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Old 06-19-2011, 08:09 AM   #1
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Container Gardening with Straw Bales?

I was listening to the radio yesterday afternoon and the were talking to this southern African-American woman and she was talking about how she wanted to do a garden for not only her family but to help feed the poor an feed the good food. But she didn't have the money to put in raised beds or to fill them with soil. So she bought bails of straw for a couple of dollars each, soaked them with water, scattered her seeds on them and then watered every day until the sprouted and took root in the straw. She said she has grown everything from tomatoes and water melons to beets, peas and lettuce using them. She said they last several years each at which time she composts them.

I thought this was a brilliant idea. I would add some quality but good priced time release fertilizer to the mix and I bet would work great. I can get bails of straw here in northern California for $3.50 each.

What do you think?

Robert Barnett

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Old 06-19-2011, 09:19 AM   #2
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I think it is a great idea--I found this link How to Grow a Straw Bale Garden
that gives you the process.

I thought about doing it for my mom, who loves to garden but is now 80 years old.
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:01 AM   #3
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I did hay/straw bale gardening for a couple of years and did quite well. One of the advantages of this method is that there's little to no bending over required to tend or harvest one's goodies.

It's not initially as simple as the article makes it sound, but it's worth the time and effort. One thing to remember is to never remove the ties/straps holding the hay/straw together. If you do, you'll just end up with a huge pile of wet shredded stuff and your plants will want to fall down in a heap.

The ammonium nitrate helps to break down the straw so that the plants can grow properly. And, yes, I did find mine at a local farm supply store. If you can't find it, just ask your local agricultural extension agent what would be a good substitute with the chemicals that are more readily available to you. There are alternative products if you can't get the ammonium nitrate.

Bale gardening is effective when done properly and loads of fun.
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:48 AM   #4
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I saw Paula Deen talking about it on one of her shows one time. She raved about it how great it was too.
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:51 AM   #5
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Would you be prone to less weeds growing your garden in straw? If so, I think that would be a huge plus.
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Old 06-19-2011, 12:08 PM   #6
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My mom lives with a me. She is 68, nearly blind and she goes to dialysis 5 days a week and has done so for the last 5 years. So when it was time to take out my old redwood raised boxes, I wanted something tall enough that she could work with so as not to have to bend over to use. So I got cattle troughs. They are 4 feet tall, 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. I also put them up on cinder blocks to give an extra 8-inches height. I have 14 now with a drip irrigation system. They work great and are easy tolant, easy weed and easy to harvest from. Each trough cost $99 at my local farm supply. I have attached a photo. We have 8 different heirloom tomatoes, white corn, sweet and hot peppers, kolohrabi, beets, carrots, chard, zucchini, basil, dill, slicing cucumber, 2 lemon cucumbers, we had collards but harvested them, red seeded watermelon.

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Old 06-19-2011, 03:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pacanis View Post
Would you be prone to less weeds growing your garden in straw? If so, I think that would be a huge plus.
Yes, far fewer weeds. Actually they are almost nonexistent.

One thing I did after the first year was to plant some small bushy herbs in the sides of the bales to keep moisture in and to give myself more growing space.
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Old 06-19-2011, 03:18 PM   #8
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Sounds like a nifty way to grow things. Thanks, Katie.
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Old 06-20-2011, 08:32 AM   #9
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Love your garden idea!! My mom is 80, loves to garden, but gets light headed bending over. She had one of those tanks, left over from their cattle raising days, but I swiped it a couple years ago--it is my 'redneck koi pond' now, full of water lilies and big ole goldfish.

Did you drill drainage holes in your tanks?
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Old 06-20-2011, 10:05 AM   #10
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The tanks I bought have a drain hole in the side at the bottom. I just leave the plug out. This allows enough drainage,but slow enough that the soil doesn't dry out too fast. Make sure an fill with a high quality soil mix. I also have used these fir potatoes. But instead of soil in use straw, straw works well but also allows you to harvest the plagues very easily and they come out clean.

Robert
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