Straw/hay bale gardens...
Over the past month & a bit I have started to make preparations for expanding the veggie patch into the front yard.. I have decided to make as much soil & compost as possible,in order to both save us some money as well as give out plants the best start we can..
After dwelling on this for a while I decided to try making & growing in a few straw bale garden beds.. The beauty of this style of bed is that you can grow in them while they are slowly breaking down into a rich compost & mulch..
Most books & web sites will recommend that you use straw because straw bales have a minimum of seeds.. I decided to go with lucerne hay as I am not concerned if any seeds sprout.. Our chooks love to munch on the greens so they will not go to waste.. The bonus of lucerne is the nitrogen content being very high & so it will break down into a very rich compost/growing medium..
I was very lucky that a local couple, that have a permaculture farm west of Ipswich, had just received a load of poor quality lucerne hay at a great price & they were passing onto other gardeners.. The hay is not good enough to be stock feed because it got wet at the wrong time of the curing process.. I have gotten 9 bales so far & another 4 on their way, as I plan to have 2 or 3 of these beds set up in the front yard..
Here is a list of what I used to create our first bed..
Baling twine (fine wire or string would work well too)
4 straw bales
Complete natural fertiliser
Compost or manure
To try & keep the weeds out of the bale beds I laid down a double thickness of cardboard boxes to stifle their growth..
The bales were then placed on their sides, to raise the height of the beds, then tied together to keep them as one solid bed.. I have seen some people drive stakes through their beds into the ground to keep them in place.. This can then double up as support for plants or as a larger trellis for climbing plants..
The fertiliser & lime was then added to the top of the bales.. The fertiliser helps to feed the bacteria which drives the composting of the materials in the bed..
The fertilisers I used is a chicken manure, blood 'n' bone & mineral dust blend called CBM & I added some dynamic lifter as well.. A mix of chicken based fertilisers like dynamic lifter or rooster booster with some blood & bone looks to be a popular blend of fertilisers used by many for this type of bed.. About 1.5kg of fertiliser was added all up.. As I will be planting tomatoes & chillies in this bed I thought it best to add some dolomite lime.. The added calcium in the lime should ensure that they don't end up with a bout of blossom end rot..
The fertiliser was then hosed into the bales.. Water is an important ingredient when making up these beds as it helps in the composting of all the materials..
A 5-10cm layer of semi composted horse manure was then added on top of the bales & was also hosed in..
I decided to peg some shade cloth to the top of the bales to try & keep moisture in..
The bales started to heat up by the next morning which is a great sign that the composting cycle has begun.. I think it will probably continue to "cook" over the next week or 2.. Once it starts to cool down I shall be planting out some Tigerella tomatoes, that were gifted to us by a fellow SS'er, along with some jalapeno chillies, garlic & herbs.. 4 of the bales dropped off on Thursday were used to make another bed yesterday.. Just need to add the fertiliser & composted manure on the top then it can start cooking down.. The left over bale will be used to start a potato bed in the front yard this weekend & hope to plant it out by next weekend..
I will be sure to let you know the progress of these beds in upcoming blogs.
Walk around clip..
Pickings from the patch & a quick curry...
Have started to harvest the wing beans this week..
This first lot went into a rendang style curry along with some okra, snake beans & celery from the patch..
I also pulled some galangal & lemongrass for the curry Bianca made up..
I liked the curry so much I had to make another (my way this time ;)» ) during the week.. Any excuse to use up the rest of the galangal that was pulled.. This time some frozen turmeric & kaffir lime leaves were added to the curry paste..
The paste also had some fish sauce, homemade chilli paste, cumin & coriander powder.. 500g of diced stewing steak, 2 red onions, okra, wing beans, snake beans, coconut milk powder & water were added to the paste & left to slowly cook for an hour & a half..
While the result looks very brown served next to some quinoa I can assure you the curry was extremely tasty & there were no leftovers for Bianca's lunch the next day, much to her disgust..
Have had a few tossed style salads from the harvested veggies this week too..
Maya made up a great salad to go along side her first lasagne she had ever made from scratch..
It included kang kong, lettuce, opal basil, onion greens, yellow capsicum, celery, Gympie Gold cucumber all from the patch, with some tomatoes & carrots from the green grocers.. I must say that we were all very impressed... Now if we can just get her to clean up her mess as she cooks :/»
Ummm, this is where I would normally say something about wanting to show some progress on the hoop house extension in the following week's blog... I don't think I shall this week ; )» You will just have to wait until the next blog to see if I manage to get motivated..
Hope you all have a great weekend in the patch...