The following picture conjures up the excitement level of watching paint dry, but this photo marks the true beginning of my straw bale garden project. Quite a few weeks ago Secret Agent man secured eighteen bales of straw, (not hay), from a farmer friend for an extremely good price. He organized them in the garden plot for me and then it was time to soak them. Due to all of the rain we had they received more of a soaking than I had anticipated, but that was really not a problem. Soaking allows the bales to heat up and then they need to cool down for at least a couple of weeks.
This weekend our weather was dry enough, finally, so that I could get my dirt/manure mixture onto the bales and sow some seeds.
Secret Agent Man had been saving manure for me in a special spot in the barn. That's love people...I don't care who you are.
I applied a compost tea mixture to the bales and then spread my manure/topsoil mixture onto the bales. Then, I sowed the seeds of my choice. I have tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, cantaloupes, peppers, and a couple of things that I don't remember.
Some people place small plants into the bale, but I had a plethora of leftover seeds, so that is what I am working with right now. Straw bale gardening has a few advantages over typical gardening. Here we have a clay based soil. Not optimal, but workable. These bales allow me to use the soil mixture of my choice and there is virtually no weeding. *Dancing and Cheering* Bales can be placed anywhere you may have a sunny spot and are said to grow most any crop except for carrots and potatoes, as the straw impedes their deep growth.
The bales can be used for more than one season and when their life is over they can help out in the compost heap. Bales can be arranged in any sort of fashion, but make sure you have them where you want them before soaking them. After they become wet, they are almost impossible to move.
Some folks prefer to use chemical fertilizers with this technique and some prefer to keep it as organic as possible. I am working toward the organic goal.
You can place tomato cages, or any type of stakes, right on top of the bales. They do require a good bit of watering so that the bales do not dry out. The bales will hold both heat and moisture allowing the plants to grow.
~I am really hoping my plants grow.~
This has been a bit of a rambling post, so I am providing a couple of links that I found helpful if you are thinking about a project like this. This lady gives some good information about the basics and this video shows a smaller, yet productive, straw bale garden in progress.
So how about you? Any of you have a garden in progress?