Straw Bale Gardening (Part 17) - General discussion

Wake Forest, NC

I love receiving letters like this one that came today:

Oct 25, 2007

Dear Kent,

I wanted to write and let you know how much I enjoyed your article on straw bale gardening. I had wanted to try my hand at straw bale gardening the year before but waited too late so this spring I got everything prepared early and only tried 3 straw bales this first time.

After reading of your success in the Carolina Country magazine spring of 2007, I decided to attempt my own garden. I am a widow. My husband was a farmer and an avid gardener. So, since his death, I have had a small garden every year with my daughterís help.

I went by all the directions you gave. I put 3 cucumber plants in 1 bale and 3 squash plants each in the other 2 bales. I have never had such a bumper crop of either vegetable before, but every day after the vegetables started yielding, I pulled squash and cucumbers, enough for me and my family and friends.

I didnít have to spray for insects during peak season, nor pull weeds. I did water every day. It was such an interesting project. I told my friends about it and some of them were amazed. Next spring, I plan on using more straw bales.

This is an excellent way for anyone to have fresh vegetables, as it only requires very little space and, of course, a sunny location.

Enclosed, please find pictures of my straw bales. The one picture was several weeks growth. I could almost see them grow from day to day. It was exciting!

Thank you for the article.

Linda M.

Union County, NC

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Hey hi Kent. Well I am now running my tomato vines through the shredder. This was about the third frost and this one they wouldn't pull through. So far I have run about 4 wheel barrow loads through. Sure does reduce the pile. I have at least that much more to do, but that is enough for one afternoon for an old guy. Well that is if you factor in pulling the steel posts and cages too. Next is the bale garden vines.
I will be pulling the posts and moving them to another location, since I had two rows too close together. One mistake I won't make again.
I think I had a rather descent crop from the bales anyway.
My comparison of dirt versus bales the tomatoes were about equal. I had mulched the tomatoes in ground heavily with grass clippings, so I didn't have a lot of weeds to pull. The peppers had sturdier stalks in the ground and did do a little better than in the bales, but I did have to get on my hands and knees to care for them as I did not get them all mulched plus the same for picking peppers from those in ground.
What I lacked from the bales could probably have been boosted with miracle-gro. I plan on having more bales next year, and try some cabbages in them too. The squash done very well I haven't seen them do any better in dirt. and definitely the no weed with the squash was a plus. I wasn't so lucky with a melon. But possibly I should have started those seeds inside and plant them deeper when they had some size to them.
I don't know on that, but it is probably worth a try. I will probably try putting plastic under the one row of bales as that area is bad about brome grass creeping into the garden. If That will stop the brome grass it will solve a twofold problem. Then on the other end of the garden that is where they had thrown junk, and covered it. I can have garden without digging up junk. Once I get the hang of the right fertilizer in the correct amount I think I'm going to like this kind of gardening. It is another way to have raised beds without the expense of constructing and materials. There is the cost of the bales though but factor in no weeding it is a good deal. Gives me some time to go fishing!!! lol
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~``Russ

Wake Forest, NC

Russ: the weatherman is calling for our first "possible" light frost.

Kent

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Good for you Kent on the letter from the widow lady. You helped her a lot.

That was a very good note on your comparisons Russ. You be sure to copy that and put it in your notes or wherever you keep your information from year to year. It helps for the next year to decide what to do then.

As far as the fertilizer goes, I think Kent leans very heavily towards the Miracle Grow. I tried Perry's mix and it worked pretty good for me but don't know what I will do next year.

It has been a fun year and met a lot of really cool people like Russ, Barb, Donna, and others. We have had frost almost every night now for a week. I still haven't gotten out to pull the dead vines out as I am having some work done in the house. Always something isn't it?

Time for bed, ttyl, Jeanette

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

I too must get out to the garden and try to get some cleaning up done. It has been pretty cold daytimes, but of course that is only after being used to summer. It is now at almost 7:30 27 degrees outside, and yesterday got up to 51 degrees, highovercast. this morning it is clear so should be a little warmer. All the tender things are frozen. Only have my few remaining bonsai plants to be moved inside, before really cold weather comes.

My youngest son who was visiting for a few days, did a lot of Honey Do things for me. He went back to Sumner, WA, on the west side of the Cascades, yesterday afternoon. So now I am about back to my normal routine. The slide out tray in my kitchen island, finally got both side rails broken, so am going to HD to hopefully find replacement rails.

Hope everybody is ab out ready for winter, regular????? time instead of DST.

Donna

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Whoops, thanks for reminding me Donna. I normally remember those things. Guess retirement is really sinking in when it doesn't matter what time of day it is. LOL, The first to go was what DAY it is. Doesn't matter. The only thing that reminds me is on the weekends the tourists show up.

We see them coming down the highway. In the summer it is the boats and other water toys, in the fall it is the rifles for hunting, and in the winter the snowmobiles. Also a good indicator of course is the RVs heading south in October and north in April and May.

Jeanette

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

The new DST, has sure messed things up. One of our computers has already changed back. While we were in town today, we noticed that most of the bank clocks have already changed too. If anybody really paid attention to those clocks, They might be late a few times this week.
Kind of makes you wonder how many bank vaults are controlled by the same computer program.
I think the German's are smarter than our law makers. They decided right after the war that DST didn't help a bit, and that productive work slumped whenever the change took place. Maybe they didn't have as many Golf players. That is the only thing I can think of that would benefit from DST.

Lets see now the fish are supposed to start biting better at 11:30. Hmmm is that DST or ST hahaaahaaaa

Hey We caught a pretty good thing today Lowes was trying to get rid of the rest of their plants. Shrubs and trees were 75% off.
Flowers and the like were 90% off. We were too far from one payday and not close enough to the next. But did pick up some that would spruce up the planters in front of the church, for a while longer. and three pots that we thought we could nurse along and plant out in the spring. What we got for $.90, some stores are still asking $14.95 I probably should have got a couple more mums. Oh well. That's probably enough to satisfy an itchy green thumb.

Hey guys I feel the same There are a lot of fine people on Dave's garden. I appriciate sharing with one another, the kind thoughts and yes the prayers. I thank all of you. Russ

Wake Forest, NC

Russ: there was a local farmer who refused to change to DST. He said his cows couldn't tell the difference and always came to the barn at the same time. So, he still had to get up with them.

Kent

Rocky Mount, VA(Zone 7a)

Ha! cannot fool those cows! I wounder how many of them golf? and their handicap is?

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Don't get upset with this one.
But their handicap , could be they have to carry theit own bag!!
Sorry Just couldn't pass that up, LOL

This message was edited Oct 31, 2007 8:52 AM

Wake Forest, NC

I don't know what their handicap was, but I'm sure the cows MILKED it as low as they could!

Kent

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Kind of remindes me of going out after the cows, - - -barefoot, There were a lot of HAZARDS.

Buffalo, WV(Zone 7a)

LOL!

Wake Forest, NC

Russ: my daddy said if I stepped in it, it would make me GROW!

Kent

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

Going after the cows reminds me of when I was way younger and it was our job, my sister and brother and I to go up on the hill where our 8 dairy milk cows pastured in the day time. The cows pastured right next to the Canadian border, at that time no fence or anything else we could see to tell us kids, ages 6, 8, and me 11 years, where the border was, We could see the buildings about 1/2 mile or so down the hill by the road. If the cows had wandered north so that we thought they were in Canada, we went back down the hill to tell Dad that they were in Canada and we couldn't get them. I'm sure Dad was very disgusted with us for not just walking over to them and bringing them back home

Donna

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Yup those are some memories.
One place we lived, our old Guernsey new when it was time to head into the yard. She could unhitch the wire loop that held the gate shut. Many a time we saw them comming when we were just getting ready to go get them.
Now that I am older, I don't think I would trade those memories for any of the younger ( now almost teens), that have all the game boys , and such.

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

My grandma used to tell her kids, when they were sent to fetch the milk cow, "and DON'T ride the cow! Of course, they did anyway.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Carry their own bag why that's utterly an understatement.

Wake Forest, NC

docgipe: :-)

russ: yep, lots of good memories that my daughter doesn't have a clue about.

darius: I, too, used to ride the milk cow! She loved to drink Pepsi Cola out of the bottle! She'd take the bottle in her mouth and turn it up just like a pro!

I also used to ride Daddy's mule back to the barn after plowing. It's hard to get a mule to gallop!!! Mostly they just trot and it just about kills you! :-)

Kent

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

Has anybody had any success/failure with beans in bales??? Yesterday I sowed a small row of Climbing Blue Lake beans onto a bale underneath a trellis.. See what happens.
I also sowed my cucumbers and pumpkins directly onto some bales, also added some nasturtiums. Will begin to plant my precious little tomato, chilli and basil seedlings into the remaining bales in a week or two when my exams are over.
The wheat grass is looking lush, have given up pulling it out for now. Still watering every day, adding blood and bone every few days. Can feel the heat inside the bales getting less. Cant wait to plant in them!
Lena

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

I haven't planted beans, in bales. although I see no reason it wouldn't work.
A little different though, I did plant three Castor beans in a bale. they did grow. but not to the size of the ones in dirt. but then after the tomatoes started coming on I didn't fertilize any further.
I use the castor beans for rodent control. It seemed to work as not nearly as many sweet potatoes had been gnawed on. I put some of the seeds in mole tunnels and they either move on or stop their tunneling any way.

You will have to let us know how they do. I am sure someone has had success with beans though.
Just watch and someone will come up with their experience.
We haven't had any of that four letter word that starts with S, yet. But it is sure starting to feel like it is in the air. The leaves are pretty much off the trees now. I have been collecting them for my compost.

South/Central, FL(Zone 9a)

I grew Kentucky Wonder pole beans in my bales, in the spring. They did fine growing along a chain-link fence. I put alittle soil on top of the bales to get them started.

I noticed yesterday that I have a some coming back up in the old bales, where a few seeds had dropped. : )

~Lucy

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

The darnedest thing Lena, I planted beans 3 times in a bale and only one bean grew to have any beans on it. Don't know why. Also, in a bale next to it, I planted dill seed twice and none of it even germinated. My sister can't seem to get rid of the dill in her yard. Not too sure what the problem was with either the seeds or the bales.

Russ,

Great minds think together is that what they say? I got some mole stuff from Gardens Alive and it was 10% Caster bean oil and and 90% inert ingredients. Then someone on one of the forums told me to plant Castor Beans. I used the stuff from Gardens Alive, and immediately the little buggers packed their suit cases. But, they moved to the other side of the house, which was ok, because that is where my dog does her hunting of them. But, boy that side looked like a mine field.

It was too late in the year when I got my castor bean seeds going so I didn't try that. But will next year.

Jeanette

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Jeanette; How many seeds do you want, 1/4lb? 1/2lb?? LOL
Some of mine are over twelve ft. and about 2-1/2" diameter stalks.
I plan on feeding the moles over in the Church yard on the south side of the fellowship hall. They keep the whole south end humped up with their tunnels. I really don't mind them being there. Just don't want them to keep multiplying, and then come back and hit me full force!!!

Today ol man winter tried to make a liar out of me. After I said no
S _ _ _ yet. Something was trying to spit a little. I'm not ready for it yet.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

LOL, I'll let you know in the spring Russ. I can't believe them getting that big. Do you have to stake them or just let them ramble so the moles know where not to go?

It actually works then!! I know they didn't like that stuff I got from GA.

We haven't seen any of that S ----- stuff yet either. Our night time temps are in the low 20s so it could come any time. But the ground isn't cold enough yet for it to last even if it does come. I don't think.

Tell Barb and Connie hi for me and hope you got all your wood in.

Jeanette

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

O Gee This year I am wishing we did have wood heat. 1/2 fill of propane ( PROPAIN the way I feel ) cost $335.99.
I didn't want the tank topped off just yet, as with being on fixed income, I can't pay the bill within the 10 day time frame to save a nickle a gallon. This year that adds up to $33.60 that we will not save..
Previous years I would contract for 600 gallons. and pay in advance. That way, my cost per gal. would not fluctuate.
I guess, raising the price per barrel of crude oil is the Arab's way of making us pay to fund their war effort, against us.

The castor beans that were in the bales did fall over after the bales got really soft. Those in the ground were very sturdy. The resident cat climbed one of them, to get at a bird. I tried to bend one of them to get at the dry seeds.
(Hi, sometimes I wake up in the morning & Russ is here at the computer typing way before it is light outside. He really enjoys visiting with friends in other time zones.) We saw Connie last eve at one of our great grandson's 2nd birthday party, one of Connie's grandson's , she seem to be doing good. Party was at a bowling alley & she bowled a couple strikes, we didn't bowl. Last time I bowled was when Connie was a baby. This time I got a word, or two, in . Barb

Adelaide, Australia(Zone 10a)

Hi All,
I've finally caught up with reading all the threads - WHAT an adventure! I may have to skip the summer season and go for an autumn crop as I can't get the bales sorted out in time and it is now only four weeks to the official start of summer here. My vegie gardening at present consists of Silverbeet, leeks and onions lurking in the herbaceous border and a single pot each of shallots and potatoes. Very small beer (as we say in Aus) compared to some of you guys. On the other hand, my Mother has been sprouting some Pumpkin seeds for me so who knows I may do it yet. I'd certainly like too but my gardening time seems to be currently taken up with my flowering bulbs, all of which are now coming to an end and having to be dug up and stored before it gets too hot and they get cooked.

I read somewhere where I think it was Russ who said he didn't think much of spinach, or was it silverbeet? Mum and I have just tried out a thing which improves the flavour drastically. When you cook your leaves, put a few pinches of nutmeg in the water - it seems to remove that odd bitterness and metallic taste that these greens sometimes have. We also put the youngest leaves into salads and we use it a lot in quiche type egg pies without crusts, as they are easy to reheat at work in the microwave for lunches.

I am enclosing a picture of part of my herbaceous border. You can see the silverbeet plants and the tops of a couple of half grown leeks coming up at the right side of the Pride of Madeira plant. When I moved into this house (almost exactly one year ago) this whole border was basically bare soil with weeds. What a difference a year makes!

Bye for Now, Kaelkitty.

Thumbnail by Kaelkitty
Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Sorry to hear about the propane problem Russ. Problem is winter really isn't even here yet. It is going to get worse before it gets better.

In our area the power company has a yearly budget that they average out your monthly usage that you can sign up for so that each month, summer and winter the payment is the same. Has your propane company done anything like that?

We do have wood heat but don't use it completely. We also have the wood Bob has to cut, split, and stack to dry. We normally use it when the weather is the coldest and sometimes when it is damp to get the chill off the house and then the electric can take over without that darned meter running like crazy. Bob tries to keep a year or 2 cut ahead so it gets plenty dry.

Good to hear from you Barb. Sounds like a fun party. I haven't bowled since Connie was a baby either.

Is that why Russ gets up early to grab the computer first? LOL We all enjoy hearing from both of you.

Jeanette

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

Lena, I planted bush beans in one of my alfalfa bales. They grew and produced nicely. My purpose was to grow them in the bale so I wouldn't have to bend over to pick them.I was very lax in fertilizing them but even then they produced quite nicely. Will probably plant a bale to bush beans again next season.

Donna

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

Donna: Glad to hear your beans did well for you. Bending over to pick beans shouldnt be a problem for me either, Ill be climbing a ladder. My beans grew way to tall last year, started flopping over the top of their trellis, then add the height of a bale... The top of my trellis is just over 3 metres tall! Will let you know how they grow. Still waiting for them to germinate at the moment.
Lena

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

`Donna; I think that is just what Lena was looking for. I would have thought they would as they also put some nitrogen back into the soil.

Jeanette; I got more of the tomato vines ground up. I even run some of the top of the bales through. The bottom part is very wet and mushy, just like mud, except you can see that it was straw. Those ol mater vines had really thick roots and they did go all the way through and into the ground.
Happy gardening Lena!

Kaelkitty. Yup it was me on the cooked spinach. I do like it in salads.
I have some Chard left yet I will try that trick with some of that. Thanks for the tip.

Russ

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Jeanette; Just thought you would like to see just one of the castor bean plants.
This is the base of it.

Thumbnail by randbponder
Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Ok here is another a little further back. Same plant.

Thumbnail by randbponder
Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

And this is the tangled mess from one of the S/P hills.

Thumbnail by randbponder
Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

Russ: What a fascinating picture!!! The s/p, you could enter that in next years photo competition. The intertwined roots look (to me) like a family (or close group of friends) in a tight loving embrace, sticking together, happily occupying the same space, supporting and protecting each other, while getting in each others way just a little in the process. Kind of like a real family.

South/Central, FL(Zone 9a)

It is a good picture. : )
Funny how each of us looks at it a different way. I thought it looked like a motorcyclist head, that didn't wear his helmet. See the lil sprig of hair? lol : )
~Lucy

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Pretty good imaginations you people all have!! LOL

That is some Castor Bean plant Russ!! My goodness and in zone 4!! Now that was in soil right? How did it compare to the ones in the bales? That's amazing. You must have fertilized it a lot.

I will have to try it next year. Did you get a lot of beans off of them? You know they make great trading on the trading forum. They are quite expensive when you buy them. What color are the flowers? Bet they are pretty.

Jeanette

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

Jeanette, you have grown Castor Beans haven't you. Actually I never paid much attention to the flowers just the pretty red seed pod clusters. i have used them to make flower arrangements, they are very eyecatching. Also the leaves, the smaller ones near the tips of branches. I have also used scissors to cut away the green part of medium sized leaves just leaving the heavy veins. As they dry the veins curl and are attractive.

Donna

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

No, as a matter of fact I have never grown them. I did get a few on a trade last year but didn't get them planted. Why do you grow them Donna? Just for floral arrangements? Or do you use them for mole control also?

And Lena and Blue, nope, looks just like my dahlia tubers when I plant them in pots. No room for them to spread out and get big.

Russ, I think you need to straighten them out when you plant them.

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

I grow Castor Beans because I think they creat a striking effect in the garden. They grow so large, as Russ demonstrated. i save my own seeds to plant each year. there are several varieties.

Donna

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