Straw bales not heating!

(Zone 7b)

Hello. This is my first year with a straw bale garden. I have been using ammonium sulfate and watering but my bales are still cool on day nine. The weather has been cooler than normal and I was wondering if that could be the cause. Should I just keep watering or do I need to keep adding more N too? Anyone else had bales that don't heat up?

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

I could be wrong, but shouldn't you use ammonium nitrate? I wonder if chicken manure would work just as well...hmmm. Definitely keep watering. A natural breakdown takes place and the additives just quicken the process.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8a)

I never use anything and mine heat up just fine. Never have used any chemicals on my bales. I live in Oregon and the temps here don't start heating up till about May but my bales heat up and then cool down so I can plant.

Thumbnail by Gourdbeader
Wake Forest, NC

Ammonium Sulphate will work just fine. So will Blood Meal.

Ammonium Nitrate is hard to find now since it's regulated and stores just don't want the hassle.

BUT, as Gourdbeader said, you don't need ANY nitrogen, just plain old water and time.

Nature will prepare the bales just fine.

That's why it's best to get your bales out EARLY (30, 60 days PLUS).

The bales become much more manageable as far as making the cracks/holes so you can transplant, and you don't have to contend with Preparation Recipes, hunting for high-nitrogen products, etc.

South Eastern, NC(Zone 8a)

I used the ammonium nitrate prepping process last year (my first year straw bailing) and mine never noticeably heated up and it worried me at the time. I was afraid they were going to heat up after I had planted my seedling and kill them. I watered them well everyday for about a week after the initial process and they never did heat up. I went ahead and planted and had a beautiful and productive garden. This year they heated up. I did not do anything different. I did notice that this year I had grass growing in my bales where as last year there was none. I think that the bales I used last year had already went through the heating process before I purchased them?

This message was edited May 13, 2013 3:05 AM

Thumbnail by ilndmon
San Antonio, TX(Zone 8a)

I don't think so as if they had heated up they had to have been watered and if they had been watered you wouldn't have been able to move them. I didn't really notice mine heating this year either but have been fortunate that I had let them age long enough before I planted in them.

South Eastern, NC(Zone 8a)

I agree but I really could not come up with a better explanation. When I purchased my bales last year they were inside of a large trailer. I do not know how long they were in the trailer but it had to have gotten very hot and humid inside. Anyway I had no problem with using the bales. I was very satisfied with the results. I agree with Kent If the bales are purchased a few months before they are put to use they will have time to decompose somewhat on there own.

Thumbnail by ilndmon
Walkertown, NC(Zone 7b)

My bales did not heat up either. I'm using 46-0-0 Urea, and lots of water. (in northern central NC) If I stick my finger in a bale, it is warm, but only as warm as the direct sun is making them...and very damp inside. They are heavy as rocks, and grass is growing. I'm going to put seedlings in them in a week, and hope for the best. I suspected my two below freezing nights that made the bales hard as rocks, but I don't know. It is my first year of SB gardening too.

Wake Forest, NC

Once the sprouts start coming you are good to go. You've probably had a crop of mushrooms appear over night by now, too! :-) .... I always love waking up and seeing my 'shroom friends! btw, I haven't used any nitrogen additives to prepare my bales for some time. Just plain old water and time will do the trick. I have never tracked down the "original" recipe and just who came up with it, but I like to KISS everything (Keep It Simple, Stupid) so I just eliminated all the nitrogen for prep and all is well.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8a)

I follow that same action KISS every single day for everything I do. Seems to work for me. My strawberries are starting to get flowers. I want to give them some extra umph but I don't want to give it to the leaves. How do I know when to fertilize to make sure that it goes to the berries and not the leaves???

Wake Forest, NC

No experience with strawberries but here's a great link:

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