No Stoop Gardening is good for me

Published 1:36 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Want to grow your own vegetables this year, but don’t have a lot of time, space or strength in your back? Consider trying a straw bale garden this year. Many people have been doing it for years and grow enough vegetables for their families without all that back breaking work.

Wheat or oat straw is best as it’s the stalks left from harvesting grain with very few seed left. Use what you can get locally — it may even be lucerne or pea straw bales. Put the bales in the exact place, because it’s hard to even nudge these monsters once you’ve got your little straw bale garden factory in full swing.

Lay them lengthwise to make planting easy by just parting the straw. Make sure the string is running around each bale and not on the side touching the ground in case it’s degradable twine. Keep the twine there to hold it all in place and if it does rot, bang some stakes in at both ends, or chock up the ends with something heavy.

It takes 10 days to prepare your bales before you transplant your plants into them:

uDays 1-3: Water the bales thoroughly and keep them wet.

uDays 4-6: Sprinkle the bales with 1/2 cup of ammonium nitrate (32-0-0) per bale per day, and water it well into the bales. I didn’t have any trouble finding ammonium nitrate from my local ag-supply store. They sold it in 40-pound bags.

uDays 7-9: Cut back to 1/4 cup of ammonium nitrate per bale per day and continue to water.

uDay 10: No more ammonium nitrate, but do add 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per bale and water it in well.

uDay 11: Transplant your plants into the bales. I used a spatula to make a crack in the bale for each plant. Place the plant down to its first leaf and close the crack back together as best you can.

How many plants per bale? Try two tomato plants per bale, three peppers, two squash, two sets of cucumbers.

Be prepared to stake the tomatoes and peppers. You will want to water them in the morning and after sunset for best results. The main thing is not to let the bales get dried out.

If transplanting plants, start out using some Miracle Grow once a week for a couple of weeks then sprinkle in some 10- 10-10. You don’t want to over fertilize. The bales will start to sprout wheat or oat straw, but that is no problem. If the grass gets too much for you, just whack it off .