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Showing posts with label Gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gardening. Show all posts

Monday, October 12, 2015

Straw Bale Garden Harvest

Harvesting Vegetables from My Straw Bale Garden


One Day's Harvest From My Straw Bale Garden
 One Day's Harvest From My Straw Bale Garden 

I have started to write this "Straw Bale Garden Harvest" post a couple times now, but the garden just keeps on going.  We had a beefsteak tomato tonight with dinner and still get great cherry tomatoes every day.  Even thought the garden is still producing, I will go ahead and summarize the harvest.

If you want to learn all about straw bale gardens, you can learn everything from planning through harvest:

Watermelon


Watermelon from Straw Bale Garden
Watermelon from Straw Bale Garden


Last week, I had one of the best watermelons I have ever had.  Yes, I grew it in a straw bale!  Of all the things I planted in straw bales, I was most skeptical of the chances of growing good watermelons.  I usually have a hard time growing good watermelons in a regular garden, and thought it would be even harder planting a watermelon in a straw bale.  I don't know if it was the weather, or the soaker hose that I used to
provide regular watering, but the watermelon did well and we got 3 big ones.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe from Straw Bale Garden
Cantaloupe from Straw Bale Garden


The cantaloupes produced small fruit, and I am waiting a bit longer to try one.  Since they are small, I hope they will grow a bit more.

String Beans

String Beans from Straw Bale Garden
String Beans from Straw Bale Garden


We had string beans pretty much all summer long.  Having the beans raised up on top of straw bales made them easy to harvest.


Tomatoes

We planted some beefsteak tomatoes that were started from seed, but they just didn't do very well.  From a single growing season, I can't tell if they just didn't do well in the straw bales, or if the weather in general just didn't work very well.  We got a few tomatoes, but far less than we hoped.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes from Straw Bale Garden
Cherry Tomatoes from Straw Bale Garden


I would say the cherry tomatoes were our best crop.  They started producing and just wouldn't stop.  I even had plenty of extra cherry tomatoes to share at work.

Broccoli

The broccoli grew very well and produced a lot of broccoli, but I didn't eat much of it.  We had tons of white cabbage butterflies and so we had lots of worms in the broccoli.  I could have sprayed it, but I didn't want to mess around with chemicals.  The butterflies got it this year.

Cauliflower

Same story with the cauliflower- it grew well, but there were a lot of worms.  The problem with pests had nothing to do with the straw bales, we just have a lot of butterflies around.  Next year, I might try putting tents over the cauliflower and broccoli to keep the butterflies off, or maybe use some Sevin garden dust to keep the pests down.

Lettuce and Spinach

The lettuce and spinach grew very well in the straw bales, we planted both of these as seeds right in the bales and covered the seeds with a bit of soil.  I almost forgot about these crops- we finished harvesting these in early spring.  We had fresh salad a number of times.

Jalapeno Peppers

Jalapeno Peppers from Straw Bale Garden
Jalapeno Peppers from Straw Bale Garden


We got lots of jalapeno peppers and they were really, really spicy!

Bell Peppers

We harvested 8 or 10 peppers, which was OK for the small number of pepper plants we put out.  The peppers were on the small side, but this may have been due to the variety of pepper.

Onions

I would say onions were the only crop that failed.  The onions didn't grow very will in straw bales.  I planted about 30 onions from onion sets and we didn't get any at all.  I think I did not water them enough.  As I have mentioned, it takes regular watering to have success with a straw bale garden since the straw bales don't seem to hold water as well as the ground.

Potatoes

The potato plants grew very well in straw bales, and I look forward to a very easy harvest in a few weeks.  I'll simply pull the straw bale apart and scoop up the potatoes- this should be much easier than digging into the ground looking for the potatoes.  I like to harvest potatoes just before Thanksgiving and will probably use them in Thanksgiving dinner.

Cucumbers

I almost forgot about the cucumbers since we pulled the plants last week.  They produced tons on cucumbers all summer long.



My Straw Bale Garden at Harvest
My Straw Bale Garden at Harvest
Thanks for following the straw bale garden this year!  Look for more gardening adventures next spring...

Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Monday, July 20, 2015

Straw Bale Garden- Does It Work?

Can You Really Grow Your Garden In Straw Bales?

Straw Bale Garden Jalapeno Peppers
Straw Bale Garden Jalapeno Peppers
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


If you want to learn all about straw bale gardens, you can learn everything from planning through harvest:

I was a little skeptical when I started my straw bale garden back in April.  I was looking for an easy way to get a garden started at my new house without a lot of hard work breaking sod and building up the soil.

I bought 25 straw bales from a local farmer for $5 each.  I used some metal stakes that I found in the garage to stake them down, and used some landscape fabric between the bales to prevent weeds from growing between the straw bales.  You can learn more about starting a straw bale garden in my earlier posts.

The big question I had, of course, was "Would this really work?"  Based on what I have seen through mid-July, I can say that it is working!

Straw Bale Garden Cucumbers
Straw Bale Garden Cucumber
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

We have harvested a few things so far- spinach, peas, and cucumbers.  As you can see in the photos, the plants are growing like crazy.  It is hard to even see the bales under the cucumbers.

Benefits of a Straw Bale Garden

The main benefits of a straw bale garden are that it is easy to start without breaking ground or roto-tilling, and provides easy raised garden beds without building anything.  Also, there are very few weeds to deal with in a straw bale garden.

Straw Bale Garden Broccoli
Straw Bale Garden Broccoli
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Drawbacks of a Straw Bale Garden

Some of the negative aspects of a straw bale garden are that you need to buy a lot of straw bales and get them to your garden.  It also takes a couple weeks of work to condition the straw bales before planting.  

I have also found that the straw bales don't hold water as well as soil, so they require more frequent watering.  I have set up soaker hoses right on top of the straw bales so I can let this run occasionally.  Believe it or not, I also found the soaker hoses in the garage so I didn't have to buy them either.

Straw Bale Garden Tomatoes
Straw Bale Garden Tomatoes
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
Some crops do not work well in straw bales- growing sweet corn in straw bales is not recommended, and I planted my zucchini in a small patch in the ground instead of in straw bales.

Even though I have listed more drawbacks than advantages to straw bale gardens, I think a straw bale garden is a good solution in some situations.  If you want a small garden and don't mind watering it frequently, a straw bale garden could work well.  The cost of the straw bales and amount of watering could be prohibitive for a large garden.

I plan to use the straw bales to make compost and transition to some garden in the ground and perhaps some new straw bales again next year.

Does Straw Bale Gardening Work?

Straw Bale Garden Herbs
Straw Bale Garden Herbs
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

The harvest is just getting started, and it has been great to have some fresh vegetables growing right outside the back door.    I wanted a garden that would be fairly easy to get started and not too expensive.  So far, the straw bale garden is working out very nicely.

Check back for more updates on how the straw bale garden turns out.

Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Recycled Plant for Hanging Basket = Free

Plant Rescued, Money Saved!


Our hanging basket got dried out after we forgot about it- I brought it back to life with lots of watering
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

We got an outdoor flower in a hanging basket early this spring and forgot about it. It was dried out and looked mostly dead and the flowers were all gone. My wife mentioned getting another plant to replace it. I decided to try to rescue the plant (and also rescue some of the money in my wallet). I filled the pot overflowing with water every day and fertilized once a week. Now after a few weeks, it looks better than ever!

This worked out well for everyone involved- we didn't buy another plant, so my wallet is happy. We have a nice looking flower, so my wife is happy. And, of course, the plant is happy with how this worked out.

You might ask how much I spent on fertilizer and extra water to bring the plant back to life.  My house is on a community well, with no water meter, so the water was free.  You would think with unmetered water that people would use water like crazy, but surprisingly, people here are very careful with water.

I found the fertilizer in the garage from a past year, so I'm going to count that as free as well since I didn't have to buy it. 

I should note that the "Before" picture was actually taken after to give an idea of what the plant looked like.  It was actually much more dried out and I don't think there were any green leaves remaining.


Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rubberific Rubber Mulch- Lasts for Years

Rubberific Rubber Mulch


Bags of Rubberific Rubber Mulch
Bags of Rubberific Rubber Mulch
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

When my wife brought home some bags of rubber mulch to try this spring, I was skeptical.  Regular wood mulch is pretty cheap and works pretty well.  We usually get the cheap Cyprus mulch.  The down side of wood mulch is that it breaks down and looks faded and old after less than a year.

Rubberific Rubber Mulch is an interesting idea.  It is made from shredded up tires that are dyed.  It looks just like wood mulch, and considering that old tires seem to last forever, I think this mulch will last a long time.

Rubberific Rubber Mulch In My Flower Bed
Rubberific Rubber Mulch In My Flower Bed
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

The rubber mulch itself is really light since it is dry.  I am used to picking up bags of wood mulch that are much heavier for the same volume.  I was surprised how much the shredded rubber looks like chipped wood.  You wouldn't notice unless you are really looking closely.

Rubber mulch could be one of those things that is more expensive at first and pays for itself over the years.  Replacing mulch every year not only requires the cost of the mulch, but also time and the gas to drive around to get the mulch.  The Rubberific rubber mulch costs about 3 to 5 times as much as wood mulch, depending on what kind of wood mulch you get.  This product has a chance to be cost effective if it really does last 10 to 15 years.

Rubberific Rubber Mulch- Shredded Tires Looks Like Wood Mulch
Rubberific Rubber Mulch- Shredded Tires Looks Like Wood Mulch
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Just as I was getting impressed and thinking that rubber mulch really is "Rubberific", I remembered the mulch we used in a different flower bed this year.  It was a rock mulch.  The rock mulch will last much longer than 10-15 years- more like billions of years!  But wood mulch looks better than rocks in the shady location in front of our house, so the choice is between wood and rubber.  In the shade, it may last even longer than the advertised 10-15 years, so I may never need to replace it.

I can think of a few downsides to using rubber mulch.  It is more expensive than wood mulch.  Since the recycled tires certainly contain a lot of chemicals, I wouldn't want to use it around vegetable plants or fruit trees.  Also, I think rubber mulch placed in the sun could get really hot and maybe even smell like rubber tires on a hot day.

I think trying out rubber mulch in a shady flower bed is a good place to experiment with it.  If you use mulch in your landscaping, check out rubber mulch for a longer-lasting alternative to wood mulch.



Copyright © 2015 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Monday, April 20, 2015

Straw Bale Gardening: Timeline Journal

Straw Bale Gardening: Timeline Journal

How long does it take to start a straw bale garden?  You need to obtain straw bales, condition the bales, and plant your garden in (or on) the straw bales.  How long does this process take?  Here is the timeline for starting my straw bale garden from scratch in 2015.

Note: the location is in southeastern Iowa where the last frost date is around May 10.  Planting dates in your location may vary...

If you want to learn all about straw bale gardens, you can learn everything from planning through harvest:

March 28: Started seeds growing in indoor trays.  These plants will be moved into the straw bales later on.  You can buy plants at a green house or grocery store to plant in your straw bales, but we started our own to save money.
Starting Plants for Straw Bale Garden
Starting Plants for Straw Bale Garden
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

April 3: Bought 25 bales of straw from a local farmer.  I decided on 25 bales since this many bales would fit well in the space I had in mind.  Also, 25 straw bales is about the maxim number that will fit in a single pick-up truck load.
Bringing Home Straw Bales
Bringing Home Straw Bales
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


April 4:  Put down landscape fabric, set the bales in place, and staked them down.  This article talks about how to get started at straw bale gardening.

Straw Bales in Place for Straw Bale Garden
Straw Bales in Place for Straw Bale Garden
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


April 9:  Started 10 day straw bale conditioning.  Conditioning adds fertilizer into bales and starts the bales breaking down into compost.  This article has the recipe for what to add to condition the bales.

Conditioning Straw Bales for Planting
Conditioning Straw Bales for Planting
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


April 18: Last day of straw bale conditioning.  Added wood ash and bone meal in addition to compost fertilizer.

April 19:  First planting today.  Planted spinach from seeds and seed potatoes.  I planted the spinach seeds on top of two straw bales in about an inch of topsoil.  I stuck the seed potato segments about 4 inches deep into two straw bales.  I used a small garden trowel to dig down into the bale so I could put the seed potatoes in.  There was no need to add soil on top for the potatoes.  The straw is getting soft and is clearly starting to break down into compost.

Spinach Seeds Planted in Soil On Top of Straw Bale
Spinach Seeds Planted in Soil On Top of Straw Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

April 22: Planted peas today.  Just stuck the pea seeds down into the bales with no topsoil.  Planted 80 seeds in two bales.

April 30: The spinach sprouted today.  We planted this from seeds 11 days ago.

Today we planted broccoli, cauliflower, and onions.  The broccoli and cauliflower were small plants and the onions were onion sets for planting.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Planted in Straw Bales
Broccoli and Cauliflower Planted in Straw Bales
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
Onion Sets Planted in Straw Bale
Onion Sets Planted in Straw Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
Spinach Sprouted from Seed
Spinach Sprouted from Seed
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

May 2: Peas are up today!  We noticed that they are starting to poke up out of the straw this afternoon.

May 14: Cucumbers are planted in the bales.  These were started from seeds and transplanted into the bales.

May 23:  Planted the remaining vegetables in the bales.  It has been cold and rainy this year, so we kept our plants inside to let them get a little bigger before we moved them out.  Here's what we planted today in the bales:

  • String Beans from seeds
  • Peppers
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Tomoatoes
  • Cantalope

As you can see on the right side of the garden, the spinach and peas are off to a good start.  The bales are breaking down nicely- it was very easy to poke the bean seeds right into the bales.

Everything is Planted- the Spinach and Peas are off to a good start.
Everything is Planted- the Spinach and Peas are off to a good start.
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

May 28:  The potatoes planted from seed potatoes are coming up.  I was beginning to wonder if they were going to grow or not.  Also, the green beans planted 5 days ago from seed are coming up already.

June 10:  First harvest from the straw bale garden today- spinach!  My wife picked enough to make a giant salad for lunch to take to work and I did the same.  The spinach has been ready since at least June 1, but just got around to harvesting it.

Straw Bale Garden in June- Everything is Growing
Straw Bale Garden in June- Everything is Growing
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
I will keep adding to the straw bale gardening timeline journal- stop back to see how it turns out and how long it takes for a straw bale garden to produce vegetables...

Copyright © 2015 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Straw Bale Gardening: Conditioning Straw Bales

Straw Bale Gardening: Conditioning Straw Bales


This is article two in my series about Straw Bale Gardening- in this article, you'll learn all about conditioning straw bales for a straw bale garden.  See my first article on Straw Bale Gardening to learn how to find straw bales and how to lay out a straw bale garden.


If you want to learn all about straw bale gardens, you can learn everything from planning through harvest:

Steps for Conditioning Straw Bales for Straw Bale Gardening

The following steps for conditioning straw bales is from Joel Karsten who wrote the book Straw Bale Gardens Complete.

  • Day 1: 3 cups composted fertilizer per bale and water
  • Day 2: water
  • Day 3: 3 cups composted fertilizer per bale and water
  • Day 4: water
  • Day 5: 3 cups composted fertilizer per bale and water
  • Day 6: water
  • Day 7: 1.5 cups composted fertilizer per bale and water
  • Day 8: 1.5 cups composted fertilizer per bale and water
  • Day 9: 1.5 cups composted fertilizer per bale and water
  • Day 10: 3 cups bone meal/wood ash mix (supplies phosphorus and potassium), and water

Here is a link to an article in Modern Farmer that describes this method for conditioning straw bales.

During the conditioning process, the straw bale will heat up to over 100 degrees, which kills most of the weed seeds that may be mixed in with the straw.  Some people use hay bales instead of straw bales, but I would be a little concerned about weed seeds even with the heating of the bales.  Since the bale heats up, you will need to wait until the bales cool down to plant your seeds or plants that you have started in the bales.  I am not sure yet if I will just stick my hand in the bale to see if it is warm, or if I will use a thermometer.

We should be ready to plant some of the hardier vegetables after Day 10, which will be April 18.  The last frost date here in southern Iowa is around May 10, so we'll have to be careful what we put out early.  Our straw bale garden is located on a hill facing the south and is sheltered by the garage on the north, so we should be safe to put plants out pretty early.  I am looking forward to seeing some plants growing in these straw bales!

Day 1:  3 Cups Fertilizer per Bale and Water

Conditioning Bales for Straw Bale Gardening
Conditioning Bales for Straw Bale Gardening, Day 1
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Last weekend, I brought home 25 bales of straw for my straw bale garden.  My wife and I figured out a layout for the garden, put down landscaping fabric, and put the bales in place.  I used some metal stales to keep the straw bales in place.  My earlier post describes the benefits of straw bale gardening, starting the plants from seeds in planting trays, and laying the bales out to start a straw bale garden.

Straw Bale on Day 1 of Conditioning with Fertilizer
Straw Bale on Day 1 of Conditioning with Fertilizer
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
The next step after getting your straw bales in place is conditioning the bales.  This is a 10 day process where you keep the straw bales wet and apply fertilizer to the bales.  This starts the bales breaking down so that plants will be able to grow in them.  You can use "standard" high nitrogen fertilizer or organic fertilizers.  My wife decided to go with organic fertilizer.

Organic Plant Food Used to Condition Straw Bale Garden
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
For the first treatment, she placed 3 cups of plant food (fertilizer) on top of the bales and then ran water on top of it to start washing it into the bales.  We had some plant food left from last year's garden but needed to buy more to have enough for all of the bales.  Since the organic plant food is sort of expensive, we may use compost for the next treatment with fertilizer which is on Day 3.  On Day 2, only water will be applied.  Later in the conditioning process, we will add some bone meal and wood ash.

Day 2:  Water Bales

We watered the bales today, plus it rained quite a bit, so they should be good and wet now.  Watering the bales will wash the fertilizer down into the bale and also keep it damp inside the bale so the bacteria can do its work to break down the bales and get them ready for planting.

I don't see much difference in the bales since we started, except they are now dirty and wet...

Conditioning the Straw Bales, Day 2
Conditioning the Straw Bales, Day 2
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Closeup of Bale on Day 2 of Conditioning
Closeup of Bale on Day 2 of Conditioning
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 3:  3 Cups Fertilizer per Bale and Water

Day 3 of conditioning the straw bale garden calls for adding more fertilizer and watering the bales.  I picked up a few 40 pound bags of compost to use as fertilizer at Earl May.  I got 2 bags of plant leaf compost and 2 bags of cow manure compost.  The composted leaves was $4 for a 40 pound bag.  The composted cow manure was $7 for a 40 pound bag.

I added about 1.5 cups of each type of compost, for a total of 3 cups of fertilizer per bale today and soaked it in with water.  As I worked on conditioning the straw bales tonight, I realized that this is really like starting a compost pile.  The difference is that I will be planting things in this compost pile and letting plants grow while it composts.


Day 3 of Conditioning the Bales- Before Adding More Fertilizer
Day 3 of Conditioning the Bales- Before Adding More Fertilizer
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Composted Leaves and Plant Material- $4 for 40 Pounds
Composted Leaves and Plant Material- $4 for 40 Pounds
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Composted Cow Manure- $7 for 40 Pounds
Composted Cow Manure- $7 for 40 Pounds
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Watering the Bales to Soak In Fertilizer
Watering the Bales to Soak In Fertilizer
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Day 3 of Bale Conditioning, After Adding More Fertilizer and Soaking with Water
Day 3 of Bale Conditioning, After Adding More Fertilizer and Soaking with Water
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 4:  Water Bales

Day 4 of straw bale conditioning  is watering only.  The purpose of watering the bales is two-fold.  First, watering the bales will wash the nitrogen from the compost or fertilizer that you apply on top of the bales down into the bales.  Second, watering the bales keeps them wet inside so they can start to break down and get prepared to be a good growing medium for plants.

Here are some photos of the bales on Day 4 of conditioning for straw bale gardening.


Straw Bales, Day 4, Before Watering
Straw Bales, Day 4, Before Watering
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Straw Bales, Day 4, Before Watering, Side View
Straw Bales, Day 4, Before Watering, Side View
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Straw Bales, Day 4, After Watering, Close-up
Straw Bales, Day 4, After Watering, Close-up
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Straw Bales, Day 4, After Watering
Straw Bales, Day 4, After Watering
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 5:  3 Cups Fertilizer per Bale and Water

I get to add more fertilizer today.  Today I finished up one of the 40 pound bags of plant compost and one of the 40 pound bags of composted manure.  Watering the fertilizer into the bales must be working, because there isn't that much stuff on top of the bales.  I don't know if the composting is going very fast due to low temperatures- it is getting down into the 40's at night.

The bales do not look that much different to me yet.  They are waterlogged and dirty.  It is probably too late to try to return the bales if I were to change my mind now...

Here are some  photos of how the bales looked on Day 5 before fertilizer was added.  It was raining today, so they were already wet.

Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, Before Adding More Fertilizer
Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, Before Adding More Fertilizer
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, Before Adding More Fertilizer, Several Bales
Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, Before Adding More Fertilizer, Several Bales
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Next, I added about 3 cups of compost fertilizer on top of each bale.

Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, with Fertilizer Added
Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, with Fertilizer Added
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, with Fertilizer Added
Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, with Fertilizer Added, Side of Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Then I used the "shower" setting on my garden hose sprayer head to water the fertilizer down into the bales.  Here is how they looked today after watering:

Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, after Watering in More Fertilizer
Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, after Watering in More Fertilizer
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, after Watering in More Fertilizer, Side of Bale
Day 5 of Straw Bale Conditioning, after Watering in More Fertilizer, Side of Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 6:  Water Bales


Today I just watered the bales.  I also put up my rain gauge near my garden.

Day 6, Before Water, Top of Bale
Day 6, Before Water, Top of Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 6, Before Water, Side of Bale
Day 6, Before Water, Side of Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 6, After Water, Top of Bale
Day 6, After Water, Top of Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 6, After Water, Side of Bale
Day 6, After Water, Side of Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Rain gauge, Attached to Deck Rail Next to Garden
Rain gauge, Attached to Deck Rail Next to Garden
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 7: 1.5 Cups Composted Fertilizer per Bale and Water

The plan for Day 7 of conditioning the bales is to add half the amount of compost that we have been adding, and then water it into the bales.  This will also be the plan for Day 8 and Day 9 as well.

I put my hand against the side of a bale today to check the temperature and I did feel some warmth.  It is hard to say if this is from the bales heading up inside from the fertilizer and composting process, or if this is simply passive solar heating since the bales were out in the sun today.


Day 7, Before Fertilizer, Top of Bale
Day 7, Before Fertilizer, Top of Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny PIncher
Day 7, Before Fertilizer, Side of Bale
Day 7, Before Fertilizer, Side of Bale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 7, After Adding Fertilizer, Close-up
Day 7, After Adding Fertilizer, Close-up
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
Day 7, After Adding Fertilizer
Day 7, After Adding Fertilizer
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 7, After Fertilizer and Water, Close-up
Day 7, After Fertilizer and Water, Close-up
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 7, After Fertilizer and Water
Day 7, After Fertilizer and Water
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Day 8: 1.5 Cups Composted Fertilizer per Bale and Water

Day 8 is the same plan as Day 7: add 1.5 cups compost per bale and water it into the bales.  Today was a long day, so I was working in the garden after dark tonight.  I can get some light through the windows in my shop if I turn on the lights.

Day 8, Before Adding Fertilizer
Day 8, Before Adding Fertilizer
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 8, Before Adding Fertilizer, Side View
Day 8, Before Adding Fertilizer, Side View
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 8, Fertilizer Added
Day 8, Fertilizer Added
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 8, Fertilizer Added, Side View
Day 8, Fertilizer Added, Side View
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 8, After Fertilizer and Water
Day 8, After Fertilizer and Water
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 8, After Fertilizer and Water, Side View
Day 8, After Fertilizer and Water, Side View
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Day 9: 1.5 Cups Composted Fertilizer per Bale and Water

Today, I decided to stick my hand into a bale and see if it is heating up noticeably.  The air temperature was about 75 degrees.  The inside of the bale was definitely warm- I would say maybe 130 degrees.  With my hand not far into the bale, the tips of my fingers were uncomfortably warm.

Checking Temperature Inside Straw Bale- It Is Definitely Heating Up!
Checking Temperature Inside Straw Bale- It Is Definitely Heating Up!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Today's recipe is to add 1.5 cups of compost per bale and soak it in with water.  Here's what that looked like:

Day 9 Conditioning, Straw Bale Before Fertilizer Added
Day 9 Conditioning, Straw Bale Before Fertilizer Added
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 9, Straw Bale with 1.5 Cups of Compost Added
Day 9, Straw Bale with 1.5 Cups of Compost Added
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 9 Straw Bale Conditioning, After Fertilizer and Water
Day 9 Straw Bale Conditioning, After Fertilizer and Water
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 10: 3 cups bone meal/wood ash mix (supplies phosphorus and potassium), and water

It's graduation day for the straw bales today!  Today is the final step of bale conditioning.  I'll add some bone meal to supply phosphorous and wood ash to supply potassium.  Then I'll add some more compost to supply nitrogen and soak all of that into the bales with water.

The next step is to check the temperature inside the bales to make sure it is not too hot, and then plant when we are ready.  Since it is only mid-April, we may plant some things right away like lettuce and wait awhile to put some of the plants we started inside in starting trays.

You'll see from the photos of Day 10 that I added some foam covers to the metal stakes that I used to hold the bales in place.  The other day, I bent down to pick something up and almost hit my head on a fairly sharp stake.  I decided to put some padding on before a kid or small dog gets hurt.  I bought some swim noodles that are used for floating in a swimming pool for $2 each and used a hack saw to cut them to length.  I slid them over the posts, with a couple inches of extra length to absorb any blows and prevent impalement.

Here are the photos from Day 10 of conditioning the straw bales:

Wood Ash from Fire Pit- Adds Potassium
Wood Ash from Fire Pit- Adds Potassium
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Organic Bone Meal- Adds Phosphorus
Organic Bone Meal- Adds Phosphorus
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 10, Bales Before Adding Anything
Day 10, Bales Before Adding Anything
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 10, Before Adding Anything- Closeup
Day 10, Before Adding Anything- Closeup
Dr. Penny Pincher

Bales with Wood Ash and Bone Meal
Bales with Wood Ash and Bone Meal
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Bales with Wood Ash and Bone Meal- Closeup
Bales with Wood Ash and Bone Meal- Closeup
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 10 Straw Bale Conditioning- After Watering
Day 10 Straw Bale Conditioning- After Watering
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Day 10 Straw Bale Conditioning- After Watering, Closeup
Day 10 Straw Bale Conditioning- After Watering, Closeup
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

The bales are heating up inside, and conditioning of bales for the straw bale garden seems to be going well.  Next, I'll wait until the temperature inside cools down a bit and then go ahead and plant.  You can spread a bit of topsoil on top of the bales and plant seeds right on top.  You can also dig into the bales a bit and plant small plants right into the bales, adding some topsoil in the hole to cover the roots.

So far, straw bale gardening is going well.  Find out how the straw bale garden turned out- here is a link to my straw bale gardening journal for the garden this year.


Straw Bale Garden- Ready to Plant!
Straw Bale Garden- Ready to Plant!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

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