Gardening with Straw Bales The use of straw bales

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ANR Publication 8559 Gardening with Straw Bales February 2016 2. Table 1 Conditioning bales by fertilizing on alternate days. Day 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10,Figure 1 Apply 1 1,Fertilizer rate full 0 full 0 full 0 2 1. fertilizer material,across the top of the, bale before watering Table 2 Conditioning by fertilizing following 3 days of water. Photo D Blakey Day 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10,Fertilizer rate 0 0 0 full full full 2 2 2 0. For optimal composting a ratio of carbon to nitrogen of 30 1 Tables 1 and 2 provide two common preconditioning schedules. should be present however on their own straw bales have ratios The process should take approximately 2 weeks to complete for. ranging from 40 1 to 100 1 As a gardener adds fertilizer containing either schedule. nitrogen the ratio approaches the ideal Active composting will Throughout the conditioning process bales should be kept. then begin This composting process generates carbon dioxide and wet A finger inserted in the side of the bale should feel hot and. a substantial amount of heat A fresh 3 string straw bale can exceed damp It is best to add water slowly to each bale to minimize. 140 F 60 C during conditioning Older seasoned bales may not runoff and to ensure that the fertilizer applied to the surface is. exceed 100 F 38 C but should still be preconditioned before use moved into the bale The first few irrigations on new bales will. Once the preconditioning is complete nutrients will no longer take substantially more water than subsequent irrigations. be sequestered in large amounts and the bale will remain cool In Europe straw bales were originally preconditioned using. enough to plant solid granular fertilizers however this led to salinity problems. How to Precondition Bales for Planting in some crops as roots came into direct contact with fertilizer. Select clean weed free straw bales to minimize future weeding granules Wilson 1978 found that using water soluble fertilizer. Straw bales are usually available at farm supply dealers or directly sources eliminated this problem. from local farms 2 String or 3 string straw bales may be used Place Fertilizer should be applied evenly over the top surface. bales with the baling twine parallel to the ground The twine will followed by a thorough irrigation to move the material into the. help to hold the bale together as the season progresses and the bale bale see fig 1. decomposes see figs 1 and 4 Since nitrogen levels are the limiting factor in the. The preconditioning process begins when the bale is preconditioning process one should select a water soluble. moistened High nitrogen levels are maintained initially by adding fertilizer high in nitrogen As an alternative to the schedules. fertilizer Midway through the conditioning process nitrogen shown in tables 1 and 2 Wilson recommended a constant liquid. fertilizer inputs are tapered off as the bales continue to compost feed with 250 parts per million PPM of nitrogen be used with. ANR Publication 8559 Gardening with Straw Bales February 2016 3. To prepare the bale for planting apply either the full rate or half. rate of the fertilizer used as determined by the preconditioning schedule. you selected Rates to use of common materials are shown in table 3. Enough variability exists between bales and gardeners watering practices. that exact accuracy is unnecessary, Figure 2 Damage to a After the first 9 days of preparing the bales once they have. straw bale treated with cooled down internally below 99 F 37 C the conditioning process. fish emulsion during has progressed enough to plant however bales may not appear visually. conditioning by a,raccoon Photo D Blakey, different than when the process began A thermometer inserted into the.
side of the bale can be used to monitor the temperature It is normal for. this process to take 9 to 14 days Continue to keep bales moist during this. Figure 3 shows the recorded temperatures of two bales conditioned. frequent but small additions until the bales are saturated At that. with 24 8 16 The composting process continues after the initial 9 day. point the bales are planted and liquid feed continues at every. conditioning period but at a slower pace with lower temperatures than. watering 1 5 teaspoons 7 5 mL of 24 8 16 in 5 gallons of water. during the initial phase Past studies of intensive wheat straw composting. 19 L will approximate his method 160, Either organic or synthetic materials will work but organic 160. materials such as fish emulsion will be more expensive Products 140. such as fish emulsion produce a strong disagreeable odor as the 140. bale composts In urban settings this odor may be strong enough 120. to be noticed by neighbors Fish emulsion and other products 120. with a similar odor can attract wildlife particularly skunks 100. and raccoons that can damage the bale Some dogs may be. attracted to these bales as well and should be supervised during. the conditioning process if fish emulsion is used Figure 2 shows. a bale treated with fish emulsion damaged during the night by a. raccoon Flies may also be attracted to fish emulsion when used in. conditioning the bale If animal damage occurs replace the loose 40. straw back into the bale firmly as soon as possible 20. Treatment Period,Treatment Period, Table 3 Full and half rates of common water soluble fertilizer products. Product Full rate Half rate Date,Process A Process B Air Temperature. urea 46 0 0 2 cup 120 ml 4 cup 60 ml,Process A Process B Air Temperature. ammonium sulfate 21 0 0 1 cup 240 ml 2 cup 120 ml, Figure 3 Recorded temperatures of 3 string wheat straw bales conditioned with.
water soluble blends such as 24 8 16 20 20 20 and 20 10 20 1 cup 240 ml 2 cup 120 ml 24 8 16 fertilizer in Bishop California Process A follows the schedule in table 1. process B follows the schedule in table 2, fish emulsion 4 1 1 or 5 1 1 3 cups 710 ml 11 2 cup 355 ml. ANR Publication 8559 Gardening with Straw Bales February 2016 4. show this second phase can last from 20 to 37 days after which 2 to 3 inches 5 to 8 cm of a soilless potting mix or media suitable for. temperatures return to ambient Chang and Hudson 1967 growth This allows seeds to germinate in a finer textured medium than. It is common for mushrooms to emerge from the bale after straw Seed planted in this prepared surface can be planted in the same. conditioning This is normal and is a sign of active decomposition in manner as one would plant a traditional garden in soil or a raised bed. the bales These mushrooms should be considered toxic and should This method is also suitable for small transplants fig 4. not be eaten Their presence will not affect your plants but their An alternative to starting seeds in the bale is to remove some of. emergence can disrupt the seed bed interfering with germination the bale to make a small hole Fill this hole with a potting mix and plant. In low desert basins with highly saline soils salts may be drawn seeds into the prepared area This technique is appropriate for vegetables. upward into the bale when bales are set directly on the ground An that form large plants such as squash. air gap formed by locating bales on coarse gravel or similar material As with any garden plants should be spaced with enough room for. will interrupt this process Alternatively bales can placed atop an them to grow Planting suggestions for common warm season vegetables. impermeable surface such as concrete or plastic sheeting are provided in table 4 For other crops follow space recommendations. Once the conditioning process begins the bales should not be printed on seed packets or consult a garden reference to guide you. Growing in Straw Bales, The process of raising crops in straw bales is very similar to that used. in raised bed gardening Gardening guides such as the California. Master Gardener Handbook Pittenger 2015 provide cultural. information for many crops however growing in straw bales deviates. from traditional gardening in two important aspects planting and. nutrient management, Bales are usually good for only one growing season After that. they can be used as mulch or added to a compost pile. Planting in Straw Bales, For plants usually grown from seeds such as lettuce squash and. carrots an effective method of planting is to cover the surface with. Table 4 Typical quantities of common warm season vegetables to plant. Figure 4 A,Plant Number per bale conditioned,winter squash pumpkins melons 2 bale ready for.
planting seeds,tomatoes 2 or 3,Photo D Blakey,cucumbers summer squash 2 to 3. peppers 3 to 5,beans 10 to 15, ANR Publication 8559 Gardening with Straw Bales February 2016 5. For plants grown as transplants remove some straw or pry Elevated beds reduce bending. apart the straw flakes with a garden trowel and set the transplant Straw bales may be easier to transport and acquire than bulk compost. and its soil into the opening Add additional potting soil to fill any for some gardeners. gaps Water immediately after transplanting ensuring that both the. No construction of beds,potting soil and bale are well irrigated. No tillage required, Any trellises or supports should be anchored directly into. the ground As a bale decomposes its ability to provide support Heat generated can aid seed germination and plant growth. diminishes and the trellis may fall over Bales aligned in a row Disadvantages. with a single T post at each end as an anchor are a good option for Requires water to condition bales. support and will provide additional support for the bales on the. Depending on how bales are arranged it can be difficult to use organic. ends as they decompose, mulches on the surface of bales as these loose materials will fall off the.
When planting bales be sure to give consideration to how you edges. will irrigate your crop Soaker hoses and drip emitters are common. If organic approved nitrogen sources are used to condition a bale it. methods of providing water slowly to each bale New transplants. may be expensive to establish a garden, set into straw bales may dry out quickly until their roots move. into the bale Expect to water frequently while bales are still fresh Nitrogen deficiency is common and careful attention to nutrient status. As the bales age and plants roots spread throughout the bale the of plants is required. frequency of irrigation will diminish Emerging mushrooms can disrupt the seedbed. Nutrient Management Bales may lose their structural integrity as the season progress and. After their initial conditioning straw bales lack the nutrient holding collapse or lean over. capacity of soil or peat based growing media so it is important. References, to watch plants to ensure they are receiving adequate nutrition. Nutrient availability improves as decomposition continues Chang Y and H J Hudson 1967 Fungi of wheat straw compost. Furthermore nutrients that may be present in the soil may not be Transactions of the British Mycological Society 50 4 649 666. available in sufficient amounts in bales Fertilizer is best applied in Pittenger D ed 2015 California Master Gardener handbook 2nd. smaller amounts but more frequently than in soil based gardening ed Oakland University of California Agriculture and Natural. Nitrogen deficiency is the most commonly reported nutrient Resources Publication 3382. problem in straw bale culture Plants deficient in nitrogen are. Wilson G C S 1978 Modified straw bale technique for. stunted and have a yellow color chlorosis throughout the plant. cucumbers Acta Horticulturae 82 75 77, Advantages and Disadvantages to Straw Bale Culture. Advantages, You can find more information on composting and gardening in. Ability to garden in locations with contaminated or unsuitable soils. these publications and online resources, such as in deserts and urban areas may also be used on paved areas.
and weed cloth Compost Production and Utilization A Grower s Guide UC ANR. Publication 21514,Fewer weeds than with soil based gardens. ANR Publication 8559 Gardening with Straw Bales February 2016 6. Compost in a Hurry UC ANR Publication 8037 The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources UC ANR. prohibits discrimination against or harassment of any person in any of its programs or. California Master Gardener Handbook Second Edition UC ANR activities on the basis of race color national origin religion sex gender gender expression. Publication 3382 gender identity pregnancy which includes pregnancy childbirth and medical conditions. related to pregnancy or childbirth physical or mental disability medical condition cancer. California Garden Web online at http cagardenweb ucanr edu. related or genetic characteristics genetic information including family medical history. Straw Bale Gardening Washington State University Extension Fact ancestry marital status age sexual orientation citizenship status as a protected veteran or. Sheet FS109E online at http cru cahe wsu edu CEPublications service in the uniformed services as defined by the Uniformed Services Employment and. FS109E FS109E pdf Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 USERRA as well as state military and naval service. UC ANR policy prohibits retaliation against any employee or person in any of its programs. For More Information or activities for bringing a complaint of discrimination or harassment UC ANR policy also. prohibits retaliation against a person who assists someone with a complaint of discrimina. Straw bale culture provides a simple means to avoid the disadvantages of growing in poor soils or locations where plant diseases may already be present but it will require additional water and fertilizer to prepare them for gardening Preparing Bales for Use Understanding the Process

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