Straw Bale Gardening: Instructions On How To Do It

Alternative vegetable gardening has recently become an entire craze as people actively seek ways in which they can make use of the materials available to them. This system of cultivation has especially appealed to people who are short of space as well as those whose gardens have poor quality soil. The good thing about this form of gardening is that you can achieve it with anything that can hold some soil or other elements that work to promote the growth of plants. People are even growing plants successfully in what was otherwise known as the concrete jungle, and it is therefore not surprising that straw bale gardening has now entered the fray.

Unlike in the traditional form of cultivation where people rely on soil to grow their plants, in straw bale gardening people use straw bales. In this system, it is possible to plant crops and to ensure their success with the use of very little or no soil, and it has thus appealed to many people who wish to avoid using soil in gardening. Thanks to the processes involved, many people consider it as a form of hydroponics, owing to its reliance on water and fertilizers to aid the crops to maturity stage. You can easily use this farming method to cultivate flowers, herbs, and seasonal vegetables in places where there is inadequate space or areas where the soil is too poor to support healthy crops.

This form of gardening appeals to urban farmers who often lack the resources required to run a traditional garden successfully. They can easily place the bales on patios or balconies where the plants can get adequate access to sunlight and water, without the need to incorporate soil in the bale. These bales are also ideal for people who want to avoid bending, kneeling or other activities that can cause muscle aches, thereby enabling the disabled and the elderly to grow crops at their convenience.

Choosing a Bale

There are various straw bale options on the market, and they all have their upsides and downsides. While hay bales are a great way to get your garden started, they come with a few disadvantages as they have grass seed which can lead to weed problems. If you don’t have a problem with this, you can easily use a hay bale. Some of the best options include oak straw and wheat straw. The difference between a hay bale and a straw bale lies in the preparation. With a straw bale, you deal with the grain stem which is separate from the leaves and the seed heads. You should also avoid pine bales. Whatever kind of bale you get, ensure that it has a synthetic twine around it as this will last longer than natural string.

Preparation

Start by selecting a location for the bale such as in the balcony. It is essential to be sure of the positioning because once you get the bale wet, it will prove hard to move. Next, ensure that the string goes around the bale without touching the ground. You can now start curing the bale by wetting it.

For this process, you will need to choose a location that has access to sunlight for at least six hours each day. You will also need a high nitrogen lawn fertilizer that is not slow-released as well as adequate water. You will start by placing the straw bale(s) with the cut side facing up, ensuring that the strings are on the sides and not in contact with the ground. You will then set up the watering system with which you will feed the bales with adequate water as you prepare for planting. The conditioning will lead to the decomposition of the straw which will then release nutrients which your plants can feed on as they mature.

Conditioning

Failure to condition the bale will hinder the growth of the plants, and it is thus an important step ahead of subsequent cultivation. The process should take about ten to twelve days, during which you will sprinkle fertilizer on the bale from one end to the other. You will then follow this with deep watering which will enable the fertilizer to penetrate the straw. Where possible, use warm water as it enhances the distribution of the different elements. A brief schedule of the conditioning should help you get through this process without any hitches.

On day one, you will use half a cup of fertilizer which you will then follow with deep watering. On the second day, you will water the bale to the point where it cannot hold more water. On the third day, you will use another half cup of fertilizer followed by a thorough watering. On the fourth day, you will use a gallon or two of water on each bale. On the fifth, you will add a cup of fertilizer to each bale followed by water before adding a gallon or two of water to each bale on the sixth. For the next three days, you will use a quarter cup of fertilizer on each bale followed through with heavy watering.

On the tenth and eleventh day, you will add a cup of balanced fertilizer followed through with watering. As from the 12th day, you can start planting your preferred crops. If any mushrooms appear, you need not worry as this is a standard effect.

Planting

When planting the crops you can use a hand trowel or other non-invasive implement to spread the straw apart before planting. Where you are using transplants, you may find that you have to remove some of the straw to make space for the seedlings. You can also add planting mix to the straw, but garden soil is not an option as it will expose your plants to weeds, pests, and diseases. If you work with seeds, you can add an inch or two of a mound on the bale, and you can make space for the same by removing a layer or two of straw.

From this point, continue with adequate watering and when necessary, add some fertilizer to the bale. That’s all there is regarding straw bale gardening: instructions on how to do it. All the best!

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