Straw bale gardening 'a lazy gardener's delight'
If spring brings thoughts of plump, juicy red tomatoes but you are limited on space and/or time, you might want to try straw bale gardening. Candy Parks experimented with this unique way to grow plants last summer and harvested tomatoes into Sept...
If spring brings thoughts of plump, juicy red tomatoes but you are limited on space and/or time, you might want to try straw bale gardening.
Candy Parks experimented with this unique way to grow plants last summer and harvested tomatoes into September.
"It's so simple," Candy said. "You don't have to prep a garden, there's no weeding, you control the moisture and the plants are far enough above the ground to stop blight."
The deer stayed away too, although when Candy found her chickens chipping away at the fruit, she quickly wrapped the plants with chicken wire to keep the two-legged critters out.
Another plus, she said, is the "garden" was near the house so she paid more attention to the plants.
Candy discovered the idea in "Mother Earth News" and did some more "research" on Web sites.
To start, Candy purchased six straw bales locally. It takes about a week to prepare them, so you need to buy the bales about a week before you are ready to set your plants out.
She located the straw bales close to the house, but in a spot where they would get full sun.
Next, she wrapped wire over the twine around the bales and said she was glad she did. By the end of the season, the twine underneath rotted from being soaked with water.
Seeing what happened to the twine, she cautions that if you locate your straw bales on a deck, a layer of plastic underneath should protect the wood from a similar fate.
The next step was to cut 8-inch holes in the bales. The plants grow so large that two per bale are enough.
"We went through two saw blades trying to cut the holes," Candy said. Her partner Deni helped at this point. He used a chainsaw, which not only did the work quickly, it produced a nice bunch of mulch Candy saved to top the soil she placed around her plants.
Bales located and wrapped and holes prepared, Candy saturated the straw every day for five days using a sprayer at the end of a garden hose. The first day, the water ran right through them but after that, it started collecting, she said.
The last two days she watered the bales and added Miracle-Gro, mixed according to directions, in a gallon milk jug.
Candy then used a good quality potting soil to fill the holes she had prepared, planted her tender tomato plants, added the straw mulch and watered the plants well.
All summer, she watered the plants once a day unless it rained and once a week added a gallon of Miracle-Gro per bale.
She had purchased tomato cages, but they weren't large enough for her fast-growing plants. She replaced the cages with stakes and when she added the chicken wire later, that helped hold up the plants as well.
Candy's tomatoes grew to be at least 6 feet tall. "They reached to the porch roof," she said.
She harvested dozens of tomatoes from her dozen plants. Because they were near the house and wrapped with chicken wire, she said it was easy to pin plastic over them when she thought it might frost, and she was still picking tomatoes in September.
"Every one ripened on the vine," Candy said.
From the good experience, she had, Candy believes any above ground plant could be grown in a straw bale garden: peppers, eggplant and even flowers like pansies could flourish.
A straw bale garden in a wheelbarrow would look rustic and produce, too, she added.
"It is a lazy gardener's delight," Candy said, "and you could put your straw bale garden virtually anywhere."