OK I'll bite. I'm opening this thread up for anyone who has or is trying this technique in a really dry climate. Here in Adelaide (Australia) technically we should be in our "wet" season from winter through spring ie from June to September/October. In August our officially recorded rainfall was 1mm (that's equal to 0.04 of an inch for all the non metric people) and our "normal" rainfall for the same month is 59mm (about 2.3 inches); so you can see why I have concerns about water usage! Kaelkitty.
Bale Gardening with minimum water use
Hello Kaelkitty. I am in a dry climate in Tucson, Arizona. Our annual rainfall is about 30.5cm a year. I started my first bales about a week ago and we are at the end of our rainy season so our air will be drying back out. I'm real curious to see how it works here. Its not unusual to have humidity in the 10% range and temps in the mid to hi 90 degree F range. Good luck with your bales.
Normally this is a nicely watered area, but this year we were faced with a well failure with high desiccating winds & 104 degree heat..so my straw bale garden failed in Late June...& we've had severe drought conditions for years on end around here. We use hurricanes to fill our water salvaging units & put lids ons to keep it clean & stop evaporation. I'm sure you're better prepared than we were.
Plans for 2008........
i am underlaying my bales with an impermeable membrane and halving(lengthwise) plastic sewer pipes to take runoff water back to a ground level container
of about 100 gallons..we may have to up that....equipped with (2) 30$ solar bilge pumps ....I am using a 40 watt pv panel ($277) to power them. I have water salvaging roofs on all my buildings & sheds......that will be used to fill the bale storage water tank.
timers & a drip system will distribute the water 3 times a day to keep bales moist.......the pumps will run for several hours a day during the straw "conditioning"
stage until they are fully soaked & heating up....I am going to use a drop down(kept rolled up at the top of the posts) light shade material for very hot conditions in the afternoons & light weight row covers for windy conditions & to protect against flea beetles & such while they are active.
......I am going to try feeding through the drip system with fish emulsion......I plant using a small amount of potting soil, mixed with water retaining gel crystals & have better luck with most of the plants by seeding the bales directly...charantais melons & beans are especially good for this.......i start my tomatos & eggplant & peppers early , set them out & top with gallon milk jugs to keep them warm......normal ground soil is toxic to me so I really LOVE my straw bales! In this area, we have a long season, so I get 3 plantings, early spring(peas, broccoli & spinach), summer(tomatoes, beans, peppers, eggplants & squash), & fall (cabbage, kale, onions & leeks).....at peak, I can feed three families for most of the year. I make narrow raised beds using scrap lumber from building sites...don't use treated.... in between each row of bales & mix the old straw with compost & dirt to raise sweet potatoes, carrots, & irish potatoes, the old straw makes a grand mulch for them.....as they grow just push more up around them......But I'm sure you know all this
The set up this year is figured at $500.00 which should be usable without any more cost except for bales for 3 to 4 years..(125$ to 180$ a year, but no water bills & no drain on the environment, so it's not that bad).....the pumps are said to last one season if kept on full time...since I am using them for short periods, I expect to get more life out of them....we'll see. Be sure to use filters for the drip system to keep them from getting plugged.
I am an old lady in ill health so both my lack of energy & lack of water should be addressed well by this method ( I hope, I hope, I hope!) Getting bales is going to be the hardest problem...they are baling all the burnt up corn & soybean fields to feed the cattle around here because hay is getting hard to find. Start looking early....getting to a farmer who'll save some for you is the key, I think. spoiled hay works if you can find it.
Hope some of this stuff is usable for you.....Good luck!!!
foggy: alot of folks are probably using bales for Fall decoration and Halloween. They may be willing to give or sell cheap their bales so they won't have to deal with them. You may score some bales here and there.
But I am definitely going to be scouring the area for my bales early. I waited too late last year and was stuck with some loosely baled oat straw that did OK but it wasn't my first choice.
"I am an old lady in ill health". Boy, I never would have figured you for that from the sounds of what you are doing. Keep up your good work!!
That is exactly what I plan to do, A few says after Halloween I plan on knocking on doors and asking May I have their straw and put itin my back yard and cover with a tarp.I was so glad you and others mentioned that Strawbaleman. Deanna
Deanna, be sure to cover them with a tarp. I don't think I like using the bales after they have been out in the weather over a winter. They really break down fast.