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Straw Bale Idea

Posted by booswalia Z5aPEI Canada (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 27, 14 at 7:47

Hi,
I've been thinking about this idea for using straw bales. I want to make some raised beds and use bales instead of wood. Then it occurred to me, why not just put the bales on three sides and place a 10 inch board on the south side. That way I can slope the soil to get more sun and warm up faster in the spring.
I question whether or not the soil will stay sloped, however. Any thoughts?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Straw Bale Idea

Straw bales have a large footprint. I'd rather use that garden space to grow stuff. And, I'm with you and not sure the soil will stay sloped for too long (maybe a simple cold frame is in order?)

I've heard of folks growing in the bales themselves, so if that's what you're planning you'll recover some garden space.


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

I see you're way up in the north country, so the sun issue is more valid than down here in the temperate zones. Depending on the slope and type of soil, and rain and watering habits, it may stay just fine. How big is the bed? Straw bales are, what, a foot and a half tall...from there down to 10", over say 8 feet, is only an inch per foot slope. Keep some mulch on it, maybe include some small speed bumps across the slope to catch water...should work.


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

Thanks for the replies. I like the idea of speed bumps for the water to collect. Space is not a problem. I have an acre and a half in a clearing in the woods, but I have to be able to do the work myself which is why I think the bales will work well for me. I'm going to try one on the north edge of my veggie garden just to see. It will be about 25 feet long, 4 feet wide and have a slope from 18 inches deep on the north side to about 8 or 10 inches on the south side. If it flattens out, it flattens out.


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

I used to make hotbeds out of hay bales, this is the same idea minus the fresh manure. It works quite well and later the rotten hay makes great mulch.

What I would do is put down black plastic first, to melt any snow and ice and then warm the ground as much as possible. With the sun angle coming up pretty rapidly in March by the end of the month the ground will be significantly warmer than surrounding. Then on a warm day you could take up the plastic, dig up the topsoil, place the bales and put the topsoil back inside. The I'd pop a cold frame over the top. With the insulation of the bales you'll be 4-6 weeks ahead of the regular planting dates.

With a hotbed you can get two months ahead.

BTW, we bought land in PEI once. Never did live there. Good friends of ours have made it their primary home for close to 20 years. Got a lot of snow now?


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

Thanks, PnBrown. That sounds like a great idea. I was just reading about making a cold frame last evening. The black plastics sounds like just the thing to get started a little earlier on it.
I have lots of compost and even 6 yards of topsoil sitting out there so I'll probably use some of that in it. I can warm it up with plastic as well.
Hard to think about all of this looking out the window right now. There's about 3 feet of snow on everything.


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

The concept of straw bale gardening has been around for quite a number of years and there are a number of web sites that talk about how to grow plants in straw bales.
Straw bales last year sold for $5.25 to $5.99 per bale unless you could find a farm that sold them.

Here is a link that might be useful: straw bale gardening


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

Look up "straw bale cold frames" ... that is what you are building.

They provide some shelter from wind and make a slightly warmer microclimate.


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

He isn't talking about growing plants directly in bales (which IME is not a useful strategy). Using the bales to build a temporary raised bed is an excellent strategy for getting an early jump on the season.

Grain is big business in PEI, all the farms rotate barley and oats with potatoes, so I would think that straw is fairly cheap.


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

By the way... he is a she. ;-)
Yes, bales are pretty cheap here. I have 25 of them sitting waiting to used. I got them last fall for $40 and i covered them for the winter. I also have a big round one. I'm just thinking of ways to use them and the idea of raised beds came to mind, not planting right in them. My understanding of planing IN them requires you to fertilize heavily with nitrogen before planting and I'm prefer to garden organically.


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

Sorry for the presumption of gender :)


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RE: Straw Bale Idea

Just make sure you get straw and not hay, or you'll have a legendary crop of weeds and grass. ;-o


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