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Straw Bale Gardening (Part 8)

Wake Forest, NC

Past Discussions:

Part 1: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/584625/

Part 2: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/590925/

Part 3: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/598673/

Part 4: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/614124/

Part 5: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/631772/

Part 6: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/680745/

Part 7: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/694756/

We invite you to put your bale garden on our map at www.frappr.com/strawbalegardeners

Let's continue our discussion!

Kent

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Thanks Kent. Hey, I get to be the first one on this part. Good time to start a new one. Jeanette

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

Dumb newbie question here. I have 14 straw bales - 10 I purchased at HD 2 1/2 weeks ago, and 4 purchased at Lowe's a week ago. I started prepping the 10 bales right away and the others after I got them situated. I keep reading where the bales get hot and start cooking inside. I don't see this happening with mine. I do see that the older bales are getting a kind of slumped look down the middle and looking rather gray, also sprouting green stuff. If I push on the top, the straw will "give" much more than on the newer bales. When I water the older bales, the water no longer seems to run out the bottom as quickly as it did before nor as quickly as it does with the newer ones. Are they cooking/cooked and I just missed it or (more likely) don't know what I'm looking at?

Temps are in the high 70s here now, and our last frost date is about April 8. So, I am anxious to get started planting my bales, but I don't want to do it too soon. I took a temp on the bales today with a soil thermometer and got a temp of 78-80 degrees about four inches down.

Help!

Thanks, Karen

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

I'm in the PNW and I just called our local farm and garden place (not a lot of choices here) and they only sell barley bales. Should I drive a long distance to get the wheat? The barleys will be $7 a bale! I'm only going to do 3 tho. 1 with reg tomotoes, 1 with cherry tomatoes, and 1 with the little melon/cantalope things.

Thanks for the advice,
Gwen

Olympia, WA(Zone 7b)

The cheapest wheat straw bales I can find around Olympia are $5.50/bale, so considering your island location, the barley straw price might be fairly reasonable.

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

Will barley work just as well as wheat?

Gwen

Olympia, WA(Zone 7b)

I was only speaking from a cost standpoint.

I understand that barley straw is used to control algae in bodies of water, but I don't know if those same properties would also inhibit plant growth...

Wake Forest, NC

Karen: what type of straw and what are you treating your bales with? And how often do you water?

Gwen: interesting question about the barley. I googled "barley straw" and got alot of articles about their effectiveness against pond algae as mentioned above. One article says that barley straw has no detrimental effect on other aquatic plants, other than the algae.

My guess is it'll work for bale gardening. Try a bale and see.

Kent

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

I think I'll keep looking for wheat. I'm only going to do a few bales and don't want to have lack of success due to the bale!

Gwen

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

Hi Kent,

Thanks for the reply. They are wheat straw bales. I've been treating them with ammonium nitrate, and I water once a day thoroughly -- twice if I have the time. I've been trying to follow your 10-day instructions. They are looking "soft" down the middle, but, as I say, I expected to see or feel some heat and I haven't.

Do you think it is all right to go ahead and plant them anyway? Or should I keep treating them with water only for another week?

Karen

Wake Forest, NC

Karen: in the prep stage, only water when you're adding the ammonium nitrate. The extra watering brings the inside temp down. The higher the temp the more active the decomposition. Try letting the bales sit for a day or so without watering and see how they feel inside. If they start heating up, then just keep them damp until they cool back down. If they don't heat up, then plant when you're ready.

Kent

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

Kent
The bales I am getting have been out in the elements for a couple of months now. Do you think they have already cooked and I can plant right away when I bring them home?

I started some seeds last night in one of those little plastic mini green houses with the jiffy wafers in it. I planted 4 Aunt Gertie's Gold, 4 Burracker's Favorite, 4Dr. Wyche's Yellow, 4Galina's Yellow Cherry and 4 Yellow Brandywine. (Thanks a million, Earl !!!!!!) I also planted 4 California Wonder green bell peppers. Would love to harvest enough to stuff a few. Then I could stuff myself. LOL

Wake Forest, NC

Cajun: 10-4 on the stuffing! :-)

If your bales were not stacked on each other, I would think they'd be ready to go.

By the way, I left all of my bales out over the winter to see how they would do. Alot would have been usuable if I had kept the wheat sprouts cut back.

Instead I just let them sprout and didn't give them any hair cuts. In doing so, the roots from the sprouts took up too much room inside the bale with a root ball that makes it harder to work with the bales.

This was especially aggravating when I was preparing my potato row and using a pitch fork to break up the bales.

Kent

Starkville, MS(Zone 7b)

Everything is going into the bales down here in Mississippi. I'm having a great crop of mushrooms in the bales. Here's some with my tomatoes and basil.

Thumbnail by dbarbrady
Starkville, MS(Zone 7b)

I spotted the first little crookneck squash of the season.

Thumbnail by dbarbrady
Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Oh you guys!! I am so jealous!! We still have a little snow and here you are growing. They look wonderful. And those mushrooms look familiar. I never got any weeds or grain sprout in mine last year. Just the mushrooms.

Gwen & Rond, I got your seeds in the mail yesterday. Good growing!!

Jeanette

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

Thanks, Jeanette.

Another question for everyone - I found out I can get alfalfa bales or timothy bales or plain old straw bales or orchard grass (whatever that is). It occurred to me that with everyone using alfalfa 'tea' and pellets and whatnot for fertilizing, that maybe growing the tomatoes in alfalfa bales might kill two birds with one stone. What do you think?

Gwen

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

I think it might be worth a try. We all felt that you will probably get a lot of seeds, but I don't know how bad it would be. Alfalfa is good nitrogen. If you don't get to growing it trhoughout your garden. I THINK alfalfa has a long tap root doesn't it? Don't know what to tell you.

Jeanette

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

Alfalfa roots can go 10 feet deep

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Oh Boy!!! Thanks Darius. Guess you might want to re-think that idea Gwen. Now, what did you mean about the others? I kind of passed right over those when you started talking about alfalfa. What do you mean about plain old straw bales, Timothy, or Orchard Grass?

I think you would be better off going back to the "plain old straw bales". Does anyone else have something to tell Gwen?

Jeanette

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

See, this is why I ask!!! Lordy, 10 feet deep! That's all I need. Passing on the alfalfa, thank you very much.

I don't know what they meant by plain straw. I know timothy is a type of grass. And they also sell something by the bale they call orchard grass. (The timothy is a bale too.)

This is horsie country and they sell these for people who have horses.

I also have the name of someone in town (means a ferry ride across the sound), a place that sells bales,so I'm going to call them. I assume because they serve a larger area they will have more variety. Dang, who knew it would be so hard to get wheat bales?!?

Gwen

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Gwen, why are you specifically looking for wheat bales???? Why aren't you going with the plain strawbales? Last year I bought my first ones from a feed store and didn't ask what it was. I didn't get anything growing them but the mushrooms that I think everyone got. Then I got some from another feed store and didn't ask. I did get a few oats come up in them along with the mushrooms.

But, Gwen, I think you would probably get seeds with the Timothy and the orchard grass. So, if it were me I would go with the strawbales unless Kent says to definitly get the wheat. But, to drag bales of straw across on the ferry is really going beyond the call of duty. LOL

Jeanette

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

Gwen, I doubt you could get the alfalfa to grow significantly in your garden. I use alfalfa cubes, pellets, etc (and alfalfa hay when I had horses) and never had a pproblem. It takes a lot of work for an alfalfa farmer to get his crops to grow roots deep enough to come back every year. My alfalfa hay grower in NC was doing a pilot program for one of the state universities so my information on growing it came from him.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Well if that's the case, then maybe it would not hurt her to use it instead of the strawbale Darius. I think she was thinking that the nitrogen would be good for her plants. Correct me if I am wrong Gwen.

Yeah, I don't think she was actually planning on growing it.

Jeanette

Lawrenceville, GA(Zone 7b)

Hi All:

Because I planted a huge amount of seedlings and don't have enough space in my raised beds, I will also be planting in about 100 straw bales. I will be planting primarily eggplant, bell, sweet and hot peppers.

How many pepper plants should I put in a bale? How about eggplant?

Can I grow potatoes in a bale?

Thanks
BB

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

I had much better results with grass hay than I did with straw. I will be using grass bales this year. Fescue.

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

I would probably use alfalfa bales if I could get it for reasonable price, very spendy in this area as not a very good supply . The bales rarely have seeds of alfalfa because is baled before going to seed. I bought 2 bales of some kind of straw yesterday, at local feed/hardware store. they did not know what it was, very loose bales, so I wasn't really impressed, already had a larger wheat straw bale, probably weighs twice as much,. Anyway the three are lined up in a row on 10 layers of newsprint to keep the weeds down. Soaker hose ran 20 hours along center top. Will check today to see how they feel. Really too cold here to plant anything other than seeds in them. 29 degrees this morning. It is clear so should warm fast.

Donna

Marshfield, MO(Zone 6a)

Okay, I'm jumping on the bandwagon, ordered 20 straw bales that are being delivered Tuesday. They are $4.00 a bale here in the Ozarks. We needed some straw to put over our newly seeded lawn anyway, so it was a good excuse to order extra for the veggies.

I had resigned myself to no veggie garden this year as we just built this house and moved in November, and the soil is terrible and would have required construction of raised beds. Thank goodness I stumbled across these threads, my problem is solved!

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

Hi Kent,

Thanks for the advice. I now realize my last post wasn't as clear as it should have been. I watered only with the ammonium nitrate once a day until it was time to stop the nitrate, then watered twice a day if I could. The last four bales still need nitrate for another day or so, then I will water without it. However, the older bales are really squishy when I stand on them, which I was doing yesterday while helping my grandson put up the wire hoops between the bales. I only weigh about 100 pounds so they would take my weight, but not much more than that. While I never did see heat or steam like others talk about, I do think they are decomposing, so I will plant next week as temps are already 75-80 here. In case I am wrong and they are not decomposed enough, I am planning to add some potting mix in with each plant. Time to get going, I think.

Thanks again. I really appreciate it.

Karen

Wake Forest, NC

Man, I've been busy with double duty and out at the shooting range all day, today, for annual qualification. Just now breaking for lunch, so I thought I'd take a quick look. Alot to read!

Bronxboy: I did 3 peppers/bale and that worked out great. Be prepared to stake them. At least 2 eggplants/bale. 3/bale will be kind of tight. I've got a short row of potatoes going that I'm trying out this year. Still wating for them to come up. I'll check over the weekend and see what's happening. I want to see a pic of these 100 bales!

Gwen: I'm still convinced any organic bale will probably work. Cajun likes hay. I like straw, but it's what is grown in my area. With the straw you just don't have the nitrogen like you do in the hay and grasses. So you just have to think out what type of fertilizer to add to the bales.

MaryinLA: good to have you with us this year!

Donna & Darius: haven't said hello to you yet. The way things are going, we'll be in Part 88 by the end of summer!

alyrics: hadn't heard from you lately. Where are you? :-)

Kent

(Edited for spelling correction)

This message was edited Mar 23, 2007 12:31 PM

Wake Forest, NC

dbarbrady: missed you. Welcome aboard. I'm like Jeanette, seeing those plants really gets me going, but I've got about 1 mth to go.

Kent

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

It was 29 at the coldest just before daylight and clear so I thought a nice day. Changed immediately, clouded over and got quite windy, Warmest today was only 52 windy degrees.

Here is a picture of my 3 bales of I think wheat straw. Too cold yet to plant anything in them.

Donna

Thumbnail by rutholive
Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Oh Donna, everything in your yard looks so cold but I'll bet it is beautiful when everything is all leafed and blooming. I can just see it against those hills. Beautiful.

Your bales look good but you need to prep them before planting. Did you read the first part of the forum? It will probably take a couple of weeks in your cold weather. Ours looks as cold as yours only we still have snow here and there.

What did you end up paying for your bales and where did you get them?

Jeanette

Lawrenceville, GA(Zone 7b)

Thanks Kent:

Will take some pics and post!

BB

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

I am trying to prep the bales now. Got two large wheat straw bales at Tonasket Feed Store, $5.50 each, last fall, used one for winter mulch protection. Got the other two at Oroville, hardware/feed store, smaller and don't know what they are composed of, store people didn't know, they are smaller and lighter.

Donna

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

So what are you going to put in them Donna? Wish I had mine. Altho, I think I started prepping mine the last week of April last year. But that is because that is when I found Kent's forum/thread, whatever. I don't think they decompose as fast when it is so cold tho, so I still have plenty of time. I am going to put the visquine over my hoop house soon and that will start warming the ground anyway. My old bales look like they are headed for the compost pile.

Jeanette

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

Haven't fully decided what is going into them. It is strictly experiment with me this year. Trying to rain today after 2 months of dry windy weather.

Donna

Marshfield, MO(Zone 6a)

Has anybody planted onions in their bales? I haven't read through every thread, so this may have been discussed already.

San Jose, CA(Zone 9b)

Maryin LA: yes, BigRed planted some onions last year, and had a good giggle when some newspaper article about strawbale gardening included a caution against growing things like corn (which makes sense, I could imagine them blowing over) and root crops (which doesn't make sense as it works great) -- I also put in a few bunching onions and they're doing fine.


Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

I don't know about the corn blowing over. I planted corn, 3 to a 3 gallon bucket last year, and they did great. Got about 7 feet tall from the ground, and each plant had about 4 ears on it. It was Parks new Mirah or whatever. The ears are about 7 or 8 inches long. All filled out etc. However, I do confess. I pollinate them by running my hand thru the tassels and then rubbing it in the hair on each ear. Anyway, I would think that the bale of straw, especially if they are watered, would be heavier than a 3 gallon bucket of soil.

Jeanette

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