My first year of straw bale gardening was such a success I didn’t hesitate to embark on another year of straw bale gardening. My handy husband built me a lovely compost bin which was a perfect for all of last years bales. (I am looking forward to having fertile soil to fill pots with.) He used some 2×4’s we already had in the garage and some chicken wire leftover from last summer.
Set up this year was far less work that last year. We bought some new straw bales ($5 per bale) and lined them up where the old bales were. I actually added a few more bales but was still able to use the same area which was great. We added some new mulch between the bales to freshen it up a bit and then put the soaker hose back on and got the timer all ready.
Oh, and my amazing hubby put the supports on which can be seen in the photo below. (It is something he built last summer to help stabilize the bales because as they decompose they fall apart.)
I have already started the conditioning process for my 2016 garden. Tip: Be sure your bales are right side up. You should see the ends of the straw rather than the folded pieces. Once you have them all upright you can begin the process which involves sprinkling fertilizer on each bale followed by a good water. This is all explained in great detail in the book, Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten. (He also has the book Straw Bale Gardens Complete available on his website.)
After applying the fertilizer the bales need a good watering. This also helps to push the fertilizer down into the bales and before you know it they’ll be cookin’. The kids are great helpers and love to lend a hand. The older kids each wear a digital watch which makes it easy for them to keep track of how many minutes they are watering each bale. (You can see my strawberries pushing through the mulch already)
I am pretty excited to branch out and try some new veggies this time around. My plan is plant more of the items I need for canning in the fall to prevent buying from the store. I am also excited for the kids to learn more about growing onions, garlic, & potatoes. Most of the plants we will be growing can start from seeds planting right away on day 12; however, there are a few that must be started indoors first. I used this as an opportunity to teach my preschooler and toddler about gardening from seeds. My 2 and 4 year olds were great helpers and really enjoyed getting to play in the dirt, (and with the popsicles sticks of course).
I’m looking forward to planting May 1st and (impatiently) watching for our first plants to sprout up. I’ll keep you posted on progress.