Monday, 31 October 2011

Straw Bale Beginnings!

by Megan at The Byron Life

Work has begun in on our straw bale garden, which I first blogged about last month on Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op. (You can find that blog post here.)

After some research, I ended up going with a local grower of rose-grass straw bales.  The bales are organic, no sprays or fertilisers used, and after observing massive 12-month-old bales from this grower, saw that no grass seeds had been left in and it was decomposing nicely.

My bales will break down more quickly, however, as they are smaller and have compost nutrients draining through them from the plantings I’ve made.

I’ve been fortunate that the day the bales arrived, it started to rain that afternoon... only after first letting my little ones have a good play with the hose with instructions to soak the bales. (More soaking of the kiddos than the bales!)

In the photo above, the bales are placed so that the straw runs vertically, but I later turned them over so the straw lies horizontally. It means the string around the bales touches the ground, which is not advised if it’s twine, but these bales are tied in strong plastic yarn, so it should be okay and the bales won't fall apart.

I decided to place the bales horizontally so they would retain more moisture and because it gave me more growing surface. Our summers are intensely hot here in Byron Bay, so anything I can do to keep my bales from drying out is a help.

Also, before I put the strawbales in place, I covered the weeds and grass in this area of the garden with a layer of cardboard and newspaper (Left over from our house-moving. Recycling all the way!) so that I have here the beginnings of a no-dig, or no-till, garden. I hosed down the cardboard thoroughly and placed the bales on top.

The seedlings you can see here have been planted straight into the bales in a mixture of organic compost from the nursery, and my own compost made from chicken droppings, rich red soil and broken down straw from the chicken coop (same straw as these bales are made from actually, so I know the bales will compost down well).

I have planted beans, pumpkin, two varieties of tomato, cucumber, squash, basil and lettuce. The seedlings are looking very happy in their new home; so far, so good!

There is still more planting to go... and more strawbales will be delivered soon to start up another garden bed...

It’s a small start, but I’m very excited to see how it all goes. I’ll keep you posted!

M egan


Hazel said...

I will be watching the development of your straw bale garden with interest.

Denise said...

I'm so glad to see this post! I started reading about gardening this way a couple months or so ago, and I'll be very interested to see how it's worked for you.
Seems like a great way to garden!

Frogdancer said...

Good luck! Looks very interesting.

OurGangof7 said...

Oooh I can't wait to see how these go! I was reading about this recently and thought it would be a great start for our no dig garden too!
I have way too many tomato seedlings,,,,I might get a couple of bales and plant up some of those in them.
Thank you for the inspiration.

Megan.K. said...

Thanks for your comments everyone.
OurGangof7: I've read that tomatoes do very well in bales, so I'd give it a go too if I were you! I've planted mine at the back of the bales and I will have to rig up some trellising to lean against the fence to support them. Can't wait for my summer salad toms.

Stacey said...

This is pretty fascinating, I've never heard about growing plants in straw bales before.

LindaG said...

I'm looking forward to your updates, too. Good luck!

Kristy said...

Always up to see how others go. Good luck :)

Zephyr Hill said...

I love this! I'll be checking in to see how it goes.

Fabric Fanatic said...

Megan, I had a friend who had great success with this method of growing a garden. She said the bales did well for potatoes as well, but required untying the bales so that the potatoes could be harvested.
I'll be following your story...

Megan.K. said...

Fabric fanatic:: Good to hear about your friend's success :) I've not planted any root vegetables yet as I wasn't sure if they'd work in the bales... I guess they would by the sounds of it.

~ Megan