Monday, March 23, 2015

Straw Bale Gardening ~ Survival of the Fittest!

Part Five of the Straw Bale Garden journey.  The planting progresses...
It has been several weeks now since I first learned about planting a garden on straw bales.  You can read my previous posts about this adventure by clicking on the home button on this blog and looking back at the last four blog posts.  It is a learning process and a fun one at that!
Most of the bales have now been planted.  Everything is doing well in spite of our recent weather - we had a hail storm last week that pelted my garden for about fifteen minutes with pea-size hail and buckets of rain!  Of course, I did not have my plastic in place to protect my little plantlings, so I was quite worried as I watched the yard turn white with the hail and the rain pound my straw bales and my raised bed.
The squash, peppers and tomato have holes in the leaves and look slightly battered (who wouldn't, after all!) but are doing nicely.  What a blessing!  I was expecting the worst, just because a lot of my gardening efforts have been futile in the past.  So happy to be surprised with strong survivors this time!

The strawberries seem to be loving the straw and already have grown since I planted them here.  According to posts in the facebook group Straw Bale Miracle Garden, strawberries often produce fruit in the first year when grown in straw bales.  I am hoping mine listened when I read the book and the posts to them!  William and the gang are very helpful to all of us newbies.  We'd be lost without their willingness to share their knowledge and experience with us.

This adventure is so much fun and I am so enthusiastic about this garden, that I am seriously thinking of getting a few more bales!  I am planting herbs and veggies that I have never tried before and looking forward to freezing and canning whatever I can.  I'll post more as it happens.  I want to record (for myself, mostly) the growth of my veggies and herbs and make note of my successes and failures for future gardens.  I hope you'll come back for more on this...I just love sharing my journey with each of you!

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Huge Green Hugs,

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Straw Bale Gardening - I Dig Planting!

Part 4 of my Straw Bale Gardening adventure...

I have reached the planting stage...finally.  It really wasn't that long ago that this idea struck me, to experiment with gardening on straw, but in my excitement it seems like months!  If you missed the first three installments, you can catch up here, here, and here!

A trip to the local garden center and I was ready!  I bought some plants and potting soil and headed home plan my garden.  I loaded up my little wagon and carried it all to the backyard...the adventure was about to get real!

Digging a hole in the tightly packed straw was a bit of a struggle, but I managed to make enough room to plant a cherry tomato plant, two yellow squash, four sweet peppers, three strawberries, and some marigolds.
There are several places online to learn about companion planting (which plants like to grow next to which other plants) and how to make those pesky pests go elsewhere by planting things they don't like.  So far, I am using marigolds and onions to discourage pests, and placing plants that like each other together.

As the outdoor gardening was happening, there was also some seed sowing going on indoors.  It was my first time planting seeds in tiny pots to give them an indoor start before moving them to the straw bales.  I seem to be doing something right, as I have tomato and pepper sprouts coming up.  Don't tell anyone, but I didn't want to spend a bunch of money to buy the proper equipment, so I put them in old cake pans under a neon light fixture - and...get this...on top of one of our heating pads. that you that I hear chuckling?  Isn't ingenuity a good thing?  As long as I don't start a house fire, that is!  You'll tell me if you smell something smokey, right?
As they say...Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a garden.  I'll post more once I have planted and sowed more veggies and flowers, and I'll be happy to tell you all about it!  Watch for more about my Straw Bale Gardening journey soon! 

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Huge Green Hugs,

Friday, March 6, 2015

Straw Bale Gardening ~ Conditioning the Bales

This is part three of my journey into Straw Bale Gardening.  You can read parts one and two here and here.  It is now day 4 of the conditioning process.  Days one and three the bales are sprinkled with a high nitrogen lawn fertilizer, and everyday the bales are watered well.  This jump-starts the composting process that goes on inside of the bales, which in turn creates the warmth and nutrients that cause the garden to flourish.  Since my last blog I have placed the soaker hose on top and pinned it in place down the middle and along the length of the bales. 


Gazillions of tiny drops of water gently slip off of the hose and onto the straw, giving it a complete soaking in about 30 minutes.  I know this, because I also installed a hose end timer so I never forget to water when I am supposed to and for the right amount of time!  Watering has always been my downfall, causing some of my plantings to commit suicide before growing to adulthood...or veggiehood.  I see this timer as my garden saver, and my path to a green thumb - finally!

 Just in case, though, I have taken drastic measures (for me, anyway!) and painted my thumb green...well, at least the nail is green. 

It pains me to admit it, but I goofed.  I know, hard to believe - or is it?  This is ME, after all.  Yep, I can be clutzy, forgetful, too rushed, and so on.  In my excitement to begin conditioning the straw, I zipped over to our local garden center and purchased some lawn fertilizer, concentrating only on the nitrogen content.  Now, here it is, day four and I finally read the fine print.  Much to my horror (okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration) I discovered it is the timed release kind, which still works, but takes longer.  So, today I skipped on over to another big box store and bought what I really needed...just plain ol' lawn food with high nitrogen.  It wasn't too late, as I found out from my friends on facebook at Straw Bale Miracle Garden.  Whew!

So, here we are so far....four days of conditioning, soaker hose is in place, posts and 2 by 4's installed and awaiting wire for the trellis system.  I am on my way!  Next week the bales should be nice and warm and smelling sweet like composting stuff should smell. Uh...perhaps sweet isn't the correct word to use.  They will be smelling and I will know it is time to plant!  Yippee!  Just when the garden centers are getting in their Spring shipments!  I should have a good selection to choose from for my Straw Bale Kitchen garden!  Retail therapy - I can't wait!

Stay tuned!  I'll post more of my progress soon!

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Huge Green Hugs,

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Baby Steps to Straw Bale Gardening

For the last two years, this raised bed has been my main garden space, with three smaller raised beds off to the side.   My garden skills were forty plus years rusty, but much of what I planted grew in spite of myself.  I have this bed refreshed and ready to plant again once the last frost is past, along with my new experiment in straw bale gardening.

You can read about the beginnings of this adventure here.  Today I'll blog about my baby steps in getting started on my journey.  After reading about this idea on William Fleming's facebook page, Straw Bale Miracle Garden, I ordered a book on the subject - one that he recommended and I do as well.  It was very helpful, (as is William!) easy to understand, and it seems to cover all of the steps and reasons why that one could ask for.  If you find yourself as excited as I am about these miracle straw bales, I suggest you may want to order it for yourself.  The book is Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten.  It is available at his website, also on Amazon, or at your local Walmart and Lowes stores.

After reading the book, I couldn't wait to take a good long look at my backyard to determine the best place for such a garden, and then to decide how adventurous I felt.  How many bales of straw should I get?  That might depend on availability and price, so I did what every modern gardener does nowadays ~ I began asking my facebook friends and posting on local facebook group sites related to farm and garden issues. Well...I mean, doesn't everybody resort to facebook?  I got some good suggestions and began my search.  I found helpful folks at one of the local feed stores and purchased eight bales.  Yikes!  Did I just say eight bales?  I sure hope my brown thumbs will turn green and make this project a huge success!

Our trusty (and lazy) old dog, Jacob supervised the laying out of the landscape fabric which goes under the bales.  HoneyBunny (my hubby) helped by unloading the four bales from the first trip to the feed store.  A second trip was necessary as four bales filled the back of our truck.  So, now I had the very beginnings of my straw bale garden.

Once the rest of the bales were in place, I began the 10 day seasoning process.  Three days of watering the bales, then some days of watering and adding nitrogen to kick-start the decomposing process of the bales.  That's the secret ~ I knew there had to be one!  The plants love the nutrients that the decomposing middle of the bales provide as well as the heat it creates.  That and there are no or few weeds that creep up through those bales, and little to no dirt is needed...and bending over to garden - not so much!

Today the posts for the trellis system were pounded into the ground.  Next week we will have 2x4s put across the top of the posts to stabilize them, and string wire between the posts, creating a trellis along each of the two rows of bales for tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and whatever else likes to climb.

While the bales go through the 10 days of fertilizing and watering, I will be planning what to plant and where to plant each veggie.  I'll continue to journal my progress and I hope you will be inspired to try something new, too.  I love the saying "Grow food, not grass!"  It may become my new motto!
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Huge Green Hugs,

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Straw Bale Gardening ~ The Start of My Journey

Gosh, it has been such a long time since I have blogged here that I feel like a total stranger to the blog universe.  I hope you will be kind and help me work my way back into the blogosphere where I once felt so welcomed.

This last week I saw a post on Facebook about Straw Bale Gardening.  I had heard of it before, but I had never investigated the whole idea.  My first step into this journey was to join a group on Facebook just for people who love or want to try Straw Bale Gardening.  Next, I ordered a book on the subject, visited a couple of websites...and poof!  I am a believer!  I can't wait to try this!  Best part??  No weeds, raised beds, very little dirt, easy to set up, composted straw at the end of the season!

I am still reading the book, and at the same time I am making a mental list (soon to be a printed list since I am really, really good at forgetting things lately!) of the things I will need in order to create this magical garden.  I'll post my own photos as I travel this road I am on so you can see just how I am doing and progressing.  There are some great photos online, but those were the results of someone else's hard work and I don't want to infringe on their efforts.

Here's a little snag, or maybe not.  I live in the high desert of Southeastern Arizona.  Do we even grow cereal grain around here?  I doubt it.  But folks do raise farm animals who probably love the feel of a straw bed, so I am sure someone sells bales of straw.  My research tells me I need wheat or oat straw, preferably organic.  That may be a problem.  How do I know if pesticide was ever used on the particular crop that a particular bale came from?  Trust must be an important factor in this search.
So, I am on the prowl for straw...good straw.

Tomorrow I am off to the Sierra Vista Farmer's Market to talk with some of the local growers who may be able to steer me in the right direction.  Another good resource are the locals who know where to find the straw around these parts.  I already have a few good suggestions.

Stay tuned as I document my adventure in Straw Bale Gardening in my backyard garden.

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Huge Green Hugs,

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