Monday, August 5, 2013

Straw Bale Planting

Not too long ago I mentioned this straw bale that sits next to the garden, and that it was destined for a special purpose. Well, it has met it's destiny—as a self-contained planter!

I only recently learned that you can directly grow plants in straw bales, with just a small layer of soil on top. The straw that begins to decay inside the bale becomes a great environment for the roots of your plants. Some people have whole gardens made of straw bales. If you take a minute and google for images of 'straw bale gardens', you'll be totally amazed . This idea is especially nice if you have access to cheap or free straw.

I thought this was the perfect way to put our straw bale to use. I love to use straw as mulch around the garden plants, but a little bit goes a long way when you have small growing space like we do; the rest of the straw bale just sits there, slowly disintegrating. Last year, late in the fall, I ended up stuffing the whole thing in my compost ball, since the compost needed carbon anyway. Early this summer, after mulching, the bale sat again, and though I know it will end up in the compost in the late fall, I thought I'd give it a purpose in the meantime. (Note: the compost ball is becoming way too small for us. Knowing that the straw bale itself will fill that thing, plans are in the works for a new compost site, using cheap--or free--materials. Stay tuned!)

We planted peas in mid July. Is that a bit late to plant anything? Maybe. Don't forget, I'm a newbie who likes to experiment. Perhaps we will get a fall harvest of delicious peas—they do like cooler weather. Using some leftover bagged potting soil, we made a nice little bed, and in went the peas. The kids LOVED doing this. But then, what kid doesn't get a thrill when you tell them to grab some dirt with their bare hands?!

The pictures below tell the story. About a week after the initial seed sowing, we replanted in the areas where nothing came up, and pushed bamboo stakes down into the straw (so easy) for supports. If needed, we can thread some thick string around the stakes and give these peas a happy growing space.

Once all the peas have been harvested and we head into winter, we can put the spent plants, soil, and straw, all together, in our compost!  

Handfuls of dirt-awesome!

Even the littlest helper gets into the dirt-piling

We may have been mashing that dirt down a little too hard!

Oh yeah. That's what I like to see..

Muddy, dirty...

little hands-- working hard!

Carefully placing peas

Water break!

The straw, newly planted, sitting nicely by the garden!

Several days later..we have green!:

Filling in where no sprouts seem to want to show up

Keeping the peas misted and happy!

Looking GOOD!

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