Straw Bale - University Of Kentucky

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Straw BaleGardening 101Boyd County Extension Service2420 Center StreetCatlettsburg, Ky 41129Phone: (606) 739-5184Fax: (606) 739-4014 Bowling, Boyd County Extension Agent for HorticultureStraw bale gardening is another form of container gardening where the container slowly decomposes becominga rich compost. These types of containers can be located anywhere there is at least 6-8 hours of sunlight andaccess to a water source. The surface under the straw bale is not of any importance because the plants roots willbecome established in the straw bale. This is the reason these make great growing containers forpaved/concrete areas or areas with extreme soil compaction. You could also use these in areas where there havebeen soil contaminations but as a precaution it is advised to put down a layer of landscape fabric under the strawbales just in case a few roots would reach the outer edges of the straw bale. You do not want to locate yourstraw bale garden in an area that does not drain well, this will not affect the straw as much as be a muddy messthat you will have to stand in when tending your garden.If you have a sloped area you will need to situate the straw bales up and down the slope instead of across theslope, this will prevent your bales from tipping over on you.SPACINGA minimum of 4 feet should be allowed between your rows of straw bales. You can put the straw bales end toend with the cut side of the bale up (the baling string will be parallel to the planting edge) in the row butallowing for at least 4 feet between the rows will make it easy to get a wheelbarrow or wagon in between rowsas well as a wheelchair. Using the straw bale will be at a height that is accessible for individuals that may be ina wheelchair or someone that needs a higher raised bed. You will also want to use a medium that will be easyto maneuver a wheelchair, walker, etc. between the rows. One example would be to use a ¼ inch plywood ontop of the ground between your rows, you will need to plan to replace it every few years as it will decompose.Situate your rows to run north to south – this will help to get the maximum amount of sunlight needed providedthere are no barriers to block light.1

.SUPPLIES NEEDED Straw BaleFertilizer – you will need approximately 1 pound for each bale you plan to plant. Look for a lawnfertilizer that has at least 20% nitrogen in it – this is the first number listed on the fertilizer bag. Be surethat the fertilizer you choose is NOT a slow release fertilize If you are an organic gardener you will need approximately 3 pounds of an organic fertilizer such asblood meal, feather meal, etc. or any organic fertilizer with at least 5 % nitrogen for each bale.Complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 will also be needed. Example of organic source of phosphorus arebone meal or fish meal and potassium examples would wood ashes or kelp meal.“T” posts – 7-8 feet tall2x4’s or 2x6’s to put between the top of the “T” posts14-guage electric fencing wireSoaker hose(s)Heavy duty garden hoseHand trowelLandscape fabric (optional)Planting mixPolyethylene plastic sheeting 2-3 mil and at least 5 feet wide 2

CONDITIONING THE BALEDays in ProcessDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9Day 10Day 11Day 12Traditional Fertilizer½ cupSkip½ cupSkip½ cupSkip¼ cup¼ cup¼ cup1 cup 10-10-10SkipPlant TodayOrganic Fertilizer3 cupsSkip3 cupsSkip3 cupsSkip1 ½ cups1 ½ cups1 ½ cups3 cups with P and KSkipWait 5 more daysWaterWater to saturationWater to saturationWater to wash in fertilizerWater to saturationWater, warm is bestWater, warm is bestWater, warm is bestWater, warm is bestWater, warm is bestWater to wash in fertilizerSkipWater any new plantingPlanting the Straw BaleOn day 12 of the conditioning you will want to check the temperature inside the straw bale to make sure it iswarmed up, which means that it has started the microbe activity

Common Plants for Straw Bale Gardens Plants Tomato Squash Cucumbers Peppers Zucchini Lettuce Beans How Many Plants per Bale 2-3 2-4 4-6 4 2-3 Follow package directions Follow package directions Sources: Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten, March

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