Poor soil? Consider straw bale gardening!
Straw Bale Gardening is a simply different type of container gardening. These straw bales (not hay bales) are a great place to plant vegetables. The straw is an easy, loose place for the plants to spread out their roots. Once the straw inside the bale begins to decompose, the straw becomes “conditioned” and ready to plant. The step by step process of conditioning creates an extraordinarily productive, warm, moist and nutrient rich rooting environment for young seedlings.
As you can see, this type of gardening is particularly beneficial if you have poor soil. As long as you get sunlight and moisture, this will work for you. You don’t require any special tools, you don’t need to water as often, you don’t have to break your back turning over the soil. When you’re done for the year, the leftover straw can go into the compost. Click below link for instruction
How to Build a Straw Bale Garden
Faced with the expense (OK, and effort) of building raised beds, I decided instead to go cheap and easy: a straw bale garden. So I called up Joel Karsten, author of Straw Bale Gardens, and lead authority on all things straw.
Karsten argues that straw is an ideal “container” for growing vegetables. “The hollow tubes are designed by Mother Nature to suck up and hold moisture,” he told me. And as the insides of the bales decompose, they provide a rich medium for vegetable growth.
You can put together a straw bale garden right on your lawn, your driveway (oh yes, your neighbors will love you) or anywhere that gets at least six to eight hours of sun. It’s especially good for growers who live in northern climes with shorter growing seasons — the bales heat up much quicker than soil, stimulating early-season root growth.
1. Source your straw
You can toss the dice like I did and purchase straw bales from your local garden center, but it’s best to source them direct from the farm. If you want to garden organically, the person at the garden center won’t likely know how the straw was grown. To help connect farmers with growers, Karsten has set up a user-generated marketplace, but it’s still too small to be useful to most gardeners. Remember, straw is easiest to come by in the fall. If you arrange your straw bale garden before the winter, you’ll be all set to plant when springtime comes.
3. Condition the bales
Two weeks before you plant, you have to get the bales cooking. This means wetting and fertilizing the bales for roughly 10 days to start composting the inner straw. For the first six days, put down 3 cups of organic fertilizer per bale every other day, and water the bales to push the fertilizer down and thoroughly saturate the straw. On the off days, simply water the bales. (Tip: try to ignore the neighbors staring suspiciously from their windows.) Days 7 through 9, lay down 1.5 cups of organic fertilizer each day and water. Day 10 put down 3 cups with phosphorus and potassium (bone or fish meal mixed with 50% wood ash works like a charm).
If you stick your finger into your bales, they’ll be hot and moist. You’ll start to see some “peppering” — black soil-like clumps that signal the beginning of the composting that will continue through the growing season. If mushrooms sprout up, rejoice — they won’t harm your plants; it means the straw is decomposing as it should.
4. Build a trellis and greenhouse in one
One of the coolest things about straw bale gardening is that it combines the best of container gardening with vertical gardening. Karsten recommends erecting seven-foot-tall posts at the end of each row of bales, and running wire between them at intervals of 10 inches from the tops of the bales. As your seeds sprout, you can use the bottom wire to drape a plastic tarp to create an instant greenhouse for those chilly early-season nights. And as the plants begin to grow, the wire works like a vertical trellis, supporting your cucumbers, squash and assorted viney vegetables.
5. Time to plant
If you’re planting seedlings, use your trowel to separate the straw in the shape of a hole and add some sterile planting mix to help cover the exposed roots. If you’re planting seeds, then cover the bales with a one to two-inch layer of planting mix and sew into this seedbed. As the seeds germinate, they’ll grow roots down into the bale itself. While you’re at it, plant some annual flowers into the sides of the bales, or some herbs — it’s otherwise underutilized growing space, and will make the garden a whole lot lovelier.
6. Look, ma — no weeding
If you lay a soaker hose over your bales, you’ve pretty much eliminated all your work until harvest. That’s because your “soil” doesn’t contain weed seeds. There’s one caveat, though — if you didn’t get your straw from a farmer (guilty as charged), there’s a chance your straw (or, worse, hay that was sold as straw) contains its own seed. If your bales start to sprout what looks like grass, you can beat back the Chia pet effect by washing the sprouts with diluted vinegar. If you don’t mind the look though, the grass shouldn’t harm your plants, and will likely die off from the heat produced by the bale’s decomposition.
7. The harvest after the harvest
When the harvest season ends, the bales will be soft, saggy and gray — but that’s exactly what you want. Because when you pile the straw together and leave it to compost over winter, you’ll have a mound of beautiful compost to fill all your pots and planters in the spring.
Below video will show you exactly how to condition your straw bales, so that you can grow your own vegetables using this way.
Still, Mr. Karsten did not take success as proof of his genius. “I always say to myself, I know I couldn’t be the first person to do this,” he said.
In a phone call a few weeks ago, Linda Chalker-Scott, an urban horticulturist, confirmed Mr. Karsten’s hunch. “There are a ton of articles out there — dozens, if not hundreds,” she said. From the 1950s through the 1980s, commercial growers experimented with straw bale, arranging it in greenhouses or laying it in outdoor trenches.
The technique proved useful in the Middle East, where alkaline and saline soils resist cultivation. Straw bale was apparently common in Eastern Europe too (although sampling the literature requires a working knowledge of Armenian or Ukrainian). Eventually, she said, lightweight growing media like perlite replaced straw: “I think this stuff was all but forgotten on the scientific level.”
Dr. Chalker-Scott, 55, often debunks quack gardening advice on a blog called “The Garden Professors,” co-hosted by her extension service at Washington State University. A few weeks ago, for instance, she disputed the virtues of spraying molasses on your plants. (Seedlings also don’t like fro-yo or peanut butter and jelly.) “It seems like we’re always looking for the newest and shiniest way of producing vegetables,” she said.
Yet she liked straw-bale gardening as a low-cost technique that uses natural waste materials and mimics natural processes. “This is one of those practices,” Dr. Chalker-Scott said, “that disappeared for no good reason.”
A DOZEN YEARS AGO, Amelia Carkuff moved her home and interior design business into a 16,000-square-foot mattress warehouse in downtown Memphis, Tenn. The yard offered two growing environments. “I have essentially asphalt streets on two sides, and the third side is all concrete,” she said. “I had thought for years, ‘How can I bust through this concrete to get down to the earth?’ ”
Ms. Carkuff, 44, drew on the farming wisdom of the ancestors. “I went and found Joel Karsten’s Facebook page,” she said, “and decided, I’m going to try this.”
She deposited the bales outside the front door. “I knew if the bed was not in visual proximity to my coming and going in the building, I would not take care of it,” she said. But given the high-visibility spot, “I did not want it to look shabby.”
Ms. Carkuff’s design solution? “The top half of a twin-sized children’s bunk bed perfectly fits five bales of hay,” she said. “I found it on the side of the road. How sophisticated that sounds, I don’t know.”
She filled the straw corral with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Herbs like basil and oregano grew from the sides of the bale. In recent years, she has added a trellis and planted vines to screen off the air-conditioning units on the south side of the old brick warehouse. She now cultivates some 24 feet of bales, which she picks up for $4 apiece at a local horse-and-feed store.
Her greatest bounty, she said, has been butternut squash. A few years back, Ms. Carkuff cooked the harvest into a hogshead of soup and canned it for a few dozen friends and clients at Christmastime. “It was very Martha Stewart compared to my usual urban persona,” she said.
Ms. Carkuff has disseminated straw bales to some of her friends in the suburbs. The ordinary course, Mr. Karsten explained, “is you become a teacher, then a preacher.”
For example, he receives occasional correspondence from one grower, Lorna Donaldson, who will be teaching straw-bale workshops this week in New York. (Sunday’s class starts at 1:30 p.m. at the Brooklyn Fireproof Café East in East Williamsburg and is $35; Ms. Donaldson also plans to lead classes in early May. Information: strawbalesplus.com/workshops.html.) “She’s become a huge fanatic,” Mr. Karsten said. “As much as I love it, she loves it as much or more.”
Ms. Donaldson, 60, recalls her father growing vegetables in straw some three decades ago. And in the ’90s she planted as many as 2,000 bales for her own organic truck farm in Tiptonville, Tenn. More recently, straw bale has become something of a mission. Last winter, she moved into a transitional housing shelter in Mobile, Ala., and helped the women and children there start a 250-bale garden.
“Most of the people we are working with now don’t have the capital to buy a lot of tools,” she said. And straw can be managed with little more than scissors.
Ms. Donaldson also advocates straw bale as a kind of green laboratory for small-scale entrepreneurs in Gulf Coast towns like Biloxi and New Orleans. “Most coastal communities all over the world have the same problem,” she said. “Usually the soil is depleted, compacted and contaminated by storms.”
She could just as well be describing parts of Brooklyn or, say, Kearny, N.J., just north of Newark. That’s where Jenny Mach, a 32-year-old middle-school science teacher, has been organizing a new community garden.
The site will be in the flood plain of the Passaic River, “one of the most polluted rivers in the country,” Ms. Mach said. “We have signs in our town that say the crabs are cancerous. Don’t eat them. We’re weirded out by the soil there.”
She added: “Even if there wasn’t pollution there, people in the community might be reluctant to plant right in the ground.”
The usual alternative would be to use raised containers filled with potting soil. “But first, we don’t really feel like building them,” Ms. Mach said. “And they’re hard to move around. Once you’ve built them, you’re stuck with that configuration.”
With straw bale, you have a planting space one year and dirt the next. That prospect is appealing to Ms. Mach, as she hopes to start the garden with 8 or 10 friends and volunteers. It was her husband who ambushed the mayor at a yard sale and proposed the community garden. And a few months later they were meeting with the city council.
If the garden works, they’ll offer slots to the public next spring. Straw bale, she said, is almost an attraction unto itself. “I believe it will start a lot of conversations in the community.” Which is a good way for Ms. Mach to meet the immigrants who make up the new heart of Kearny.
“In our neighborhood,” she said, “I’m pretty sure that my husband and I are the only people who don’t speak Portuguese or Spanish. I’m not kidding.”
And maybe that’s the spirit of straw bale. When the villagers come bearing pitchforks, they must be sowing a garden.
Do you have soil that’s nutrient poor or too rocky for gardening?
Consider planting fruit and vegetables in straw bales instead, suggests Joel Karsten, the guru behind one of the latest gardening trends, and author of the book “Straw Bale Gardens” (Cool Springs Press).
The idea is simple: “It’s basically a different type of container garden,” says Karsten, who lives in Roseville, Minn. The “vessel” is the bale, and the planting medium is a nutrient-rich compost created by adding some fertilizer to the straw. Better still, it’s weed-free.
If You Don’t Live Near a Farm…
DON’T BUY HAY. When you’re sourcing your first straw-bale garden, start there. Straw, be it oat straw or wheat straw, is the hollow plant tube left behind after you harvest the seeds. Hay is a grass or alfalfa with the seed head still attached and waiting to sprout.
If you live someplace in America where a night of drinking can end in joy riding on the tractor, you have probably crashed into a straw bale down the road. For everyone else, there’s Lowe’s and the Home Depot, or the local garden center. These stores are likely to stock bales around Halloween, Joel Karsten explains in “Straw Bale Gardens.”
“Get it in the fall,” he said, “and throw it right out in your garden.”
Have the big-box bales been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides? The vendors at your local farmers’ market are more likely to know the provenance of their straw. Mr. Karsten has established a straw exchange on his Web site, strawbalegardens.com. A woollier marketplace is Craigslist, which is great if you’re hoping to barter a vintage yogurt maker for a bale.
The Urban Garden Center on Park Avenue in East Harlem charges $12 for a bale, with a $25 delivery fee to the street. Dimitri Gatanas, whose family owns the store, reported that last fall, “we sold more than we have in 50 years.” When straw is a hot commodity in Manhattan, something strange is blossoming.
Another city option is CG Feeds (that is, Crazy Goat Feeds) in Rossville on Staten Island.
Straw is cheaper and more plentiful as you head up the Hudson River to those towns with the funny Dutch names. Like Kerhonkson, west of New Paltz, where you’ll find Kelder’s Farm. A bale here costs $8, and there’s plenty to go around.
But enough about straw. Here’s what else you’ll need: a soaker hose (perhaps on a daily timer) to keep the bale wet, a permeable landscape fabric or heavy mulch to keep weeds from growing between the bales and a bag of sterile potting soil to start seeds or heel in your transplants. Most important is the fertilizer. What kind to use? Well, what kind of gardener are you?
“For the organic folks,” Mr. Karsten said, blood meal and feather meal will take care of the nitrogen. (Bone meal and wood ash from the fireplace can fill in phosphorous and potassium.) You’ll want three pounds of the organic stuff for each bale, applied over the course of a week. Water the top (that’s the bristly, cut face, without the twine). And don’t overdo it, otherwise you’re washing the fertilizer onto the lawn or into the sewers.
Mr. Karsten often uses lawn fertilizer with more than 20 percent nitrogen (and no added herbicides). About 2 1/2 cups per bale will do the job.
After a few days, the straw will go from absorbing nitrogen to releasing it. When the inside feels just a little warm to the touch, you can transplant your seedlings. At this point, you’re done feeding the bale. Now it’s time for the bale to feed you.
“MY SURVIVAL FARM”
…and it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before… An A to Z guide on survival gardening that is easy to read and a joy to put into practice, full of photos, diagrams and step by step advice. Even a kid can do this and, in fact, I encourage you to let the little ones handle it, to teach them not just about self-reliance but also about how Mother Nature works.
Here is just a glimpse of what you’ll find inside:
How to plan, design and put into action high-yield survival garden that will literally keep you and your family fed for life, no matter what hits you, even when everyone else around you is starving to death. No digging and planting year after year and no daily watering because you’ll have more important things to worry about when TSHTF.
How to set up highly nutritious soil for your plants. Do this before you plant anything and you’re on your way to setting your food forest on auto-pilot for decades to come. I’m gonna tell you this one “weird” thing to add to the mulch that’s not only highly effective but also 100% free (because you already have it in your home right now).
Step-by-step instructions on how to plant over 125 plants inside your permaculture garden. Plus, special instructions on choosing the right ones for your climate. From Arizona to Alaska, you can do this anywhere…
How to “marry” your plants. We’re gonna tell you which grow well together and help each-other survive and thrive, so they don’t ever compete for sunlight and nutrients. You get the full table of plants that work well with one another as well as the ones you should NEVER be put together.
Our grandfathers had more knowledge than any of us today and thrived even when modern conveniences were not available. They were able to produce and store their food for long periods of time. The Lost Ways is the most comprehensive book available. All the knowledge our grandfathers had, in one place.Here’s just a glimpse of what you’ll find in the book:
Table Of Contents:
Making Your Own Beverages: Beer to Stronger Stuff
Ginger Beer: Making Soda the Old Fashioned Way
How North American Indians and Early Pioneers Made Pemmican
Wild West Guns for SHTF and a Guide to Rolling Your Own Ammo
How Our Forefathers Built Their Sawmills, Grain Mills,and Stamping Mills
How Our Ancestors Made Herbal Poultice to Heal Their Wounds
What Our Ancestors Were Foraging For? or How to Wildcraft Your Table
How North California Native Americans Built Their Semi-subterranean Roundhouses
Our Ancestors’Guide to Root Cellars
Good Old Fashioned Cooking on an Open Flame
Learning from Our Ancestors How to Preserve Water
Learning from Our Ancestors How to Take Care of Our Hygiene When There Isn’t Anything to Buy
How and Why I Prefer to Make Soap with Modern Ingredients
Temporarily Installing a Wood-Burning Stove during Emergencies
Making Traditional and Survival Bark Bread…….
Trapping in Winter for Beaver and Muskrat Just like Our Forefathers Did
How to Make a Smokehouse and Smoke Fish
Survival Lessons From The Donner Party
Get your paperback copy HERE
Here’s just a glimpse of what you’ll find in The Lost Ways:
From Ruff Simons, an old west history expert and former deputy, you’ll learn the techniques and methods used by the wise sheriffs from the frontiers to defend an entire village despite being outnumbered and outgunned by gangs of robbers and bandits, and how you can use their wisdom to defend your home against looters when you’ll be surrounded.
Native American ERIK BAINBRIDGE – who took part in the reconstruction of the native village of Kule Loklo in California, will show you how Native Americans build the subterranean roundhouse, an underground house that today will serve you as a storm shelter, a perfectly camouflaged hideout, or a bunker. It can easily shelter three to four families, so how will you feel if, when all hell breaks loose, you’ll be able to call all your loved ones and offer them guidance and shelter? Besides that, the subterranean roundhouse makes an awesome root cellar where you can keep all your food and water reserves year-round.
From Shannon Azares you’ll learn how sailors from the XVII century preserved water in their ships for months on end, even years and how you can use this method to preserve clean water for your family cost-free.
Mike Searson – who is a Firearm and Old West history expert – will show you what to do when there is no more ammo to be had, how people who wandered the West managed to hunt eight deer with six bullets, and why their supply of ammo never ran out. Remember the panic buying in the first half of 2013? That was nothing compared to what’s going to precede the collapse.
From Susan Morrow, an ex-science teacher and chemist, you’ll master “The Art of Poultice.” She says, “If you really explore the ingredients from which our forefathers made poultices, you’ll be totally surprised by the similarities with modern medicines.” Well…how would you feel in a crisis to be the only one from the group knowledgeable about this lost skill? When there are no more antibiotics, people will turn to you to save their ill children’s lives.
If you liked our video tutorial on how to make Pemmican, then you’ll love this: I will show you how to make another superfood that our troops were using in the Independence war, and even George Washington ate on several occasions. This food never goes bad. And I’m not talking about honey or vinegar. I’m talking about real food! The awesome part is that you can make this food in just 10 minutes and I’m pretty sure that you already have the ingredients in your house right now.
Really, this is all just a peek.
The Lost Ways is a far–reaching book with chapters ranging from simple things like making tasty bark-bread-like people did when there was no food-to building a traditional backyard smokehouse… and many, many, many more!
The Lost Ways (Learn the long forgotten secrets that helped our forefathers survive famines,wars,economic crisis and anything else life threw at them)
Survival MD (Best Post Collapse First Aid Survival Guide Ever)
Conquering the coming collapse (Financial advice and preparedness )
Liberty Generator (Build and make your own energy source)
Backyard Liberty (Easy and cheap DIY Aquaponic system to grow your organic and living food bank)
Bullet Proof Home (A Prepper’s Guide in Safeguarding a Home )
Family Self Defense (Best Self Defense Strategies For You And Your Family)
Survive Any Crisis (Best Items To Hoard For A Long Term Crisis)
Survive The End Days (Biggest Cover Up Of Our President)