another project that got put on the back burner, I could use for a
" Tractor " and the wire wouldn't be that much as I have a couple partial rolls out back. I also have a large metal frame that I salvaged from my construction days, that could be used for a very substantial frame work to weld to for the wheel mechanics . That would keep me from having a big outlaying expense.
I didn't know the why but when we had chickens when I was little Dad always wanted to keep feed in front of them in the afternoon as well as early morning. Guess I thought it was more like to keep them from being hungry. He had a 10 gallon water can that that he expected me to carry and set up so they had plenty of water but there is only so much that a short person could handle that it was more like move it a few inches and set it down a bunch of times before I got it into the hen house. LOL
We get quite a few grass hoppers here that would help with the protein for them + a few food scraps should help with the feed as well.
I would like to try save a few to be layers but want to have some fryers and such.
Today is 52nd anniversary so I get to take the better half out to eat this evening, so best get to work on getting ready as we will pay a couple bills, pick up some meds and get haircut all in the same trip.

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