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Straw - For More than Scarecrows

If you've been following the Bucket, Bales & Bushels blog for long, you know we're trying our hand at Straw Bale Gardening for the first time this year. Despite a seemly slow start, the plants have been in the bales for about 8-10 weeks and are looking good. In addition to the bales we have planted at the office, I also have five bales as my garden space at home. Although the plants at the office look fine it seems like they would benefit from a little more sun than what is available to them.

At home, the bales have been the easiest garden I've ever grown from a maintenance standpoint. Time spent weeding has literally been seconds a week; it has been truly glorious not being greeted by a weedy vegetable patch every time I come home. While some of the sources recommended watering with a timer & drip irrigation system, watering by hand has not been overly taxing with all of the well-timed rains we've had this growing season. Fertilizing the bales has been the one regular event I have to be very intentional about. Once a week, I water with a water soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro® or something similar.

The plants in the bales grow at a slower rate than those planted in containers or in a traditional garden setting. For example, green beans that were planted in the bales are growing much slower than those planted in a bucket at the same time. They were direct seeded and are growing right next to each other however the ones in the bale are just now flowering while I've harvested twice off of the beans growing in the bucket garden. Eggplants growing in an Earthbox® at the office are 2-3 times larger than those growing in bales at home. So I guess there is a bit of a tradeoff growing gardens in bales but there will still be a harvest.

Plants growing in bales of course are not immune to pest and disease problems. Disease has been close to non-existent so far…I hesitantly type this…because we all know what happens when certain phrases come out of our mouths! I also thought pests were staying at bay until very recently. The dreaded squash vine borers have found my plants! Ugh. If I were to loathe an insect, squash vine borers are on my list. Borer extraction surgery was performed on the plants to see if they could be saved. If left alone, the borers will continue to consume the inside of the stem tissue until the plant dies, if the borer is removed by cutting a slit into the stem, removing the larvae and then covering the wound with soil, the plant has a chance at survival if it is able to root itself where the cuts were made. I was sure to take pictures of the seemingly healthy garden before surgery in the event all of the plant patients are lost.  If so, that just means there is more room for fall crops.

How is your gardening looking?  Any stories to share?

We are considering offering a class on Straw Bale Gardening for the spring 2015.  Are you interested?

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