Thursday, May 6, 2010

Straw Bale Gardening - take 2

Our bales are in place. (15 this year compared to last year's 11)

The first application of fertilizer went on April 28th.

We've been taking turns watering the bales every day since.

It sounds so simple right? ...and once you get past all the math involved it really is.

Here are the fertilizers I'm using this year. (Turns out one of the ones I used last year wasn't as 'natural' as I'd thought.) I'm not going to dwell on it - I'm moving a new formula for our new garden.

Remember from last year that the goal is to reach a nitrogen level of 34. We are accomplishing that using this formula:

Determine the total square footage of the bales.
Pick out natural sources of nitrogen that when added together get as close to 34 as possible.
(when you look at the bag of fertilizer there are three numbers listed. Nitrogen is the first one.)

Here's where it gets tricky. Each bag tells you how much you need to add to promote healthy veggies. The company that sells them assumes that you're going to do one or two applications throughout the growing season, but that's not the case for strawbale conditioning. We need to create a nitrogen sink or "hyper decay" as it is sometimes referred to. We have to hit it hard early on to get the bales ready for planting. In order to do that I figure out the amount of fertilizer it will take to apply a full application but spread out over the six days that call for 34-0-0 fertilizer in the conditioning process.

Sometimes I have to convert grams to ounces so I can convert those to teaspoons. Other times I have to convert pounds to ounces and then to cups. It's not an exact science. I'm sure I'm off a little here or there, but based on last years results, my little system works.

Blood Meal has a nitrogen level of 12 so that's a great source.
Then there are a couple of different kinds of Milorganite (pronounced mil-OR-gan-ite)
Dr. Earths adds a level 5.
I also apply manure to the bales to help boost the level of nutrients.

Once I know how much of each fertilizer I am suppose to add every other day I mix it together in a bucket with my rubber gloves. Spend the money on rubber garden gloves - they are worth every penny IMO.

Let the kids fight over who gets to water the garden each other or let mother nature take over that part like we did tonight.

In 12-14 days it will be time to get the plants and seeds into the ground, but first starting on Mother's Day we'll apply the 10-10-10 fertilizer per the conditioning formula. Until then we'll continue to water our beautiful plants that we are hardening since we purchased them on Monday. We found an incredible greenhouse that has huge plants. Instead of doing zucchini, pumpkins, and beans from seeds like last year, we purchased plants. We'll be getting a huge head start and I'm SO excited!

Once it stops raining I'll get some pictures of our new trellis system. It's going to be slick!

***If you hadn't noticed before, there is now a straw bale gardening tab on the navigation bar below my header picture. You can browse through last year's posts to see how our first straw bale garden progressed.***


  1. I can't wait to see how yours does this year!!

  2. Great you are doing it again this year.

    I am going to just have a garden in the ground and I have a bunch of pots around the yard this year :)

  3. I am showing my husband this tonight, I want to try it! I really want raspberries though!!!

    What is with this icky weather. I have a giveaway on my blog that ends today and I am doing another one tomorrow for an adorable super stylish book mark!!


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