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Planting into straw or hay bales

Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Has anyone tried this method? For those who may not know what I'm talking about here's the basic idea:

-Lay out bales end to end keepign in mind that this will establish permanent garden beds over time

-soak the bales with water or leave out in the rain before planting

-To plant, work a small hole through the bale right to the ground

-Fill the hole with manure, compost, soil, or a mix

-water the backfill and transplant as usual

INSTANT GARDEN!

The bales break down over a season or two and you are left with weed free, fertile garden beds...as long as there isn't too much viable hay seed in the bales. Even if there is, I'd rather deal with loosely rooted hay seedlings than any other wild plant.


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Sounds clever.

I got a free bale of straw, and was surprised at how many wheat seeds were in it.

I transplanted some of these sprouts and have left the remainder in place out of curiosity; they seem to be doing OK, perhaps I'll hit them with some compost tea before spring.

One of the earliest to sprout, that has been in good soil, has already set seed, so apparently it's spring wheat. Most have remained largely in the shade, and aren't very developed at all. It's interesting.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
larry korn
Author


Joined: May 17, 2009
Posts: 118
Location: Ashland, Oregon
    
  25
Hi again, Travis, and Joel,  This is an old tried and true permaculture technique.  Weed seeds that come up are usually nothing more than a mild nuisance.  They can be dispatched by depriving the young seedlings of light.  It's a lot like hugelculture (let's see if spell check gets that one), but there the long-term beds are created by using decomposing logs and branches mixed with a little compost and/or soil.

OMG!  Spell check didn't even blink.  It must speak German.


onestrawrevolution.com
There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write poetry or compose a song -- Masanobu Fukuoka
                          


Joined: Oct 31, 2009
Posts: 250
Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia

Hi Travis
This subject has been mentioned in the sepp holzer doesn't transplant annuals thread, many tips and ideas there


Anyone who has never made a mistake
has never tried anything new
    -ALBERT EINSTEIN-
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Thanks for the link Bird

I've used this method and met with success. I hadn't seen it posted anywhere else so I thought I'd put the info out there incase this wasn't a well known technique. I guess I didn't look around the site thoroughly enough.
                          


Joined: Oct 31, 2009
Posts: 250
Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia

yeh it's worth it's own thread a good way for older people to still garden when health age restrict them, and let's face it the threads do tend to wander a bit
                              


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
Garden len has used the straw or hay bale garden technique quite a bit.  Not simply just planting into the bale but also using bales to form the sides of a raised garden bed as well.  I don't even think it's necessary to dig all the way through the bale to fill with compost or whatever for the seeds.  At least in my climate, I could probably plant seeds with very little soil/compost/manure and they would grow.

Seems an especially handy instant garden method for people stuck gardening on top of concrete patios and such.


TCLynx
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Irene Kightley
pollinator

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 340
Location: South West France
    
  15
I think it's important to have thread titles that represent the content. It makes it much easier to find information without having to wade through really long threads. 

Bales are really useful as a cold frame too, easily made with some old windows.



Then when the seedlings are moved or have grown strong enough - remove the covers.





La Ferme de Sourrou : Nos projets avec PHOTOS
                              


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
Ohh great pictures there!
                        


Joined: Dec 30, 2009
Posts: 122
Location: sub-tropics downunder
g'day travis,

along the lines of sheet mulching, yes a good way to get started and better as it breaks down. when we did it we teased out lucern hay a bit for the planting layer, then covered with straw all on top of newspaper to hold back weeds. didn't pull a planting hole right through to the base just created a big enough hole about 6"s to put some medium like compost or mushroom compost into and planted the seedling, too easy as the pictures in other posts show.

did similar with our beds when they where new planted into the bales around the edge.

len


--

len

With peace and brightest of blessings,

"Be Content With What You Have And
May You Find Serenity and Tranquillity In
A World That You May Not Understand."

http://www.lensgarden.com.au/

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Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
i have heard of growing potatoes in straw..


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
                        


Joined: Dec 30, 2009
Posts: 122
Location: sub-tropics downunder
g'day brenda,

we have a presentation for that sort of spud growing on our site works well for us.

len
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Irene Kightley wrote:
I think it's important to have thread titles that represent the content. It makes it much easier to find information without having to wade through really long threads. 


Hmm, I thought the current thread title was representative of the subject...what am I missing?
                          


Joined: Oct 31, 2009
Posts: 250
Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia
Travis wrote:
Hmm, I thought the current thread title was representative of the subject...what am I missing?


Hi Travis

I think it may in referance to my post leading you to the sepp hozer doesn't transplant bit
Irene Kightley
pollinator

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 340
Location: South West France
    
  15
Thanks bird, that's exactly what I meant !

Sorry Travis I wasn't complaining about the thread - in fact I was welcoming the fact that it had "Straw or Hay Bales" in the title as it helps people who are looking in the search function for information on the subject.

Potatoes seem to do particularly well in straw they seem to love having to push their leaves through a thick layer and are much earlier. After potatoes, pumpkins seem to grow very quickly. (We have pigs so pumpkins are very useful because they keep good well into January - so we grow a lot !)



larry korn
Author


Joined: May 17, 2009
Posts: 118
Location: Ashland, Oregon
    
  25
Potatoes and squash are great ideas for straw bale beds!  Also herbs of all kinds and plants such as comphrey and dandelions.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Ahhh ok.Thanks for clearing that up. I was all self conscious there for a minute...

Irene, I tried cold frames with straw bales but the chard I put inside got fried. Do you have any tips on monitoring to avoid this? Or is it as straight forward as checking as often as possible and making sure to close up at night, and open it when mid-day arrives?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I have heard of these being used in areas where it is not possible to bring water.  Apparently, there is enough moisture in the straw to sustain the plants for months.

Note that I think hay could be problematic.  Once wet it will compost and if the heat doesn't kill the plants, the excess N and general rot might.  If using a hay that is borderline straw, I would plant only the heaviest feeders (corn, squash, etc.). 




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Joined: Oct 31, 2009
Posts: 250
Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia
yep, you certainly need to moniter moisture for that reason
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
paul wheaton wrote:
Note that I think hay could be problematic.   Once wet it will compost and if the heat doesn't kill the plants, the excess N and general rot might.  If using a hay that is borderline straw, I would plant only the heaviest feeders (corn, squash, etc.). 


The hay bales I'd be using are about 10 years old and do look more like straw, with no visible green matter so I think it'll be ok.

If one had to use fresh hay bales, I wonder if you could mitigate the high nitrogen content by filling holes with straight soil instead of compost or manure...
Paul Cereghino
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Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 847
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  15
paul wheaton wrote:
Once wet it will compost and if the heat doesn't kill the plants, the excess N and general rot might. 


Even hay is probably greater than 50:1 C:N, straw is something like 100:1... you probably don't start getting big N surplus till you go below 30:1, though plenty of available nutrient through cycling.  No experience here, just theory.

Where do people get all their bales?!  I consider bales of straw a costly import that I try to avoid.  I am planning to start managing my pasture for hay production for chicken yard mulch, garden mulch and compost bulk so I don't have to buy in straw!

PRC


Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute
Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Paul Cereghino wrote:
Where do people get all their bales?!


Around here hay and straw are major crops as there are many cattle and horse farms. I was lucky enough to meet a farmer who inherited several hundred old bales of hay in his barn when he bought the place. He sees them as a nuisance and is glad to see me taking them out.

I suppose one could approach nearby hay/straw farmers to ask if they have any spoiled hay or know anyone who does. Or put listings on kijiji or craigs list.

Another source would be county fairs, or similar festivals that might use straw bales in some sort of decorative way. My mother went around town on garbage day shortly after halloween and found several bales so thats another possible source.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
My memory is that hay is the perfect 30:1.  Of course, different grades of hay will be different.  And my memory says that straw is 150:1 - and the same disclaimer applies.
                          


Joined: Oct 31, 2009
Posts: 250
Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia
Bird wrote:
yep, you certainly need to moniter moisture for that reason


too much moisture = too much heat no matter what hay, staw lucerene,
                              


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
Straw is the waste product from grain harvest, the protein has already been used up for the most part in the seed heads and the stalk is the straw that is left over.  Straw makes good bedding and makes a good air trapping mulch but doesn't provide much nutrient to the plants.

Hay is fodder that has been dried.  The exact protein content is of course going to vary depending on the type of plant the hay is made of and the age etc.  Hay will provide more nitrogen/nutrient to the soil/plants.

Either one can work for planting in but situations and plants will vary.  Hay has been known to get hot enough to start a fire if it gets wet and gets a good hot compost going, that would probably kill the plants.  However, some plants are fairly happy with some still warm compost around them (Tomatoes, pumpkins.)  Other plants can't handle anything resembling un-cured compost (Peas, beans?)  Take some of these things into account and have some fun.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
I figured as much (about the bales getting hot) due to break down if nothing else. I've felt flakes of straw in unmanaged compost piles that were warm to the touch so I figured I better proceed with caution. The veggies I'm thinking of planting into the bales are:

tomato
pepper
corn and beans from seed
eggplant
squash (winter and zuccini)
cucumber
basil
ground cherry (Physalis pruinosa)
watermelon
sweet potato
cantelope
stevia

And I plant potatoes in straw but I hill the straw up which I imagine uses less over time than if I planted in a bale. Maybe not?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Potatoes do really well in loose straw.  I suspect that they won't do so well in baled straw.

Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
Hay is awfully expensive here, but I know where I can get straw for a fairly reasonable price, so I think I'll try a bed of straw bales right outside the back door, where Grandma can get to it easily.  I've been trying to think of a good way to elevate a planting bed enough that she can work in it without having to get down on the ground....

Kathleen
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
I agree Paul. I will never grow potatoes in the traditional way again as long as I have straw, hay, or some equivalent around.

I used fresh hay last year with excellent results. The potatoes yield was on par with traditional soil hilling technique, they were harvested without tools and came out very clean, and they only needed one weeding all year.

If straw or hay is in short supply, I recommend 'cutting' the straw with local weeds. The more fibrous the better, as I burned a plant to death experimenting using fresh greenery as mulch.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
Hay is awfully expensive here
Kathleen


I had success with growing potatoes in woodchips piled a foot high with a middle layer of about 2 inches of random weeds. The woodchips were an unknown combination of pine, maple, and other species. Just make sure to bury the plants periodically, leaving as little as 2 inches of the top leaf structure sticking out of hte mulch. This avoids the potato crop turning green from sun exposure, keeps weeds down, and supposedly will create more potatoes.

Woodchips can be dropped off on-site for free. Contact local landscapers, and tree pruning companies, or your city tree care branch
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
I don't know if wood chips would be very available here -- we are in the high desert of Eastern Oregon.  There are trees, mostly juniper, but I rarely see anyone doing tree-trimming work.  I may do some checking, though.  In New Hampshire, when the tree-trimming crews were in our area, my ex went out and talked to them, and they dumped several loads of chippings at the edge of our garden, and we used them for mulch.

Kathleen
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
I'm not sure of your situation but are there enough high-carbon herbaceous plants around that you could hack down to use instead of, or in complement with straw?
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
Travis wrote:
I'm not sure of your situation but are there enough high-carbon herbaceous plants around that you could hack down to use instead of, or in complement with straw?


Yes, we have an acre, and I didn't get it all scythed this last summer, so there's still some tall dead grass.  I'm planning to buy some straw anyway, though, as I need a chicken coop and that seems like the least time-consuming way to build one.  I did heavily mulch several spots in the front yard with grass and weeds that I'd scythed last summer, hoping to smother out patches of a nasty stickery weed that grows in the gravel driveway and along the edges.  I want to make those deeper this year and add some manure -- basically row composting -- and then plant something in them. 

The straw bales would be really good, though, for making a raised bed for Grandma to work in.  It would be cheaper -- and easier -- to spend ten dollars on four bales of straw, than to buy lumber and build up a bed the same height as the straw bales.

Kathleen
rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
Really lik ethe ideas and photos of this forum thread whatever. rose .
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Travis Philp wrote:
I used fresh hay last year with excellent results.


Was the hay really lousy hay?

I would think that hay would be too hot and it would get kinda slimey really fast.  Not so?



paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Travis Philp wrote:
I had success with growing potatoes in woodchips piled a foot high with a middle layer of about 2 inches of random weeds.


Wow!  Once again, something I would think would be troublesome. 

I would like to hear a comparison of these techniques with a similar pile that is just straw. 

Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
As far as I could tell, the majority of the woodchips were pine and/or cedar, with greenery mixed in. I used a mix of very well broken down chips and fresh-cut chips on top.

As the potatoes grew I kept burying them with any weeds that came up in the bed, and freshly chopped woodchips. As with the loose-straw method I buried the plants right up to the top set of leaves.

I would estimate the yield to be on par with the straw and soil growing methods, and the potatoes came out cleaner from the chips, and were easier to harvest than soil or straw grown potatoes.
Aljaz Plankl


Joined: Feb 18, 2010
Posts: 325
    
    6
Travis, I wonder one thing - how did you used fresh hay for growing potatoes? Did you prepare the beds in advance or what? Please tell us more.

I would avoid using only fresh hay. It just get to sticky and hot and there is not a good ratio for braking down... I always mix it with some dry material. 
Straw is not available where i am. This year i will plant potatoes and other veggies in beds made from dried hay last summer. Grains are growing in it already. Dried hay is excellent and it also gives more diverse nutrient profile than straw. And there is plenty around here. Guess i'm lucky, but i miss straw sometimes.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
If we could find out for sure if there was any cedar, I would like to know. 

I would think some cedar might be okay, but a lot .... I would think the allelopathic stuff in cedar would make the spuds sad.

If nothing else:  a comparison pile of straw vs. pine chips vs. cedar chips.

Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
I enjoy a blog called One Straw occasionally, that is partly about potato experiments. The writer, Rob, is doing interesting things with swales, wood chips, potatoes, straw, and row cover...well, interesting to me, anyhow. He seems to expect significant income from the potatoes.

He's also setting up a big copse (in the old sense of that word) to produce woodchips.

He'll probably be very interested in Travis's method in a year or two.

Like Paul Cereghino, he's uncomfortable with the cost ($ and CO[sub]2[/sub]) of imported straw, and is trying to manage some nearby grassland to supply his operation.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
 
subject: Planting into straw or hay bales
 
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