Straw Bale Gardening - 2008 - General Discussion - PART 20

Wake Forest, NC

Jeanette: here ya go!

Kent

Wake Forest, NC

Ron: as for the "no soil" comment, I was talking about not using soil from your yard to chink the cracks, but to use a commercial potting mix instead.

The soil in your yard can contain all sorts of diseases and bacteria, etc., whereas the bales don't have that problem. No point in contaminating your bales if you can avoid it.

As for the peppers, as Russ said, I'm a Miracle Gro man. It's convenient and easy since I don't take the time to make up compost teas, etc, which is fine if you have the time and resources and the inclination to go the organic route.

That was a great pic of the bell peppers, which coincidently, are the peppers I am having a harder time with. I get a ton of jalapenos, habaneros, and cayenned peppers, but my bells just haven't been up to snuff for some reason. I'll do a little more study but the bone meal additive sounds good. I have plenty of that.

Kent

This message was edited Mar 13, 2008 7:22 PM

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Thanks Kent. You know what a mess I made of it the last time I started a new one. It wasn't that I didn't want to.

Jeanette

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

Hello,

I have noticed that the roots of some of my tomato plants are beginning to be exposed as the bale disintegrates. And I have also notices that the bales that recieved more soil are holding together better, and that the string-up (vertical straw) bales are also holding their shape better. Plants are doing equally well in most bales.
This pic should highlight the importance of planting deep into the bale. Although I planted these plants (brandywine) as deeply as I could, and with a big handfull of potting mix, they were still quite small. I might throw another handfull of potting soil ontop of the bale to cover these roots. The plants are nice and healthy though. I posted some new pics in the other thread. Also of my own bell peppers in bales, and my miserable beans.
Anyway, that was my 2c worth on the soil topic.

Happy bale cooking to you :-) Lena

Thumbnail by LenaBeanNZ
Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

I think since I have plenty of room in garden area that I will stick with planting most of my tomatoes at least in the ground rather than bales. I need to garden in bales for plants like beans and strawberries so I don't have to bend to harvest. Bending of getting down on my knees is difficult, well getting down isn't too bad it is the getting back up. LOL

Donna

Wake Forest, NC

Lena: root exposure is one reason to make sure you stake/secure well any plant you have that has a stem: tomatoes, peppers, okra, etc.

Otherwise the weight of the plant, especially the swaying in the wind, will pull the bales apart as they decompose over time.

Of course, if this does happen, then cover the exposed roots with some potting soil or mulch or straw from other parts of the bale that aren't part of the plant root system.

Kent

SARANAC, NY(Zone 4a)

I do believe spring has sprung up here in Adirondack Park (zone 4a, even tho there is still 3+ feet of snow on the ground) - I saw the first flock of geese flying north this afternoon: More reliable predictor of spring than the calendar or the weatherman imho!

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

You got it Perry. Spring is on the way!!

Jeanette

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

We got Geese, we got robbins, Blue Jays, Wood Peckers. I even caught a stinking Grass Hopper. I have Hostas sprouting up.
I do agree Spring is very close.
Our snow is all gone except some of the piles, from clearing parking lots and some of the ditches where the sun doesn't hit.
Russ

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Can['t believe you are zone 4 Russ, and so far ahead of us. I did plant a LOT of tomtoes today. I have a lot of little seedlings up. I really enjoy doing the seed thing.

Also, my tomato in the nutrients is doing pretty good finally. I have a couple of cucumbers that I am about to put in another bucket of nutrients. We'll see how they do.

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Jeanette;
We missed several of the snow storms that were to hit late this winter.
They either would go north of us or about30 miles south, or we would still have snow. My daughter who is in Ohio is in zone 5 has had worse winter than we did. I cant remember the day but they had 20" from a Friday through Saturday. They dug out Saturday afternoon. Couldn't go any where though as the roads weren't cleared yet. All church services were cancelled on Sunday as well. That seems like it was only 2 or 3 weeks ago. Here it only had a little flurry, that disappeared as soon as it touched the ground. Kind of makes you wonder how they determine the zones huh.
Wednesday I tried to dig a post hole , found too much frost though. That project will have to wait a little.

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

I think it is winter again here. All of March has been colder than normal. At least 10 degrees colder. Last night/this morning it is now 20 degrees. I expect I lost some plants in my mini gh that is right by my back door, in the passage way to garage, so under roof and the west side is all glass, sliding doors. I didn't expect it to get that cold. After it gets to be daylight, and I do expect it to be sunny, I will go out to see about frost damage.

Donna

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Yup, it was 18 degrees when I got up this morning. Cannot believe it is almost APRIL!!!

There is no way this snow is melting. It is evaporating, but very slowly.

Jeanette

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Heard about the cold wind and snow in Northern Rockies, on the news this morning. It was 45 when we left the house this morning to meet Phyllis to do some floor repair and fix the leak in her bathroom sink.
Another time I probably should have kept my mouth shut, that I could help her. But she may have to make another trip out East as her 92 year old father isn't in very good shape. If my helping out makes the difference of weather she can make the trip or not. I guess it would make me feel like it was worth the backache, of taking up the floor and putting in new tile. Not to mention taking the sink out to do the work, then putting in new faucet and lines.
Well Spring will come to the north west too. It may have warmed a bit here but we will have a few days that it will dip below freezing, so no planting yet.
Russ

Northeast, OH(Zone 5b)

randbponder- What part of Ohio is your daughter in? That sounds like my weather. I'm east of Cleveland in the "snow belt"! We still have a few inches of snow, I'm ready for the big thaw so that I can get on with the fun stuff-ordering bales!

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Lulie She is about 40 miles north of Columbus and a few miles south of Marion.
She hasn't gotten used to the flat ground yet. Her DHs job took them there.
It only takes a little rain and the rivers are out of the banks and over the road. LOL
Lets see East of Cleavland- - - You should have a few hills there I would think??
Russ

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

18 degrees this morning when I got up Russ. My seedlings are looking good. I really planted a lot of tomatoes. Not all for me thank Heaven. But, they look good.

Our snow is evaporating. Not melting. I have a fellow here caulking all of the little tiny entrances into my house to keep the bats out this summer. I sure hope it works. If I could get to it I could probably make a fortune in bat guano.

Jeanette

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

I don't mind having bats in the area, just not in the house. They eat lots of night flying insects. Birds wait for day light. All dry bird droppings as well as dry guano, does nasty things to the respiratory system.
I took out our old brick chimney. It had about a 3" layer of bird droppings in the bottom. When I was done I used the vacuum cleaner to finish cleaning up the mess. I wound up with a bacterial bronchitis that really put me down for a while. That was in 97, I still can get bronchitis at the drop of a hat.
Russ

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

Which tomatoes ae you growing this year Jeanette? Im already getting excited about next seasons planting, I have ordered (and fermented) my seeds for spring already. I sowed my first cool season crops yesterday: carrots, spinach, rocket, brocoli, cauliflour, parsely. I still have ALOT of tomatoes and eppers to preserve before its all over though. I have run out of jars, and been hunting for new ones in friends and mothers-of-friends kitchens, on the internet, in 2nd hand shops, anywhere I can think of! Im ready to start all over again though :-)

You managed to get a second planting into your bales didnt you? Did you pull the old roots out, or just trim the plant off? Im thinking of trying some brocoli or lettuce when te first tomatoes are over. One row is not far off.

Lena

Wake Forest, NC

Lena: quick question, what have you learned from bale gardening that was unexpected, if any.

And finally, are you sold on bale gardening? :-)

Kent

Northeast, OH(Zone 5b)

Russ- We have some hills and don't have to worry much about flooding, only in the low areas. That is very flat, beautiful farm country where your DD lives. I'm waiting impatiently for global warming to hit Ohio!

Lucy

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Lena, I planted a whole lot of tomatoes this year. I put in some seeds that I had left over from last year for a plant sale for Master Gardeners on the 10th of May. Then Russ sent me a lot that he had saved from his garden last year. He can tell you about fermenting seeds. LOL

So, the only tomatoes I am growing that I actually know anything about are the Sun Sugar's. A small gold cherry tomato that my sister grew last year and they were like eating candy. Very good. The rest I am going to keep are from Russ.

I only tried a couple of bales on a second year. I left the plants in for the winter so I wouldn't tear the bales apart, and then in the spring they just lifted off. I guess the roots let go at the bale. That is good so they didn't destroy the bale, but I was not real pleased with the tomatoes I grew in them the second year. There wasn't much left of them for the roots and the ground underneath was so hard, which is why I started using the bales in the first place, that the roots couldn't possibly get down in it.

Russ, I really appreciate the bats outside because I don't have any mosquitoes. But, I don't want them flying around the house. I am hearing more and more people have the problem. I don't know what the answer is. I am hoping all of this caulking works. Also I am going to put a screen that falls closed over the deck door because when Bob is using the BBQ cooking dinner at night I think he is guilty of leaving the door open. That doesn't help either.

Jeanette

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

I did buy from a neighbor 2 more hay bales. My ones from last year especially the cheaper straw bales just fell apart. I do want to grow beans again this year. I haven't even been able to water the bales . We had the first rain of the year yesterday and it really didn't amount to too much and i can't turn the water on in the hoses until I can leave it running as will freeze overnight. 25 degrees this morning and was freezing all night. A good bit of the light hail from our 15min hail storm is still visible. Sure hope April is better.

Donna

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Excuse me Donna, but are you saying hay bales hold together better the second year?

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Lena; I didn't really ferment my seeds, I used an alternant method. I took seeds right from the tomatoes we were eating. Put the seeds in a bowl and added warm water and a little ( oxy- clean ) stired the mix and let it set for about 20 minutes, then stired the mix some more, until the jell on the seeds no longer appeared to be there. I rinsed the seeds 3 times then spread them out to dry. I used a paper towel. but they do stick where they dry but they weren't that hard to get loose by racking my thumb nail over the towel.
A very good fermenting process is on HORSESHOES, home page. You can find his name in the forum on tomatoes. You can even google fermenting tomato seeds and find his page.
Russ

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

LOL, you mean I was giving you credit for all that work Russ? Fermenting is a pain.

I should have known Shoe would have figured an easier way. I will look too.

Jeanette

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

I looked at Shoe's diary Russ. from 2005. he let the seeds ferment. Also, he used non-hybrid seeds. That is the answer I think, no matter how you save/clean them. Remember the melon seeds I sent you. Nice plants but no produce.

Jeanette

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Yep that was a little disappointing. But since I only had one try to grow, I can't blame it all on the seed. Remember, I planted them right in the bale. There are other factors that could have done mine in. But yes it is possible that they were a seed from a hybrid.
All the mater seeds I sent you are heirloom, so we should be safe there. Just be prepared to tie them up tall. I think I will try to cut the tops on a few, before they reach fifteen feet!! They will definitely grow tall!
Russ

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

I think I read Shoes tutorial on fermenting. Appart from the sweet sweet smell and colony of little fruit flies that moved into my kitchen, all went well. Seeds are clean and dry and in little handmade paper envelopes. I have even traded some seeds with a couple in England. My first seed exchange across DG.

Jeanette: I grew a few gold cherry varieties this year. Yellow pear, yellow plum, gold nugget, sungold 100. Yellow plum impressed me the most with its vigour and productivity. Yellow pear was good too. im not a huge fan of cherry tomatoes though. I like the big meaty ones, too many favourites. Do you have a favourite?

My new seeds for next spring just arrived! Now I must wait. And deal with the many tomatoes I still have. growing them is more than half the fun. I found some seeds for those awesome looking trombocino that Kent had, that should be fun. Still not so sure what they are though. Like a pumpkin, or more like a caugette?

Im thinking about your question Kent. I like that bale gardening is like "instant garden" where nothing would have ever grown (like on my concrete courtyard!) at low cost and effort. Its been an exciting and fascinating process, and I have had alot of fun. Im amazed at how much will grow in bales, even with very little feeding. Feeding more gave some much better results though. Through placing bales around my yard, I discovered some great new potential growing spots. Ill continue to grow things in bales for that reason, to make the most of space. But I have alot of vegetable beds, more than enough, and Im young and fit and seem to find the time to dig them, so bale gardening isnt really necessary for me, its more of a luxury, a bit of fun.

My next bale garden will be smaller, and strictly organic. I need to make it work using feasible organic methods. I dont like that Im growing my food on chemical fertilisers. Thats probably my only gripe with bale gardening: the need to feed, alot. I like the idea of feeding the earth, and letting the earth provide for the plants, which in turn feed me. Feeding the plants with powder from a bag seems unatural. I wouldnt want to be fed powder from a bag!

Things that suprised me... maybe how very very soft and fragile the bale gets! And the amout of grass that sprouts from them. Oh and the funny fungi that turned out to be harmless. The lovely compost full of worms was a rather nice suprise at the end too.

Ive worked out that beans dont like bales, neither does allysum.... The bales didnt stain my courtyard which is great. The pumpkin and cucumber roots went right down into the cracks between the concrete plates! I wander what the bales on the lawn will look like underneath. Hopefully Ive suffocated the grass underneath, and can plant winter veg in that spot soon.

Il keep thinking a bit.

Lena

Hornick, IA(Zone 4b)

Lena;
You have my curiosity up, as to what a caugette is!
I haven't grown a trombocino either but it is a ZUCCHINI. a type of summer squash.
My thought on it is . The taste would be nearly the same only it is a much larger fruit.
Barb & I are going down town for breakfast, check back later.
Russ

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

Maybe you meant tromboncino, sometimes called 'climbing zucchini'? http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/56773/
I grew them last year. The mature squash keeps all winter in my root cellar. The neck is seedless, and sliced, dipped in egg then cornmeal they taste kinda like fried green tomatoes.

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

Jeanette, Yes for me the hay bales last at least two years. And i feel there is a low nitrogen feed in the hay. I have not been able to prepare my bales. has been too cold. Can't turn my water on and small amount of rain we received a couple of days ago really didn't moisten anything. Still 25 degrees . I had to cover my Juwel cold frame last night too cold for the one flat I put in there.

Donna

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

Russ: A caugette is another word for a zuchini! The words are used interchangeably here.

Darius: Yes thats the one, Tromboncino. The seed packet I have is labelled Rambicante. They keep all winter like a pumpkin? Thats good to know.

Jeanette: I just saw your post on the other thread, but ill answer here. My holidays were over the day after I got back from Germany, about 5 weeks ago! Im in the middle of my 2 week long easter break now. Easter was so early this year, we had to have our mid semester break after only 4 weeks at school. Kind of silly, when there are 13 weeks in the semester. Im already bogged down with reports and assignments to write, they seem to think we like doing them in the holidays.

Yes I miss Germany, and my people there. Its strange not seeing them again for a few years. But thats life, Im used to it being like that. Im still sad every time I leave though, and it takes quite a few weeks to settle in again.

I dont have problems with dogs, they cant get into my well fenced yard. I do get a few flies visiting my compost and the newly spread bloodmeal. The main pests in my garden are birds though, digging up my new seedling rows. I get so frustrated with them! Plastic bags on strings only work the first few days untill they are used to it.

How long till you can plant out where you live?

Lena

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Oh Lena!! Birds scratching in your seedlings? Take some sticks and put them around the border, just short ones, not like your tomato jail. LOL, and then take regular string and tie the string back and forth and sideways from stick to stick. The birds won't want their feet tangled in the string. put it an inch or 2 up off the ground.

Or, some plastic bird netting just lying over the top, doesn't even have to be neat. Just place it over it. Until the seedlings are bigger. Not so big they will get tangled in the netting. Once the seedlings get their roots down in there the birds can't hurt them then take the netting and/or string off.

Also glad to hear that your beans didn't do well in the straw either. I planted mine 3 times and only 2 even germinated.

Jeanette

Wake Forest, NC

Lena: good debrief on your bale gardening experience so far!

Kent

Albany, OR(Zone 8a)

Kent (or anyone): Just discovered this forum today. Want to try straw bale gardening for my grandkids but they have huge gopher problem in their back yard. Does anyone know if straw bale gardening makes it harder for gophers to get to the veggie plants?

Wake Forest, NC

dirt_therapy: no gopher problems here; no clue

Kent

Albany, OR(Zone 8a)

Thanks, Kent. Anyone else know about gophers?

Pipersville, PA(Zone 6b)

Hey y'all! Well, Kent has gotten me so excited about this straw bale gardening that I have started up a little tiny coop straw bale garden group!!! I've already started putting everything related to the garden in a journal, and will document my progress in detail w/photos.

BUT- I have a few questions that even KENT couldn't speak to (because he hasn't tried these particular crops). Have any of you tried growing things like
carrots, scallions, broccolli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower? Do the things
that generally grow under ground (the carrots, radishes, etc.) need to be
in straw-filled trenches, or can they just develop inside the bales, above
the ground? And how about the scallions, broccolli and brussels sprouts?
Do you know? I'd be most appreciative of any directives.

In this regard, I've put 'ads' on several of the local freecycle sites, looking for straw bales, fertilizers, hoses, trellis wood & wire mesh, plants, seeds, etc. I'll let you know how I make out!

Also, I do organic gardening and am looking for the optimum organic version of ammonium nitrate. So far, it looks like either dried blood or (and?) Milorganite 5-2-0 or 6-2-0. Any opinions? And then will a 12-12-12 balanced fertilizer work as well as a 10-10-10 for the final conditioning of the bales?

Namaste- Suzan

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Susan, I don't think you want/need a balanced fertilizer to "cure" the bales. You need nitrogen. Plus it is cheaper than balanced. Some of the people have had good luck with the blood meal.

Jeanette

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