Category: Buying Straw Bales
- Joel Karsten
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The most expensive input cost in any traditional soil garden is LABOR. Your time to weed, water, weed, plant, weed, harvest, weed, water, weed and pull weeds adds up. If you had to pay yourself for the hours you put into your garden, you’d soon see how much money goes into a traditional soil garden. Straw bale gardening eliminates the vast majority of weeding, and if set up properly, also eliminates watering by hand as well. A simple hose end digital timer turns the water to an irrigation drip system or soaker hose on and off with a preprogrammed schedule eliminating the need to stand around holding a water hose for half an hour every day. As the bales go through the conditioning process it is very common for them to heat up and this heating process sterilizes any viable weed seeds inside the bales, rendering any potentially viable seeds inert and unable to germinate. You may invest in bales, but you’ll also free yourself from your second job this summer, and spend your time doing something more productive and enjoyable, instead of weeding and watering your garden.
Shop around, using craigslist.com or our website www.StrawBaleMarket.com you might find a farmer direct source for bales making them less expensive. Always ask if the farmer has any wet bales, because wet straw bales are completely useless to a farmer planning to use straw as livestock bedding material. Those bales that were rained on are likely to be on sale for a discount price. Shop in the fall, because if a farmer has to store the bales after they come directly off the field in the fall, he will likely want to charge more for them in the spring. Fall bales are normally easier to find, less expensive, and will begin to condition a little bit if you leave them outside in the weather over the winter.
Make your own bales. In the newest book I have written “Straw Bale Gardens Complete” you will find a step-by-step method for assembling a simple lever system, I call the BaleMaker3000, which you can use to compress and make your own bales. The material you can use to make your own bales can be any compostable organic material from your property. Grass clippings, leaves, tree and bush trimmings, garden trimmings, vegetable peelings from the kitchen, weeds pulled from other areas, flowers that have expired, etc. Literally any organic matter that would normally go into a compost bin, can now be used to make bales for your garden. If you have straw bales from last year’s garden and they are half decomposed, you can use them in the new bales as well. Pile everything into a 40 quart plastic or rubber storage bin, use the BaleMaker3000 to squish down the material tightly into the tub, then tie it up with strings pre-positioned in bin. Drag the bin to the location you want your new bale, dump it over, and wrap it with chicken wire. Staple the chicken wire on a 2×2 about 24″ long with a sharpened end. Twist the 2×2 until the chicken wire squeezes the new little bale you made nice and tight, now pound the 2×2 into the ground to hold the wire in the compressed position.
- Joel Karsten
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Yes, absolutely yes, however it is important to know that hay is a term used to describe baled grass or alfalfa that is fed to livestock as fodder or food. This often means that the grass may contain seed heads which are part of the grass plants natural effort at reproduction. If the grass is cut late in the season it is quite possible that the seed heads will be mature enough to sprout. Imagine what happens to a bale filled with viable seeds that you now water and fertilize. You end up with a chia pet for a bale, with sprouts all over. This can be solved by wiping the sprouts with the vinegar/soap/salt solution I suggest in the book, and then the bale can be planted immediately after the sprouts die back. Early cut hay or second crop hay will likely be seed free and perfect for your garden. Hay actually contains more protein that straw, and protein breaks down into nitrogen, which ultimately means a hay bale will provide a better source of nitrogen for plant growth in the long run, which is an advantage. Hay also tends to stink a bit more as it decomposes. Like the high nitrogen grass clippings you forget in your mower’s collection bag for a couple of weeks…peeeeyeeeew! Straw doesn’t smell too bad because it decomposes more quickly. The hay bale will also hold less moisture early in the process than the straw bale will, so watering a bit more during conditioning a hay bale is key. Overall, I have had great success with bales of hay, but it is often like a box of chocolates, you just never know what you’re gonna get!
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