Straw bale gardening?

Old 04-23-2015, 03:15 PM
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Question Straw bale gardening?

Has anyone done this? It's suppose to work if you have a brown thumb. My friend just learned about it from her sister and then attended a class.

I'm just starting to read up on this and wondered if it is as easy as it sounds.

Any input would be appreciated.

TIA, Jennifer
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Old 04-23-2015, 03:37 PM
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I tried it one year. One thing I found was that the bales shrank a ***lot*** over the course of the season, and the shrinkage was uneven. I think it would help to have some kind of containment for the bales, such as wood sides. The other thing I found is that they need a lot of watering. I wished I had laid out a soaker hose over the top of the bales, connected to the faucet with an automatic timer. As I recall, watering with a hose often resulted with a lot of the water dribbling down and away from the plants; slow, frequent watering would have been better for the plants and also conserved on water usage. Also, I'm no expert, but I think it would have helped to have spread out at least a one-inch or two-inch layer of soil over the hay bales. If you are going to garden in the same place year after year, I think this would combine with the broken-down hay to form a nice base for a raised bed.

Edit: I should add that there seems to be a lot more information on the web nowadays, and a lot of the things that are recommended in the following website are things I didn't do. I didn't condition the bales, for example, and I have no idea if I had the cut side up. Plus, as you can probably tell from my calling it hay, I'm not a farming type person. I believe there is a difference between hay bales and straw bales.
http://bonnieplants.com/library/how-...-a-straw-bale/

I still think laying a soaker hose on top of the bales and setting up an automatic timer for watering would be very helpful.

Edit 2: Oh, my! This website makes me want to try it again!
http://modernfarmer.com/2013/07/straw-bale-gardening/

Edit 3: I think it's a good idea to read the negative reviews about the book before starting. Gives you an idea of some of the pitfalls.
http://www.amazon.com/Straw-Bale-Gar...dp/1591869072/

Last edited by Prism99; 04-23-2015 at 03:53 PM.
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Old 04-23-2015, 03:58 PM
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Yes, Prism, there is a lot of difference between hay and straw. Hay is very expensive here in Michigan and very hard to find. Straw is more available, but is not used for feed. Hay is grass like and straw is hollow (straw like). I saw an interesting way to garden, but don't know what it is called. The fellow who was talking about it just cut open a bag of soil and planted his vegetables there on top of the ground. I'm thinking of planting in large planters and growing some tomatoes and a few other vegetables. That is as soon as it stops snowing in Michigan. Is summer ever coming?
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Old 04-23-2015, 04:59 PM
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I have not tried the hay bale method, but have read about it and think it makes sense. What I do however is the Ruth Stout No Work Garden method which combines the traditional dirt garden method with using hay/straw. First you cover your garden with LOTS of loose hay, at least 8 inches deep. Then you pull back the hay to plant your veggie plants or seeds. If using plants, just push the hay up around the plants so there is no bare dirt showing. If planting seeds, you will leave your narrow rows of dirt bare until the seeds sprout, then keep spreading the hay around the new seedlings as they grow. In effect, the hay is working like a really thick mulch. The benefits are almost no weeds and water conservation as the hay helps keep the moisture in the soil. Eventually the hay will decompose enriching your soil and you will need to add new hay each year. If you get weeds, your hay is not thick enough. I have wonderful garden results with this method!
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Old 04-23-2015, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeanne S View Post
I have not tried the hay bale method, but have read about it and think it makes sense. What I do however is the Ruth Stout No Work Garden method which combines the traditional dirt garden method with using hay/straw. First you cover your garden with LOTS of loose hay, at least 8 inches deep. Then you pull back the hay to plant your veggie plants or seeds. If using plants, just push the hay up around the plants so there is no bare dirt showing. If planting seeds, you will leave your narrow rows of dirt bare until the seeds sprout, then keep spreading the hay around the new seedlings as they grow. In effect, the hay is working like a really thick mulch. The benefits are almost no weeds and water conservation as the hay helps keep the moisture in the soil. Eventually the hay will decompose enriching your soil and you will need to add new hay each year. If you get weeds, your hay is not thick enough. I have wonderful garden results with this method!
Jeanne,
You make me so interested to try some summer veggie gardening again in my new place starting in July. I can start little seed pots on my screened in porch now and plant when I get moved to the new place. It sounds so easy as you've described!

Thanks,
Jan in VA

Last edited by Jan in VA; 04-23-2015 at 10:49 PM.
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Old 04-24-2015, 04:48 AM
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Straw is what is left after combining wheat or straw. Hay is what is baled from alfalfa or different grasses and is therefore edible for animals. Straw has no nutritional value and is used for bedding. How do I know - I was the tractor driver for our baling operation on our farm for the last 40 years. We are now retired, sold our haying equipment last year and now have time to quilt - yea.

Last edited by Karamarie; 04-24-2015 at 04:52 AM. Reason: Add additional info
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Old 04-24-2015, 04:53 AM
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One more thing - hay is greenish and straw is yellowish.
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Old 04-24-2015, 05:08 AM
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We tried it one summer with hay. It sprouted and mildewed but then, I'm in Florida. Everything grows and molds. I think I remember picking a few tomatoes. But if you try it, be sure to have a ground cloth to keep it from taking root. I think it would work best on a concrete patio in an apartment or condo where "ground" is not available.
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Old 04-24-2015, 05:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Jan in VA View Post
Jeanne,
You make me so interested to try some summer veggie gardening again in my new place starting in July. I can start little seed pots on my screened in porch now and plant when I get moved to the new place. It sounds so easy as you've described!


Thanks,
Jan in VA
Jan,
Here is a couple of pictures of my little garden that I took this morning. I use lots of supports to grow everything vertically that I can due to limited space. But the hay/straw method works great, and makes it so easy. I also start my plants from seed indoors under a grow light in February so they are ready to move outside in early April (other than green beans and okra and spinach that I plant from seed). Almost no weeding or watering. I usually buy a bale or two of hay/straw each fall after the Halloween decorations go on sale at the gardening centers for $2 each. (Or I find them free on the curbs that neighbors have set out for the trash men to pick up!!) I cover my garden area with it in the late fall and leave it on all winter--no spring weeds when I am ready to plant! Happy gardening.
p1110960.jpgp1110958.jpg
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Old 04-24-2015, 05:34 AM
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Think of hay as dried herbs. The plants are cut and dried when the leaves are green and packed with nutrients.

Straw is leftovers from the plant's reproductive cycle.
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