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Archives for May 9, 2017

Tips for straw-bale gardening | Lifestyle |

Every year, I receive a few queries about gardening in straw bales. According to the University of Tennessee, straw bale gardening is container gardening without the container.

Some folks like the idea of straw bale gardening because the bales are taller and easier to reach than a conventional garden at ground level. Straw bales require little if any digging or cultivation.

Bale gardens are in essence an inexpensive raised bed. Used bales can be used as mulch or compost.

Many Extension sites discuss bale conditioning — this prepares the bales to accept water and begins to break them down into compost. To condition a bale, water the bale and keep it wet for three days.

On days four, five and six, sprinkle half a cup urea or ammonium sulfate. Water in fertilizer on the bale.

Continue to keep bales wet on days seven through 10. Check for heat on day 11; bale should be no hotter than 99 degrees.

Straw bales from wheat, oats, rye or alfalfa are best. Hay bales are more likely to have weed seed and herbicide residue

The University of Tennessee promotes the “flat top” gardening method. Flat tops were a popular hairstyle when I was young — hundreds of years ago, according to my kids.

To create a flat top of growing medium in which to plant, position bales with twine or bands on the side. Create holes 3 to 4 inches deep and then spread the compost or grower’s mix on top, filling the holes.

Then plant away in the holes. In general, one can plant two cantaloupe, three or four cucumbers, four or five peppers, two or three tomatoes or two pumpkins or squash per bale.

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