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Planting into straw or hay bales

 
                              
Posts: 63
Location: North West PA, USA
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Here's one of my potato experiments:
http://www.puffergas.com/terra/potato-2007.html

The humus was made from switchgrass. I called it compost but now I'm learning that it was closer to humus.

Jeff
 
                                  
Posts: 26
Location: central kansas
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Interesting pictures puffergas.  How many plants were in each box?  And did you clean up the potatoes in the pics or were they that clean when you harvested?
 
                              
Posts: 63
Location: North West PA, USA
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goodshephrd wrote:
Interesting pictures puffergas.  How many plants were in each box?  And did you clean up the potatoes in the pics or were they that clean when you harvested?



They were rinsed in the sink. Four seed potatoes per box.

Jeff
 
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supose the end product of compost is humus so you could call it either.
  when juan ora de la rueda y salguero best at taalking of traditional uses of trees talks of the humus that junipers produce or rather all the litter, detritus, the flowers, berries, dead leaves, twigs and bits of bark, he states the tons per acre, he mentions that the detritus of the juniper is called juma by the arabs who lived in Spain for some centuries. As j is pronounced h a gutteral h, the origen of the word seems to be Arab and used for the detritus of junipers that is usefull in the stables as it has a natural insecticide this i read in the book "Razas Ganaderas Ovinas" live stock sheep sheep races  by C. Estebgan Muñoz .  edited by the government departments feagas and mapa those are the initials for the departments and i don't know what they stand for. agri rose macaskie.
 
                                  
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I have a small hillside area which is currently covered with lawn grass and weeds, and it occurs to me I could put some straw bale "terraces" there.  Anybody ever done this?  I suppose I'd have to prop up the bales with rocks or some such thing so they're level on the hill, but then perhaps I could realize my dream of growing sweet potatoes on that hillside.

Anybody tried sweet potatoes in the bales?
 
pollinator
Posts: 240
Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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Building terraces with bales is quite easy.  You don't have to level them either.  If the slope is fairly steep you can drive stakes through the bales and into the ground to anchor them a bit.

I met some people who built terraces like that and made their compost behind the bales.  One year's compost terrace was another year's garden bed.  The plan was to progressively build terraces with the bales and then build dry-stack stone retaining walls in front of the bale terraces to make permanent terraces. 
 
                                  
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Oh that's a great idea to use stakes, Ardilla.  And your friends' plan sounds wonderful.

For sure I'm gonna try this!
 
                                            
Posts: 12
Location: Tacoma, WA - Zone 7b
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I had similar results to puffergas last year in a built-up potato box. 

I had the same quantity of potatos per square foot in the box as there were in the surrounding boxes.  I filled with amout 50% compost and 50% straw.  I also included a soaker hose for watering throughout the box.

I didn't have too much of a pest problem--no more than the other potato plants. 

I don't plan on building up the box again.  This year, I'm just using the bottom two sections and leaving them there.

-Eric
Potato-Box-20090609-1847a.JPG
[Thumbnail for Potato-Box-20090609-1847a.JPG]
 
                                  
Posts: 175
Location: Suwon, South Korea
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Garden Len's terrific site was where I first saw this, too.  The other neat thing he does with straw bales is make a quick and easy no-dig swale out of it!  As I understand it, his point is that a swale is basically just a row along the contour  that slows down the rain water and gets it to seep into the ground.  Straw, mulch, shrubs, etc., will in most situations do the same as a trench will.
 
Posts: 109
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I used to use straw bales as a urinal on an allotment site (UK) works really well no smell - never thought of then planting straight into them just spread them as mulch. Reckon they would be perfect for squash etc.
Interested in the use of chipped wood for potatos - doesnt it get way too hot ?? I use the no dig potato method with grass clippings piled on in layers 4"-6" at a time that works great and doesnt heat up at that depth. but fresh chippings get really hot - I had a heap delivered and it was steaming and too hot to touch (inside the heap) in a day I can get it for free but I've only ever used it composted for a year before use.
 
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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As far as I can remember, the woodchips we used were a mix of old and new chips. Can't recall the ratio. We also threw weeds in the mix. It didn't get too hot is all I know. I think theres a big difference between a 3-4 foot high pile compared to a 6-12 inch one.
 
Roger Merry
Posts: 109
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Thanks for that - I'll give it a try next season..... thats if it ever stops freezing  I know it isn't Canadian cold but -7 c is way too cold for me 
 
Travis Philp
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Just keep an eye on the leaf growth. You may want to add a nitrogen boost either through urine, manure, grass clippings, or compost tea.
 
                                
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I tried straw-bale gardening for the first time last year, and had great success with it!  My tomatoes, squash, and cukes all went crazy in the straw bales. 

I "cook" my bails using a chicken manure tea, and massive amounts of water for about 10-15 days before planting in them.  Transplanting seedlings into the bales is a snap!  Just stick your hand into the bale, wiggle it around to make enough room for the plant, add a little compost, add the seedling, and you're done!  I even had some success starting seeds directly in the bales, with just a thin layer of soil covering the seeds I had placed into the bale.
 
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Interesting reading! Is there a book anyone can recommend with some of this info in it? Thanks!
 
rose macaskie
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  I like the idea of growing in side walls of wood you can add to with a new ring of wood all the time and am grate full to hear of it.

  Talking of your insect problem.    I suppose to have all your potato plants in boxes next to each other was to violate the spead out your plants principle, spread them out so the pest that likes that plant wont find all its dinner easy to find in one place.
        Another way is to plant lavender and other herbs to disguise the potatoes. and maybe to scare off the bugs with their nasty, for a bug, smelling leaves and Brenda Groth puts on ash to scare of slugs who dont like dragging their tummies over ash.
        Black birds eat slugs, probably member of the crow family do to and hedge hogs and such. A bird table might help with insects only bird tables can be expensive, I spend a bit feeding the birds, the reward is that then they come and you can see them.
        Of course the bill mollison recipe is ducks who convert the slugs into duck do fertiliser but i find animals tie me down such a lot. agri rose macaskie.
 
                              
Posts: 47
Location: Colorado, Zone 5, Cold Semi-arid
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Hello.  I've been lurking a week or so, and having limited experience with this technique, thought I'd post.

I used straw bales in my mini-hoop house last year, with decent results for a first-timer.

This is the website I found: http://www.strawbalegardens.com/ . The guy has an ebook you can buy.

It's fairly simple.  Just lay out the bales (strings to the side) how you want them, soak with water for several days.  After a week or two, layer fertilizer on top (urine, manure, etc.), continue to soak the bales with water.  You'll notice the middle of the bale(s) sinking a bit, and  a wonderful rich aroma wafting up.  To plant, just make a hole in the top of a bale, plant, and backfill with compost.  Or, layer compost on top, and sow or transplant directly.

My adventures this last year were fairly haphazard.  I did get quite a few tomatoes, and plucked from the herbs as needed.  Some critters (I suspect voles) destroyed the beans.

The left over straw is partially decomposed, and makes good mulch.

Some pictures, http://www.flickr.com/photos/tipafo/sets/72157626004454776/ .
 
                                
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craftylittlemonkey wrote:
Interesting reading! Is there a book anyone can recommend with some of this info in it? Thanks!



I don't know of any good books on the subject, but there are tons of YouTube videos out there on straw-bale gardening. 
 
gardener
Posts: 1596
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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I'm trying a bale experiment by making an encased raised bed with straw bales underneath and 18 inches of soil on top. Hoping that the bales retain water and as it decomposes gives of a bit of heat.
 
Roger Merry
Posts: 109
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Robert - love to hear how this goes, its hugelculture only light weight  not sure how much heat you'll get but should definitely act as a sponge for water.

I use traditional hot beds (pile of fresh straw rich manure - with compost on top) for melons cucumbers etc they work a treat and you have a pile of well rotted manure to spread in the Autumn.

I'd like to try them in the greenhouse to extend the early growing season - why do they make greenhouse doors narrower than a barrow  it would be serious work by the bucket full 
 
rose macaskie
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Eric kimmet, I am in a hurry and trying to find the bit on growing potatioes in a potatoe tower taht i wanted to answer too but  have not found it.  Eric-kimets photos look like the photos i remember on th epotatoe tower or whatever tis called. there was talk of the tops not growing enough because of lalck of sunlight and there fore the potatoes not growing enough.
  i have heard on a vidoe or read somewhere that if potatoes have too much nitrogen their tops grow a lot and the potatoes don't. I thought that was usefull information.  agri rose macaskie.
 
                                    
Posts: 147
Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
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yes i like that blog too.


how much do you water the straw beds and how much compost is mixed in?  we tried this last year and with cucumbers and they grew very slowly and needed a lot of watering.  actually i am thinking part of the problem was we left the straw in bale form.  do you want to spread the straw around and get some air in it?
 
                              
Posts: 47
Location: Colorado, Zone 5, Cold Semi-arid
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Straw bales take a lot of water.  A lot of water.  And, they should stay in bale form.

The bales need to be "conditioned" prior to planting.  I'll refer to the PDF book I mentioned in an earlier post, available here:  http://www.strawbalegardens.com/ .  (I'm not pushing his book, but the information is useful.)

For my experiment last year, I didn't fertilize exactly to this schedule, but it seemed to work out alright.  It is very important to let the bales decompose (mainly in the center of the bale) before planting, otherwise the bales are too tightly compacted for roots to grow into.  My carrots were 1" long, at most, because I didn't let that bale breakdown enough.

The bales should be waterlogged and practically unmovable by the time they're ready for planting.  The bales will continue to decompose through the growing season, becoming looser and less "bale-like" as time goes by, until they just fall apart months later.

Here's a video of someone else's straw bales:


Good luck.
 
                                    
Posts: 147
Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
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thanks!  it wasn't my project so i didn't pay much attention to the bales.  i'm not sure if i'll buy more straw this year or not due to cost and pesticide concerns.
 
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I have ten straw bales I bought last fall that are absorbing our winter rains. I am wondering how people lay them out. Any patterns that resemble the keyhole concept that minimizes the pathways?  How wide do you make
The pathways?  This spring will mark our first year on the land. I planted a garden last year but we have deer. They said "thank you" and ate it all. Next year we will have a fence. I am unsure how guilds work when deer are thick. Around here all row crops are fenced and young fruit trees are fenced till they are big enough that the deer can't kill them.
 
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