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Old 02-11-2013, 12:00 PM   #1
Blue-EyedLady
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Default has anyone tried straw bale gardening?

Do you think it would work in the desert? I can keep it wet easily enough, but I'm worried about all the fertilizer leaching out during the monsoons.

I've seen a lot of websites telling you how to set it up and condition the bales, but not much on yields vs. Traditional gardening etc. It looks like a fantastic way to grow potatoes with no digging at the end.
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Old 02-11-2013, 12:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: has anyone tried straw bale gardening?

I saw the idea on Pinterst. I am going to try it, its worth a shot.
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Old 02-11-2013, 12:08 PM   #3
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Default Re: has anyone tried straw bale gardening?

My hs science teacher did here in Michigan. It worked great for her but she is a conventional gardener. When I asked her about nutrients and such, she said she fed them a lot of miracle gro.
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:12 PM   #4
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Default Re: has anyone tried straw bale gardening?

If the nutrients in your food come from the sun and soil, why would you want to grow anything in straw with synthetic fertilizers? Straw has no significant nutritional value for livestock; some ranchers feed it only to provide roughage when extra calories aren't needed. The plant put everything into the head of grain; there's nothing left in the dry stalk. You'd be better off using a good weed-free hay bale. Yes, it decomposes and supports the root system of the plant, but a potato grown in real soil is going to be more nutritious than one grown in a non-soil medium. Plus, wet straw is gross. And really, are potatoes really that much trouble to dig? We've never found so.

So yeah, all that means no... we haven't tried it.
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Old 02-11-2013, 03:33 PM   #5
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Default Re: has anyone tried straw bale gardening?

I don't mind using straw as a mulch (I do that frequently, and then dig it in the following spring), but I wouldn't do it as I'm a big believer in the health of the soil and the soil web.
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Old 02-11-2013, 05:18 PM   #6
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Default Re: has anyone tried straw bale gardening?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky View Post
If the nutrients in your food come from the sun and soil, why would you want to grow anything in straw with synthetic fertilizers? Straw has no significant nutritional value for livestock; some ranchers feed it only to provide roughage when extra calories aren't needed. The plant put everything into the head of grain; there's nothing left in the dry stalk. You'd be better off using a good weed-free hay bale. Yes, it decomposes and supports the root system of the plant, but a potato grown in real soil is going to be more nutritious than one grown in a non-soil medium. Plus, wet straw is gross. And really, are potatoes really that much trouble to dig? We've never found so.

So yeah, all that means no... we haven't tried it.
Oh, I suppose it's worth mentioning that our dirt is COMPLETELY worthless. My entire garden is raised beds. I have to buy dirt by the bagful and that gets $$$. Straw bales looked like a cheaper way to do it. And yes, trying to dig potatoes out of a raised bed is a PAIN! The angles don't work right to use a regular shovel, but a trowel is too small.

---------- Post added at 05:18 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:16 PM ----------

FWIW, I totally believe in the health of the soil, too, but my soil doesn't even support weeds. The straw bales might actually have more nutrients! And the decomposing straw might eventually help heal the soil, right?
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Old 02-11-2013, 05:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: has anyone tried straw bale gardening?

Really? It couldn't support anything? My SIL's neighbour gardens in soil that looks a lot like the gravel in the adjacent ally. He even manages to grow carrots there somehow! Some veggies can be quite tenacious if given a chance.

ETA: Decomposing "browns" cause a temporary nitrogen deficiency in the soil when there's too much of it in proportion. I can imagine you really have to pile on the nitrogen fertilizers along with everything else. It just seems like you're going to be spending that money anyway, but on temporary fertilizers instead of soil improvements, no?

Last edited by Macky; 02-11-2013 at 05:41 PM.
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Old 02-11-2013, 09:35 PM   #8
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Default Re: has anyone tried straw bale gardening?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky View Post
Really? It couldn't support anything? My SIL's neighbour gardens in soil that looks a lot like the gravel in the adjacent ally. He even manages to grow carrots there somehow! Some veggies can be quite tenacious if given a chance.

ETA: Decomposing "browns" cause a temporary nitrogen deficiency in the soil when there's too much of it in proportion. I can imagine you really have to pile on the nitrogen fertilizers along with everything else. It just seems like you're going to be spending that money anyway, but on temporary fertilizers instead of soil improvements, no?
I have a tiny suburban yard in the high desert (over 5000 ft.). The front yard is 100% xeriscaped. It's totally covered in colored gravels. The back yard where the garden is has an inch or so of soil over caliche. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caliche The other part of the yard is heavy clay where a little crabgrass grows for about a month after the monsoon season. That's where the apple tree is and my kids play over there.

I've never heard of anyone having a backyard garden in my town who didn't use raised beds of some kind. I'm not even sure how I would begin to amend the soil here. I can't even dig it up past the first inch or so. Someday I'll live somewhere where it makes sense to improve the soil and all that, but for now, I'm stuck here.
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