Straw Bale Gardening - Extension.illinois.edu

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Straw BaleGardeningMy Personal ExperienceLee Ann WilleIllinois Master NaturalistIowa Master Conservationist

Behold my friends, the spring is come; the Earth has the embracesof the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love. Sitting BullFlowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; theyare sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. - Luther BurbankThe master of the garden is the one who waters it, trims thebranches, plants seeds and pulls the weeds. If you merely strollthrough the garden, you are but an acolyte. - Vera Nazarian

Time to thinkSPRING

Table of Contents (my ramblings) Why Do It? Pluses Minuses What Do You Need? Basics Getting Started (now the fun begins) Conditioning Your Bale (not your hair) Planting Harvesting (hope you like tomatoes) Resources

Why do it? – Pluses ( ’s) Relatively inexpensive If you have limited space Can grow most vegetables Allows for earlier planting Less water (can’t overwater) No soil fungus splash from rain Practically weed free Like raised beds for disabled(portable if strong) Straw can be composted ordug into soil No soil or container needed Can be placed in same spotyear after year Pests don’t like it

Why do it? – Minuses (-’s) Bale usually last just oneseason May need a ground cover tokeep grass or weeds fromgrowing into the bale Mat needed if on patio ordeck to prevent staining Also ask where the balescome from and what if anypesticides were used

What do you need? Straw bale(s) not hay Shop around –Davenportwe’ve used Wallace’s in Fertilizer (high in nitrogen) Water –from our rain barrels Tools – Small pruning saw,trowel, cages and/or poles,gloves, and thermometer Why Straw Straw comes from grains (oat,wheat, flax, rye, barley) Straw is the by-product afterfood removed Used as animal bedding Not Hay Hay is grass (alfalfa) and willgrow in the bale Used as animal fodder, it’s food

Area for strawbales prior toclean-up andsetting bales inplace; oldstraw mostlydecomposed.

Bale placement. We will try parallel tofence next year (you will see why later)

Getting Started – Let’s have some fun*Get the most compact (dense) bale (can weigh 35-75 lbs.)*Leave the baling cords on*Make sure cut side is up (cut ends (looks like a straw) – allowswater & fertilizer to soak into the bale) Conditioning (10-14 days) Water & Fertilizer createheat and grow bacteriaalready in the bale Decomposition of balecreates growing mediumFertilizer: Nitrogen is mostimportant N (nitrogen)29 P (phosphorus)0 K (potassium)4Note: Avoid fertilizers withherbicides or pesticides

Day 1Day 2 Sprinkle one-half (½) cupfertilizer on cut end surface Water only – keep balesaturated Water in well – until waterruns out of bottom of bale Remember you can’t overwater – it just runs out thebottom of the bale

April - Sometimes youdo not have to waterthe bales or the plants

Day 3 Sprinkle one-half (½) cupfertilizer on cut end surface Water in well – until waterruns out of bottom of baleDay 4 Water only – bale my nottake as much water butkeep bale saturated Remember you can’t overwater – it just runs out thebottom of the bale

Day 5 Sprinkle one-half (½) cupfertilizer on cut end surface Water in wellDay 6 Water only – bale my nottake as much water butkeep bale saturated Water should be warmish(ambient air temp) set asidebuckets overnight if youdon’t have rain barrels Cold water from faucet willslow the decomposition Start taking temperature ofbale

Days 7, 8 & 9 Sprinkle one-quarter (1/4) cupfertilizer on cut end surface Water in well Take temperature of bale; againtemperature can get as high as150 degrees in the center – notabsolute Note: Mushroom growth is agood sign (not edible). Showsdecomposing bale and bacteriagrowth – not harmful to bale Bale may be getting darker incolor

Planted twoplants per bale: Celebrity Better Boy Sweet 100 JulietAlso had twovolunteers inthe dirt to theright side

Day 10 Sprinkle one (1) cup 10-1010 (general garden) fertilizeron cut end surface If voids or cracks form fillwith straw or sterile pottingmix. Water Do Not use garden soil asthis introduces soilpathogens and weeds

Day 11 Purchase plants or ready yourforced veggies Water in well Take temperature of bale; baletemperature may start todecline – good signDays 12-14 PLANT & Water You will need to cut outholes for plants (pruningsaw & trowel) We use home made compostas an additive This is the time to addcages and/poles when plantsare small

Mid May

Mid-JuneLate-June

July - AugustEarly September

Harvesting one of many baskets

Straw Bales – Why we are limited on spaceNativeplantingsSide Yard

Front yard

Back Yard

We have also planted potatoes in a bag

Resources – there are manyWebsites:Just type “straw bale gardening” into your search engineBooks:Straw Bale Gardening Complete by Joel Karsten from Cool Springs Press(also an updated edition)Straw Bale Gardening (from the Idiot’s Guides series) by John Tullock from AlphaGrowing Vegetables in Straw Bales by Craig LeHoullier from Storey Publishing

Nurseries: Teskes – (309) 762-7575 Moline(563) 355-7230 BettendorfWallaces – (563) 332-4711 Bettendorf(563) 445-2458 DavenportGreen Thumbers – (563) 323-0055Hilltop Gardens – (309) 791-8765 Illinois City

A good reason for straw bales – no weeds

Straw Bale Gardening(from the Idiot’s Guides series) by John Tullock from Alpha Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales by Craig LeHoullier from Storey Publishing. Nurseries: Teskes –(309) 762-7575 Moline (563) 355-7230 Bettendorf Wallaces –(563) 332-4711 Bettendorf (563) 445-2458 Davenport Green Thum

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