Straw Bale Culture Technique
In general, plants grown in straw bales appear to require less water than when grown in soil. Another benefit to using straw bale culture is the garden bed will turn into compost offering some additional nutrients to your vegetables and herbs. The constantly composing environment warms up to provide gentle heat to the roots of plants and for your greenhouse. After some preparation and processing the compost will also begin to generate Co2 which will help to boost your plant's growth rate.
Wheat straw bales are a good choice for cultivating plants. You should try to remove any weeds that may sprout, then follow the instructions below to get started growing your vegetable crops "Straw Culture" style.
Construct Garden Area
The straws should be tied and in a vertical position. Build a (plastic) barrier/fence around your garden area to hold the bales in place. If you do build a barrier around your garden, make sure the bales are packed in well. The barrier should be made of plastic or other synthetic material and not consist of wood or other biodegradable substance.
Place a sheet of plastic on the bottom of your grow area to help the straw retain moisture. Tightly pack in the tied straw bales until the entire area of your garden is filled in. Soak the entire garden with water and place another sheet of plastic on top. Each bale will require approximately 1-gallon of water daily. For example, if you used 10 bales, you will need 10-gallons of water. Place another sheet of plastic on top of the bales after watering. The plastic should remain on between feedings until the processing period is over.
Preparing Bale (Processing)
The straw bale will require 3-4 weeks of processing before it is ready to grow plants. After the 3-4 weeks processing time, the bale will begin to decompose and form compost. This is when you will add fertilizers and top with a dressing of bagged compost or manure about 4 inches high. Do not use soil.
Once you've topped with compost/manure it's time to add the fertilizer. Spread the dry (soluble) fertilizer over the surface of the bales and then water according to manufacturers directions. After you add fertilizer, the rate of bacterial action in the decomposing straw will increase, raising the bed's internal heat. Cover with plastic and let it sit for an additional week. After a week, the bales should be cool enough to start planting your seeds - just drop em' in to sprout.
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