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Strawbale Gardening: Straw bale gardening: no weeding, no hoeing, no tilling

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KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 20, 2006
4:57 PM

Post #2125525

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.

Other straw bale references:

http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com/strawbales.htm
http://www.county.ces.uga.edu/chatham/hay_bales.htm
http://www.co.clay.mn.us/Depts/Extensio/ExAPHydr.htm


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,

Kent Rogers
Deputy Sheriff
Wake County, NC
kent.rogers@earthlink.net

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.


This message was edited Mar 20, 2006 3:30 PM

This message was edited Mar 20, 2006 3:40 PM

This message was edited Mar 20, 2006 3:44 PM

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adkgardener
Bloomingdale, NY
(Zone 4a)

March 20, 2006
8:08 PM

Post #2125954

Welcome to the forum.

Yours is not a method I would care to try myself due to the heavy dependency on chemicals fertilizers, but I'm glad its working for you.

Wayne



KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 20, 2006
8:35 PM

Post #2125990

Hello, Wayne.

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.

This message was edited Mar 20, 2006 4:37 PM

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berrygirl
Braselton, GA
(Zone 7b)

March 20, 2006
10:58 PM

Post #2126320

Straw,
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?
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 20, 2006
11:11 PM

Post #2126348

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.
berrygirl
Braselton, GA
(Zone 7b)

March 20, 2006
11:15 PM

Post #2126355

Strawman,
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!!

THANK you!
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 20, 2006
11:18 PM

Post #2126365

A photo of me giving my bales a "haircut".

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dmj1218
west Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

March 20, 2006
11:19 PM

Post #2126369

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!
Debbie

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.

This message was edited Mar 20, 2006 6:25 PM
berrygirl
Braselton, GA
(Zone 7b)

March 20, 2006
11:21 PM

Post #2126373

Good point, Debbie!
Boy, folks named Debbie sure are smart- LOL!

Debbie
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 20, 2006
11:29 PM

Post #2126402

To both Debs:

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.
HotPepperDan
Flanders, NJ
(Zone 6a)

March 20, 2006
11:36 PM

Post #2126423

Kent, they look great, and they get a haircut, ya gotta love that!!! You also have a beautiful yard with plenty of land, keep up the good work, I love new ideas. Danny
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 20, 2006
11:42 PM

Post #2126442

Appreciate that my Garden State friend. My bales just gotta have a haircut. No "hippie" bales in this LEO's garden!! :-)
tombaak
High Desert, NV
(Zone 5a)

March 21, 2006
6:46 AM

Post #2127156

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,
Melissa
HERBIE43
Rutland , MA
(Zone 5b)

March 21, 2006
10:45 AM

Post #2127245

that is such a great idea. thanks
jslocum207
South Elgin, IL

March 21, 2006
11:16 AM

Post #2127265

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!!
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 21, 2006
12:10 PM

Post #2127341

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 21, 2006
12:11 PM

Post #2127344

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.

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KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 21, 2006
12:18 PM

Post #2127359

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.

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roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 21, 2006
12:26 PM

Post #2127377

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.

melody

melody
Benton, KY
(Zone 7a)


March 21, 2006
12:29 PM

Post #2127380

First of all...a great big welcome to DG!

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 21, 2006
12:47 PM

Post #2127398

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!!! :-)
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 21, 2006
12:57 PM

Post #2127421

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?

melody

melody
Benton, KY
(Zone 7a)


March 21, 2006
1:05 PM

Post #2127442

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.
Dea
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6a)

March 21, 2006
1:26 PM

Post #2127476

Welcome to DG Kent - this is excellent ! Thanks for sharing your info and photos and yes, this will be something my husband and I will try for sure this year. Wow !

Dea
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 21, 2006
1:31 PM

Post #2127485

How would strawberries work? Say, the dayneutral kind you harvest the same year you plant?
PERRYLAWRENCE
SARANAC, NY
(Zone 4a)

March 21, 2006
1:38 PM

Post #2127503

Hey Straw:
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
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 21, 2006
2:08 PM

Post #2127563

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!!

This particular pic is from 6/09/05

This message was edited Mar 21, 2006 10:11 AM

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roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 21, 2006
2:38 PM

Post #2127623

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
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 21, 2006
2:39 PM

Post #2127629

I heard about this a few years ago and started getting a couple bales ready for greens, but then we moved, oops. Now I've got more space than I need. But I'm thinking about those strawberries...
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 21, 2006
2:52 PM

Post #2127655

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?
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 21, 2006
2:58 PM

Post #2127671

Yeah, that's why I'd try the day-neutral ones like Tristar that you can basically raise as an annual. I don't think it would work with the 2-5 year old beds.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 21, 2006
2:59 PM

Post #2127672

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.
swoznick
Burlington, NC
(Zone 7b)

March 21, 2006
6:15 PM

Post #2128100

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.
kimmers
Turlock, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 21, 2006
10:19 PM

Post #2128671

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
Turlock, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 21, 2006
10:20 PM

Post #2128674

I forgot, how long are bales? If anyone has a guesstimate it would really help me decide how many I can squeeze into my back yard! TIA
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 22, 2006
3:56 AM

Post #2129467

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.
phuggins
Fairmont, WV
(Zone 6a)

March 22, 2006
12:08 PM

Post #2129771

I'm very excited about this idea...I'm expanding my garden but was dreading the breaking-of-sod-and-turning-over-of-clay that it would normally entail. Thanks for your suggestion!!

pam
Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


March 22, 2006
12:52 PM

Post #2129863

Very interesting post, Strawbaleman and welcome to DG's!

Hmmmm, I may try a couple of these myself, just to see how the 'maters fare in comparison to my in-ground plants. ☺
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 22, 2006
1:08 PM

Post #2129899

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
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 22, 2006
2:22 PM

Post #2130084

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. :-)
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 22, 2006
2:55 PM

Post #2130177

Found a few more pics if this is any help.

The tobacco sticks or short stakes worked great for the peppers but were too short for the German Johnsons and Better Boy tomatoes.

A cage on top of the bales may work, but you'll definitely have to anchor the cage somehow.

I'm repeating myself, but I'm going to try a lattice-type structure over top of some bales this year and see how that does.

Date: 5/7/05

This message was edited Mar 22, 2006 11:03 AM

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KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 22, 2006
2:57 PM

Post #2130184

Cucumbers

Date: 6/09/05

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KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 22, 2006
2:59 PM

Post #2130198

Date: 6/21/05

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downscale_babe
surfside beach, SC
(Zone 8b)

March 22, 2006
4:03 PM

Post #2130387

kent
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.

Thanks
Nancy
PERRYLAWRENCE
SARANAC, NY
(Zone 4a)

March 22, 2006
5:56 PM

Post #2130685

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.)
NatureWalker
New York & Terrell, TX
(Zone 8b)

March 22, 2006
8:15 PM

Post #2131028

Maybe you can use these for your tomatoes... Kent

Woody's Folding Tomato Cages http://www.motherearthnews.com/recent/do_it_yourself/

Just a thought...

~* Robin

melody

melody
Benton, KY
(Zone 7a)


March 22, 2006
11:03 PM

Post #2131448

Everybody pay attention...

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.
NatureWalker
New York & Terrell, TX
(Zone 8b)

March 22, 2006
11:43 PM

Post #2131549

Like this melody?

~* Robin

Thumbnail by NatureWalker
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Dea
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6a)

March 23, 2006
12:08 AM

Post #2131602

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
Relatively inexpensive
Provides good air circulation
Wind-resistant if parallel to prevailing winds

Just sinking the posts into the bales down to the ground. Thoughts?

Dea

KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 23, 2006
12:48 AM

Post #2131703

Man, all of these good posts are great. Can't join in now; I'm on night shift and taking a quick break; whew, running from one address to another tonight.

Perry, remember those days?

berrygirl
Braselton, GA
(Zone 7b)

March 23, 2006
12:56 AM

Post #2131720

Straw,
PLEASE be careful out there. We so appreciate what you and all our law enforcement officers do to help keep us safe.

melody

melody
Benton, KY
(Zone 7a)


March 23, 2006
2:09 AM

Post #2131884

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!
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

March 23, 2006
5:52 AM

Post #2132409

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
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

March 23, 2006
10:59 AM

Post #2132563

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.

Thanks again for sharing your ideas.
Andrea
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 23, 2006
11:27 AM

Post #2132599

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.

This message was edited Mar 23, 2006 4:11 PM
PERRYLAWRENCE
SARANAC, NY
(Zone 4a)

March 23, 2006
2:04 PM

Post #2132912

Hey Guys:
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 :)))
PeggieK
Claremore, OK
(Zone 6a)

March 23, 2006
3:04 PM

Post #2133107

I love the way the vining crops like cucumbers etc. trail down over the bales. Looks so pretty.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 23, 2006
3:17 PM

Post #2133155

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.

jcangemi
Clovis, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 23, 2006
4:12 PM

Post #2133280

WHEW!!! Alot of food for thought here. . .gotta be more diligent about checking these threads even if it's gardening frenzy time!!! Thanks for sharing this with us Kent!

8-) Janet

melody

melody
Benton, KY
(Zone 7a)


March 23, 2006
5:50 PM

Post #2133525

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.
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 23, 2006
6:04 PM

Post #2133561

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?

melody

melody
Benton, KY
(Zone 7a)


March 23, 2006
6:29 PM

Post #2133606

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.

darius

darius
So.App.Mtns.
United States
(Zone 5b)

March 23, 2006
6:55 PM

Post #2133657

Kent, what a great thread! Gives me great hope for a first year or two garden until I can amend the soil. Or maybe continued as my health declines.

I lived in Boone, not far from Banner Elk, and plan to move back to that area... or at least as close as I can afford!
downscale_babe
surfside beach, SC
(Zone 8b)

March 24, 2006
11:37 AM

Post #2135406

Kent
Banner Elk was originally Banner's Elk.I know some members of the family and they certainly couldn't afford to live there now.

It is a very beautiful place but very very expensive.
oldflowerchild
Dodd City, TX
(Zone 7b)

March 24, 2006
5:11 PM

Post #2136129

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!

melody

melody
Benton, KY
(Zone 7a)


March 24, 2006
6:35 PM

Post #2136286

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.
adkgardener
Bloomingdale, NY
(Zone 4a)

March 24, 2006
9:21 PM

Post #2136639

Hey Perry, I don't get to meet many gardeners up here in the mountains. Were you doing some work last year that brought you up the mountain to Bloomingdale? I think we may have met at my home.

Wayne
oldflowerchild
Dodd City, TX
(Zone 7b)

March 24, 2006
10:43 PM

Post #2136832

I would like to hear how many plants of various types everyone is using per bale. I know certain things like the tomato's would be one per bale, but smaller plants like peppers, green beans, etc.

Any super neat ideas for underground produce like potatoes, carrots, beets, etc?
oldflowerchild
Dodd City, TX
(Zone 7b)

March 24, 2006
11:04 PM

Post #2136883

Whoops - I just re-read the first of these postings and have the number of plants per bale now. I would still like to hear if anyone has ideas for the underground root crops.

Thanks,
Sharlene
MaVieRose
High Desert, CA
(Zone 8a)

March 25, 2006
12:24 AM

Post #2137042

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.

This message was edited Mar 24, 2006 11:11 PM
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 25, 2006
3:03 AM

Post #2137511

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.
NatureWalker
New York & Terrell, TX
(Zone 8b)

March 25, 2006
4:14 AM

Post #2137626

oldflowerchild, read this here article: Planting Potatoes Whole: Gardening by the Yard : Episode GBY-202 HGTV: http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/gl_vegetables/article/0,1785,HGTV_3650_1371384,00.html

Propagation: Spouting potato http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/504628/

~* Robin
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

March 25, 2006
6:08 AM

Post #2137746

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.
downscale_babe
surfside beach, SC
(Zone 8b)

March 25, 2006
10:30 AM

Post #2137815

I have had lots of potatoes growing out of compost heaps that weren't hot enough.

oldflowerchild,I love your name.That is how I think of myself.
oldflowerchild
Dodd City, TX
(Zone 7b)

March 25, 2006
2:16 PM

Post #2138152

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!
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 25, 2006
9:30 PM

Post #2138899

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.

Sorry I got so long-winded.
oldflowerchild
Dodd City, TX
(Zone 7b)

March 25, 2006
10:49 PM

Post #2138987

Thanks for taking the time to explain all that to me! I am very excited to give this a try.

Sharlene
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 26, 2006
8:17 PM

Post #2140710

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):

Thumbnail by Zeppy
Click the image for an enlarged view.

KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 26, 2006
8:31 PM

Post #2140732

Zeppy, that looks great. Makes me want to get started myself. And the dog looks EXACTLY like a shephard I had as a kid!! Name was Sam.
Dea
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6a)

March 26, 2006
9:19 PM

Post #2140810

Very nice Zeppy - looks great as well as your pal :)

Dea
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 26, 2006
9:22 PM

Post #2140816

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. :-)
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 26, 2006
9:41 PM

Post #2140846

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.
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 26, 2006
9:49 PM

Post #2140865

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.
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 26, 2006
10:00 PM

Post #2140883

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. :)

And Kent, thanks for the push!
Dea
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6a)

March 26, 2006
10:07 PM

Post #2140901

**chuckling** Yea, I think Kent for sure has "baled" a bunch of us out...or into? :)

What's your shep's name Zeppy? Bet he's a good watchdog for all the family!!

This thread and all the knowledge attached is sure a winner - great stuff folks !

Dea
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 26, 2006
10:30 PM

Post #2140951

Dea: watch out there!!!! LOL

I had one guy ask if I had stock in wheat straw bales! Yeah, that's it, I'm trying to drive up the bale market and I'm gonna be Wheat/Oat/Hay/Alfalfa...straw Baron!!!
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 26, 2006
10:47 PM

Post #2140995

Dea, he's called Zeppy, but his official name is Thaddeus von Steffen Haus. *snort* He lives for the family (or for those kid bubbles you blow with a wand).

Straw Baron... good, but I like Straw Bandit better.
Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

March 27, 2006
4:00 AM

Post #2141679

We are doing the strawbales here are the pics.

Thumbnail by Melindahairbows
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

March 27, 2006
4:04 AM

Post #2141683

here is another pic.

Thumbnail by Melindahairbows
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

March 27, 2006
4:08 AM

Post #2141688

here is the last pic for now. We are just starting the process. There are 42 bales total.

Thumbnail by Melindahairbows
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

March 27, 2006
6:27 AM

Post #2141789

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.

Thank you. Jeanette
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 27, 2006
11:14 AM

Post #2141895

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!
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 27, 2006
12:10 PM

Post #2141990

That's exactly what I'm doing, roseone. I'm a bit afraid I won't water as well as I should, since they require so much water.
Stlhead
On the Olympic Penin, WA
(Zone 9a)

March 27, 2006
11:15 PM

Post #2143383

I wonder how alfalfa tea would work on the bales?

Richard
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

March 27, 2006
11:59 PM

Post #2143489

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...
Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

March 28, 2006
4:11 AM

Post #2144333

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.
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

March 28, 2006
5:31 AM

Post #2144410

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.

Jeanette
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 28, 2006
1:12 PM

Post #2144826

Kent, do you usually grow big indeterminate tomatoes in these?
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 28, 2006
1:43 PM

Post #2144884

Zeppy: I grew 2 indeterminate varieties (Better Boy and German Johnson) and 1 determinate (Celebrity) last year and they all three did well.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 30, 2006
12:01 AM

Post #2148831

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.

Thumbnail by KentNC
Click the image for an enlarged view.

KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 30, 2006
12:15 AM

Post #2148862

Here's the arch I did.

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.

Thumbnail by KentNC
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

March 30, 2006
3:52 AM

Post #2149472

Jeanette,

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.

Melinda
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

March 30, 2006
5:49 AM

Post #2149612

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.

SalemSunshine
Salem, OR
(Zone 8a)

March 30, 2006
10:29 PM

Post #2151214

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.

I should be picking that up tomorrow.

I am so totally excited. Woohoo!

Thanks again.
~ SS
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 30, 2006
10:51 PM

Post #2151267

Well, good evening SS!! Welcome aboard.

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.
Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


March 31, 2006
12:00 AM

Post #2151433

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!

Thumbnail by Big_Red
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

March 31, 2006
12:56 AM

Post #2151561

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!)

And by the way, a hearty WELCOME TO DG" from me!

Shoe.
SalemSunshine
Salem, OR
(Zone 8a)

March 31, 2006
1:50 AM

Post #2151729

I'm curious - why the blood meal? Is there something else that I can use besides ammonium nitrate or blood meal to get the bales cooking?
Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


March 31, 2006
2:07 AM

Post #2151770

SalemSunshine, blood meal is nearly all nitrogen and will speed up the decomposing process and get them cooking. High nitrogen content is the key.
SalemSunshine
Salem, OR
(Zone 8a)

March 31, 2006
2:13 AM

Post #2151783

Ah..how about steer manure?

I have some of that onhand
Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


March 31, 2006
2:50 AM

Post #2151913

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.
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

March 31, 2006
2:59 AM

Post #2151931

Sounds like a great plan to me, too, Big Red. I'll be doing it along those lines as well. (I'm too cheap to buy chem fertilizers, especially when I have the "raw" materials right here on the farm.)

Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


March 31, 2006
3:10 AM

Post #2151954

Yeah, I think this can really work, Shoe. Wish I had some old composted chicken poop, I bet that'd get 'em heated up! ☺
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

March 31, 2006
3:16 AM

Post #2151961

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?)

.
Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


March 31, 2006
3:29 AM

Post #2151983

Thought of it Shoe, but too many coon, fox and coyotes around here, don't think they'd survive long!

Let us know how you make out with your gardening with straw. Don't think I've seen a thread in some time that's created this much interest!
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

March 31, 2006
5:17 AM

Post #2152100

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.

Jeanette
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

March 31, 2006
5:51 AM

Post #2152116

Right after I wrote the above post I went to the greenhouse thread and there it was. That is so neat. I am going to make one next year. I might even sell plants.

Sorry I got off track. Just wanted you all to know.
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

March 31, 2006
3:56 PM

Post #2152840

Thanks jnette. You could get double-duty out of it by draping it with shade cloth in the summer months, too. Protect some of your plants from the summers' heat/sun!
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

March 31, 2006
6:20 PM

Post #2153170

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
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 31, 2006
7:40 PM

Post #2153330

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!
Farmerdill
Augusta, GA
(Zone 8a)


March 31, 2006
7:46 PM

Post #2153343

Rose, Fresh chicken manure is closest to Ammonium nitrate.
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

March 31, 2006
7:51 PM

Post #2153360

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.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

March 31, 2006
8:14 PM

Post #2153420

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?
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 31, 2006
8:19 PM

Post #2153428

Good night, really? Fresh chicken manure? And I was shooing the hens off of the bales? Good to know. Thanks, FarmerDill.
Farmerdill
Augusta, GA
(Zone 8a)


March 31, 2006
8:35 PM

Post #2153469

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.
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

March 31, 2006
8:39 PM

Post #2153481

I use to make a manure tea by just putting the manure either in a gunny sack or directly in a garbage can and filling it with water. The corn absolutely loved it. Is it not strong enough?
annac213
Citrus Heights, CA
(Zone 9b)

March 31, 2006
8:44 PM

Post #2153497

i am so going to try this!


Thanks


anna
SalemSunshine
Salem, OR
(Zone 8a)

March 31, 2006
9:43 PM

Post #2153626

Well, it turns out that I cannot buy ammonium nitrate here. I guess that guy on the phone was mistaken.

I had to buy some organic compost starter. They said it should do the job.
Farmerdill
Augusta, GA
(Zone 8a)


March 31, 2006
10:01 PM

Post #2153662

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.
RuTemple
San Jose, CA
(Zone 9b)

March 31, 2006
11:01 PM

Post #2153774

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.

NatureWalker
New York & Terrell, TX
(Zone 8b)

April 1, 2006
8:16 AM

Post #2154658

Need or Have Hay? Check here:

USDA Farm Service Agency Hay Net website: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/haynet/

~* Robin

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Farm Service Agency
Public Affairs Staff
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
STOP 0506
Washington, DC 20250-0506
Telephone: (202) 720-7807
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 1, 2006
1:48 PM

Post #2154956

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.
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

April 1, 2006
1:56 PM

Post #2154982

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.
jcangemi
Clovis, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 1, 2006
3:33 PM

Post #2155246

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

darius

darius
So.App.Mtns.
United States
(Zone 5b)

April 1, 2006
3:38 PM

Post #2155265

Well, it's one of the most interesting and intriguing threads about gardening on this site in a long time, LOL.
tombaak
High Desert, NV
(Zone 5a)

April 1, 2006
5:14 PM

Post #2155445

Kent, you seem to have started something huge. Maybe someday we will even have a straw bale gardening forum...

I can't wait to see all the pictures this summer!
Dea
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6a)

April 1, 2006
6:55 PM

Post #2155632

Our bales are purchased but we won't start them for a bit.

Yes Kent, this is the best gardening threads I've read for awhile and am amazed at what we're learning. Thanks again and it will be fun to see everyone's bale gardens this summer.

Dea
4paws
Citra, FL
(Zone 9a)

April 1, 2006
8:59 PM

Post #2155831

This is very interesting - it could be a way to keep dogs off plants without fencing! Thanks for sharing.
Laura
Melissa_Ohio
Southwestern, OH
(Zone 6b)

April 1, 2006
10:15 PM

Post #2156014

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. :-)

KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 1, 2006
11:15 PM

Post #2156145

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.
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

April 2, 2006
12:53 AM

Post #2156433

Send some photos to the rep.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 2, 2006
1:08 AM

Post #2156482

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.
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

April 2, 2006
1:14 AM

Post #2156505

"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!)

Shoe.
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

April 2, 2006
12:05 PM

Post #2157215

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 2, 2006
1:01 PM

Post #2157282

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.

Hope this helps.

This message was edited Apr 2, 2006 8:05 AM
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

April 2, 2006
1:41 PM

Post #2157367

Yes, this helps, and I will also re-read the first posts to refesh my memory. Thanks.
dmj1218
west Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

April 2, 2006
2:15 PM

Post #2157422

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.
Debbie
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 2, 2006
2:59 PM

Post #2157488

Whats the reason for needing the bale to be bound tightly ? To keep it from completely disintegrating by the end of the season?
bluekat76
Ijamsville, MD
(Zone 6b)

April 2, 2006
8:15 PM

Post #2158171

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!

Enablers, all of you.
-Kim
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

April 2, 2006
8:18 PM

Post #2158178

bluekat76 you are only on #486? What's keeping you? How come you are so slow? LOL
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 2, 2006
9:17 PM

Post #2158297

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.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 2, 2006
11:56 PM

Post #2158693

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?

Lilypon

Lilypon
Moose Jaw, SK
(Zone 3b)

April 3, 2006
1:28 AM

Post #2158918

Strawbaleman I'm already asking my husband to keep an eye open for a farm that still makes the square bales. Wheat bales aren't hard to find here but the square ones are getting pretty rare.

This opens up so many exciting possibilities. Thank you! :)
PERRYLAWRENCE
SARANAC, NY
(Zone 4a)

April 3, 2006
1:35 AM

Post #2158933

Kent:
Are you going to keep on planting your "traditional" garden or give it up?
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 3, 2006
7:53 PM

Post #2160637

Lilypon: Looking forward to hearing about your progress. Now, you got me wondering...

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.

Anyone want to try a little experiment?

Perry: Good afternoon, fella; I have no plans this year for a traditional garden; I never did repair my tiller, so it's bale garden or bust this year!

Of course, ever since Big Red posted his photo with his tractor in the background, I keep stumbling on the Kubota/Kioti/New Holland/Massey Ferguson websites. I don't understand how this is happening.
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

April 3, 2006
8:18 PM

Post #2160685

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.

This message was edited Apr 3, 2006 4:19 PM
Wargamer777
Simpsonville, SC
(Zone 7b)

April 3, 2006
8:22 PM

Post #2160689

Kent,

You got another 'guinea pig' ready to try this!

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 3, 2006
8:54 PM

Post #2160769

Rose: Well, I'll be; the Lord hand delivered your bale and He's been preparing it for you all this time and you didn't even know it!! He does indeed work in mysterious ways.

Wargamer: sounds like a plan to me.
Wargamer777
Simpsonville, SC
(Zone 7b)

April 3, 2006
9:11 PM

Post #2160831

Kent,

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!

KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 3, 2006
10:03 PM

Post #2160946

Wargamer: that fella you spoke to probably trained the same guy I mentioned earlier who told a customer that bale gardening is impossible!!! A LITTLE knowledge is dangerous for some folks.

Pardon this vent: (Deleted so I can stay focused on Gardening.)


This message was edited Apr 3, 2006 6:17 PM

This message was edited Apr 3, 2006 8:38 PM
dmj1218
west Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

April 3, 2006
11:32 PM

Post #2161152

Let it stay--we all need to vent! I vented about fireants on the Tx and tomato forum--he they are the spawns of the devil in my opinion.
Debbie
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

April 4, 2006
5:55 AM

Post #2162042

Love the round bale idea. That just sounds like so much fun. Gotta think about that.
Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

April 4, 2006
5:58 AM

Post #2162044

Kent,

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
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 4, 2006
12:09 PM

Post #2162281

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.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 4, 2006
12:28 PM

Post #2162319

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.

Lilypon

Lilypon
Moose Jaw, SK
(Zone 3b)

April 4, 2006
3:07 PM

Post #2162692

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 4, 2006
5:45 PM

Post #2163176

Lilypon: I need to ask my neighbor, who bales these "monster" bales, how much 1 costs. Now I'm envisioning some regular bales on TOP of the monster bale, kind of like a pyramid/cascading effect.

Yeah, that's it, a living cucumber waterfall.

I must have too much time on my hand! LOL

Lilypon

Lilypon
Moose Jaw, SK
(Zone 3b)

April 4, 2006
6:07 PM

Post #2163243

LOLOL and spare cash! ;)

Lilypon

Lilypon
Moose Jaw, SK
(Zone 3b)

April 4, 2006
6:22 PM

Post #2163287

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.
Melissa_Ohio
Southwestern, OH
(Zone 6b)

April 4, 2006
7:27 PM

Post #2163470

The round hay bales we feed our cows are 20.00 each and weigh about 1800 pounds. Straw should be priced a lot less.
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

April 4, 2006
10:25 PM

Post #2163851

Wheat straw bales are $4.00 each here. No quantity discounts. With tax, $29.59 for 7 bales.
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

April 4, 2006
10:38 PM

Post #2163883

Ouch, roseone. At Lowe's here they were more like $2.75.

But I traded someone fresh butter and eggs for some bales instead of buying them. :)
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 4, 2006
10:45 PM

Post #2163911

Got my 60 bales delivered this morning b4 I had to go on shift; 50 for me and 10 for my bride to play around some with her flowers; $3/bale; $2.50 if you get 100 or more

Now I've got to watch for the plants to come in at my local nursery.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 4, 2006
11:13 PM

Post #2163967

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 4, 2006
11:29 PM

Post #2163995

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.

Lilypon

Lilypon
Moose Jaw, SK
(Zone 3b)

April 5, 2006
12:46 AM

Post #2164133

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.
iamakylady53
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6a)

April 5, 2006
2:55 AM

Post #2164572

around here, the bales go for $4.65 to $6.oo each
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

April 5, 2006
5:00 AM

Post #2164873

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.
Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

April 5, 2006
5:23 AM

Post #2164898

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.
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

April 5, 2006
5:45 AM

Post #2164917

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.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 5, 2006
10:15 AM

Post #2165068

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.
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

April 5, 2006
11:22 AM

Post #2165140

What tomatoes are you growing, alyrics?

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. :)
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 5, 2006
12:18 PM

Post #2165222

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.
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

April 5, 2006
12:22 PM

Post #2165226

Well, you dmail me if you want any seeds b/c I've got over 30 cultivars this year.

Curcubit curcubit curcubit curcubit
Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

April 5, 2006
12:43 PM

Post #2165259

...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.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 5, 2006
12:59 PM

Post #2165292

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 5, 2006
1:20 PM

Post #2165338

Good morning all!

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.



This message was edited Apr 6, 2006 2:00 PM
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 5, 2006
1:28 PM

Post #2165352

Live long and curcube
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 5, 2006
2:09 PM

Post #2165465

Or, I can even hear Kojak saying, "Who curcubes you, Baby!"
Wargamer777
Simpsonville, SC
(Zone 7b)

April 5, 2006
6:17 PM

Post #2166143

I picked up some Sta-Green 29-2-5 2 month release lawn fertilizer. I'm wondering if this is going to be a problem?

It doesn't seem to be watering in too well. Should I try something else, or will the sun melt this stuff up a little after a while?

Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

April 5, 2006
6:38 PM

Post #2166205

Mine's taking a while to get soaked too, and I'm using a soaker hose.
RuTemple
San Jose, CA
(Zone 9b)

April 7, 2006
11:13 PM

Post #2172316

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.

Thumbnail by RuTemple
Click the image for an enlarged view.

dmj1218
west Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

April 8, 2006
1:50 AM

Post #2172726

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?
Debbie
bluekat76
Ijamsville, MD
(Zone 6b)

April 8, 2006
2:27 PM

Post #2173670

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

-Kim
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

April 8, 2006
5:52 PM

Post #2174113

Kim, I thought maybe you should send those bale police to me too. I paid $5 for them. They are big though, so maybe they could just get a warning ticket? LOL

Jeanette
Wargamer777
Simpsonville, SC
(Zone 7b)

April 8, 2006
6:34 PM

Post #2174216

Ok, I don't think the Sta-Green 29-2-5 lawn fertilizer is breaking down fast enough. I'm on Day 7, and not much heat on the bales. My bales were already 2-3 months old according to the seller.

I did pick up some ammonium SULFATE, 21-0-0 and tried it out. It dissolved FAST when water was applied so I'm going to finish with it instead of the lawn fertilizer. I got the sulfate from Lowes.

Dea
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6a)

April 8, 2006
7:22 PM

Post #2174311

Here's our 30 bales. $2.50 each for us to pick-up. We're doing a garden for my in-laws at their retirement community and feel this will be a real hit with the octogenarian gardeners out there :)

Can't wait !!!

Dea

Thumbnail by Dea
Click the image for an enlarged view.

alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 8, 2006
7:33 PM

Post #2174339

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 8, 2006
9:04 PM

Post #2174465

alyrics: I just came in from adding another 5' section to my arch trellis and busted out laughing when I read your post!!

Follow up headlines:

Sleeper Cells of Bale Gardeners Across USA Surprises Homeland Security - Al Gore claims heat from bales adding to Global Warming

Bob Woodward to ink new book - cited confidential source named "Deep Straw" who will expose Bale Gardeners as "just a bunch of folks who love gardening".
SalemSunshine
Salem, OR
(Zone 8a)

April 8, 2006
9:26 PM

Post #2174502

So everyone who googled ammonium nitrate, is more than likely on some list now. Great.
Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

April 8, 2006
11:29 PM

Post #2174742

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.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 9, 2006
1:42 AM

Post #2175119

I've just adopted a 'baleful' look on my face.

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.

KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 9, 2006
2:38 AM

Post #2175246

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.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this?
Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


April 10, 2006
1:37 AM

Post #2177538

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...

Thumbnail by Big_Red
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

April 10, 2006
2:58 AM

Post #2177767

Lookin' good, Big Red! And it sounds like the blood meal is doing the trick as far as heating/decomposing the straw.

I'm a bit behind ya'll but hope to catch up soon. Looking forward to this technique!~

Shoe.
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

April 10, 2006
11:12 AM

Post #2178176

I'm not convinced my bales are heating properly yet, despite the soaker hose and fertilizer. I plant to rake up the chicken yard (ewww) and put that on top of the bales, then water it in.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 10, 2006
11:56 AM

Post #2178238

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?

Thinking of more headlines Kent
A
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

April 10, 2006
11:57 AM

Post #2178241

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.
Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


April 10, 2006
1:05 PM

Post #2178363

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.

Thumbnail by Big_Red
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

April 10, 2006
1:11 PM

Post #2178374

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...
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 10, 2006
1:12 PM

Post #2178376

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.
Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


April 10, 2006
1:30 PM

Post #2178421

alyrics, I'm six feet tall so if they grow near as well as normal I'll need a step-ladder also. Here's another pic of my Amish Paste tomatoes from my 2003 garden.

Also, here's a link to the varieties I'm growing this year.

http://davesgarden.com/journal/ed/index.php?tabid=2685

Thumbnail by Big_Red
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


April 10, 2006
1:39 PM

Post #2178451

roseone, didn't mean to ignore you, I really don't know what temperature they should reach. They do get really warm to the touch if you force your fingers down into the straw.

I don't use a soaker hose , I water mine by hand. They get 2-1/2 gallons of water per bale per day. When we get heavy rains I don't water. Seems to work out good for me.
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 10, 2006
1:47 PM

Post #2178469

Thanks Big Red - what a great photo! I am trying out 10 varieties of tomato this year and going to keep track of what works up here.
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

April 10, 2006
6:25 PM

Post #2179091

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.
haleysaunt
Osawatomie, KS
(Zone 5b)

April 10, 2006
10:59 PM

Post #2179546

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 11, 2006
12:05 AM

Post #2179706

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 http://www.oldmule.com

This message was edited Apr 10, 2006 8:41 PM
dmj1218
west Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

April 11, 2006
12:08 AM

Post #2179718

OK BigRed--I KNOW I'm living in the wrong climate now, mine never get that big...unless maybe spring and fall crops can be added together and count!
Debbie
alyrics
Beachwood, OH

April 11, 2006
1:48 AM

Post #2179994

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.

Today's headline:
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"
hmstyl
Cleveland, GA
(Zone 7a)

April 11, 2006
1:52 AM

Post #2180004

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?

Thumbnail by hmstyl
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Melindahairbows
Aiken, SC

April 11, 2006
3:28 AM

Post #2180574

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"!!
RuTemple
San Jose, CA
(Zone 9b)

April 11, 2006
4:28 AM

Post #2180691

Put Yourself on a MAP!

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.

c'mon over and see:
http://www.frappr.com/strawbalegardeners


RuTemple
San Jose, CA
(Zone 9b)

April 11, 2006
4:39 AM

Post #2180707

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:

http://aes.missouri.edu/fsrc/news/fsrc2.stm

"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.
iamakylady53
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6a)

April 11, 2006
11:00 AM

Post #2180909

Ok, I tried adding Louisville to the Map. Can't do it.
I clicked on Join now still no luck. So if someone can add Louisville, Ky. go right ahead
phuggins
Fairmont, WV
(Zone 6a)

April 11, 2006
12:00 PM

Post #2180997

Iam, try clicking on the "add myself" block on the right hand side of the map. It pulls up a window where you enter your name and address.

pam
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

April 11, 2006
12:20 PM

Post #2181027

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.
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

April 11, 2006
12:23 PM

Post #2181033

Hmstyl, your bales are probably half decomposed already if they got a good soaking way back in the fall.
Zeppy
Shenandoah Valley, VA
(Zone 6b)

April 11, 2006
12:25 PM

Post #2181039

We need to start a new thread on this before this one starts getting really long to load.
roseone33
Southern Mountains, GA
(Zone 6b)

April 11, 2006
1:25 PM

Post #2181146

I agree.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

April 11, 2006
2:02 PM

Post #2181249

OK, with everyone's approval, I started a new thread.

Have a blessed day!

KR

darius

darius
So.App.Mtns.
United States
(Zone 5b)

April 11, 2006
2:05 PM

Post #2181255

new thread is here
http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/590925/
nivlac
San Antonio, TX
(Zone 8b)

May 1, 2006
10:08 PM

Post #2239736

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????????


thanks to all for the uplifting ideas.
Big_Red
Bethelridge, KY
(Zone 6a)


May 2, 2006
12:15 AM

Post #2240145

nivac,

Welcome to Dave's, you'll be sure to meet lots of new friends here!

Click on the link just above your post and you'll see that this posting has expanded to Part II. I'm trying this method for the first time this year, lookin' good so far!
NaturzDiva
Natalia, TX
(Zone 8b)

May 2, 2006
8:22 PM

Post #2242526

This method sounds awesome! Before this week is over I will have bought my bales and will be giving them the 10 day treatment! I'm so hyped I think I'll go to the feed store right now! Bye!
pepsidrinker
La Salle, MI
(Zone 5b)

December 8, 2006
2:57 PM

Post #2981504

I wonder if you could use this method to winter sow?

Connie
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

December 8, 2006
9:01 PM

Post #2982726

Connie,

I don't have any experience with "winter sow", but it sounds like a good experiment to try.

Here's the link to Part 5, which is where we've left off. You'll see the links to Parts 1 - 4, also.

Most of us are through bale gardening for the year. Waiting for Spring.

http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/631772/

Kent
justfurkids
Toone, TN
(Zone 7a)

December 29, 2006
1:30 PM

Post #3033102

Thought I'd bump this thread up for all of us that are now starting new beds for spring veggies later.
carol
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

December 29, 2006
3:41 PM

Post #3033478

That's a good idea Carol, but Kent, what about starting a new part when this gets going for us dial-ups. It takes forever. Have a happy and prosperous new year everybody!!

Jeanette
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

December 30, 2006
12:55 AM

Post #3034934

We're at Part 6.

Join our bale garden discussion by clicking on this link: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/680745/
mininissandog
Tallahassee, FL
(Zone 8b)

January 18, 2007
7:17 PM

Post #3097384

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?
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

January 18, 2007
10:14 PM

Post #3097878

Tallahassee, FL,

I would answer your question, but I don't know the answer. Below is what Kent wrote above your question. If you go to this link you probably will get an answer. : 0 ) Glad to have you aboard. Jeanette

We're at Part 6.

Join our bale garden discussion by clicking on this link: [HYPERLINK@davesgarden.com]
lonejack
Longview, WA
(Zone 8b)

May 4, 2007
6:59 AM

Post #3461498

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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

May 4, 2007
10:15 AM

Post #3461949

lonejack: We're in Part 11: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/718768/

Come join us there.

I copied your post and put it in Part 11.

Kent
jasmerr
Merrimac, WI
(Zone 4b)

May 4, 2007
10:28 AM

Post #3461979

Edited to move post to correct thread.

This message was edited May 4, 2007 8:48 AM
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

May 4, 2007
10:43 AM

Post #3462022

This is the end of PART 1.

The discussion is now in PART 11: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/718768/

Kent
rustyswoman
Eagle, ID

May 5, 2007
10:36 AM

Post #3465254

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?
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

May 5, 2007
12:50 PM

Post #3465599

rustyswoman: I don't have any weed seeds in my wheat or oat straw that I've noticed. Not sure about hay and grass bales.

But whatever seeds are in a bale can possibly sprout later. But no one has ever mentioned any problems about weeds when bale gardening.

So I'd say, no, to your question. No problems with weeds from bales.

Kent
rustyswoman
Eagle, ID

May 5, 2007
1:59 PM

Post #3465776

Thank you!
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 6, 2007
1:22 AM

Post #3467490

I second that. Jeanette

Besides, just lay some wet newspaper on them if they come up. LOL
enya_34
Madison, WI

August 1, 2007
3:07 PM

Post #3805053

Hello,
Just came across this thread. What a fun way to grow vegetables! I don't have
a vegetable garden, but will share this info with my mom. Learning more every day at DG.

Kent,
I am a flower gardener and am curious to know what your wife is thinking about using
those bales for her flowers. Does she do annuals, perennials or both?
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

August 1, 2007
11:56 PM

Post #3807217

enya: welcome aboard, we're in Part 15 but I'll be glad to answer you here.

Put any flower you like, but annuals will be the best bet since you really won't get but 1 or 2 seasons from the bales.

Click the link to join us at Part 15 which has a link to Parts 1 - 14, too.

http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/742072/


Kent

This message was edited Aug 1, 2007 7:57 PM
Gourdbeader
Toledo, OR
(Zone 8a)

March 8, 2008
4:51 PM

Post #4638062

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
Jan
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 8, 2008
5:09 PM

Post #4638161

Jan: any type of bale should work, EXCEPT pine straw. What ever is convenient in your area. Wheat and oat straw are common in my area. Others use grass/hay bales and like those, too.

Welcome aboard!

You've got a lot of reading to catch up on! :-)

Kent
Gourdbeader
Toledo, OR
(Zone 8a)

March 8, 2008
6:04 PM

Post #4638402

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.
Thanks
Jan
Hey, I just thought of something else. Has anyone ever tried growing gourds in the strawbales?

darius

darius
So.App.Mtns.
United States
(Zone 5b)

March 8, 2008
6:07 PM

Post #4638409

I grew large Kabocha pumpkins in bales last summer... gourds should be no different. Vines went out about 15 feet or more from the bales.
JeannineAnne
Coquitlam, BC

March 8, 2008
6:19 PM

Post #4638440

Does anyone know if this method would work if bales were put into a geenhouse please
Gourdbeader
Toledo, OR
(Zone 8a)

March 8, 2008
6:22 PM

Post #4638454

Hi darius,
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.
Thanks.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

March 8, 2008
11:18 PM

Post #4639461

To All: just a suggestion to continue in PART 19: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/801282/

- - - - - - - - -

JeannineAnne: no reason why bale gardening won't work in a greenhouse.

Kent
sevensisters
Soquel, CA
(Zone 9a)

June 11, 2008
7:41 PM

Post #5088699

Anyone tried this on strawberries? Seems a natural choice! I'm thinking of trying it...just need to work out a hoop and cover system to keep the moisture in and birds out.

Also: NO GOPHERS!!! (right?)

How long should I weather the bales if I'm not going to use chemicals? I think it would take a lot to damage a strawberry plant...
SuzanSkylark
Pipersville, PA
(Zone 6b)

June 17, 2008
3:55 PM

Post #5117083

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.

Namaste- Suzan
Devota
Johnson City, TN
(Zone 6b)

December 3, 2008
12:00 AM

Post #5852339

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?
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

December 3, 2008
2:19 AM

Post #5852789

Devota: don't sweat starting the bales so early. If you don't want to jump start them, just put them out 3-4 weeks b4 you plant, and keep them moist.

Don't drown them every day, just keep them moist.
Devota
Johnson City, TN
(Zone 6b)

December 3, 2008
2:22 AM

Post #5852803

Thanks Kent. Is it possible to grow strawberries in bales?
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

December 3, 2008
2:24 AM

Post #5852814

Devota: I haven't tried them yet, but it seems that some have, but I can't recall the exact thread.
Gourdbeader
Toledo, OR
(Zone 8a)

December 3, 2008
2:42 AM

Post #5852867

Devota,
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
Jan

Thumbnail by Gourdbeader
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Gourdbeader
Toledo, OR
(Zone 8a)

December 3, 2008
2:48 AM

Post #5852876

Here are my strawberries, this was early in the season. They grew much larger and more prolific.

Thumbnail by Gourdbeader
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Devota
Johnson City, TN
(Zone 6b)

December 3, 2008
4:29 AM

Post #5853242

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.
Gourdbeader
Toledo, OR
(Zone 8a)

December 3, 2008
3:40 PM

Post #5854344

I just cover them with more straw. Not sure if that is right but if not then I will just have to plant more next year.
lonejack
Longview, WA
(Zone 8b)

December 11, 2008
3:30 AM

Post #5880062

Hi all,
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.
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

December 11, 2008
3:47 AM

Post #5880097

lonejack: welcome back!
marti001
Somerset, KY
(Zone 6b)

October 16, 2009
2:49 PM

Post #7175355

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.
Marti001
KentNC
Wake Forest, NC

October 17, 2009
12:56 AM

Post #7177502

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.

Welcome.

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1008026/
LiliMerci
North of Atlanta, GA
(Zone 8a)

October 17, 2009
3:54 PM

Post #7179309

I'm going to try this next year on the tomatoes.
marti001
Somerset, KY
(Zone 6b)

October 17, 2009
6:02 PM

Post #7179606

Kent, Thanks for the suggestion. I'll do just that.
Marti
mollymistsmith
Valdosta, GA
(Zone 8b)

October 18, 2009
1:58 AM

Post #7180957

I think I am going to try strawbale gardening also.

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Other Strawbale Gardening Threads you might be interested in:

SubjectThread StarterRepliesLast Post
Strawbale Gardening (part 7) Jnette 126 Mar 20, 2007 9:51 AM
Straw Bale Gardening LauraK 49 Apr 2, 2008 12:02 AM
Straw Bale Gardening (Part 8) KentNC 114 Apr 2, 2007 5:32 PM
Straw Bale Gardening (Part 9) KentNC 124 Apr 21, 2007 12:39 AM
Straw Bale Gardening (Part 10) KentNC 104 May 2, 2007 9:27 AM


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