Setting Up My Bales- February 2019

I called 2019 my 'experimental' year. I tried several gardening methods and grew many different things to see what did best and where. One of my main experiments, was the Straw Bale Garden! 

I have to say, if you haven't read the book- READ THE BOOK. Get your hands on it any way you can, it will be a life saver and will answer any questions you have. Joel Karsten's Straw Bale Gardens Complete is worth it's weight. (I do not work with him or earn any commissions from recommending this book. This is a friend-to-friend recommendation.) 

Step one in Straw Bale Gardening is to get the bales. I know, shocker! Straw Bales are best, but if Hay Bales is all you can get your hands on (at a decent price) then go for it. These are actually Hay Bales. They will deteriorate quicker and you can get some hay grass sprouts, but it's not that big of a deal. My garden this year consisted of 6 bales. 

I laid mine on weed cloth to help prevent weeds from growing up through the bales. It worked great. On the flip side, my mom who lives in Georgia put hers on top of grass that wasn't growing too well, no weed block, and she had no problems.

From here you need to water them. They need to be saturated. I let good old mother nature do the job. I watched the weather report and bought these a day or two before a good rainstorm was about to hit.

Then I started the conditioning process. I bought my fertilizer at a local co-op and followed the directions outlined in the book. It's a 12 day process.

Once the bales were conditioned, it was time to plant the plants.

The seedlings I planted at first were ready via winter sowing. Click this link to read all about that, it's awesome. I noticed the little seedlings did a lot better when planted with a handful of dirt. Those little roots need something to cling to until they get big enough to grow into the straw.

Along with the sprouts I wanted to try the paper towel method talking about in the book. You split a two-ply paper towel in half, leaving one ply. Then you make a paste of equal parts flour and water and use it to 'glue' small seeds to the paper towel. Then cover with the other side and bury on the bale. It keeps the little seeds from running off when watered.

Then it just needed daily watering at first and once everything was established I didn't have to water as often. I found a soaker hose to be invaluable here.

The first few pictures were from the start and some are after a few weeks. Aren't sprouts the cutest things?

I will say that I planted these really early and found myself putting plastic sheeting over the bales almost nightly. In hindsight, I'm not sure the early planting was necessary. In the future I'll wait until April to start this process.

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