I've been a traditional gardener all my life, but tried straw bale gardening last year as well.
I tried several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, cukes, squash, and zucchini in the bales and they all did outstanding.
You can start your garden with seeds if you use some topsoil on top of the bales, but I transplanted all of my vegetables from flats and trays purchased from local nurseries.
I initially used 20 bales of wheat straw. The plants in the wheat straw were doing so well that I got 10 more bales of oat straw to see how that would do. (Pine straw won’t work.)
I recommend getting bales that have been tightly baled. The oat straw bales I bought were lighter and baled looser than the wheat straw, and I learned that they don’t hold as much water. I paid about $2.50 for each bale.
Use bales that have synthetic twine if you can find them. The twine won’t rot and it will hold the bales together longer. If the bales use regular twine, that’s no problem. You may have to put a stake at the end of the bales. The bales I used had regular twine, and they started to rot and break, but I arranged 10 in each row, so the bales tend to hold each other together.
I oriented my bales with the strings off the ground. You can do it either way, but I like the twine off the ground. The transplanting seemed easier with the bales oriented with the strings off the ground. You can decide which way to orient yours.
If you make more than one row of bales, put them wide enough apart so your lawnmower can get between them. And because you’ll be watering them, I recommend placing the bales where the water will drain away from your house or away from where you’ll be walking.
How many plants per bale? Try two tomato plants per bale, three peppers, two squash, two sets of cucumbers.
Be prepared to stake the tomatoes, peppers and any tall growing plants. I recommend 6-foot stakes for the tomatoes. I used tobacco sticks last year, but they are too short. My tomatoes grew way over the tobacco sticks. This year I'll be using stakes and a horizontal trellis and arch way-type trellis.
I didn’t plant any okra last year, but they will probably do well. You’ll definitely have to stake them. I don’t think corn will work too well. The plants will be too top-heavy. I water the bales in the morning and after sunset. You can’t over-water because any excess will just run out of the bales. Soaker hoses will work. The main thing is not to let the bales get dried out between watering.
I started out using some Miracle Grow once a week for a couple of weeks. Then I sprinkled in some 10-10-10. You don’t want to over fertilize.
The bales will start to sprout wheat or oat straw, but that is no problem. If the grass gets too much for you, just whack it off with a knife. I give my bales a “haircut” every so often with a steak knife. It takes no time at all.
One thing I’ve noticed—and this could be just a fluke—is I have not had to spray my plants with any pesticides such as Liquid Sevin. I haven’t had any worms, bugs or other pest bother my straw bale garden. Maybe it has something to do with the plants being off the ground.
Be prepared to use new bales each year. I don’t think they will be suitable for two years in a row. You can burn them, use them for mulch or bust them up and set new bales on them next year.
Preparing Your Bales
It takes 10 days to prepare your bales.
Days 1–3: Water the bales thoroughly and keep them wet.
Days 4–6: Sprinkle the bales with 1/2 cup of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) per bale per day, and water it well into the bales. I didn’t have any trouble finding ammonium nitrate from my local ag-supply store. They sold it in 50-pound bags. I have heard, however, that some people have had difficulty finding it in more urban settings. Ask around. (See more about ammonium nitrate at the bottom of this page.)
Days 7–9: Cut back to 1/4 cup of ammonium nitrate per bale per day and continue to water it in well.
Day 10: No more ammonium nitrate, but do add 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per bale and water it in well.
Day 11: Transplant your plants into the bales. I used a spatula to make a crack in the bale for each plant. Place the plant down to its first leaf and close the crack back together as best you can.
For those of you who may have physical problems doing tradtional gardening, you may want to try this method. Even wheel chair-bound folks could garden with this method.
I didn't invent this method, but I have become an avid proponent of it.
I'm adding a photo of a portion of my garden.
Regards and have a blessed day,
Wake County, NC
P.S. - the recipe for preparing your straw bales calls for a little Ammonium Nitrate (34-0-0). Because of some Homeland Security concerns, you will probably have to give your name and phone #/address to the Seller. Ammonium Nitrate is just a fertilizer-type catalyst that acts like vitamins for the microbes that help decompose the straw bale to make it a great host for the vegetables you're going to plant. Farmers/gardeners have been using this product for years. However, if you can't find any Ammonium Nitrate or don't want to purchase a 50 lb bag, just add a week or so weathering process to your bales before you add your transplants. Be sure to wait until all danger of frost is over for your area.
I wouldn't say this method is dependent on ANY type of chemical fertilizer. As I stated in my post you can forego the ammonium nitrate and just let your bales weather a little longer before you do any transplanting. I've heard from many others who use all organic fertilizers from tea, to fish emulsion, to whatever. I just don't have any experience with those types. I just happen to love Miracle Grow and grew up on 10-10-10. But I appreciate your comment. I've also included another photo of my garden.
Wow is all I can say! Thank so much for showing /telling us about this. I have a bad back and cant bend over a lot and also I can't afford to buy or haul in the huge amounts of dirt to fill raised beds. This might work for me. I think I might try a few this yr w/ tomatoes and peppers in them.
A quick Q: to prevent the wheat from sprouting in the bales and growing, could I cover my bales in newspaper or black mulch fabric?
Berrygirl, you could take measures to stop the wheat or oats from sprouting but I think it'd be more trouble than it's worth. First off, I'd think the wind would have an adverse effect on your cover. Secondly, it's really not that much trouble to just give your bales a quick hair cut. Most folks won't have 30 bales like I did, and I could shave the tops off my bales in about 15-20 minutes with a steak knife every couple of weeks. Also, your cover may affect how long it takes to water your bales. Experiment on a bale or two and see if your cover is worth the effort. Very good question, though.
I guess I was mostly thinking about aesthetics- as I hate weeds. If the wheat/grass doesn't adversly affect the plants, then I see no need to stop them. Or...I guess DG could use his weed-eater on them- LOL!!
I'm impressed. The pictures are worth a thousand words. I've got good soil because I've been sheet composting for 12 years; but if I were ever forced to relocate, I would sure give this a try. If you let them rot in place, put new bales on top every year; in 4-5 years you would have made yourself really good soil. Let's see some more pics this year!
PS: Nice looking tomatoes, I see no reason this method couldn't be kept all organic. Do you have an Ag or some other Science degree? I applaude your innovative, sustainable thinking. I think it could help alot of people just starting out.
Yep, the bales will definitely help recondition the soil and I also got a great crop of fishing worms under my bales for the entire summer. Another good thing about bale gardening is there are NO weeds. I've seen where several bale gardeners just let their wheat grass just flop over the side of the bale uncut. Some planted flowers in between the vegetables to add some color to their garden.
This sounds very interesting! I have a couple of questions for you. I have several bales of straw that are already a year old, but are in good shape. Would they still need to be 'conditioned'? Also i live in a very hot dry (often windy) summer climate, do you think that the rate of drying would be so much that this would be more trouble than it is worth? Thanks for the info,
I would love to try this but have much easier access to hay rather than straw. If hay would work, what about alfalfa mix ? I could also get straight grass hay if the alfalfa would burn the seedlings. This looks like great fun, I could grow in places I normally couldn't.Thanks!!
Very interesting idea. I would not have believed it would work so well, in fact I'm sure I posted my unfounded advice against it some where. I will definitly be giving it a try for a few things, but will go the organic method. As was mentioned, pictures are worth a 1000 words. Seems like it would make a great temporary fence of flowers too.
Melissa: If the bales have already been weathered/conditioned, then I'd soak them for about a week before transplanting. I read a couple of stories about others who had used their bales for 2 years in a row without any problems if the strings stay together. The main thing is to always keep your bales from drying out.
Herbie: give it a try and enjoy those vegetables
jslocum: I only have experience with wheat/oat straw, but other articles about bale garden used anecdotes from others using hay, etc. As long as the host bale is some sort of organic matter, then it should work. That's why PINE STRAW won't work. Wheat straw is very plentiful in my area.
Here's another pic of young tomatoes in wheat straw bales.
Roseone, my wife has asked me to get 10 bales for her so she can plant some flowers in them. Others have planted petunias, etc between the young vegetables to give the bales some color while waiting for the veggies to mature.
Pic of young pepper plant. I see it's almost time for that bale to get a "trim". A little off the top, please.
I think you're on to something here, especially for us back yard gardeners who aren't as agile as we used to be and don't have big fields and tractors and are only looking to grow small amounts of produce for home consumption. I've already got 7 bales weathering out there with plans to use them for mulch. I may go to the feed store later and get another 7, ( that's all my old pickup will hold). IMO, This is good and helpful information.
I've been curious about this method for several years now, but was wanting to hear from actual gardeners who were successful with it. This is great!
I've got a spot that I've been eyeing near my greenhouse that is a prime candidate for this type of garden and I'm headed to the co-op to get me some straw. I don't see why organic methods wouldn't work just fine...just start a little earlier to get the straw breaking down...and fish emulsion is wonderful stuff.
Tomatoes look like thy could be an ideal crop, because lots of soil borne diseases get hold from splashback from watering. If there's no splashback, there will be fewer diseases. This will give the 'old fellows' at the coffee shop down the road something else to discuss...(I'm usually pretty high on their list during garden season anyway)
I've got some heirloom melons that I'll give this a shot with too. I'll just have to start plants inside rather than sow in place...but that's not an issue.
Roseone, sounds good. My truck has a camper and I can't haul many bales, either. I'm having my 60 bales (50 for me, 10 for the missus) delivered.
I'd soak your new bales for a good 2 weeks, at least, before transplanting. You probably already know this, but you can put put your hands down inside the bales as they are "cooking" and feel the heat generated from the decomposition. After the bales "cool" down, that's the time to transplant. If you do it sooner, the heat from the bales could damage the tender roots on the transplant.
This is why we never put up hay/straw in the barn if it got wet while I was growing up. The heat from a bale stored in a barn could spontaneously combust and burn the barn down.
Now, for you inexperienced ones, don't worry about your bales going up in flames out in your yard!!! :-)
Melody, good morning and thanks for the welcome. I'm enjoying this site and the new friends I'm meeting. As I said earlier, I didn't have to use ANY pesticides or fungicides on my bale garden last year. I had a great crop of lady bugs doing their thing.
Also, due to the development in my community, deer are running out of places to go. I'd come home from a night shift and there would be 5 in my yard, but they never messed with my bale garden. Maybe they don't like the vegetables I grow.
Also, rabbits didn't bother the bales and of course, the terrapins can't reach the tomatoes now.
The melons sound good. Once they start to run off the bale and out on the ground, are you going to mulch around the bales so grass won't get too thick?
I'm going to put down black plastic. Where these are going, it was an old gravel parking lot and there's only a few weeds that show up anyway...don't have to mow it but a couple times a season. I'd thought about raised beds...but the straw bales really sound less labor intensive.
Perry Lawrence here - Retired State Trooper from the frozen north - Zone 4a - Adirondack Mtns of NYS - Obviously our growing season is a bit shorter than that in NC - and from the pics I can tell you don't prune your tomatoes - You have a long time to wait for them to ripen - I do not - So, here is my question - up here we have to be careful with the nitrogen to ensure we don't raise "plants" instead of fruit - I am looking at your pics and look as hard as I can, I only find one green tomato - So how was your crop? The peppers are obviously fruiting okay, as are the squash - but what about your tomatoes? How much season did you have left when the pics were taken? Thanks Perry
Melody: 10-4 on the plastic; got a neighbor who has raised beds; they are permanent which is fine if that's what you want; bale gardening gives me alot more flexibility to move things around, etc.
Dea: try it this year and tell us what you think.
Zeppy: no experience with berries, but it sure looks like anything that you could grow in the ground would be OK for bales. You may have to experiment with your fertilizer amounts and times, though.
Perry: ah, the beautiful Adirondacks! I spent alot of time in those mountains years ago; north of Glens Falls, Lake George area, and a little town called Chestertown.
The pics I have didn't capture all the tomatoes that were hanging on the vines; they bloomed and produced well all the way up until frost; I only use the ammonium nitrate for the initial preparation of the bale and then watch how much Miracle Grow, etc I use. I historically haven't suckered my tomatoes but this year I think I'm going to do it on some of the vines. I tried German Johnsons, Better Boys, and Celebrity and they all did well.
Looks like the latest pics I have posted are June 27th, so I got a couple more months of fruit from the peppers and tomatoes.
I don't why I quit taking photos after 6/27/05. I must have been too busy eating tomato sandwiches!!
Strawbaleman, it looks like you're starting a firestorm here at DG's. This is going to be fun. Thanks to Melody's input, I think I may give melons a go. I usually run out of space and give up. And why not try some golden bantam corn? I might ask at the feed store how much to have a big truck load of wheat straw bales delivered.
Zeppy, re: the strawberries, what do you think they would do as time went by and the bales broke down? I've been wanting to grow stawberries ever since I moved to this location 9 years ago but I don't have a good place for them. I wonder if as the bales broke down the plants and runners would just stay established as a sort of mini raised bed?
Roseone: truck load, huh? Sounds great. Can't wait to see how it does. I'm getting a few good ideas myself.
Zeppy: I believe the internet links on my first post has a pic of greens in a bale; and the stawberries sound good also. Hmm, maybe I ought to increase my bale alottment for this year.
NOTE TO ALL: the plants I grew had a marvelous root system that stayed in the bale, but the bale just isn't strong enough to anchor the plants from a strong wind or storm, especially the peppers, tomatoes, anything tall. The bales won't blow over or anything; the plants will just need to be staked or tied to a lattice, etc., to keep them from breaking.
The squash and zucchini did pretty well but they may even grow/flop over the side of the bale.
This method strikes me as really similar to the Ruth Stout no work method of gardening. She used straw to keep weeds down and to nourish the compost as it broke down.
Perry, have you tried topping off your tomato plants after a certain height? That should redirect the plant energies into fruiting rather than growing taller. Seems that it would let your growing season do a bit better for you... Just a thought.
This is great!! I have about 25 tomato seedlings and 15 pepper seedlings under lights that will need to go outside in a couple of weeks, and I still haven't started my raised beds!! I just feel overwhelmed with the task, though I do have the connectors for the boards. But this way sounds so much better!
I just called my local feed store, they sell wheat straw bales for $ 5.50, seems kinda high, [ but I DO live in 'Cantaforrdya' ;) ]
But even so, the cost of the lumber and all the soil I was going to have to truck into the back yard I'm sure would be much more!
I definitly want to be as organic as I can, so I'll do the seaweed, and organic fertilizer I have.Thanks so much for posting this Straw!!!
kimmers: l look forward to hearing how your bale garden turns out. Wheat straw bales in NC usually run about 2.50 each if you get 100 or more. I'm paying 3.00 for the 60 I'm having delivered. I want some with plastic string but it's kinda of pot luck.
Typical bales are a good 3 feet in length give or take. Try to get some with the strings kind of tight. If the straw acts like it wants to fall out of the strings, I'd try another source.
Strawbaleman, do you have a website of your own where you post pics of this progress? I think that would be a great idea; those photos are what have convinced me to try this with my peppers and squash and maybe even tomatoes. YEE HAW
Pam & Big Red: looking forward to hearing how your bales do
Zep: nope, no website of my own, but I guess that's an idea; but hopefully it looks like we're going to have quite a few pics to see this year from you and others based on how this thread is going.
I'm looking forward to seeing how all the rest of you do with your bales, especially those going the totally organic method and the ones who may be using hay or alfalfa bales. Plus, it's going to be great seeing the variety of vegetables/flowers that we're all going to try.
P.S. - everybody can call me Kent. Strawbaleman is too long to type. :-)
This idea is just amazing!I am going to try it in my Watauga County NC.garden.Planting season in the mountains is after mother's day.In the meantime I've been planting seed in my green house at the beach.
When did you set out your transplants? Did you do the curcubits from seed or plants? I usually find that those planted from seed just run right past the sets. I keep seeing a corner of your "real" garden is some of the pics - what did you have planted there besides corn? Perry, (where it is in the upper 20's and spitting snow today.)
You need to be prepping your bales shortly, south of the Ohio River...If you've never seen a wet straw bale, you don't realize how hot the interior can get. This process needs to be done well in advance of planting anything. It's just like compost cooking. You can literally burn up a plant if it's too hot. Don't jump the gun and plant too soon...let those bales cook before you do. Not having a formula for the organic method makes me want to give them a bit of extra time to cook. I think it will work fine with organic practice, but the recipe was with the other method and that has to be taken into consideration.
Kent has given us a wonderful alternative to raised beds, and the 10 days to prep them are vital to the success of this method...and actually, with the bales being off the ground and somewhat warm from the decomposition, they should be warmer than your surrounding soil. This may give everyone a bit of a jump on the season.
As far as stakes or cages...what about some concrete reinforcing wire run down both sides of the bales like fences? Use a couple of metal fenceposts driven into the ground at either end and heavy duty wire ties to hold it.
I don't use tomato cages in my garden...I have what we call 'pigwire fencing' run the length of my tomato rows. It looks like pasture fences. I put a metal fencepost about every 10 feet and wire tie the wire to the posts. Tomatoes just get tied to the fence as they grow... and I plant them on the side the wind blows from, so that they blow into the fence instead of away from it.
Some sort of fencing system might work if you are using very many bales.
Kent has given us good info and you're right Mel - preparation of the bales. We're planning for this now and thinking about the trellissing of tomatoes and melons.
Found this on tomato dot com or something - sorry, can't remember exactly, but how about this on top of the bales?
Sink 8-foot-tall 2 x 2 rot-resistant posts 18 inches in the ground, 5 feet apart, and join them at the top with electrical conduit flattened and drilled at the ends. Tie strings to the base of each plant with a nonslip knot, then loop over the top bar. Braid stems with the strings as the plants grow.
Uses space efficiently
Provides good air circulation
Wind-resistant if parallel to prevailing winds
Just sinking the posts into the bales down to the ground. Thoughts?
Robin, that's real similar...my fencing makes lots of 6" squares...that's why we call it 'pigwire' here in West KY...even small pigs can't get through it...but you've got the general idea...any sort of fence will work. I like the pigwire because after my garden is done for the season, I just roll it up and store it behind my shed. I've been using the same fence for 4 years now. By making one long row and tying off the tomatoes to the fence, it keeps things neat for someone who grows as many tomatoes as I do.
I'm a seed saver and grow lots of heirlooms, but bag the blossoms on tomato & pepper plants. This way, I don't have to worry about isolation distances.
Dea, I've seen this method mentioned several times, but you'll need to prune to a central leader, and I don't take any more foliage off my tomatoes than I have to...we get wicked sunscald.
To Kent and Perry...(and whoever else is out there keeping us safe, or has ever kept us safe) thank you...and please be careful!
I recently asked my sister what she thought about my making a raised bed out of cement blocks since I cannot get down to tend a regular garden. I wanted one for cut flowers. I do have a perennial bed that I do the bare minimum to and then containers on my deck. Here is what she wrote, and I would like to know what you all think of it:
I think, if I were doing a raised bed, I would make a perimeter of concrete blocks (not cemented) 2 layers high, on a 6" gravel bed for a footing, just under the blocks. Then I would put bales of straw in the middle. Then I would cover the straw bales with hog wire. Then I would put a layer of landscaping cloth over the hog wire. Then I would put a row of concrete blocks around the perimeter. I would fill that with dirt and compost. A concrete block is 8" high and that should be deep enough for most things roots. The straw would not only support it, but insulate it from the cold. The hog wire would add stability. The landscape cloth would keep the dirt from washing through.
If it worked, the second year I would cement the first 2 rows of cement block in place for added stability. I wouldn't cement the top row because I would want to add to or even change the straw. If the bales start to mold or rot, the second year I would pull it out and use it for mulch and add new bales.
I think the hardest and most important part would be to dig out a 8"x12" deep footing and pack it with 3/4 minus gravel keeping it level enough to support the blocks. It should not be that expensive and I bet it would work great
I thought I posted on this last night so if this is a duplicate post I apologize - I can't see my post in the thread.
Anyway - Hi Kent - you've certainly taken this forum by storm! What an exciting idea. I wanted to ask if you find that the surrounding area is unusually fertilized? This would be a great alernative for me but the runoff from the bales would end up going along the edge of a polyhut commercial greenhouse and they've already told me they will have flats on the ground all spring so they definitely wouldn't want fertilizer runoff going in there. The area I would like to use is slightly sloped toward the greenhouse. They've already asked me not to use raw manure to do a quick lasagna bed.
The 2nd thing is keeping them watered - I was thinking that since they require so much water would this work: Dig a shallow ditch the length of the bale and put a piece of heavy plastic like visqueen, etc down into the depression to line it. Place the bale on top and as you water the run off sits in the ditch and can be wicked up into the bale. Or even create a saucer effect by placing plastic liner on the ground and then tacking it up around the edge of the bale maybe an inch or 2 with landscape pins
- just enough so the bottom of the bale is sitting in shallow water. I'm going to a community garden area and it might be a problem to water every day. I'm not sure of the wicking properties of straw or if water would wick up to the level of the roots with only a 2 inch "saucer" underneath.
My last thought is about raccoons, possums, skunks, groundhogs, etc. Just for example.. I wintersowed a bunch of herbs last night and had to tie up some of the containers with plastic bags. Apparently I grabbed a bread bag that hadn't been soaked in bleach water - which is what I do with all seed starting paraphanelia. Came out this morning and one whole tray was knocked over and the bread bag - which might have had a smell but nothing else was ripped to shreds. Do you think the ammonium sulfate drives them away or at least doesn't attract them? I'd prefer an organic solution but I won't get far if the whole thing is destroyed.
Kent, How about some current pictures of your garden? Did you let the bales rot down in place? Or did you move them to a pile and let them compost? I bought 7 more bales and will use them for a flower border and to block the northwest wind, where most of my storms come from. Probably do tomatoes in the ground with a heavy hay mulch but I am definitly going to try the bales for smaller plants like peppers, eggplant, melons and cukes.
I like Kent, am a long time traditional gardener - and as I read the posts - I get the feeling that some of us are taking a simple idea, designed to last a season or possibly two, and engineer it into something more: This seems to me to be a avenue whereby anyone can add nutrients to the source of supply (hay/straw bale) and grow stuff. Now if you have a special need; ie need the plants to be higher off the ground so you can work with then - why not put one bale flat and one on edge - there you go you are higher up - If you can't get to them to water every day - try soaker hoses with timers - it shouldn't take too long to figure out how long a water on vs water off cycle works for keeping the bale nice and damp - trellising tomatoes, caging, staking, pruning, etc - those are all personal preferences and can be adapted as one chooses.
Kent - You have really gotten this group stirred up - and yes I remember "nights" and not fondly, thanky you very much! fyi - after I retired, my body kept trying to get me to "change shifts" for a couple of years - before it accepted the fact that it should act like "normal folks" Something to look forward to :)))
Good morning, all! First off, what a blessing this site has become in such a short time. So friendly, so much knowledge.
Hello, Nancy. My daddy lived in Banner Elk (Avery Co.) for 10 years and he always talked about how late he had to wait to garden -vs- the Wake Forest area.
Robin: thanks for the link, and that photo you posted of the trellis is exactly what I had in mind this year for a portion of my bale garden. I had already purchased some concrete wire (5 ft high & 150 ft long) so I could cut to length. I couldn't find any "hog wire" but there is something similar available that landscapers and developers use for erosion control. Most common name around here is silt-fence wire. About 2 ft high.
Dea: any type of trellis idea sounds good. Since I'll prob plant 50 or more tomatoes this year; staking that many 1 by 1 is no fun.
Melody & Berrygirl: thanks; I ask God every day to keep His angels around me and my fellow LEOs. Let's keep our Vets in our prayers, too.
Jnette: I'm going along with Perry about the simplicity route in bale gardening, not that you don't have a good idea. If you do this post some photos.
Andrea: since I mow all around my bale garden, I didn't have any unusually fertile spots. I didn't even notice any greener areas away from the bale, etither. The area is fairly level so not a lot of run off for me. My watering soaks in pretty quickly.
As far as keeping the bales watered, it wasn't a chore at all. I would do a quick watering 1st thing in the morning and 1 after sunset. Initially, the water seems to come out of the bales quickly, but once they get to decomposing they tend to whole more water, longer.
I didn't try the soaker hose method because of the distance to my bales from my water source. I'd have to move too many hoses at grass cutting time. But a soaker with a timer is a great idea as Perry has described.
Not sure about the ammonium nitrate driving away animals. Since I don't use any after the initial prep stage, I don't know how long any residue would last or affect any wildlife. I have rabbits, some raccoons, and plenty of deer, it seems, and I had no damage.
Perry: at least my late shift ends at 11 pm now. Those 7 am to 7 am ones were a killer when I was on Patrol.
Roseone: I took a wheelbarrow and carted the bales to the edge of my yard and dumped them in a pile to finish decomposing. If I had bales with synthetic twine, they may have been good for 1 more year.
I don't have any more photos of my garden from last year that's not already posted and I haven't started this year's garden. I'll start prepping my bales around April 20th. My area is always in danger of a late frost in April.
I can't wait to see the photos from you and everyone else this summer.
Amonium nitrate won't deter critters...farmers around her use tons of it in corn fields...they still have deer, coon and rabbit problems. Corn is usually side dressed with it in regular gardens at about knee high...doesn't seem to keep anything from munching. It is probably one of the most common garden chemicals.
If you've ever eaten a Dorito or a corn chip/taco...you've eaten corn that has had amonium nitrate used on it...I guarantee it.
It breaks down rather quickly into inert substances.
So, melody, as I'm here in 6b and trying for the organic method, I guess I'd better get some bales cooking right away, huh? I'm figuring a little organic fertilizer, diluted fish emulsion/kelp, and a shovelful of compost will get the ball rolling. How will you be going about it?
Pretty much the same way. I'm not opposed to adding a bit of amonia if I see mine isn't cooking fast enough though. The water will get things heated up pretty quick though...don't be surprised to see steam...these bales get hot inside.
I plan on pulling back the straw and putting small shovel fulls of compost in a couple of spots per bale.
My bales will be here on Monday.
I garden as organically as possible, but am not adverse to certian well placed chemicals if used in an educated manner.
Many seasons I never use anything other than what nature makes, but I'm not certified organic, and probably never will be.
As I read down the line of post's here, I see references to the type of binding the bales have. I am in East TX and all the bales I get for our alpaca's have wire. Any problem with the wire?
I told my husband I want my big garden this year as always but have reached that part of the "golden years" that isn't so golden - as in joint pain. No more crawling around on my hands and knees, digging and weeding a garden. I had planned on doing raised beds but could not find the connectors for the boards anywhere. This bale gardening sounds great!
Wire should be fine...here in this area, you get natural or synthetic twine and the natural breaks down about as fast as the straw. Kent may have some other ideas on the subject, but I think the main objective is to keep the bales from falling apart.
i love to do research and experiment. four years ago, i did an experiment on how to prevent weeds from growing in the garden. for each area that is infested with weeds, i either use 12 sheets of double page newspaper [no color ink pls], or carbox boxes. lay the newspaper on the ground. make sure there are no exposed area [this will allow weeds to regrow.] be sure to place something heavy to hold the newspaper or carboard box, i use bricks. wet the newspaper. so far, knock on wood, i have not seen any weeds in that area. hope it work for u as it did for me.
edited to add: placing newspaper/cardboard box underneath those bales should cut down grass or weed growth.
Oldflowerchild: Melody said it perfectly about your question concerning wire vs twine securing the bales.
Perry: back tracking a bit; I didn't do any bale gardening with seeds; transplants only; as you mentioned earlier, I was attracted to bale gardening because it was simple and unique.
From my Navy days as a young lad I can still hear my old, salty Master Chief saying KISS: Keep It Simple Sailor!!!
But bale gardening also has the flexibility (just like traditional gardening) for others to experiment with different fertilizers (especially the organic side), going with seeds if they add some sort of soil mixture, or setting up their garden differently or more complex. Just keep us all posted on the progress.
Perry: In my "dirt" garden, I had the same items with one addition: snapbeans. No corn.
Several years ago my daughter tried an experiment with potatoes. She dug a shallow trench, placed the potatoes in it and put straw on top. Pretty soon she had potatoes tops growing through the straw. I do believe she added some straw around them for support.
In the fall she would just pull back the straw and there were the potatoes!! All nice and clean, no digging. She just left them in and got them out as she needed them.
Thanks for the responses to my questions. What a great group!
I am going to get hay bales today. If they have been over-wintered, do they still need soaked for 2 days? I am still not understanding the need for the soaking. Is it because of heat build up in the bale or just to get moisture into the bale?
As to my "groupie name", glad you like it DS_B... Flower child was taken and I AM getting older, so it fit! hahahaha. Never to old to work outside though. I hope to be working in my garden when the good Lord calls me home!
oldflowerchild: I have no experience except with NEW bales, but older, slow-weathered bales should be fine to play host for your transplants as soon as weather permits. Just eliminate the 10 day prep time and keep them watered and fertilized.
I'm not sure what you mean by "over wintered". If that means the bales have always been stored dry in a barn then I would think you'd have to do some sort of prep before planting.
Here's a brief explaination for the need in preparing and watering NEW bales:
What we're doing to NEW bales is to initiate a CONTROLLED and SPEEDY decomposition of organic matter so the bales can be a good host for your transplants.
During the initial prep stage of the bales they should ideally be kept about as damp as a well wrung-out sponge. This provides the moisture and a favorable environment in which microbes can begin to do their work.
As bacteria and other microorganisms do their decomposition work, the process generates heat with the inner part of a bale heating up the most.
According to sources, an ideal temperature range of around 140 °F kills most pathogens and weed seeds and also provides a suitable environment for thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria, which are the fastest acting decomposers. If the inside of a NEW bale fails to get warm, common reasons include the following:
1. The bale is too wet, thus excluding the oxygen required by the compost bacteria. (I can't see this happening to a bale since water flows freely out of it and it's not the same as a compost pile/container with no drainage.)
2. The bale is too dry, so that the bacteria do not have the moisture needed to survive and reproduce.
3. There is insufficient protein (NITROGEN-rich material). For WHEAT or OAT straw bales, here's where the ammonium nitrate or some organic source comes in.
I've read recently that green plant material such as HAY bales may not need as much, if any, extra nitrogen source since they are already rich in nitrogen.
4. You've started prepping your bales in too cold of weather and the bales just don't have enough insulation to sustain a warm, inside temperature for the bacteria to thrive. On cooler days last year when I was prepping my bales I even went so far as to use hot water from the house to water in the ammonium nitrate. This may have been unnecessary and over-kill on my part since I'm no scientist.
However, decomposition happens even in the absence of ideal conditions, but not nearly as quickly.
Now, WHY do we need this DECOMPOSITION process at all?
Decomposition within the bales is an excellent source of organic matter and plant nutrients. It has been shown to benefit plants far beyond simply supplying them with nutrients. Studies have shown that compost (and our bales decomposing) can actually suppress the development of some soilborne plant disease organisms.
Hmm, this may explain why I didn't have to spray my bale garden with any insecticides for fungicides last year; I don' t know.
Okay, I have made a 33-foot row of wheat bales next to my garden of 3'x33' raised beds and wet them down as well as I could. I added pelletized organic fertilizer (5-5-3 plus Ca)at the same time b/c that's what I have on hand and because it doesn't filter down as well as ammonium nitrate: much of it is still sitting on top. I also added a good amount of diluted fish emulsion/kelp.
I won't be planting in these for a month or so, but as it's rather cool here and I've never done this before and am trying to go it 'organic,' I thought I'd better start now.
The row (ground garden on the left, covered compost on the right, dog in front):
Zeppy, looking good, very good indeed. If you don't mind, might I ask more about your fertilizer? Where did you get it and approximately how much did it cost? I'm wondering if it's a Garden's Alive product? I'd like to place a large order there but thought the IRS would rather be paid. :-)
Roseone, I'm extremely lucky to have Countryside Natural Products (www.countrysidenatural.com) down the road from me. They carry everything I need (for organic gardens and livestock) and are really helpful. I get my fertilizer there, but didn't end up using any last year as the soil was plenty rich. A 50 lb bag (which I won't use in three years) runs about 20 bucks. They beat my local farm bureau's prices for things like sulfur, greensand, rock phosphate, etc.
Zeppy, you are extremely lucky. I can't even get greensand unless I mail order it. Well, I will check out their website and maybe I will drive up Rt 81 through the Shenandoah Valley and find the place. Just joking, but it sounds like a great place.
Well, see what shipping they charge, anyway. :) I know they ship everywhere. A 50 lb bag of greensand costs me $12.50 there, so who knows how cost effective it might end up. Plus, they price in tiers and you can combine different products to get the next tier's price.
Thanks, Dea. The shepherd was my engagement gift from my fiance. Now, four kids later, he's a busy and important dog: lots of people to keep an eye on. :)
Melinda, I counted 20 so that must mean that you have them 2 high? Yeah, and I missed 2. So, if I want to encase them in cement blocks, what are the measurements? Do you mind? That would give me an idea how many cement blocks and bales to order. We are pretty rural and I will have to have the local feed store order them for me.
So far I have 14 bales, seven each lined up on either side of the garden. I need to drag out a very old soaker hose and see if it's still viable. Then I'm going to start soaking them and applying bloodmeal as my nitrogen source. I keep reminding myself it's just an experiment!
That's why I was thinking of placing the bales onto black plastic and wrapping the edge of the plastic up about 1 or 2 inches and pinning it into the bale to form a shallow catch basin underneath for the water. I'm going to have mine at a location not at my house and I know I'm not going to be able to water 2 x a day. The question is whether the water will wick back up into the bale or just lay at the bottom and rot it out. Guess I'll find out. If I drive a tomato stake down into the bale and into the ground to train the tomatos that will hold the bale from sliding around on the plastic. The only thing I don't like about my idea is that I kind of am giving up the benefits of soil development during the summer.
My sister was completely taken with the idea but felt like her neighbors wouldn't like to see bales of straw lining her suburban yard so I told her to get that short white picket fence for borders and fence each bale and plant marigolds around the top edges. Nobody would ever know...
Jeanette, Our bales are 2x3ft, but the ones in your area may be different than here in the south. Our patch is done with rows of 2 wide and they vary in length. I did not worry about enclosing them, we tied them to each other with orange bailing twine.
The reason I want to enclose mine is that I am going to use them to raise the bed up to a height I can manage and then use soil on top so I am not limited to growing just in the bales. I thought I could do it with 3 blocks high.
2 to cover the bales and one to hold the soil for the plants to grow in. What do you think? I know what is going to happen. I am making this at a convenient height for the deer. Kind of like a feeding trough.
All: here's what I'm doing in addition to regular, individual staking of my tomatoes.
It's like the trellis Melody and Robin described back on 3/22.
I using some concrete reinforcing wire 5 ft wide and 150 ft long. (Smallest roll I could get at the 5 ft width). Cost is about $70 but it'll last a long time.
There's no "hog wire" available close by. Closest thing to that are about 2 ft wide "silt fences" landscapers use for erosion control. I prefer the 5 ft width for my project because I don't have to install 2 layers and it also works best for the arch I'm doing.
I set the 8 ft tall 4x4 posts about 13 ft apart so I can get 4 or 5 bales under the wire that's about 3 feet off the ground. Sink the posts at least 18 inches in the ground.
Now all I have to do is wait for my bales to be delivered and start prepping around 4/20.
SAFETY NOTE: get some bolt cutters (small one will do) to cut this type of wire. It'll really work on your hands trying to cut with regular old wire cutters. And be sure to WEAR SOME EYE PROTECTION. The tension in the rolled up wire will cause it to jump around. Be sure to bend back the ends of the wires.
I did this and the arch by myself, but having a helper will be alot better. Impatient me couldn't wait.
I plan to put the bales on the outside and let the tomatoes work up and over the trellis as far as they want.
I used two, 20 ft lengths of the concrete wire and cut the ends so that each point could be stuck into the ground for stability. As you can see I used tobacco sticks and cable ties. I would have preferred metal fence posts, but I didn't have any.
The arch is about 8 ft wide, 7 ft. tall, and 10 ft. deep.
It really is sturdy and if I have to, I can use a 1 inch PVC pipe or conduit to stand up in the middle for support but I don't think I'll need it.
SAFETY NOTE: In making the arch I bent the wire in reverse from it's natural, rolled up tension in order to increase the stability. Be very careful of those points. WEAR EYE PROTECTION because if the wire slips out of your hand it has a lightning fast spring effect.
If you want to have the raised bed permanant then the block should work. I don't have deer coming into my yard there are neighbors all around. So, I do not know about the deer in your area. Wish you great success in your garden.
Yes, Melinda, I think if I like it well enough, I will possibly redo it next year and use some cement to make it permanent. Thanks for measuring them for me and you are right, they come in different sizes. I have noticed that right here in this area.
I do not have trouble with the deer right now, but if I make this enticing enough I just might. LOL I have 2 dogs and I think the smell of the dogs keep the deer out. I don't know. That doesn't work for other people around here, but I don't know of any other reason the deer stay away. They come to within about 200 feet off of my livingroom deck and it just happens to be that my dogs know their boundaries and that is it.
Well this just seems like a fantastic idea, and I want to thank you for all of this great information.
I began reading this thread yesterday morning, and by 5 pm or so, I had picked up 10 bales of wheat straw, and placed them in the backyard.
I did place them with the twine up and under, because that seemed to work best in the particular area I placed them, against my backyard fence. Do you think this will work as well?
I had begun to build a raised bed with some landscaping blocks, and was wondering how I was going to afford and haul all of that soil to fill the bed. These bales seemed to fit perfectly and I am hoping that they will turn into wonderful compost by next year and I will just maybe lay some top soil over the top.
I found a place that sells ammonium nitrate, a nursery/garden center on the outskirts of town. They guy there did seem to hesitate when I asked about it, so I am hoping I don't get put on some DHS lists for buying it.
You'll be fine with the strings either way. I went back last night and found the original story that got me started on bale gardening and the elderly lady in the story had her whole garden oriented with the strings down. This is entirely your choice.
Keep us posted; we're all excited about getting into our gardens this year.
Here's my first attemp at strawbale gardening. I bought 10 bales of wheat-straw @ $2.50 a bale. I used a 5' metal fencepost at each end of the bales. Later I'll screw on some 1x1x8' posts to each metal post to tie my plants to.
I placed the bales cut-ends up, used 1 cup of blood meal per bale, and watered them in. It took 5 gallons of water per bale, pour it on slow so that the bales can absorb it better. Now I wait until it gets "cooking". ☺
I plan on 1 tomato plant per bale with 1 broccoli or 1 cabbage. I'll probably stick in a Crackerjack marigold plant here and there also. Maybe try some cukes? Hmmm...maybe I better get more bales!
Great idea, Big Red! Love the posts idea, too. Maybe I should put a few bales in my "no work" garden, then when they deteriorate I can just spread them around as I would be doing with straw/hay/leaves/etc anyway.
Love this thread. Thanks for starting it, Kent. My Dad used to grow things in bushel baskets loaded with either straw or sawdust and had great luck w/that. The straw bales seem like an nice alternative (and so easy!)
Should be o.k. as long as it's composted completely before you plant, otherwise it may burn your maters!
I think this method really lends itself to organic gardening. Although I'm not a 'dyed in the wool' organic gardener, I try to build up my soil with organic methods, using chemical insecticides only when absolutely necessary.
I plan to water my plants with manure tea after they've started, give them a shot of fish emulsion now and then, experiment and just see how it all works out.
Hehehe... I have plenty! Wish I could send you a big bag of it! It would definitely make a good poop leach for adding to the bales, if used carefully. (Maybe ya'll just need to start raising a few chickens now, eh?)
This is kind of a different topic, but thought some of you might be interested. In our little local freebie newspaper the garden writer told about making a hoop house out of cattle panels. By just using two (normally 12 or 16 foot) panels 8 feet or so apart, and some rebar or fence posts, and then laying clear visquene (plastic) over the top and down the sides. Then if it got too hot during the day you could roll the sides up a bit. Guess you would have to figure a way to "tape" the edges together, probably over-lap them.
But, you get the idea. And with all the creativity on this thread I know you could come up with some wonderful ideas. Anyway, it sounded like a very simple way to me.
You could also use it for a lot of things like storage in the winter. FarmTek sells all kinds of coverings by the roll. Very cheap way to go. Now all I need to do is find out where to get the panels. LOL
Bought 7 more bales of wheat straw today and a new soaker hose. Wish I had a free or cheap organic source of nitrogen but I'll come up with something. The soaker hose is on all 21 bales and we're expecting rain tonight! Can't wait to try this!
Thanks Dil, I used to have a nice flock of hens but no more. There are eggs houses around here but they use a lot of powerful chemicals and fumigants so I'll have to pass on that. Maybe I'll find someone local who wants their chicken house cleaned out.
Maybe I missed this info but what will happen if I prepare my bales now but don't plant in them till late May?
I'm starting much smaller than most of you since this is my first veggie garden. I'm only doing 6 or 8 bales and a garden center gave a few bales to me that had gotten wet over the winter. So they are already partially starting the process. I already set them up in the new bed, but was going to wait to start 'feeding' them with ammonium N process till closer to planting time - our sort of accepted date is the end of May. I was thinking the fertilizer would leach out of the bale if I did it now and then let them stand for another 2 months. What's your thought on this?
The high nitrogen is not used primarily for plant nutrients, but to initiate the decomposition process. Ammonium nitrate has 34 % nitrogen, way to hot to use as a fertilizer on most plants. It will burn burn corn and other grasses if the applicator is careless. Chicken manure (fresh) is not as hot, but will still burn plants so it aught to heat up those bales.
Most lawn fertilizers run about 29 % N so they should sub nicely for Ammonium nitrate, as should Urea. While ammonium nitrate is one of the components of fresh manure, it may not have a high enough concentration to kick off the bales in cool weather. Nitrogen in aged or composted manure will be in the form of metallic nitrates, highly soluble and subject to leaching. Usually will have a low N number by the completion of the process. When the ammonia odor is gone, so is the Ammonium ion. Great for fertilizer, but the concentration may be too low for jump starting the decomposition process.
Well, we're intrigued and no doubt! We've just put in an order from our local hay and straw farm supply (http://www.pastorinohay.com/) and we'll try out this method this year; here on the SF bayfront mud, the straw composting as the season turns will be a glad thing to the ground.
While nitrogen sulfite (urea) works fine for me, we'll be amending later with organic fertilizers, and will post feedback on how this season goes. We're excited with these ideas, and look forward to some gardening with a little less bending this season, and what looks to be an easy way to rehabilitate the ignored-for-many-years adobe heath we have to play with as a yard.
Good morning, All: This is the day the Lord has made!!! Rejoice!
I recently found the 2 articles from The Decatur Daily News of Decatur, Alabama, that introduced me to, and ignited my fascination, to bale gardening in the winter of 2004.
The articles are no longer part of the paper's archives, but I just wanted to share them with you. The two subjects in the stories are both elderly.
7/12/2003 - Tomatoes flourishing in hay - Hartselle woman expanding garden after surprising success, by Jim Lawley, Daily Staff Writer
"Dean Rainey of Hartselle tried it last year with three bales of hay. It worked so well that this vegetable-growing season, she’s using five.
Now 10 tomato plants and one zucchini plant stand tall and bountiful in square bales of hay in Rainey’s back yard near her patio.
The simplicity and uniqueness of bedding hand-size plants in the hay bales and watching them flourish “is amazing to me,” Rainey said.
When told about her feat, Morgan County Cooperative Extension System agent Ronald Britnell said, “I’ve never heard of people doing it. But it doesn’t surprise me. The plants are growing in organic matter that’s decaying.”
Britnell said he’s seen some people use buckets to grow tomatoes, plant them in cattle manure piles and plant them upside down so that “the tomatoes are hanging down off the vine.”
“People grow tomatoes all sorts of ways,” he said.
Rainey said her tomato plants last year yielded about two bushels of tomatoes. The ones that the family didn’t eat were given away to friends and neighbors or canned for the winter, she said.
She learned of the technique from a friend, Billy Chenault of Hartselle, who walks with her for exercise.
When her daughter, Judy Williams, a nurse at Decatur General West, told co-workers about the plants, they didn’t believe her until she brought pictures and gave them some of the tomatoes, she said.
“Now, they say they’re going to try it,” Williams said. “People are talking about it, and the word is spreading.”
Rainey said, “Even our pastor at First Assembly of God in Hartselle, Jess White, had to come by and see it for himself.”
She suggests planting two tomato plants per bale and keeping the bales moist, watering them every other day. Adding Miracle-Gro helps, but isn’t necessary. As the plants grow taller, place stakes in the bales, just as you would when growing tomatoes in soil.
The bales slowly deteriorate, and there’s little left of them by the end of growing season, she said.
“Next year, we might try squash or something else, too,” Rainey said.
7/20/04 – Gardening by the Bale – Templeton gets bumper crop in straw, by Patrice Stewart, Daily Staff Writer.
Jim Templeton planted his garden in bales of wheat straw this year, and then sat back and watched it grow like crazy.
He followed the plan in an old newspaper clipping a friend gave him, using ammonium nitrate and a mixture of topsoil and manure, and has had a bumper crop of squash, tomatoes, onions and crowder peas. (The plan he mentions is the recipe I posted in the beginning. – KR)
At this point in the summer, he’s watching the watermelons ripen on and around the bales in his garden along the alley behind his house on Eighth Street Southeast. His bale garden attracted interest during the Albany district garden tour in May, when he distributed copies of the directions, but it’s matured and produced a lot since then.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had,” Templeton said. “I’ve virtually abandoned it now, except to walk out and gather what has ripened.”
He planted several varieties of tomatoes, including Mr. Stripey and German Pinks. “I could eat tomatoes 24 hours a day – I like the low-acid pink type, the big beefsteak tomatoes, on my breakfast plate.” He quit staking his tomatoes when they got too high, but they continued to produce.
“That fertilizer really turned on the tomatoes; I’ve never had a tomato crop like this,” said Templeton, who plans to garden this way again next year.
He and his wife, Margaret Ann, ate all of their small white onions and wanted to plant more but couldn’t find any in town.
“We finally pulled up the squash because it was bearing so heavy and running all over the bales. And then we planted crowder peas, and they’re taking over any space the watermelon left.”
He’s also growing peppers, okra, cucumbers and several herbs, but not all of them are planted in the wheat straw.
Templeton figured he’d fancy his garden up a bit, too. “I stuck a few petunias in the cracks between the 20 or so bales, and the bales looked real pretty when I first set them out in three rows,” he said.
“I did everything like the directions said, except I added a small can of fishing worms per bale.”
He found bales of wheat straw (recommended over hay for the best results) at a local garden and landscape supply and bought a commercial 50-50 mix of topsoil and compost.
(I don’t know what they’re basing the straw –vs- hay comment on. – KR)
His wife said they might have planted too much, not realizing how well it would grow. “But I was so hungry for something fresh when I started this, and I’ve really been flabbergasted at how it’s taken off,” Templeton said. He said he wouldn’t have dared any extra fertilizer, or the plants would really have gotten out of control.
This is more good news. I never dreamed you could grow anything like crowder peas in them. Now I can add an extra row of bales along my drive and plant some old favorites, lady peas, crowders, purple hulls, and NO bending to pick! Hooray! Nothing to lose by trying something new.
I wonder if all the farm and fertilizer suppliers are being blind-sided by all this sudden demand across the country, LOL. Just a thought after seeing 132 replies and all the DG'rs who are jumping on this 'straw wagon'. 8-) Janet
WOW, Kent, Thank you. Of course I have to try it now. The thought of not weeding is REALLY inticing. LOL We normally mulch with staw, never even considered just growing them in it.
We have a really bad deer problem here, and I was planning on mostly planting pole beans this year, I might try this method and plant some regular bush beans too.
The tomatoes... I'll try some, but there is no way I could afford to buy enough straw for all my tomato plants... LOL Hay is really scarce here right now, so I wouldn't even attempt to use what precious little hay we have left for this, the cows will thank me, I'm sure. :-) Hopefully Staw isn't as scarce or as expensive right now as the hay is!
Kent, now we just need to get you growing heirloom tomatoes! You'll abandon your Celebrities once you try them. When it's close to your time for planting out, I'll send you some heirloom plants to sample this year.
Thank you again, I too think this is one of the most exciting gardening topics we've had here in a long time... add my welcome to everyone else's. :-) We're REALLY glad you found this site. :-)
Well, I gotta tell you; all of this excitement is catching and with the warm weather we're getting in Wake Co, NC, I'm about ready to get things going, but I know I've got to wait.
I can see now it's going to be a great, great summer with ya'll.
The learning curve is going to go geometric with everyone trying different methods to prepare and maintain the bales along with the variety of items we're going to plant, both with seeds and transplants.
Some things will probably not work as well and some will do great. We'll see.
But, I'm afraid I have some really BAD NEWS!! :-(
I recently received an email from a gardener who wants to try bale gardening with wheat straw, so they went to a local garden center for some straw and a rep there said that it COULDN'T BE DONE, that the bales would just GROW WHEAT.
So I guess ya'll are just going to have to try and get a refund on any straw you've purchased and just get this crazy notion about bale gardening out of your heads.
OR, you can take that leap of faith and GO FOR IT!!!!!! :-)
I laughed so hard when I read that email. I'm going to have to hang on to that one.
I'm getting more bales of wheat straw tomorrow and throwing in a couple bales of alfalfa-timothy mix to try that too. I am having a blast planning this - more fun than inspecting dahlia tubers - ha.
I haven't found a place to get the ammonium nitrate tho - I think I'm just going with a high N lawn fertilizer for a couple days, and then start the blood meal.
"But, I'm afraid I have some really BAD NEWS!! :-("
Hah! *grinnin' here! The 'bad news' brought me a smile, Kent!
Love the thread, will be experimenting w/this system this year as well. (When I was young my Dad used to grow plants/tomatoes in bushel baskets filled w/sawdust or straw. He had great results and loved what he was doing. This seems much easier than filling the bushel baskets for him!)
Kent, just how much decomposition or break down of the straw is necessary before you can put in a plant or seeds? And do you dig in a bit of a depression and add spoil or just plant right in the straw. It'll be awhile yet but I'm gather information.
Rose, you won't really notice any dramatic decomposition during the prep stage, i.e., the bales won't start sagging or disintegrating, but you can feel a subtle difference in the texture of the straw if you place your hand down in the bale.
Use the 11 day recipe I posted at the beginning if you're using ammonium nitrate or maybe a tad longer if using the organic sources for your nitrogen in preparing the bales.
Here's your gauge: Put your hand down in the middle of the bale and see if you notice the bales heating up. They're "cooking" then and when they "cool" down, and you don't notice any more heat build up, then they're ready to accept your transplants.
If transplanting, take a spatula or something flat and pull back a small crack in the bale to drop your transplant down to the 1st leaf and gently press the crack back together. Keep all the soil on the small root ball as possible.
I didn't add any top soil or compost to "fill in the crack" so to speak, but I've read where others did. Your choice.
Of course, if you're planting from seeds, you're going to have top dress the bales with some sort of material. No need to make a crack in the bales then because the seeds will naturally grow roots into the bales.
Straw, wheat, I can't see any difference...I'm an organic girl myself and I think this would work even with grass or leaves if you could just get them to hold the shape. It's holding the shape that makes straw or wheat bales preferable in my opinion.
Weeds are just gonna happen anyway...the tenacious "nutgrass" we got down here comes up for me (although much less of it) through 18 inches of mixed hardwood mulch, grass, pine needles, and leaves.
I spend 90% of my gardening time weeding and mulching (weeds take on a supernatural life of their own in our heat) anyway.
Thanks a lot you guys - for garden project #486. I avoided reading this thread and then the sheer number of posts made me check it out. I think I will put summer squash in the two bales that are now in the back of my car!
Debbie: I had NO weeds in my wheat straw bales; some wheat grass but I just trimmed them back with a steak knife because I like a neat looking garden. And mowing between the bales instead of plowing was great because I had to do my garden with just a tiller. No hoeing between hills either. It's a whole new, wonderful world.
alyrics: a "normal" bound bale, whatever that is, won't sag so much when you pick it up by the strings. The oat straw bales I tried were so loosely baled that I had to be careful loading them in my truck so they wouldn't fall out of the strings. Less compact also means less straw to hold water.
Growing up, my uncle baled his own straw and he could set the tension on the baler to make as tight or heavy a bale as he desired.
Also, the more straw in a bale means they'll last longer. My oat bales were noticeably more deteriorated at the end of the season.
Interesting you tell that about oat vs wheat. I wonder if its got to do with threshing the grain out? The local garden center gave me 3 bales of oat straw that had gotten wet during the winter and they are so loose there must be an extra 6" of twine on them. I am going to use them, but will re-wrap some more twine on them and prob use them for watermelons or zucchini.
I bought 9 more bales today - I was going to take it easy but now I'm up to 12 bales. I'm figuring 2 cucumbers to a bale or 1 big tomato. I stared at the sun till I almost became Hindu and finally concluded the bales needed to be laid out parallel with the suns path. I would have thought you should lay out vegetables perpendicular to the sun but in the space I've got this might work better. Do I sound as new at this as I am?
Well, this is interesting. At least 5 years ago someone with one of those huge bales of hay lost it off his truck as he passed by my driveway, which is on a hilly curve. The bale rolled right down past my mailbox and came to rest a few feet from my well house. He never came back for it and I've left it there. It has diminished in size by half and is practically compost. It's under very large oak but I may be able to think of something to plant in it that likes shade. I'd like to put in a veg but I guess it might have to be flowers.
I picked up 2 bales over the weekend and started the 10 step process on them. I couldn't get any ammonium nitrate, so I grabbed a bag of grass fertilizer at 29-2-5 strength. I suppose that should do the trick nicely.
I was planning on getting a few more bales, but the local feed and seed was charging $4.75 a bale!! I'll have to shop around and find a cheaper source.
I'm planning on 2 tomatoes in one bale, and maybe some watermelon in the other one.
You should have seen the expression on the man's face at the local feed and seed when I asked for ammonium nitrate. He said, "WHAT do you need ammonium nitrate for!!? They quit selling that because people are making BOMBS out of it", as he eyed me suspiciously.
I told him what I was up to, and even showed him the print out with the instructions. Old fellow probably thought I was crazy... LOL!
Speaking of ants. Are they good for the compost part? I have just noticed that those little black ants have taken up residence at the bottom of my bales. Should I get out the ant dust or let them be?
The tempature is about 125 degrees for about a week. What was the best temp. to plant in? I got the bales from 2 different places, the one had fresh bales with the synthetic string and the other place had old bales that were a little darker in color. The old ones have only gotten to 80 degrees but have started sprouting the wheat. The fresh ones are hotter and have not shown signs of sprouting. Thanks for all of your help. This is great to talk to people with the same goal of gardening.
Melinda, I'm not sure about the ants; I didn't notice any nesting in my bales last year. Before using the ant dust, keep your bales watered good and they'll probably vacate since the ground will be wet undeneath the bales. Otherwise, use your best judgement since you're the "Commander" in the field. The only creatures I had were fishing worms under the bales.
I didn't really follow a temperature guide last year; I used the 10 day prep and on day 11, transplanted everything into the bales. If you're using a different source of nitrogen to prep the bales, then you may have to add a day or so b4 transplanting.
I'm being redundant, but water the new bales well and you should be fine. You just don't want the tender roots to get dryed out.
Melinda - if you decide to get rid of the ants try sprinkling cinnamon on them so you don't have to use insecticide near your veggies. Costco has 1 lb containers for about $4 - way more than enough to get them to take off.
Quoting:I wonder how many tomatoes you can plant in one of those huge, round bales? I bet you could drive a stake in that bale that would hold tight.
It would look good with a bunch of cucumber, watermelon, cantelope, etc. vines cascading off one! Just walk around and pick. Some flowering vines would look good, too.
Kent I think it would look fantastic...unfortunately I live in town and I have my doubts my DH, country boy and strong as he is, would be able to haul one of those monsters into my garden. ;) It would be awesome to see tho' if someone here can manage it.
Kent hopefully he will also deliver it for you. ;)
Large round bales will weigh 500 to 3,000 pounds with dimensions varying with the baler manufacturer and model. Usually the bales are 5 to 7 feet long and 5 to 7 feet in diameter. Bale weight depends not only on dimensions but also on the type and quality of hay baled.
I feel your pain Roseone33 - I paid $4 also for wheat straw and I called around to 5-6 places. Now that I know what I want I'll find a better situation next year. Zeppy - oooh yum - fresh butter -haven't had that in ages. I buy Auracana eggs from a friend and they are great. But I cannot imagine dealing with the outcomes of 50 bales of straw gardening. Oh my ! Somebody likes their spaghetti sauce.
Alyrics: I love my bride's spaghetti sauce! Yum! Giving away lots of veggies at work, neighbors, family, etc is my little ministry. I grow Habanero peppers to give especially to a Korean woman who has a snack shop next to Sheriff's office so she can spice up her stir fry. Her "Double Spicy" stir fry will bring tears to your eyes.
I'm still trying to track down someone with the rectangular bales. Last time I asked how much one rectangular one would be they quoted $5.00 CDN or $4.30 U.S. It was during a dry year tho so hopefully I can find some cheaper now.
It is the round bales possible price that I was referring to above (esp if you are paying for delivery as well ;) Mind you if it's your next door neighbour doing the delivery the price *should* be very reasonable.
My goodness. Are we talking hay or straw? But, you have to figure the time of year. I would imagine it is almost gone now. It's like buying 50# of potatoes or onions. It's the end of them in bulk so really high.
It's no secret, that through experience we've all learned, that there is no such thing as something for nothing. I always kick myself when I'm awakened by my own euphamisms that say "that only a person who sells for less knows it's true value" and that "usually you pay for what you get". Now, I say all that to say this about purchasing straw bales. From having no experience, to having a little experience, with no research, afore mentioned, when we bought our bales we looked 3 different places, found 2 different prices, found 3 different quality of product and relized that "all straw bales are not equal"!! First, we looked at Lowes where we found bales for $4 each that were very loosely tied and lightweight. Second, we found a good quality, tightly bound, heavier bale, that appeared to be freshly harvested wheat bales for $4 that looked really good. We bought 18 of those our first load. Then, we found another feed and seed store that gave a price of $3 each and decided to save money with 9 bales that proved to be an older straw loosely tied and had to retie. Having gone through all of this we went back to the second place and bought 15 more at the higher price. Now the main difference between the 2 is that the fresher bales heated up to 125-130 degrees and are taking longer to compost but because we did not have to retie them we've saved time and energy and believe they will last an extra year. The older straw did not heat up as much and is already decomposing a lot faster. So, please fill us in when you have the time, of those who know the difference, out of curiosity, about the different types of straw. Maybe a research project for next fall or winter.
I am trying to think about the older ones heating up and decomposing faster. Which is what Kent was trying to accomplish with the amonium nitrate. So, you saved the time and the money of not buying that. But, it is not going to last an extra year like the fresher bales that took longer to get to the same point that the older bales did. Plus you paid a dollar more for the fresher bales.
And you don't know they will last a year longer.
I love crossword puzzles but this one has me stumped. AND, I still don't know what your answer was.
I'm approaching this as an experiment. Kent has us all fired up that's for sure! I went and got a few books on vegetable gardening from the library and one sentence stuck out in my mind.. The author said - 'Start small, don't burn yourself out the first year. A few plants of each vegetable can give you fresh produce for your family and a few to share. You will see how much you can, and are willing to take care of by the end of the summer when its no fun to weed and water anymore.'
Good advice I think whenever you are starting a new garden endeavor. This from someone with 20 containers of Wintersown seedlings on the deck and precious little room in the borders.
So I figured 12 bales plus whatever I plant in a big raised bed ought to help me figure out what works. The thing I like the best about this straw gardening idea is NO WEEDING. I hate weeding. Actually I don't mind weeding per se - its kind of relaxing, its the fact that it has to be kept up with.
Anyway we are all going to be thinking of what the group reports about old straw when its time for the neighbors to toss their Halloween decorations. I for one have old wheat and oat straw, and new wheat. America will be decorated with lumpy tarps in the back yard covering next years garden. I promise to scientifically sample the outcomes from each of my experimental bales and report back on which tomatoes tasted better on which kind of bread and with what kind of mayo. DH is supposed to be watching his cholesterol so we might be using turkey bacon on the BLT's but I'll try not to let this skew my results.
I'm taking on a row of these bales as a lark. I really like the idea, but until reasons of health or land intervene, I will keep my traditional soil garden. I just love playing in the dirt.
What I'm most excited to find is whether this method will help me confuse and thwart the evil squash vine borer. If it does, then I'll have a straw bale row of curcubits for the rest of my gardening life. :)
I love it that you veggie gardeners call them curbubits - I don't know why that word makes me laugh. Now every morning 'm looking at my un-germinated wintersown pot of bush-curcubits and talking to myself about curcubits instead of cucumbers. Tomatoes. I have Sweet 100 because its a family requirement and then I'm stumped. I tried Early Girl and some other early varieties in containers at my house the past 2 years and I thought they were tasteless but that might be my lack of sun. The Burpee catalog is promoting new Brandy Boy hybrid that supposedly is the best tasting. I want red or pink sandwich tomatoes first of all, my kids will like the cherries, and I want italians for sauce. I will know more after next Monday, I'm meeting a friend to trade seeds and she has 6 or 8 kinds of tomato seeds. I also suspect that every area is going to grow a different tomato better so I'm looking for someone locally to tell me what to grow. I thought I had a little time but I better get going. I had already bought Burpees 'Picklebush' bush curcubit for containers before I started reading this forum so I'm going to try that.
...And Oh, by the way, I figured that we'd save about 75 percent of the cost for raised bed gardening plus the physical work for moving approx. 10 yards of compost. In comparaison, just to give you an idea of how much 10cu yards is those pallets wrapped in plastic wrap at the stores of 60 forty pound bags of manure or compost, are approx. 2cu yards each. Not only that, but you have to build frames out of cedar, cypress, or red wood, which if you haven't priced lately is almost as expensive as silver. OK, in reply to Jnette as to what I was trying to say, is that fresh is better for us.
Oh Zepster - watch your D-mail ! I'll send you a list of what I have also.
Kent - I love habaneros - have you ever had Melinda's Hot Sauce or Marie Sharp's Pepper Sauce - both from Belize? They mix the habaneros with carrot juice and vinegar. The carrot sweetness cuts the bite out of the habaneros so you can actually taste them not just feel the heat. I used to work for the botany dept at school - and did some work for Dr. Hardy Eshbaugh, a botanical geneticist who at the time was the worlds recognized expert in hot peppers, I'm sure he's long retired now. He went all over the world gathering seed of hot peppers and we grew them. You better not wipe your eyes after working there.
alyrics: I haven't tried those sauces but I'll check them out. And you're right, I pick habaneros bare handed but NEVER cut them up w/out gloves. A co-worker gave some to her mother and her mother said, "Tell that man that if hell is any hotter, I don't want no part of it."
I, too, have chuckled every time I see "curcubit". I don't know why. Never heard the word until this forum got started. Sounds like something Spock would say while giving the Vulcan hand sign.
Well, folks, our wheat straw bales, having to come all the way up and over/across the Peninsula from Half Moon Bay to here in Redwood City, cost $9.50 each with free delivery at a count of 20 bales - and counting up the costs of things plus distance here, I think we're doing all right (ow ow okay).
Pastorino Hay called middayish, to let me know the truck was on its way with a few stops in between, and that I should expect them some time after 2pm.
Raindrops have just spattered the windows.
The clock would ring three if we had a clock with bells on, and no straw yet (*bounce!*).
Unless that was them just driving by...
...yes indeed it was! That WAS just them, going by as I happened to glance up and see the reflection in the back window through the front window - they were just down the block wondering if someone was going to do a little straw-bale construction at the new house going up down on the corner. (cool - everybody's excited about that! and the clay soil here would make someone the perfect cob).
So - the hay arrived and got offloaded - our 16 bales to the back (stacked) and 8 bales for our neighbor pals who got excited and joined in the delivery-load, are stacked up between the front walk and the curb, and I found a couple of tarps and tied them on the top half of theirs (as low as what I've got'll dangle), and swept up the spare half-a-compost-binful of loose straw that landed on the drive just as the rain started pelting down.
Now that's timing.
Photo out the rain-bespattered back window (sorry for the autofocus going for the raindrops but I'm just out of camera battery, so take your glasses off before you look at this one); 'ware the monster borage, that pale green white-flowery beast - a curcubit or two in and of itself! - in front of the haybales was in a 4" pot five months ago. The bees adore it.
Alright Ru! Zeppy! Keep those pics coming! I'm thinking of a few bales in my suburban back yard for the fall garden---I'll find space somewhere! LOL I'm thinking that little added distance off the ground might give me some frost protection on really lite frost nights (which most of ours are). Any thoughts on that folks?
Get the bale police! Mine are only half size and they were $4 each! If you stack them together they look like one bale I only got two thank goodness - from Southern States. I better go find a farmer with real size bales! I did order amonium nitrate and will get it this week.
Debbie - I would think less protection in the bale from frost. Sorta like a container plant would freeze before a ground plant. YMMV
Ok you chemists - what would stop us from pouring a gallon of household ammonia over each bale?Besides the daily cost?
Do you think the FBI would object to us starting an Ammonium Nitrate co-op ? I can see it now
Headline above the fold:
Wake County, NC law enforcement officer apprehended with 2 tons of Ammonium Nitrate.
Claims he's sending it to gardeners all over America 10 cupfuls at a time. "Likely story" says bomb squad - "Who could possibly know that many gardeners?"
You know this post is probably being read even before I type it by a Cray supercomputer.
After intermitant showers and lightning today we've taken a break from gardening to watch the 3rd round of Masters Golf tournament in Augusta, GA just across the river from us.
We're very pleased at how not only the weather has cooperated but how well the garden is coming. Our bales finally cooled down from the 125 degrees to 60-65 degrees after approx. 10-14 days of watering and using only fish emulsion. It took 3 quarts, using a 20 gallon hose end sprayer to apply. The straw has decomposed beautifully. We planted yesterday and we can already imagine the plants litterally jumping out of the bales!! Will send pics in the next couple of days.
Kent, by the way since you sound like a "pepper head" too, try juicing carrotts, pulp and all, putting the mix in a plastic ziplock baggie and put as much tabasco sauce or habanero's as you can stand. If you want more sweetness just add sugar or artificial sweetner. Then place in fridge or freezer to chill to your taste, and eat with a spoon as a snack.
But nobody took my question seriously. Except I went and looked at a bottle of household ammonia and its Ammonium Hydroxide. Now what? Yet another Ammonium compound.
I wish someone would theorize about what will happen now that I've set my bales out in the weather but haven't started the N process yet. I can't do it till after Easter now so that will end up being at least 2-3 weeks outside before I begin. I can't do anything about it though.
Melinda: great update on your bales; glad to hear the fish emulsion is another alternative over the ammonium nitrate. And thanks for the pepper/carrott recipe. I've got a brand new juicer so I'll try it soon. I love tabasco. There used to be a small bottle in all the C-Rations when I was in the USN. I think Uncle Sam still puts them in the MRE's our vets eat now.
alyrics: remember, nature will prep your bales w/out any assistance; it just takes a little longer. Check the condition down inside a bale every so often and see how they're doing, decomposition wise. If it looks like they're breaking down, then you may just want to go ahead and transplant or plant, whatever you had in mind. But, it shouldn't be a problem adding anything to the bales, if you go that route. I don't think you can "over cook" them.
Kent, I agree, " I don't think you can "over cook" them." Just be sure they've cooled down before you plant or you'll burn the roots of your tender transplants.
I'm in the 11th day of the process with my bales. They've really starting to cook! The straw is starting to break down and even some of the wheat seeds are sprouting. They're still a little warm to set out plants so I'm going to wait a couple of days and set out some brocolli and cabbage.
I just screwed on the 1"x 1" hardwood posts today for staking my tomato plants...
Big Red why did you use such tall posts for tomatoes? Having come from a long line of farmers and gardeners its amazing that I don't know the answer to that question but I don't. The pic makes it look like your posts are about 8 ft tall. And here's another questionable Q.. Did you use a post driver to put the fence posts down thru the bales? I don't think I could do that on my own.
Somewhere up there I remember a discourse on staking vs. tomato cages - but can someone tell me quickly if I can use my tomato cages?
Mine are beginning to sprout but seem on the dry side. I haven't watered them a whole lot but we have had plenty of soaking rains. The straw is still tightly packed so I can't really get my hand in there to feel it. What kind of temps should I be looking for if I stick in a probe thermometer?
Guess I better turn on the soaker hose more often.
Shoe, yep, the blood meal is really cooking! I'm having a hard time waiting to set out some 'mater plants, too!
Zeppy, that chicken poo should really get it working!
alryics, they are 8' posts, these are some of the ones I used last year. Of course they were driven into the ground 1' so it only left 7' out of the ground. Most years my tomatoes will grow to the top of an 8' post. I've posted a picture of some of my "in ground" tomato plants, Amish Paste from my first garden here in KY. The metal fence posts are not driven through the bales but rather on each end, not only serves the purpose but I thought it would help hold the bales together also.
I've never staked tomatoes -- only caged them. So this will be new for me. I think I'll only do about 3 or 4 bales of tomatoes, anyway. The soil garden tomatoes will be either trained up twine on an 8 foot trellis or caged in my rusty but strong 5 foot high concrete reinforcing wire cages.
Roseone, I need to water my bales more conscientiously, too. Mental note to add to about three thousand other gardening mental notes...
Well you must be taller than me! I'd have to get the DH or a DL (ladder) to pick off a 7 or 8 ft post
Do you mind me asking what kind of tomatoes you're growing? I can take this over to the tomato forum if you want. I am totally new at successfully raising tomatoes. My dad has rows and rows of them but I have too much shade to ripen them. So this year I'm raising tomatoes at a friends place.
Thanks. I put the soaker on for a couple of hours this morning, I don't want to run my well dry. Carrying water is out of the question for me. This is supposed to fun and easy. I'm treating it as a fun experiment to find out what happens.
Kent, I would like to add my thanks for starting this thread!
I bought 4 bales of straw at the Miami County Co-op in Paola, Kansas for $3.50 a bale. Very, very tight bales and they used baling wire. Not sure what type of straw, very bright gold and pretty. ( LOL, sounds like I buy cars based on color too, doesn't it?)
I started them with blood meal today...I am so exicited. I live next to a public softball complex, and the grounds crew are always buzzing back and forth on the street by my house on little 4 wheel gators, etc. I think I almost caused some accidents when I started watering in the blood meal, those guys were driving by looking over their shoulders trying to figure out what I was doing!
I had to fight myself to start small...I have already over committed by ordering too many Rose bushes that will be arriving in May, so I have to keep my veggie garden small.
To All: keep those bales watered; my pop tried a couple of bales last year and half way neglected them; his tomato plants were about 1/2 the size of mine
Note to self: Got to get a USA map and put some push pins on everyone's location.
haleysaunt: welcome aboard to the USS Baler
Headline: Osawatomie Police Declare Bale Garden Traffic Hazard - Town Council Passes Ordinance Requiring Screening Around All Bale Gardens
alyrics: you're on deck
Big Red: I've got to read up on those tomato varieties you're doing, especially the "Mule Team" one. I'm a sucker for anything that's got the word "mule" in it. I recently bought some BBQ dipping sauce called "Old Mule" and it's fantastic; a NC product, at www.oldmule.com
Well I'm going to get back to my idea for an Ammonium Nitrate co-op. But Kent has to fill out the app with his name and address because I don't think its safe for anyone else to do it. Uncle Tim had one heck of a time with that.
Pioneer -Indian Altercation Re-enactment Squirted out of Existence by Trigger-Happy Bale Gardener
Quote: "I just don't go for flaming arrows being shot at my tomates" says Bale Gardener whose front yard looks like a straw fort. "This is not the kind of heat I had in mind"
Hi ya'll! I've been reading this thread since the beginning with baited breath and I've been talking about this to DH and he was in awe when I showed him the pics. Yesterday we drove down to Commerce and picked up 20 bales of Coastal Bermuda hay!! Yippeee! The farmer had it advertised in the Market Bulletin as mulch hay, and he told me that he had cut it last fall, and then it rained before he got it bailed, and he tried feeding it to his cows and they didn't like the way it smelled and wouldn't eat it. I got those bales for $2.00 each! (maybe I should have gotten more?)
I have an area of my garden already tilled for my corn, and a stretch of fence where the peas are growing, which will soon be holding up beans, and the rest I am going to plant in bales. I am so excited.
As soon as I get them all laid out I am going to start watering them. Here's my question: I have a 55 gal drum half full of chicken manure tea I made last summer. I am thinking that I can pour the tea on the bales to jump start the composting process. Do you think the tea will have enough ammonium nitrate after sitting in a sealed drum all winter?
It seems like to me that preparing your bales is like preparing a meatloaf. How many different ways are there? 100's I'm sure, depending on taste and preference. But the most important thing for safe human consumption is that the meat be done to at least 165 degrees to kill any harmful bacteria. How can we tell what proper heat it should be unless we have a themometer. We purchased a deep fat frying themometer that shows 50 to 400 degrees. This will work on soil as well as the bales.
We planted 16 tomatoes in all of the same type bales and they were treated the same way. When I put the plants in most of the bales the temp was fine. I tried one and it felt warm and when I checked the temp it was still 115 degrees while the others were 60 degrees. We lost those plants in the hotter bales. I know some of you warned not to plant in hot bales but didn't say how hot was too hot. Well now I know!!
The plants in the 60 degree bales are all doing fine. So, I'm thinking one of the secrets to get ready for planting in your bales, like for starting your grill for barbecue is "know your HEAT"!!
Strawbaleman had the great idea:
"Note to self: Got to get a USA map and put some push pins on everyone's location."
I know a great mapping place, where some clever wag has been playing with the google maps ARI -- So - we've got a map, tell your friends, come and plug your electronic push-pin in: free of course, and no one sends you silly advertising.
If this craze sets in for the long haul, we could pull the map over here, even.
Sulfate of Ammonia - as a rotting agent
I'd picked up a bag of this from the good local Orchard Supply Hardware a few years back, that I use in silk painting as a flow agent; it is Nitrogen 19-0-0, so I assumed it'd be good to use to prep these strawbales. I'm ever curious about these things, so I Googled up a few articles on the use of Sulfate of Ammonia / sulfonurea / Ammonium sulfate (some of the names you might see for the same thing), which is what's now available by the bagloads in garden supply places instead of Ammonium Nitrate (since one simply can't make things that go boom from the sulfate of ammonia).
There's a good article from the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station on their experiments with using various nitrogen sources other than Ammonium Nitrate:
"About half of Missouri's 12 million acres of tall fescue receive nitrogen (N) fertilizer either in the spring or late summer to increase yields. Because ammonium nitrate is being phased out and urea has NH3 volatilization problems, growers need comparative information on new N products for pastures.
Our objectives were: 1) to compare ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate, urea, ESN coated urea, Nurea, and Nurea with NITAMIN, and mixtures of ammonium sulfate with urea and ESN as N sources for tall fescue in spring and late-summer applications. "
They had splendid results with the Ammonium Sulfate. I'm a-gonna use it with my bales.
Well, seems like my bales may be ready eiher in late fall or next spring. I checked the temp in two different rows of bales. The first bale was 57' and the other bale was 66'. The air temp yesterday was 68' and it was 33' in the morning. I will keep using the soaker hose and be patient. In the meanwhile, the bales are a handy ready made bench around the garden.
This is great. Since I joined acouple of days ago, I have gotten more ideas than i can keep up with. WOW. I'm adding this to the todo list for next year. I have heavy clay soil and I hope this method, over several years, will help recondition the clay. I currently have added a raised bed at 1' height for veggies. It is working great, but is very expansive even when I'm doing all the labor.
Sure are alot of posts for this thread. More than I can read in one sitting. Thank you Straw for the Thread. Thanks to all for their advises and suggestions. Please keep them coming so I can get more ideas.
BTW, How about carrots, lettuce, beets, ect. You know, the veggies that I call rooters. Would the bales Work them????????
I am very excited about growing my garden in these bales, and sorry but I didn't read every post, you've probably said this before but I didn't see it. I know pine straw is no good but what about other types of hay...esp. bermuda or fescue (my dad has a farm and both are readily available). And does using other types of grass/hay dictate the fertilizers you need to add?
Hi Straw and all the rest of you.
I loved the time I spent reading all of your posts on this subject. I didn't see an obvious place to grow your bale garden, that is anywhere you want to. You don't need any grass or soil under the bales. You could grow them on you drive way if you wanted. How about
up the driveway, a row on each side. Plant flowers along with the veggies and have plenty of color.
I am a part time missionary to Haiti and have been interested in forms of gardening without soil. Every house that isn't a thatched or tin roof is flat; usually built so a 2nd story can be built later. A wooden or metal box filled with tamped grass and straw would make a fine place to grow veggies. You add about 2 or 3 inches of soil on top to start seeds.
How about a natural source of nitrogen, here in this country we won't do this because it is too gross, save your urine and dilute it to a 10% solution and pour it on your garden once every 2 weeks. Our urine is 99% germ free strait from our body. It costs us nothing. I have had my Haitian brothers and sisters using it for years with great results.
I know I should read all the thread info, but there is sooo much and I just need to know if the weed seeds in the bales create lots of weeds in the underneath area when they decompose. That was mentioned to me on another thread when I brought up the bale gardening. So... please?
I am soooooo excited about this new form of gardening or at least new to me. I can hardly wait to get started. I am on the Oregon coast and we get plenty of rain here. I am hoping that this will be a good way for me to start a garden. I have plenty of space but am limited to what measures I can dig. I think that this will be a much easier and cleaner form for me. I have read several threads but am still unsure as to what type of bale is the best. Would you suggest wheat or oat. I don't know how readly available these are here but I am sure that I can probably get what I need fairly easily. I can hardly wait to try this new way of gardening. I love getting down and dirty is just the getting back up thats hard. Hehe
Boy, I'll say. Are there any good books out there that would be easier to read in bed then my pc? Hehe. I guess I could just download the infor here and read it later.
Hey, I just thought of something else. Has anyone ever tried growing gourds in the strawbales?
Good to hear from you,
The last time I tried growing gourds was in AZ. They took over my whole back yard which was that big to begin with. I thought since I have more space now I would give it a try here.
Sevensisters: I'm not the resident expert, but I wouldn't see bales as being a good choice for strawberries because the bales will break ddown and strawberries are perennials and need more of a stable environment. The bales, after a year in the garden, would be great cover for strawberries though.
I so want to do this! Can't wait for spring. If I get straw bales now, [first part of Dec,] might they be all ready for planting in the spring without all the 10 day prep work?
And since I live in a small sub division and I must garden in the side yard, because that is where my sun is, I was thinking what would be a great way to dress up the front sides of the bales. Maybe 24 inch lattice or does someone have a better idea?
I got a wonderful crop of strawberries. I planted 6 bales with strawberries and harvested them up until last month. It is great. They stay clean and protected on the bales and are easy to spot. I sugest though that you add a little soil prior to planting. I added after which helped. Not alot just enough to hold more water then some of the other plants.
I had a great harvest of sugar snap peas. This was my first attempt with strawbale gardening and I plan on doing it again next year. Here is a picture of my sugar snap peas
Oh my, the sugar snaps and the strawberries! Why does it have to be December? I will certainly try the strawberries. Any special type you used and did you do anything to over winter the plants or do you toss them on the compost heap? Thanks for your input. I absolutely love this whole idea.
It has been ages since I have been here. Last August 26 I was attacked by the Strep Disease, "Necrotizing Fasciitis. better
known as the Skin Eating Disease," I almost died. They finally let me out of the hospital on 3 October. I am healing fast and
am excited about getting on with God's work.
Gourdbeader, I am very interested in your snow peas. When did you plant them?
When did you start your strawberries in the bales? I called a commercial strawberry grower in California, who told me that they
start each year with new plants. That way they don't have to worry about disease. I noticed that you had your plants pretty spread out. Couldn't you plant them closer together?
This is my third year with haybales, I don't think the strawberries will last in the bales through another season. It has been my
experience that the bales won't last 2 years. You will have to transplant the plants to new bales.
I am going to start my bales in early February in 2009 here in the Portland area. The weather is good enough to sustain early spring crops.
I have found some plastic unbrella Cloushes, sp, that will cover a bale. I hope to start some plants early.
As a new member of Dave's Garden, I just found this discussion and am very interested.
I have a bad back and knees, so regular on the ground planting is very difficult for me. I have experience with building wood raised planters and ones made from concrete bricks. My problem now is that I am on a fixed income and for now do not have the money to buy any of those things now. I need to get the yard here ready for a garden and I am going to try this haybale gardening. My soil here is red and sticky. I don't know any other way to discribe it. It needs lots of ammendments. I can use the haybales later for that. I"ve made arrangements for the yard (1/2 acre) to be plowed next month, than I'll get the haybales and get them ready for spring planting. Thank you for the great idea. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
Marti: if you get your bales early, just cover them with a tarp/plastic until about 30 days before you would normally plant a traditional garden. Then, set your bales where you want them and just keep them moist until planting time.
In the meantime, read through all (it's a lot now) of our threads. Lots of good info.
Make additional comments at Chapter 28 for now. It keeps things a little more orderly.