Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bale Gardening Experiment

Well...I passed my master gardener's exam yesterday and I very excited about that.  It doesn't mean I am an expert by any means, I am just still learning about gardening and how it works on my journey to self-sufficiency.  Will I ever get there?  Probably not.  But I am on that journey late in life, so just doing my small part to live a greener, healthier life will make me happy.

Another Master Gardener, Sheila, and I are doing an experiment in conjunction with the local extension office.  We are experimenting with Straw Bale Gardening.   

If you have bales that have already sat out in the weather and have become partially rotten, you don't have to do anything but plant.  However, we began with green bales that had to go through a ten day preparation phase before planting. According to the instructio​ns, we soaked the bales twice a day for three days. Of course, the rain has helped us out with this.  Days 4-6 we added 1/2 cup of ammonium nitrate and soaked that in once a day.  Days 7-9 we reduced that amount to 1/4 cup of ammonium nitrate soaked in once a day.  Then on day 10 we added a cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer. 

Day 11 is planting day.  So on day 11 we planted all six bales.  Bale one: we planted two (2) Watermelon Beefsteak, bale two we planted two (2) Early Girls, bale three we planted two (2) Prudence's Purple Tomato, bale four and five had four (4) each of Diva Cucumbers (two to a pod) and bale six we planted three (3) Mixed Jewel Peppers.

I look forward to the experiment and learning how these will do.  The bales can be placed virtually any sunny spot, a deck, patio or driveway.  Ours are on a sidewalk.  I think for a wet Spring like we have had, these bales would be wonderful because they drain well.  However, if we have a dry summer, this may be an issue.  I wonder if the heat from the sidewalk and pavement will cause added problems with drying out?  I may move one or two to the grassy area next to the sidewalk to do a side by side comparison.

When we opened up the bales to plant, the inside was moist and hot.  I think the plants will enjoy the heat and will do well.  And because the bales were moist, there may not be an issue with drying out too much. 

I think this method will be ideal for a small space, especially if we have another wet spring.  The only drawback we noted was the waste of water.  I would not start these in green bales, I would start them in bales that have already sat out in the rain and rotted.  It was a waste of a lot of water.  Also, the mildew smell is a little strong.

So I will continue to care for these straw bales and we will see how it goes.  I will keep you updated.

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