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Bedford Ramblings
Steve Mills

It is about time to talk Weed'em & Reap. Ready? Got the gardening itch?

Posted Friday, March 27, 2015, at 7:16 PM
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  • This is my first attempt at official straw bale gardening. I needed to get them started now if I plan to use them for my warm weather crops in a few weeks.

    Normal instructions say two weeks ahead of time but I am trying to avoid the heavy chemical nitrogen applications, so Mother needs a little more time to compost the bales. What you see on top right now is about a gallon of cotton seed meal that is being watered in every two days.

    My next application of water will have fish emulsion mixed in and some will have coffee grounds (experiment). Some also will be put in black plastic bags to hold moisture better and to encourage more heat for composting. (another experiment).

    Nitrogen is being applied to kick-start the composting action. A little native soil or some current compost would help even more. That would bring an extra shot of soil microbes into the equation.

    Currently I have them spaced about 18" apart but I think I will get some more bales and butt them up against each other. Moisture retention is one reason, but I also think I am going to like the growing height and ease of accessibility for Deb and Mrs. Lee.

    No bending over, no mud and within about 20 steps from several doors. They will be right in front of us every time we come home so we should be reminded of harvesting or watering much better and weeds will be very manageable, if needed at all.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Mar 27, 2015, at 7:16 PM
  • Another reason for the straw bale garden is to cut down on the need to DIG. Last year I dug out the garden behind these bales and mixed new soil in with the old to revitalize the beds.

    Great, but weeds came back as strong as ever and our dogs just LOVED to get up in there and dig. They can't do that with the straw bales.

    Some may remember that I also had a decent sized heart attack about six weeks ago. Working outside has been a little extra tiring these last few weeks and I decided to find ways to cut back on the work needed.

    Don't get me wrong, the work I did last year probably saved my life, since the artery collapse was slow and my constant exercise outside encouraged my body to grow more blood vessels to the part of the heart that was being deprived of good blood flow.

    When the arteries completely closed, I already had enough vessels to the area to keep most of the muscle alive. They suffered, but if they had been deprived rapidly, I might not be writing this blog post.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Mar 27, 2015, at 7:26 PM
  • I've told folks I need 2 Fridays a month for y'all. I have newspapers,plastic bottles,coffee grounds and filters to donate. Here's hoping I can see y'all soon. :)

    -- Posted by quantumcat on Fri, Mar 27, 2015, at 7:54 PM
  • I'm in with whatever dates you set...I should be pretty planted up by the 10th except tomatoes so will have plenty to talk about and some things to share....

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Sat, Mar 28, 2015, at 10:24 AM
  • QC, we have not seen you in a LONG time. Hope you can make it happen.

    All my plants seem to have made it through the night. I'll set the tender ones out again tomorrow and watch closely. Monday night could be 'iffy'.

    I really need to start my other seedlings today. I use most of the day for other things and by the time I get around to it in the evening, I'm losing steam.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Mar 28, 2015, at 11:17 AM
  • The straw bale that I wrapped in a plastic bag is holding moisture well and warm inside during this cool day. (45 degrees) I did not totally seal the bag because I want excess water to drain off, don't want a soggy mess.

    I think I am going to put bags on all of them. Watering every day is a little excessive, to me anyway.

    I KNOW some of you reading this have had good success with bales so don't hesitate to pitch in, disagree, whatever.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Mar 28, 2015, at 1:15 PM
  • I could not wait. I liked the moisture retention so much that I watered them all with a fish emulsion bath just now, then encased three more bales in plastic bags, leaving only one to be the 'control' bale.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Mar 28, 2015, at 1:38 PM
  • I was mentioning the bales to dad thinking he might have a few dead ones and he does, so I might try a couple of them...

    I wonder if my strawberries would do well in a bale of dead straw, that would give me more room for other things in the front of my spot.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Sun, Mar 29, 2015, at 7:14 AM
  • I see a lot of successful articles using straw bales for strawberries. Espoontoon, did your mother try them?

    Cherokee2 used to do a lot of bale gardening but I have not seen him in here in a while. I may use an old fashion way of checking on him.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Mar 29, 2015, at 8:26 AM
  • She did and they are doing well.Personally, I don't recommend a perennial in them...

    -- Posted by espoontoon on Mon, Mar 30, 2015, at 12:33 PM
  • Good point about perennials. Bales rarely last past two years. If you enclosed it in a customer container to hold the straw together, you would lose the extra growing space by using the side of the bale.

    UNLESS you cut slots in the side of that container to let the plant slide down as the straw composts down. You could then add new straw to the top each year, but that makes this a bit more involved than the original simple bale garden.

    Hmmm, a new project brewing.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Mar 30, 2015, at 1:47 PM
  • I guess I'll just flip the coin and make an executive decision on the meeting dates and time? I know someone who does not have access to the blog would not hesitate to give me an opinion :-) but I don't think it is too earth shattering.

    Got five more bales yesterday. They now run the full length of the greenhouse and with fresh new gravel delivered this morning, there should be no mud involved. Not that I mind mud, but if anyone else is going to harvest or take care of these in any way, mud is forbidden.

    Got a little tractoring to do since they could not spread it precisely but they did a darn good job with the spot they could. Bush Trucking in case anyone wants to know.

    One of our dogs turned sick yesterday. Planned on going to the vet today but she decided to go on a walkabout. I guess she will either survive or die, but I wish she had stayed so we could do our best for her. I'll take the tractor and go look more during lunch.

    I have not given up on my aquaponic project, but with the lawn mower needing attention (as in huge white cloud of smoke), a blade replacement, removing a tree that came down during the ice storm, grading the driveway, preparing my wood chip pile for the addition of new chips, my day job, eBay and my scaled back physical activity from the heart attack, I am having to push back some projects.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Mar 31, 2015, at 9:28 AM
  • You don't have to get it all done in a day you know...

    I'm so excited to see the warmth and sun shining I'm itching to hurry and plant...that means trips to get dirt, ordering strawberries, spreading the dirt, constructing the trellis etc, etc...the list just gets longer....

    Maybe after lunch and a nap I'll get busy!

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Wed, Apr 1, 2015, at 1:54 PM
  • A nap sounds good.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Apr 1, 2015, at 2:51 PM
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