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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