Monday, April 27, 2009

It's ALIVE! (Straw Bale Gardening, Day 8)

Look what I found growing out of my straw bales when I went out to water them today - wheat!  Maybe this means I'm doing something right?  I did pry back some of the straw and feel inside, and it was pretty warm inside, so I think that's a good sign too!  As far as the wheat grass goes - I pulled most of it out.  Maybe I won't have to battle it too much.

In other gardening news, I planted half of a packet of dill in a large flower pot this afternoon.  I'm saving the other half to be planted in my straw bales when I'm able to...hopefully this weekend.  We'll see which seeds fare better. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Days 5-7

Not much to report other than that I've watered my bales every day.  I did spray around them with Sevin Saturday and seemed to have killed all the ants...or they at least moved.  

Anyway, I hope to get some manure to add to the tops of my bales in the next couple of days.  I'll keep watering every day and plan to transplant my plants next weekend.  Maybe the bales will be ready by then!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 4

Yesterday I got a phone call from my awesome friend Jeannie who told me that she was overwhelmed by seedlings all over her green house. She wanted to know if I could come take some off her hands, to which my reply was, "Be right there!"

What I brought home: yellow squash (1 plant), zucchini (1 plant), Anaheim chiles (3 plants), jalapeno chiles (3 plants), sweet watermelon (1 plant), grape tomato (1 plant), jubilee tomato (1 plant), and brandywine tomato (1 plant). Also, not shown in the picture are three tomatillos, a bunch of sweet basil, and a bunch of cilantro.

I decided to conserve space in my straw bales and use containers for my herbs, so I went ahead and transferred my basil & cilantro over to large pots. I'm really excited about these - especially the cilantro. I love that stuff! I hope it does well!

The only thing I did to my straw bales yesterday was water them. I do have a problem though: ants! There are ants all over the wall behind my bales and also in the straw. I called my aunt, who recommended buying some Sevin to put on the straw. I'm planning to do that tonight if no one has any better suggestions. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? (Sorry...couldn't resist...)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 3 (And Comments Fixed)

Yesterday, I watered all the bales down really well.  That's about it.  I can't wait for them to be ready to plant in!

By the way, someone mentioned that they had tried to comment on my blog and couldn't.  I'm not sure what the problem is with this layout, but it doesn't work with embedded comments.  I've changed the settings now though, so comment away! :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 2

Yesterday when I got ready to water my straw bales, my husband was filling the ditch from our recent plumbing project and kept finding earthworms. I read in one of the articles about straw bale gardening that they would help to break down your bales, so he added the little guys to my straw bales. Being new bales, I wasn't sure if they'd do anything with them or not, so I got the bright idea to add a little soil to the top and then water it down into the straw while I saturated the whole thing. Not sure if that was a good idea or not, but it's done now. Comments?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 1

Being very much a beginner when it comes to any form of gardening, I have decided that it is probably a good idea to keep a record of everything I do in my attempt to actually grow some vegetables this year. I want to know what works and what doesn't.

I'm keeping a physical journal, but I thought I'd also keep the same information in an online journal. This way, I have easy access to my notes from anywhere, and also I might get some tips from more experienced gardeners out there. So, if that is you, feel free to comment. I need all the help I can get!

So here begins my gardening journal...

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 1, 4/20/09:

I purchased 7 bales of wheat straw at $3/each at the local grain elevator. One of these came untied when loaded into the truck. That was OK, though, because only 6 bales fit into my little raised bed.

Before arranging the bales, I lined the bed with newspaper and wet that down. I don't know if this will serve any purpose, but it seemed like a good idea to do this to discourage weeds from coming up around the bales.

I placed 6 bales in the bed with the straw running perpendicular to the ground. I read that having the twine parallel to the ground will help prevent it from rotting. I have also read arguments for having it arranged the other way. I chose this way because it allowed me to fit all six bales into my garden.

I used some of the remaining loose straw to fill in any gaps between the bales. I also piled some up between the end of the last bale and our fence, careful not to let it lay against the fence in case it were to cause the fence to begin to rot. This may be unfounded, but I didn't want to take any chances. I'm not really sure what to do with this loose straw, but I wanted to prevent weeds, etc. from growing up in the leftover portion of the raised bed. Maybe this was a bad idea? I might place some potted plants on top of this straw. Suggestions?

Finally, I thoroughly saturated all of the straw. I know that keeping the straw really wet is important to start the process of it breaking down.

Questions I have at this point:
  • Will this straw, even though it's wet, encourage mice & snakes to take up residence in or around our house?
  • Should I remove the loose straw at the end of the bales, or what should I do there?
  • I'm thinking of adding some earthworms to each bale to encourage the breaking down process. Is this a dumb idea?
  • Instead of ammonium nitrate that I've read so much about, I'm thinking of putting layer of horse manure on top of all the straw and wet it down to help it sink into the straw. Would his help to start the "cooking" process?