Bale Yeah! Straw Bale Gardening: Day 1

I’m super excited, today is day one of my attempt at straw bale gardening!  What is straw bale gardening you ask?  Let me tell you about this gardening magic…  According to everything I’ve read, straw bale gardening is the easiest thing you may ever do in the garden.  Here are some of the books and websites I’ve read to get ready for this new gardening adventure.  Just click on the picture to be taken to the website.

 

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All you need to start a straw bale garden is a straw bale, some high nitrogen fertilizer, and water.  That’s it!  It has all the perks of a raised bed garden with a much smaller price tag and NO WEEDING.  One other great thing is that you can put a straw bale garden pretty much anywhere! It can sit on grass, on rock, or on concrete- the ground underneath it has no bearing on it.  Once you are done with a growing season or two you just compost the remaining bale and start over.

Before you start planting you must “condition” the bales.  Straw bale gardening works because the fertilizer causes the interior of the bale to begin composting, creating new soil.  I began conditioning my bales today by covering each one with a half cup of a high nitrogen fertilizer and soaking them with water.   I followed the method of sprinkling the fertilizer directly on the bale and then watering but it did not seem to dissolve well.  I think I will switch to dissolving my fertilizer in a bucket of water and then using that to water the plants two days from now when it is time to fertilize again.  I’ll be posting several updates as I finish the 10 day conditioning cycle.

 

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Planting Potatoes on St. Patrick’s 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!! Where we live people go a little bit crazy for St. Pat’s.  The college closes for a week of St. Pat’s festivities including a huge parade and concert.  This year we decided to embrace a wee bit more Irish tradition and plant potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day.   According to Burpee Garden Company in 2011:

“St. Patrick’s Day remains one of the nation’s most celebrated holidays nearly 250 years after the first American celebration took place in Boston in 1762. While a few traditions have changed, the ceremonial planting of potatoes around St. Patty’s Day remains strong, according to Burpee Chairman and CEO George Ball.”  

I’ve never planted potatoes before in my life but I had a few old potatoes that I found sprouting eyes and have been holding onto with the thought  that I might plant them this spring.  When I saw this Pin 

from Preparedness Mama I decided to give potato growing a try.  We had an old laundry type basket that would be perfect.   My biggest kiddo helped me drill a couple drain holes in the bottom then ran off to swing.  My Little Miss was thrilled to get her hands dirty helping.  


I used regular red potatoes from the grocery store that had sprouted eyes.  I’ve read mixed reviews about whether they’ll work but I figured it didn’t hurt to try!  I’ll update when and if they start growing!   


You may have noticed on my Home page that there is a Google calendar.  If you have interest in following along with when things were planted or sprouted or harvested you can find that information there.  

What the heck is homesteading?

I’m sure some of you are wondering “What the heck is homesteading?”  Homesteading USED to refer to a piece of free or cheap land granted to an individual or family to work and farm.  That land would provide for that family almost entirely because store bought good were rare and expensive in areas where homestead plots were granted.  Wikipedia defines homesteading as:      

              “a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale.”

Modern homesteading looks very different than the old days.  Now farms are smaller, and people are using the term to reference any attempt to live less dependent on store bought food, government utilities, and other commercial goods.  City people with a patio full of container garden plants are embracing the homestead spirit.   Suburban families are turning 2 acre yards into mini-farms where they raise small animals and big gardens.  Country families are running hobby farms and exploring solar energy and milking cows.    A lot of people don’t realize that the current trendy movement of backyard gardens and chickens was encouraged by the government during World War II as a way ease the demand on the national food supply and increase morale through “Victory Gardens”!  
                                                                     

For me homesteading means that we work to raise as much of our food as we can, we use what we have on hand before we buy new, we handle as many repairs and projects as we can ourselves, we make money through selling items we grow or raise, and we live in a thrifty way to make our dollars stretch as far as they can.  I’m working on embracing the homesteading mentality and dragging my reluctant husband along for the ride.  I am appreciating the skills I learned as a youth watching my Grandma more and more.  I wish I would have paid more attention as she was canning!  I picked up a lot of DIY skills from watching my dad and working on projects with him.  Thank goodness for YouTube, too.  Nothing strikes fear into my husband’s heart quite as fast as seeing me gathering tools for project and hearing “It’s ok honey, I watched a YouTube video!”.  Our new home and property has been a treasure trove of items to re-use or upcycle.  Keep an eye out for a post about my finds that led to building raised garden beds for free!
Leave a comment below and tell me what homesteading looks like for you!  

*photo credit to http://www.nationalww2museum.org

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