No Dirt?

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Hi All,

I'm trying to get my little pea-brain around how this all works. There is so much information in all these threads - I started at the first thread and read about half-way down. Kent posted these instructions:

Preparing Your Bales

It takes 10 days to prepare your bales.

Days 1–3: Water the bales thoroughly and keep them wet.

Days 4–6: Sprinkle the bales with 1/2 cup of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) per bale per day, and water it well into the bales. I didn’t have any trouble finding ammonium nitrate from my local ag-supply store. They sold it in 50-pound bags. I have heard, however, that some people have had difficulty finding it in more urban settings. Ask around. (See more about ammonium nitrate at the bottom of this page.)

Days 7–9: Cut back to 1/4 cup of ammonium nitrate per bale per day and continue to water it in well.

Day 10: No more ammonium nitrate, but do add 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per bale and water it in well.

Day 11: Transplant your plants into the bales. I used a spatula to make a crack in the bale for each plant. Place the plant down to its first leaf and close the crack back together as best you can.

If you can't find any Ammonium Nitrate or don't want to purchase a 50 lb bag, just add a week or so weathering process to your bales before you add your transplants. Be sure to wait until all danger of frost is over for your area.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So there is no dirt needed? At all? Just what is attached to the root ball?

That's the part my brain is having trouble with. Thanks for any enlightenment and my apologies if this question has been answered already. I could not find it.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)


Did you get an answer to your question at all? I just now found your post. You can do it either way. I made a hole big enough to out soil down with the plant. (rootball) I think it works best if you can, because I plant my tomatoes down to the top couple of leaves if I can. Hope this helped.


Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Thanks Jeanette. No one else has chimed in yet but I only posted today and this may be a quiet forum. Thanks again, I appreciate your input.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

No Mary, this isn't a quiet forum. We need to figure out how to get you onto the other "Strawbale " forum.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Terry, Can you hear me???? LOL Why isn't Mary's post on the other forum??

This is what I meant. How many more people are out there that can't find it?


Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Jnette, this thread is titled "No Dirt?"

And it is in the Strawbale Gardening forum:

Olympia, WA

Just assuring any concerned folks that I came across this thread right where it needs to be .... in our new forum, under the new title - no dirt.

I think that this is going to work well.

As a newcomer, it is overwhelming to try to find specific information in the old archives .......quite a read, daunting at times. While it is quite entertaining, it is very hard to find information.

Now, though, there is a precise thread asking about the dirt, for instance.
Similarly, there is a thread here now asking about strawberries.

THAT is SO helpful. SO much easier than digging into Archive # x and scrolling until I find something I need to know.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

OK, we have the dirt under Strawbale.gardening.

Did you know, Wannadanc, and MaryMcP, that you can type in a subject up in the top left corner search and find your information? And a lot more. LOL


Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Jeanette, Thanks for the tip about the search button. I tried typing in "add dirt to bale?" (no quotes) and got two pages of hits. I think the search engine picks every instance of the word dirt, and every instance of the word bale and maybe even the word add.

I agree with wannadanc above. There is so much information in 16 archives, and unfortunately, I do not always have time to sit and read through everything. I just want to know do I need to add dirt to the bale before I insert the rootball?

Now that we have a forum for this subject, it would help the new folks just coming in to the conversation if some basic info was quickly available. Just an idea. I love the whole strawbale concept and everyone here seems so very helpful.

Here's Lily The Cat, adding some cat hair to the strawbale. There used to be some gophers in this part of the yard and Lily liked to sit up here in the early morning and watch for them.

Thumbnail by MaryMcP
Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Lily's a beautiful cat Mary.

Mary, you and Wanadanc and any other newbies should probably spend the winter reading the first 16 parts of the forum. Seein' as how winter is coming up, I doubt too many people will be posting much. Probably mostly the people in the South. I don't know how long you can plant in your area but I think they have a second crop they plant and it could be about now.

I am up in Washington State so have seen the end of planting for this year. Not to say that I and the others won't be following, and adding our 2 cents worth, but not like if we were busy planting our crops.

About the search, maybe you could refine it a little to narrow it down.

Also, rather than wait for people to post things that you need, I would say to go ahead and ask the questions. I haven't heard an awful lot of people complain about questions.

Did you get what I told you about putting soil in the hole with the tomato plants? One day at a garage sale my DH bought an aireator for a compost pile. It was perfect for drilling a hole in the bales for the tomatoes. It made a hole about 3 inches across, and I drilled it down almost to the bottom of the bale because my tomatoes at that point were pretty tall, then I stripped all the leaves off except the top ones, and put the tomato down into the hole with my hand around the rootball, then filled the hole up with planting mix and some Dynamite (a new Osmocote type of fertilizer,that feeds all summer) mixed in.

One thing about the bales, you do need to fertilize more than in the ground I think. There are no nutrients in the straw. Now, if you use hay bales, or alfalfa, you will get some nitrogen from that. And possibly even more nutrients.

Hope I have helped you some. Please don't hesitate to ask questions, remember we all are kind of lolling around in the winter and don't mind helping and answering.


Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Jeanette, yes thanks, you did help with the dirt question and the tip about fertilizing more often than if it was planted in the ground. That makes perfect sense. I'm just waiting for our weather to break, it's still much too hot to plant anything outside. 3 more weeks should do the trick. Then we get to the weather that life in Arizona is all about. The winter is the best part. I should have spent the *summer* reading the 16-part archives. I'll look for a book, that is more portable than trying to read through all the threads on my computer.

Thanks again for your help.

Olympia, WA

Hey Jeanette - you just gave ME a booster, as I have one of those compost stir sticks - yehaw .....I can hardly wait. Like you, I am in WA state - for me it is the "wettern" side of the state - spelling anomaly intended.

Yes - I will read the archives through the winter - it is like getting caught up on the back yard fence visit. Sometimes things are SO helpful, other times it is just chatter.

Like Mary, I played w/ the search engine aspect - and I had similar results. Way TOO much information!!!!!!!!! Too many links to even attempt to find the "answer" to a simple question. That is when the forum as it works will make things so much easier.

I am not a newbie to DG - only to this concept. I am always eager to learn new things, to try new things, and so I look forward to the next growing season.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

When I went looking online for a book about Strawbale Gardening I found some interesting links:

First, our own Kent Rogers, we should have DG's admin post this to the Articles section of DG. I searched all the articles (found some other interesting stuff) but did not see anything on strawbale gardening.

Kent, can you send a request to DG to have them add this article to the Article database? Please?

Also found this one:

There's plenty more sources out there but these two sum it all up nicely.

HTH someone.

Wake Forest, NC

Mary: good evening, just now noticing your thread.

Here's the 2007 version of the Carolina Country article. It's a little more detailed than the 2006 version you mention.

I've had several publications do articles on me and my garden, but this one is the best.

After 3 years working with the bales, I've come to the conclusion that a little potting mix added to the "crack in the bale" when you transplant will help, especially with any type of straw. I used about 2 handfulls per plant this year.

Do not use DIRT or anything from your yard. You risk soil borne diseases, etc.

Welcome aboard.


P.S. - since the 2007 article, I've come to the conclusion that strings down work best for me. There was no where near the water run off this year than the 2 previous years where I went with strings off the ground, and I had no problem transplanting into the bales

This message was edited Sep 3, 2007 10:39 PM

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Thanks alot Kent. I figured you would wander along eventually. I started watering them down yesterday. I have 4 bales that have been sitting around for about a year so they are well seasoned. I'll start with those.

Thanks again, I'm really excited about getting started with this idea.

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

I used bagged (sterile) compost in and on my (hay) bales. In other words, I dug into the bales, and put it around the plants I put in (like Jnette, I planted the tomatoes waaay down in, leaving just two sets of leaves at the top). For the things I direct seeded, like beans, cukes and squash, I put compost down a shallow trench, and planted the seeds in there. They did very well. I think the hay may have decomposed more quickly, and helped with the total nutrient profile. I only fertilized once, but I'm planning on doing it again, for fall plantings (and I'm starting a new thread on that).

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Thanks Margo - what did you use for ferlizer? Is Miracle Grow spray good enough? Did you prep your bales with that ammonium whatever stuff first or just water heavily?


Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

I did that with beans Margo and the darned things didn't do anything. I planted them 3 times. Finally got a couple plants. Don't know if I'll get any beans or not. I scattered a thick layer of potting mix on one bale and then scattered Dill seed on it. A couple of times, never did take hold.


Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

Actually, I try to stay organic. To prep the bales, I used Blood Meal, and my fertilizers tend to be fish emulsionand guano based, as well as "teas". I know that others will be able to help you, I know that Miracle Gro is popular, so should be fine. You'll love it!!


Here's my garden at almost it's height

Thumbnail by catmad
Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Very nice garden. I can do bat guano tea, fish emulsion and bloody mary's oops, I mean blood meal. :~))

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Very nice garden Margo. Mary, what all you named off should be a good start. Sounds good. What are you going to plant? Nice time of year down there I would think.


Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images