I was raised in a rural community. I was raised with gardens and canning and freezing food for the family. I have had chickens and Nigerian Dwarf Goats as pets. I enjoy everything about the country life. I like the smell of horse and goat stalls, straw, and rain. I like planting a seed and watching the work God does as the leaves and produce begins to grow. I like harvesting the produce and providing healthy meals for my family. I am now living in a place where I have not been successful at getting anything to grow. I have even bought dirt and plants started, and then all of a sudden, they were gone! I think it was a critter!! I found a potted blueberry on clearance last year and thought I would give it a try, leaving it in the pot. It was loaded with berries when I bought it and with the amount of berries, it was cheaper to buy this $3 clearance plant than that amount of berries in the grocery. The same day, I found a grape vine for $1.50. I brought it home and put it in a little corner of an inset of the house. To my surprise, I have little bunches of grapes all over that vine and already have a few blueberries on the bush.
We have a family friend, Ms. Lorna, who is going around the country teaching a technique she learned from her grandfather. He was one of the most productive farmers in the history of our county. This technique is taking bales of straw, the bedding straw that is ruined when it gets wet, and turning it into amazing gardens that will grow anywhere. These gardens can be grown in areas with unproductive soil, empty lots, and even concrete. That’s right, you can just put these bales on concrete, prepare them with fertilizer, and plant a garden! Isn’t that amazing.
Ms. Lorna was home from her travels and taught her daughter and me how to use this technique where we now live. If you are interested in the “exact” science of it, Joel Karsten has an awesome book about his development of the process that would be a great addition to your library. (Straw Bale Gardens, Joel Karsten) Ms. Lorna’s site is strawbalesplus.com. She has a schedule of workshops on her site, if you are interested in going to one. Right now, her schedule is in Northeast States.
Just a few facts: Each bale can produce up to about 100 lbs. of food. If you are wanting to eat from the produce as it can be harvested, you will want to plan for about three bales per person in your home. If you want food to preserve (can, freeze,etc), you will want about 5 bales per person.
It takes 10-12 days to prepare the bales for planting. About every other day, for 10 days, fertilizer is added to the bales. I am using Blood Meal, because I want to do an organic garden.
I am using 1/2 cup of meal per bale and then, I water it. The next day, I just water.
These are new bales I have started today. These have had the first “dose” of meal and have been watered thoroughly.
Yesterday was day 11 for my first five bales and I put a layer of compost/manure mix on the top of the bales and planted plants and seeds.
We have a large pool that is most of our back yard. We had an extra “deck” on the back side of the pool, and my wonderful husband and step-sons tore out the extra deck so I could have a garden. Under the deck it sloped downhill and the straw bales were a perfect idea for the terrain! The bales on the right are on the lower slope and are the bales that have been planted.
So far, we have planted: tomatoes, green beans, peas, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, onions, chives, cilantro, basil, lettuce, spinach, 3 mammoth sunflowers, and a bale of potatoes.
My plan was to put “vining” plants in the side of the bale, so I have no wasted space. I have zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and watermelons to still plant in the bales on the right. I will let them fill in the area between the two. I do have a bit of room at the back of the bales and may put cucumbers there and continue across with my trellis, to accommodate those.
I am very excited about the prospect of having a great garden this year. I will keep you posted on the progress and details that I learn as I go!