search bar

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Spring STRAW BALE Vegetable Garden

STRAW BALE GARDENING???

It might be my familial Iowa farming roots, or it might be my love of watching something I planted grow. I know it's never been about living off of what I planted, that's for sure; and thank God I didn't have to, but I love to grow vegetable gardens. It's the only thing I've ever been able to grow. Seriously, I even killed an "air fern" (I didn't know you weren't supposed to water them). The only year (so far) that I ever yielded a "can-able" crop, (enough to can or "put up" as they say here in the south), I lived in Las Vegas. Everyone told me, you can't grow vegetables in Las Vegas, it's too hot or the ground is too hard. But I did it! And I loved every minute. I don't know if these are the exact right words for it but, I felt a deep-down real sense of satisfaction and achievement. And I was hooked. That said, I have had a very small vegetable garden every year possible since then, and not with as much success, I have to say. But, I still get a crazy giddy feeling when my little peppers or sweet potatoes or whatever start growing up and producing.

I have been very busy this year, and was talking with Andy about whether or not to even take the time to plant again, and if I did, how I would change things up, and blah, blah, blah. He said, "Instead of all that... 'blah, blah, blah', why not just use a hay bale"?  So late that night, (usually the time of day when I get most of my stuff thought out), I Googled, planting in a hay bale. Well, most of what came up was about straw bale gardening. So, I watched several videos that night, ordered the book "Straw Bale Gardens" by Joel Karsten, (THE authority of all things Straw Bale Gardening, as it turns out), and signed up for a free webinar he was having the next week.

Okay, so the book came. It's great. It tells you everything, step by step, (it's not as simple as just putting your plant in the hay and watching it grow, but really close if you just follow the instructions for the first 12 days). It also gives you illustrated plans for a 5 bale garden, a 10 bale garden and so on. Anyway, Andy and I watched the webinar, and... Oh my gosh! It was totally amazing! And they are apparently doing this everywhere!? I mean, all over the country AND on a patio or in the yard, anywhere you can set a bale of straw. I knew there was no way in the world I was going to do just a few bales! LOL. I want a can-able sized crop again!

So now I am inviting you to follow me on my "Straw Bale Gardening Adventure", I think it's going to be fun!

My garden location: My back yard is big, but steep. It doesn't get a lot of sun because of all the trees, and that has always been problematic for my gardening. On the side of my house, I have a pretty long driveway, and an 11 foot wide grassy strip that runs the length of the driveway. It always gets plenty of sun, is close to my water spigot, and is convenient to the downstairs entry and garage. And because I don't have to do any digging, it's the prime location for this years garden.

My garden lay-out: I mapped out my straw bale garden on graph paper, right down to what I would plant in each bale. Did you know that you can plant 48-60 carrot plants in 1 bale??!!! That is just amazing! I worked out my shopping list based on the size garden I would have and how I would have to manage (and defend) it. Defend from what? I'm right in the middle of town, but still have regular nightly visits from at least one raccoon family, a mess o' possums, foxes - both silver and red, an armadillo, and more rabbits than I can shake a stick at - every time I shake a stick there's more rabbits. By day, the trees bustle with flights and leaps of crows and squirrels, just waiting for me to turn my back, so they can launch their daily raids, not just on tender shoots, but the straw itself.

I made some phone calls to find out where I could get the wheat straw, and located a Feed and Seed store that stocks it regularly. The next day I was off to get 30 bales of straw. 3 Trips later I ended up with 35 bales, and I know that I will make 2 more trips for additional bales both for planting and decorating.

Here are the photos of where we are at now.

1. Garden fabric down to limit grass growth
2. Bales placed anyway you want with rows running North and South for optimal sun
3. Steel "T" posts in for vine wire and to use to secure perimeter fence to keep small critters out
4. Potting mix in place and ready for use when planting
5. Critter fence installed


1. 2"x 4"x 10's up to run vine wire and support bird netting. Start day #1 of conditioning bales for planting. 



All of my delivery people and our neighbors have been stopping by to ask what we're doing, and no one yet has ever heard of it. But all of them are going to be watching the progress to see if they will try it. In his webinar, Joel said that this would happen, and he said that once they see how well it does, they'll want to do it too!

Alright, I'm signing off from Autumn Aire Acres. Talk to you again soon!

Debbie