New home, new garden. I questioned the soil that I had to work with, it has a clay like consistancy. And the area that I chose to place the garden, was already very wet. I didn't want the garden to completely fail. After googling how to make the soil better, how to build a raised garden, how to grow in clay, I was dismayed. Until, I happened to come across "how to grow a garden in a bale of hay". I was curious enough to jump at the chance to try it. Thus, this blog, about my experimental garden! Half soil, half hay!
|Sod layer removed. Soil tilled and ready to plant.|
1. Use straw bales not hay (hay will start growing, straw will not grow as much as it has less seeds, if straw does start to grow, just clip with scissors)
2. Bales can't be planted until you water them and add liquid nitrogen. Watering should be done for 10 days to allow the straw to start to decompose and create a good planting medium. After you try to find liquid nitrogen and find you can't, just find some dried blood and sprinkle it on the hay bales about 3 times during the 10 days of watering. This will give the straw nitrogen.
3. The straw bales will require a lot of watering in the beginning. Don't plant the plants in the straw until 10 or more days of watering. The longer the straw bales have to decompose the more your plants will thrive.
I used already started plants in my straw bales. I separated the straw and placed the whole ball of soil that the plant was growing in into the straw. Eventually the roots will spread out into the straw but in the beginning it will use it's original dirt.
When i planted the plants. I did duplicate plants. Some in the soil and also some in the straw for a comparison of growth. I planted tomatoes, peppers, dill, zucchini, cucumbers, sunflowers (in soil only) and some marigolds to deter pests.
The plan was to grow snap peas all along the back fence to optomize the gardening space.
Because of how wet the hay bales remained, each morning I would be greeted with many many mushrooms!
|Straw bales in place and ready to be watered|
|Plants doing well in soil & in straw bales|
|How I organized it|
|Soil areas along the back for snap pea seeds|
|Plants in the soil did better than I ever expected!|
|snap peas sprout along with a few mushrooms.|
|Curious if the mushrooms were the demise of my snap peas|
Snap Peas sprouted, but unfortunately that is all I ever got. they didn't do very well at all.
|happy little mushrooms (excuse my finger upper right)|
|Here is the garden near it's peak|
At it's peak, I was collecting abundant tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, jalepenos and zucchini. The cucumbers were the most prolific and growth was about the same in both the soil and the straw.
|peppers were abundant in both the soil and the straw|
Then… It happened. Hurricane Irene. The garden was flooded and never recovered. The sunflowers which were on one end all broke in half, the tomato plants turned brown and fell over. The only thing that survived and continued producing was the jalepeno plant.
|Garden under about 10 inches of water during flood from hurricane Irene|
|After hurricane Irene flood.|
Nice thing is I'll be able to use the straw bales next year. From my research the straw bales are much more nutritious for the plants on the second year. Hopefully, another hurricane doesn't take it out!