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Building soil for new guilds  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I have a thought for a way to build soil before planting another tree guild. I have a friend that i can get those huge round hay bales from. They are a few hundred lbs. Im thinking of using each one like a straw bale garden.  After a couple years i should have a large circle of really great soil. My guilds are all circular already and this will break down and leave a somewhat raised area that should drain much better than the heavy Clay beneath.  If the soil is very deep, i can rake some outward to make a larger circle.  Has anyone tried this with one of those large bales? With what results?
 
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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The difference between a round bale and the standard rectangular bales is the orientation of the straws, it is this orientation that makes straw bales work.

The straws in a round bale are on their side rather than being able to be set open end up.
All this means is that you will have a little more involved prep work to get them ready for planting and they will not rot as fast or hold as much water, simply because of the direction of the straws.

Those huge round bales do work very well and they last a long time (3-4 seasons) compared to rectangular bales stood open straw up.

Be sure to soak them for at least 3 weeks and add nitrogen several times, using a rod (I use a hickory limb that is sharpened) to poke holes down into the bale as deep as you can.
Then come back with the nitrogen item of your choice. Some use Manures some use Spent Coffee Grounds, some use a mixture and others use commercial high nitrogen fertilizers (I don't recommend those ever, Manures, coffee grounds and urine work just fine).

I also would not remove the straw after it has deteriorated, I just leave it in place and plant through it, eventually it will become part of the soil.
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Thanks for the input Redhawk.  I was even thinking of slicing one in two across the center with a saw, ending up with 2 rounds disks that are half the height of the original so they will rot down a little quicker.  As you said, I plan to let it rot down and then plant right in it.

My hope is that putting them out early spring next year they will stay wet enough to get a good start.  Thanks for the tip about stabbing holes in it.  I can get quite a few coffee grounds, I will use those to dump into the holes.  I also thought I would make somewhat bigger holes, maybe 4 or 5 inches across, fill those with compost, and plant directly in them.  Any thoughts on that, or on which plants will do the best in these bales until they break down enough to plants my trees and bushes in them?
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
564
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What you have described is exactly how I do our bales Todd.

We set out our bales in January or February, that way the rains tend to soak the bales for us, once they are soaked I stab holes and put the coffee grounds on.
When we get ready to plant out, I carve out a large enough hole for the plant and some compost "soil", put some compost in, place the plant and finish setting it in with more of our compost.
Then I use our antique galvanized watering can to water the plants in.

I like the idea of cutting those rounds in half, that would make it easier to get to the plants as they grow as well as giving you two bales for the price of one.

Our bales can last up to two years but most only last one year.
We usually get mushroom blooms once the bales are rotting nicely in the interior.
Oh, the tighter the bale, the better, they won't collapse on you, that is a bummer since the collapse can take your plants with it.
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Excellent information, thank you.
 
Posts: 22
Location: Douglas County, WI zone 4a 105 acres
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fungi pig solar
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Todd Parr, how are those round hay bales working out? We got ten 2017 HAY bales in late June 2018 and laid them down on their sides, all together. My son poked pvc into them to introduce water before it started raining like crazy, and he also used those pipes to introduce blood meal AMAP. We have HORRIBLE clay and have been very delayed on the house-build - no time for much garden prep.
I just told him to throw our composted manure on the top - few inches or so - red wigglers are coming on Wednesday - I know it's late for zone 4. We also have a sack of those "mycorhizae" and could add some of them. Anybody can jump in here and let me know if this is likely to be a good garden area in Spring 2019! I expect I might have a weed problem from hay, rather than straw. But I'm prepared to mulch with a layer of newspaper and then wood chips. Thank you to all for any advice/experience and best wishes to all, Mary Beth.   
 
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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good info
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
564
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Mary Beth Alexander wrote:Todd Parr, how are those round hay bales working out? We got ten 2017 HAY bales in late June 2018 and laid them down on their sides, all together. My son poked pvc into them to introduce water before it started raining like crazy, and he also used those pipes to introduce blood meal AMAP. We have HORRIBLE clay and have been very delayed on the house-build - no time for much garden prep.
I just told him to throw our composted manure on the top - few inches or so - red wigglers are coming on Wednesday - I know it's late for zone 4. We also have a sack of those "mycorhizae" and could add some of them. Anybody can jump in here and let me know if this is likely to be a good garden area in Spring 2019! I expect I might have a weed problem from hay, rather than straw. But I'm prepared to mulch with a layer of newspaper and then wood chips. Thank you to all for any advice/experience and best wishes to all, Mary Beth.   



hau Mary Beth, how fast do you need to get this garden ready or are you going to use the bale method for growing the garden?

One of the really cool things about bale gardening is that if you have them placed where you want the garden to be, all the soil below becomes conditioned just from having the actively planted bales on top.
Using spent coffee grounds, poked into the top of the bales (doesn't matter which type or size) then watered in allows the bales to begin to rot from the inside out, the larger the bale, the more additions you can make to them and any thing that leaches down to the soil, will improve the soil.
Bales are really good at creating humic acids as they decay and that finds its way to the soil where it begins breaking up the solid structure and creating crumb, the longer the bales sit in place and are used (large rounds will last about 4 years) the better the soil beneath them becomes.

When adding manures, coffee grounds or any other amendment, a long sharpened stick works really well since you can poke it in as deep as you want and you can rotate it to make the hole larger and at the same time it breaks up the tight wrap of the straw or hay from the process of being baled.
This allows water to get deep inside far faster than just letting it sit as it came to you.

If you want more specifics on how to grow in bales, there is lots of info on the MEN site and here on permies, or you can just ask me.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Mycorrhizae are best used at the time of planting, these are root living fungi and they do far better for us when they are placed in direct contact with either seeds or root systems (transplants), if the plants are already going then you need to mix the mycorrhizae with water and soak the area where the roots are located.
 
Mary Beth Alexander
Posts: 22
Location: Douglas County, WI zone 4a 105 acres
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Thanks, Redhawk, for info and encouragement! Seems like we're on a good course in Zone 4. This current arrangement of ten (2017 wet-harvested) bales in 2 rows was just an accident due to them being delivered so late in the season - July of 2018. Because of house-build, decided not to try to use tractor-grapple to toss them with manure - over and over, etc.
They are in the area chosen for the permanent garden - I do understand that they will be improving our clay from the bottom up - I plan to use them for planting the garden Spring 2019.
Bought a cheap copy of Joel Karsten book on "Straw-Bale Gardening" SBG. Because we're using hay bales and have already introduced manure - his "sterile-soil" practice is not happening.
We've got 2 perforated PVC pipes in each bale down to about 3/4's way and have introduced blood-meal slurry through those. Crazy rain until recently - may need to add H2O this week after we've just spread a layer of manure and red wigglers.
1. Is this likely to get "hot" with a rough frost date of mid-Sept? And a Spring frost date of mid-April? Will we actually get an advantage from composition heat?
2. We have NO good soil to introduce into planting holes or seed-bed. We did buy "top-soil" for orchard planting, but it was very sandy and very iffy provenance. We can get 1-yr-old manure/black dirt for $100/ton, but that seems too rich iIMHO - never mind cost.
3. I got your msg about mycorhizae. I have a well-mixed group. Guessing they should be applied to tomatoes, potatoes (nicintomide family), peppers and okra.
4. We have mild slope to the South - was thinking to plant tomatoes at that end with trellis. Should I poke them into lower side of bale - will they get enough nutrients and not be too high for harvest?
5. Irish potatoes - really want a major harvest of these! SBG book suggests planting them 12-inches under lettuce, radish, early cole crops - what do you think?
VERY grateful for your input! and commitment to this deep resource for new "permies". Looking forward to hearing any and all advice - hoping my queries help others - wishing best success to all, Mary Beth
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
564
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hau Mary Beth, I am sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your questions.

1.) heat in bales occurs from additions of nitrogen, I've never measured temperatures of "aging" bales higher than 90 f so I think the root systems will survive and may even benefit.

2.) since you have added blood meal slurry the bales will be fine with what ever type of soil you have. Bales usually build a great microbiome which will also help any soil you use. (I have trialed using "potting mix" and it seemed to work just fine in well aged bales)

3.) Don't assign limits to which plants you use mycorrhizae, every time a new paper is published about mycorrhizae benefits are show that were previously not thought of, let the fungi decide where it wants to live since diversity is so key to success.

4.) I trellis our tomatoes horizontally so they don't get really tall.

5.) I would follow Joel's ideas on potato growing, he has good success (something I am still trying to accomplish on our farm). We have tried several different methods for potatoes with some success but not enough to settle the best method for our farm.

Redhawk
 
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