Strawbale Gardening: General Discussions - 2013 - Chapter 40

Wake Forest, NC

Let's start a fresh thread.

Dahlonega, GA

Beat cha , Jnette !

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Me, too, Jnette! Guess that's what you get for being out in the sunshine before us northerners. :)

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

LOL, not fair. Good for you tho. Yes, we finally got some 70 degree weather. Love it!!

Solace, can't get much farther North than I am and still be in the lower 48. Just because you are higher, doesn't make you farther north. :0)

Connie, are you getting your buckets ready?

Kent, what are you planting this year? Are you still selling your ghost pepper plants to unsuspecting people? And are you starting your plants from seed? It's addictive isn't it?

Russ, just because Kent started a new thread doesn't mean I don't want you to answer me.

Dahlonega, GA

If it ever stops raining for an hour , I'll plant some more toms .

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Some more? How many have you planted and how are you planting them Sally? Did you have any more trouble with the disease you had on your tomatoes a few years ago? Keep your fingers crossed.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

I hope that blessed rain eases up, Sally. Send some of it up this way, okay? :) I wonder if cinnamon could be sprinkled on tomato plants when it's very humid like that to prevent fungus. Hopefully the sun will come out soon so you don't have to worry about it. It must be so nice to have such a long growing season.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Yes, if it stays damp that is a breeding ground for the diseases. She had some kind of wilt on her tomatoes when they were really beautiful plants. Big and loaded with tomatoes if I remember correctly. One after the other had to be gotten rid of. It was just sickening.

So, I do hope it drys out good. But, not too hot.

Wake Forest, NC

Howdy, Jeanette!

Still growing Ghost Peppers and added Trinidad Scorpions (Butch T variety) to the mix!! Selling them retail and wholesale (sorta) to a nursery in Raleigh.

You can see by my back porch pic that I need a greenhouse, which just may materialize in the not too distant future!!! :-)

As for my garden, I'm doing tomatoes, cukes, squash, zucchini, and peppers... typical for me.

One new item this year that I'm excited to try are cucamelons (sometimes called mouse melons) which are more like cukes but look just like lil baby watermelons. -

My cucamelon seedlings aren't ready for transplant yet but are looking good.

I'm also gonna try some climbing/running okra this year. A Georgia friend sent me some seeds and they have germinated well. It's actually not an okra but that's what "they" call it! -

Thumbnail by KentNC
Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Wow, Kent! Lots of plants there! Can't wait to see your garden in its full glory this year.

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

Thought you might enjoy this web page with a straw bale garden to the nth degree. The article in in French though.....

Thumbnail by quiltygirl
Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

I tried to access the link but it comes up "not found". Could you check to see if there is a typo in the link? Thanks, you have me curious. Just to update. I finally found my way to the site but in a round about way. Here is the link I have which seems to work:

There is a spot in the upper right hand corner you can click on to get an English translation of the text. It is a truly phenomenal site. I haven't read enough of it to see how long they plan to keep it. I can't imagine how long they can keep the straw bale walls going!! Very inspirational!!

This message was edited May 14, 2013 9:56 PM

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

That's pretty cool!

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

I couldn't get it either but we are in the middle of a storm so that might be the problem. Will try again later. The picture is really something.

Dahlonega, GA

Soaked the bales yesterday and it rained , stormed , lightning popped . Must have gotten two inches . Two pablano peppers will go in today and nine squash . My son in Texas already has eaten tomatoes and squash of his garden .

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

Whoa - rain! must be nice. I keep watering the bales and there is hardly any 'give' and it is well over a month. Maybe because the weather is so dry here in AZ?? I did manage to get 2 tomatoes in, digging and digging a hole sufficient for deep planting tomatoes. Have some seeds in window boxes but twice a day watering is not keeping them moist. When I go out I cannot help but sing showtunes "Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain" as I listen to the whistle. They say May is windiest......

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Jeanette, in Quiltygirl's link notice how she has http at the beginning and the end. I think that is why it doesn't link. The address seems to be repeating part of itself - probably type error. Mine is still working. I just tested it again.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Sally, all I've eaten from my garden, so far, are the green beans growing in the house. I gave one harvest to a neighbor. So far have had two meals with the green beans. How did your pepper and squash planting go? I so wish we had rains like that here. We did have a couple of good ones with lightening and thunder (I love it) that soaked the ground. The lilac blossoms are beginning to get bigger and the bushes are loaded. Lost them last year, to freeze. My daughter gave me a bare root wisteria vine for Mother's Day, so I have put that in a pot to start it. Not sure where I will plant it, but probably close to the entrance.

Dahlonega, GA

Don't know what the evergreen wisteria does , but the ones we have here , and across the south are invasive and need a Very heavy support . Can grow up and cover fifty foot trees . Can keep pruned back but grow so fast . Some people plant them in the woods to grow wild and can take over a huge acreage in just a few years .
Planting went ok , just getting too fat to do much without plenty of breaks. 'Bout decided that other than toms and peppers . cheaper to buy frozen veggies except for salad making , fresh there of course .
More rain last night . Bought an all wheel drive lawn mower a coupla days ago . Haven't had dry lawn (Weeds ) to use yet .
Ok , found where son hunts . East of Ridgeway , on Sawtooth Ranch , on western slope .It's close to the Sleeping Indian Ranch .Belongs to best friend's daddy and the old man just bought another ranch in Colorado . Don't know where yet . It's good to have a best friend that has a rich daddy .Didn't know for several years that Daddy had deep pockets , thought friend was hired help . LOL Friend see's after a high fence ranch in Texas. Boys cull the sub-standard deer out for the table each year and son helps with welding fences and gates once in awhile .Friend just has a little salery , Daddy doesn't share money , just work .Treats his kid like crap .The boys only go during bow season .

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Well Sally, maybe daddy thinks he can take it with him. Or, maybe he figures they willl enjoy it enough when he is gone so they need to earn it now. Sorry, I never thought that was very sportsmanlike to hunt fenced and trapped animals. I guess it is a big money thing in the south tho. They tried to get it going up here one time, but the people just laughed at them. It is illegal to even bait animals to hunt. Even cougars etc. No dogs, etc. I realize there are places like Long Island and others that are overrun with them. That is too bad. Must be a way to work it out. Like sterilizing etc. More humane I think.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Thanks Jessica I'll try it.

Dahlonega, GA

The boys hunt elk in Colorado . They cull the deer in the high fence . The high fence has 2500 acres and the deer have all the room to roam in . Only the paying guest has the right to take anything . It's not as bad as small fenced areas that the deer are taken over feeders .I'm with you about hunting , that isn't hunting .There are sick or injured animals that need to be culled out , or too small to be of value to the paying guest . Believe me when the boys take small deer for the table , they have to hunt for them .Three a year is about the norm out of the whole place . The AG dept oversees the animal health .

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

I've switched from hamburger to elk, for the most part, but I don't hunt so have to buy it from an elk and bison ranch. Haven't tried bison, yet. When I was young I went hunting, but I don't think I could kill one, unless I was starving to death. I started hunting with a camera, after seeing one die.

Dahlonega, GA

I used to butcher chickens and rabbits . . Been 55 years ago . Couldn't do it now .

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

LOL, I know, we're a bunch of wooses. Nothing wrong with that.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

I have Bantam corn a little over an inch tall, along with a few sunflowers, squash, and scarlet runner beans in the arbor "corn bales - seven of the organic wheat (though, I understand it, now, there's no more organic wheat in the world)" and on the other side of the arbor I planted, so far, okra, which is not up yet.

On the other side of the place surrounding another hoop/arbor are last year's barley bales which I decided to give a chance to do better this time around, and that they're doing - strawberries are loving them! On the other side of this arbor are Kentucky wonder beans, some more corn, squash, Rosemary (one came up, so far), onions from seed just emerging, and nasturtium. I transplanted some corn that was stunted ('cause I can't throw anything away) and it's really struggling, small, and determined to make tiny little corn.

Back on the side where the corn and okra are in bales, I had shredded an old barley bale, tossed it on the ground along the fence line, dropped some red and German Butterball potatoes onto the straw, and covered them up with more of the straw. They've come up and looking good, there with the mushrooms. I planted cabbage among the potatoes and flowers along the edge.

I lost my sweet potatoes to freeze. But the beets I planted between the sp rows are up, at least. Not sure what I'll replace the sp's with, but it gets lots of sun there. I kinda wanted to plant the eggplant there, but currently it's all in a spider mite crises, so dealing with that sickening mess with Neem oil, eucalyptus oil, dish soap and water spray.

I have cabbage and brocolli in barley bales on the west side of the topless greenhouse, and garlic doing well on the south side where I planted some more okra. Inside the GH, tomatoes have been transplanted and are starting to bloom, planted in a raised bed, along with Collards, spinach, and onions. The spinach was all volunteer, but there's so much of it, it looks like I planned it that way. A few Okra transplants with some earlier eggplant transplants in another bed in there. A small one. The bales in the GH are about cooked and ready to plant in, and I have a ton more tomatoes, so I think that's where they'll go. I used sheep wire between rebar to support the tomatoes.

I built a small hugelkultur bed in the small Aspen glade, where I planted strawberries and flowers. The strawberries are doing well, but the tiny flower transplants are trying to hang in there - cosmos and black-eyed susans. I may just throw some seed in there to get it more full. I have hollyhock, yarrow, poppies, rudbeckia, and others I could plant there. They probably won't bloom this year, but hopefully the perennials will survive the winter. My apple trees didn't make it - too cold (-40 degrees last winter) even though they were mulched. Two of the peach trees made it, but the buds out on the limbs didn't open- all the new growth is from the main stem and from the root. I may trim those at the bottom, sadly, as I don't really want limbs that close to the ground. Who ever heard of a peach bush? :) Really disappointed in the apples, but can't cry over spilled milk.

There's a tomato plant in the house that's now 9' tall that I planted in March. It's blooming and getting the Neem treatment like every other plant in the house, right now. Amazing that you can plant a tiny little seed and get that. I now have seven avocado plants, five of which I grew from seed, and more being watered in the hydroponics mix, which is what that tomato is in. The pineapple is doing well, inside, and I started another Chiquita pineapple in the kitchen and it has some long roots in the water - 'bout ready to plant that in hydroponics and see which pineapple bears fruit first- dirt or hydro. I still have to get lights up in that area- with the exception of a 4' grow light, I'm relying on the big south windows. Keeping the cats out of there has been a chore. They're fascinated with those plants. My daughter gave me a bare root Wisteria vine for mother's day, and it was putting on a nice leaf. I went in there a couple of days ago to find that the cats had completed uprooted it and flung it across the table. No, the cats are still alive, remarkably. I can't say for sure if the Wisteria is- I replanted it anyway. Sigh.

I've talked your leg off. Hope you have a wonderful day, and find happiness in your gardens.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Solace, what is a hugelkultur bed? Never have heard the term. Sounds like your plants are doing great. Good for you!! How warm/hot does it get there on your average day now? We are only running probably in the 70s average. But, actually, this is pretty good for June. Our last 3 years June has been so cold. And suppose to get thunder storms this afternoon. Might as well get them over with before the weekend.

Would like to take a drive up one of the local creeks and have Bob catch me a few fish for my breakfast. Would love that.

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

I have a long (but small) hugelkulture bed I started last year. It will eventually act as a sponge for the rain that comes down the hill, and off of the barn roof. Last year I grew some winter squash on it, but I need to add more logs, topsoil, and mulch for it to be very productive.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Hi Darius,

I saw someone doing this somewhere and don't remember where, but they didn't call it this. Otherwise I would have questioned it then. I just thought they were being weird without a purpose. Now I see what it is. Very interesting. The problem I see with it is that wood/lumber is so expensive now. The one I was talking about earlier were wood ends from something they were building. I thought it a real waste. I guess since my father was a contractor building homes, I know all that can be done with even small wood ends. So that is what bothered me.

And, there is no shortage of trees etc where I live. But just because there are plenty, doesn't mean we cut and waste them. I can see using rotted, or rotting woods, stumps, etc. in this way.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Rotted stumps are the best to use, in my opinion. I have enough wood just from branches blowing down or tree trimming I didn't need to procure wood somewhere else. As a matter of fact I only used about 4 or 5 cut small logs and then covered it with wood shavings and chicken litter, topping it with Happy Frog and vermiculite. Mine's not all that tall, but it's my first one.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Jeanette, I guess I look at it, in my situation with sandy soil, as soil building, not using up good wood. It's giving back to the soil/the earth like one would see happening naturally in a forest. It also saves a lot of water- if the bed is built correctly, you don't have to water it the second or third year nor thereafter. The hugelkultur bed conserves water and also gives nutrients to the plants. It's an amazing system that's been used for years and years in Germany. It also helps when a person can't buy all the topsoil they need to fill a deep bed.

I think it's fascinating and a good long-term type of soil management. Here are some videos I think you'll enjoy, and Hugelkultur is covered there, too. Some people are doing what they call "Haygelkulture", using big round bales of hay instead of wood in the bed and covering it with soil and compost. Here's the link:

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Wow, this Hugelkultur is fascinating! I went to Darius' link this afternoon and was mesmerized by the videos. After all the years I have spent visiting and living in Germany, this is the first time I have heard of this method. Of course, in all those years I wasn't heavily into gardening so didn't pay attention. But you are giving me so many ideas - like I need any more new projects! LOL Then I went to Solace's link and I think I have some ideas.

In the last couple of years we have lost so many trees and limbs to storms that this could be an interesting answer to recycling them! My first concern was where I would get enough top soil to cover the logs and limbs - I would think it could get pretty expensive using bagged soil like Happy Frog. Then it occurred to me that the straw bales could be very useful. By the end of this season or the beginning of next spring I always have wonderful compost from the old bales. Plus I have access to all the rabbit manure I want and that comes mixed with sawdust. So I am developing a plan, I think! at least on a small scale at first.

I am considering experimenting with an area where I have two bales in the row. It would be about 6 ft long and 3 ft wide. Logs and branches put in that spot and built up, covered with the bale compost, rabbit manure, some of my own regular compost, and more straw - would that work? I have vermiculite and perlite as well. Should I use that too? I have an old willow tree stump that is finally crumbing to pieces this summer and might work well, I think. The big problem for me is that so many of the destroyed trees on the property were pines and evergreens which I understand are not good for this method. But I think I can find some maple and oak as well. Must check this out once the rain stops!! At the moment I cannot think about a watering problem as we have been having almost too much rain. How does this method work if you get a lot of rain? By July we usually go into a kind of drought situation here for a couple of weeks so that would be very useful during that time frame.

This has been a somewhat frustrating spring with straw bale preparation because I didn't get all the bales in place last fall. So I had to put new ones in this spring and it has not been ideal for them to perk. I had to go away for a week and wanted to plant the rest of the tomatoes before I left but the new bales weren't ready. Now I come home to all this rain, which is actually a godsend so hope I can finish planting the tomatoes in the next couple of days. I will be sure to get the bales in place next fall no matter what - it is so much easier. But if I can use a few spaces for the Hugelkultur adaptation that would be interesting as well.

This message was edited Jun 13, 2013 11:10 PM

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

LOL, think you have found a new project.

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Yes indeed! This poor old brain never shuts down! It's just not functioning as efficiently as it used to! LOL!! But you can always rely on Dave's Garden to provide fuel for the fodder! Mostly keeps me out of trouble!

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

How early, is too early, to start "aging" a bale for planting? I plan to use the bales for my Fall (Sep/Oct) gardening. I know some mention they seem to get "better with time". Was thinking, if that is the case, could I start them now.

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

gardadore, I'm thinking of extending the length of my hugelkultur berm using free pine logs/stumps as the base. If I do, it will get planted with blueberries. I have a hard time getting the soil pH here acidic enough for blueberries.

The soil/mulch covering last year was a scant 4" thick, yet winter squash (and weeds) grew quite well.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Qwilter, it's never too early to start aging your bales naturally. You could always speed up the process with fertilizer in August if you're to plant in Sept/October. I had barley bales last spring that were hard as a rock, couldn't even get a wedge down into them, but after a year outside, with no help from me, this year they're soft and fluffy - still standing firm with the strings - and growing strawberries, corn, squash, cabbage, brocolli, and garlic - all doing well. Last year I couldn't get those bales to do anything and I thought it was either me or there'd been herbicide applied to the barley in the field. Still don't know, but this spring they're working. Last fall I bought organic wheat bales from a local farmer, but they still had to sit out all winter and still had to be kept pretty wet in recent weeks in order to plant them.

Darius, sounds like a plan. I wish I'd known about hugelkultur years ago (when my back was stronger).

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)


Thanks for the input. I thought the problem with the pine was that it secreted something toxic. If it helps make things more acidic that would be great for blueberries. I would think that would also be good for tomatoes, which is my primary vegetable in the straw bales (some eggplant as well). I have a pile with a lot of maple wood chips. All I can do is experiment and see how it goes. I can't really do it now where the bales are as they are too heavy to move and have been partially planted. But by the end of the summer they will be much softer so I can remove them easily to place the logs and cover them with the straw and soil.

Today the rain has finally stopped so I can hopefully plant my last 10 tomato plants. I have never planted this late in June but at least the plants are quite large and have had a head start in the soil.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

I'm awaiting germination of the Long Island Improved Spinach planted between the rows of strawberries in barley bales. I do need to top dress them with some Happy Frog Soil Conditioner (small wood chips, bat guano, etc.), but just seeded directly to the wet bales and covered with a little wet vermiculite. That's older seed, so not even sure if it will come up. My whole spinach patch came up volunteer among the onions. I planted two kinds last year, America and the Long Island Improved.

The Okra's just setting there. No true leaves yet. Some are in organic wheat bales and some are in last year's barley bales. The corn's been fertilized and is getting enough water, but seems to be pale, yet. I'm thinking about planting Swiss Chard on the hugelkultur bed (a few logs covered with wood shavings, Happy Frog SC, & vermiculite) among the strawberries and flowers in the Aspen 'glade'. I hope they like wind. Smoky wind from all the forest fires around here. The West Fork Complex fire is 40,000 acres of pine and aspen, 35 miles from my house. A lot of people have been praying for rain.

The potatoes are getting to the point of needing hilling. I started on that yesterday. Beets are doing great on a bed of barley straw covered with soil and compost. Four or five sweet potatoes survived the freeze, and there are some kind of Brassicas voluntarily choosing to live there. Have no idea, yet, what they are.

Still have some tomatoes to transplant into the barley bales to be friends with the garlic, but the ones inside the uncovered greenhouse are now blooming. Okra there is growing slow after transplant, but the eggplant is doing good with the okra. Still no signs of life from my apple trees planted last year. Guess the -40 got em. I'll probably cover them with pole beans. Sigh. The freezes almost got the peach trees too, but some leaves are popping out along the trunk and base. I'll have peach bushes, I guess. Better than nothing.

The flowers I planted among the Harebells are coming up in force. Despite the strong hot sun, they germinated, beneath a layer of vermiculite and then Happy Frog SC. The vermiculite really holds the moisture that the seeds need to germinate. I read last night that some people are using chick grit to top seeds to prevent damping off. Next time I order chicken feed, I'll get a bad of chick grit and try it.

Pic is right before sunset a couple of days ago. The pinkish orb is the sun through the smoke of the West Fork Complex fires near Wolf Creek Pass area west of me.

Thumbnail by Solace
Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Some more pics:
1. Strawberries and Cosmos on the Hugelkultur bed
2. Strawberries in barley bales w/spinach planted in between (not up yet)
3. Corn, sunflowers,squash, melons on wheat bales
4. Okra seedlings on wheat bales
5. Flowers in the Woodbine/Hollyhock/Harebell bed

This message was edited Jun 22, 2013 3:50 PM

Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace

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