Friday, April 15, 2016

Straw Bale Gardening - Getting Started

Find a bale of straw whose substitute can be hay or grass. Make sure you do initial weeding because some grass seeds may have been carried along hence easy sprouting. This should not be something to get you worried since all you need to do is pull out the sprouts as soon as they appear. You are advised to start with what is easily available in your area and not stress on getting a specific bale of straws. Furthermore, whatever is readily available in your regions is likely to be cheaper.

The important thing is to play your layout carefully as you do not want to change your mind when started and keeping moving. One thing that seems to have gardeners divided is on the best way to lay these bales down. Some argue that the string side should be on the ground while others think that it should be parallel to the ground. The specifics real do not matter and you are advised to pick that which you fancy most. Leave room for mowing the lawn if you are placing the bales in side-by-side rows. After the set up think about what you want to grow in each bale, bearing in mind that maximum sunlight exposure is required.
With straw bales, you are not restricted as to what you can draw. The most common crops grown however are vegetables and annuals. All you need to consider is that the taller the crops get the more you will have to take care of them and offer the necessary support considering the fact that these bales do not offer the strength plants on the ground get. You are advised to go for shorter crops. Most farmers have been seen planting three tomatoes plants, four peppers or cucumber plants and six lettuce plants per bale. With tomatoes, stacking the on trellis is necessary.  For gardeners living in favorable climates, starting with early growing crops such as sugar snaps and peas is a good start before bringing in the tomatoes.

Sourcing the Straw

While finding the straw bale might sound as a simple task, it could turn into a complex one if you do not live on the countryside. The simplest option would be looking for a commercial seller and striking a deal that will bring the straw into your house. The only problem is that the merchant might not know the kind of straw he or she is dealing with. If you source it from the farmer, you will have better chances of gathering out its characteristics.
Since the straw is hollow, it will hold some moisture for your garden. Since it is organic, it will decompose as days go by. Learning to establish a balance between the hardness and porosity of the straw with the softness will help you prepare a straw garden that will withstand the test of the season. This is so since most of the straw garden will decompose by the time the first season is over.
Remember that straw is easy to come by after the fall. Arranging your garden preparation for this time will ensure that the garden is ready for work immediately after the winter. Moreover, you will also enjoy the lower straw bale prices. You will not have to pay a fortune to get the right bales.

Preparing the bales

Bale preparation is important, as you must ensure that they are past the initial heat decomposing stage. With proper fertilizer and water application, the bale of straws should warm up to a 100 degrees temperature levels. Bale preparation is easy since all you need to do is keep them wet for three to four weeks before planting session even with the varied preparation techniques. We will look at the most recommended bale preparation technique as they are varied.

  1. Day 1 - 3: water the bales thoroughly and ensure that they are soaked throughout.
  2. Days 4- 6: sprinkled each of the soaked bales with a half cup of high nitrogen fertilizer a good example being ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulphate for all the days. Make sure that you water it well in the bale. You can always use blood meal as an alternative for the nitrates.
  3. Days 7 – 9: reduce the fertilizer application to a quarter cup daily per bale and continue watering it well.
  4. Day 10: stop applying fertilizer but continue watering the bales.
  5. Day 11: stick your hand into the bale and feel the temperatures. If it has cooled down below your body temperature then you are cleared to safely start planting because all the dangers of frosts are passed.

This method should be used for conditioning other types of bales before planting. You can substitute the fertilizer application with natural fertilizers such as fish oil or compost tea.
Other than this, it is advisable that you add a fair share of well-matured soil to the mix. This will lend the straw bales some of the most natural and important soil characteristics that all plants need to thrive. Moreover, with the soil in the mix, the straw bales can rot out evenly giving you a better planting season for the next plant.
It is notable that you do not have to keep to straw bale gardening year in year out. If you can afford to allow two or three cycles of a straw bale garden to rot in place, then you will have a better soil cover over which you can run normal gardening. This is one of the most impressive things about straw bale gardens. They let you achieve more than just the plants for the season. It lets you revive and revitalize your soil and prepare it for a more vigorous gardening regime in the coming years.

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