"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Straw (Hay) bale gardening part 1

This was my covered 'town' vegetable patch at the beginning of this season. The bed on the left is over run with roots - our neighbours have walled and treed their boundary, and I have evidence that those roots have very happily sauntered over our way where the watering is frequent.
Because of the roots, I have decided to try an alternative method of growing this year.  I am going to grow some of my vegetables in straw / hay bales.

I started by covering the bed with shredded paper (from our office) and on top of that I placed newspaper.  That should prevent the weeds from taking advantage of the beautifully moist, fertile growing environment that I am about to create.

Three bales should be enough for that bed...
Then, it's time to begin the composting process.  (If you're squeamish, please ignore the following two paragraphs)

For this I am going the natural way - one of the simplest methods to provide nitrogen to the bales is to use urine.

You apply it as follows:

Day 1: Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the "nitrogen fertilizer" evenly over each bale and water until it gets worked in - roughly 10 ltrs (2 gallons) / bale.
Day 2: water the bales
Day 3: 1/2 cup of the fertilizer evenly per bale + water
Day 4: water
Day 5: 1/2 cup fertilizer evenly per bale + water (this is when it may begin to smell, but won’t last too long. You will also see black specks beginning – that is a good thing for it indicates that the soil is developing)
Day 6: water
Day 7 - 9: 1/4 cup (or half of what you were using before) fertilizer per bale + water – your soil temperature will be around 125 degrees
Day 10:  Add 1 cup of garden fertilizer per bale + water – use a nitrate, phosphorus, and potassium organic fertilizer (such as Talborne Organics in South Africa).
After 10 days check the temperature of the bales.  If it is too hot to touch don't plant anything yet - allow it to cool down to at least 35oC (100oF) (just below human blood temperature).
A bottle of "natural nitrogen" :)
I am going to be planting the bales up as an experiment - at the back (the northern / sunny side) I will definitely be planting two tomato plants / bale, and in the front I am going to be planting companion plants such as: carrots, chives, lettuce, parsley, basil and borage.  Apparently, borage assists in detering tomato hornworm - and having read so much about it in the recent northern hemisphere season, personally I'd prefer to avoid it, if possible :)  Oh, and I wont forget some marigolds too.

Finally, following the "forest" permaculture principle, I'm going to try and plant them up from highest to lowest plants - with the lettuce right in the front.  I want the other plants to provide some shade for my lettuces - they tend to bolt so easily in the heat of our summers.

If this experiment works, then I will be having a very large straw bale vegetable patch on the farm.  It will certainly overcome the hard, compacted clay ground issue.  Whilst also providing compost material at the end of the season :)


Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

It sounds like a really interesting way to garden and I hope it keeps the neighbour's evil roots at bay! Urine seems such a versatile substance as well - you can compost with it like you're doing or even use it to extract the natural blue dye from woad leaves like a friend of mine does. I've even heard of people drinking it or using it for disinfectant!

John said...

Sounds good. Some of my best watermelons this year were volunteer that grew in the compost pile.

Jane said...

I will be very interested to see how this works. Keep us posted :)

Mr. H. said...

A fascinating experiment, can't wait to see how it works out for you.

Dani said...

Tanya - I reckon the roots haven't got a hope LOL

John - Welcome :) S'funny - I can't grow watermelons...!

Jane - Oh, I will LOL

Mr H - Stay tuned :)

tami said...

Can't wait to see how this works out for you, Dani! You've got 6 months to have fun and work out the kinks before I need to start planting. (grin)

Leigh said...

What a great experiment. Like the rest of the world, I'll be watching and waiting for your results!

Linda said...

Well, you've got me intrigued as well! I hope you'll be keeping us posted! I'm just starting another no dig garden but wondering if yours might be a better method. Do you think there is anything that could replace the commercial fertiliser though?

Dani said...

Tami - No problem - love being the troubleshooter LOL

Leigh - I promise :)

Linda - I use Talborne Organics - don't know if yo get it over there. But, apart from that, guess bone meal and compost is the most important thing :)