Thursday, December 20, 2012

Straw Bale Gardening

Here is an article on straw bale gardening (h/t No Tech Magazine). The bales both act as a garden bed or box, and as the mulch for the plants. From the article:

There are lots of techniques on how to grow a straw bale garden.  Here’s one from the West Virginia University.
To start the process, keep the straw bales wet for three to four weeks before planting. If you would like to speed up the process, here is a recipe that works well.
  • Days 1 to 3: Water the bales thoroughly and keep them damp.
  • Days 4 to 6: Sprinkle each bale with ½ cup urea (46-0-0) and water well into bales. You can substitute bone meal, fish meal, or compost for a more organic approach.
  • Days 7 to 9: Cut back to ¼ cup urea or substitute per bale per day and continue to water well.
  • Day 10: No more fertilizer is needed, but continue to keep bales damp.
  • Day 11: Stick your hand into the bales to see if they are still warm. If they have cooled to less than your body heat, you may safely begin planting after all danger of frost has passed.

The article further notes:

Remember, the bales (like most above ground gardening techniques) will need extra water and fertilizer during the early period.  However, that should diminish as bale decomposes (it will be able to hold MUCH more water).  Here’s some recommendations on plant types and density from the University:
Plants Number Per Bale
  • Tomatoes 2-3
  • Peppers 4
  • Cucumbers 4-6
  • Squash 2-4
  • Pumpkin 2
  • Zucchini 2-3
  • Lettuce Per package directions
  • Strawberries 3-4
  • Beans Per package directions

Read the article, and check out the comments for some pluses and minuses about this type of gardening. (For instance, one commentor noted that the straw bales can introduce problem weeds).

And here is a site just about straw bale gardening.

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