How To Straw-Bale Garden On The Fly

Let’s jump right into my new straw-bale garden. This past week, for the first time all year, I was caught up on my beekeeping chores. This finally gave me a chance to tackle a few other projects on my endless list.

However, before I could get started, I was struck down in my prime with walking pneumonia – oh the horror. I’m not a tough guy about this sort of thing (I’d like to point out that that’s my wife’s opinion, not mine). Nonetheless, I still managed to get one project going. My garden.

I have been wanting to plant an amazing raised garden but as it is now June, I decided to take Justin Rhodes philosophy and “Just Plant”. With the long growing season of the Mississippi Delta, I should still have plenty of growing time left… if not, lesson learned.

The Garden

Two weeks ago, my son and I cut down the tree in center of my backyard to let some sunlight in. I then cleared the ground and pinned down black plastic to kill all the weeds and grass.

This past week, I put up a 2″x2″ fence around my 16’x24′ garden area with bird net to keep my chickens out. I was worried this would be too flimsy but I wanted something that was cheap and could be easily disposed of if this turned out to be an epic fail (total cost was only about $30). Much to my surprise, it has turned out to be a very sturdy little fence – so sturdy in fact, that I am now considering hanging cattle panels on it for trellis next year.

I constructed it by using 2-10′ long pressure treated 2×4’s. I cut each one down to 5′ and then cut them into 1 1/2″ square posts (giving me 8 posts). I then cut a point on the ends and drove them in with a post driver.

Next I cut 8′ long 2×4’s into 1 1/2″ strips and made the top and bottom rails. Lastly, I covered it with the netting.

Since the ground needs at least 4 weeks under plastic, I won’t be able to plant anything in the ground until next week. However, in the mean time, I planted tomatoes, bell peppers, and herbs in Pots. I also started a small straw-bale potato garden.

Straw Bale Gardening

I did a little research on this prior to starting the straw-bale garden but there seems to be 3 schools of thought on this process.

  • The first says, just stick the spud in the bale… then it will magically just grow. (Maybe)
  • The second is to spend two weeks conditioning the bale with fertilizer and water to begin the composting process. (I suspect this is the best way).
  • The last way is what I did. I forced a hole into the bale, filled it with a small amount of soil, placed the spud, and then covered with a little more soil. (I used a few paper towels to keep the soil from just being washed through).

If my way doesn’t work, I will know in about 2 weeks and by that time I can just use the second method… but at the end of the day “Just Plant” was my motto. I will keep you posted to how this all works out.

Homesteading Laboratory

Truthfully, right now my yard is more of a small scale homesteading laboratory. 4 chickens, 2 rabbits, 25 bee hives, and now a small garden. Of course you’ve got to start somewhere.

Two years ago, in the epic battle to eradicate hive beetles from my bee-yard, I bought chickens – a solution that has yet to be fully tested. The trouble was, I didn’t know anything about chickens.

By the way, do you know what that white stuff is on the top of chicken shit? I used to say, “That’s chicken shit too,” but I was wrong. It’s actually uric acid but I didn’t know that before I got chickens!

So where do you go for information? YouTube of course! That’s how I came across Justin Rhodes’s YouTube channel.

Justin Rhodes

Justin has a lot of great videos on backyard chickens and those videos where a big help. However, I discovered Justin’s videos just about the same time he started his Great American Farm Tour video series… and that’s when it all went wrong.

What was once a mono-agricultural beekeeping endeavor has begun to evolve into a case of the House that Jack Built… You know the poem?

” This is the cat, that killed the rat, that ate the malt, that lay in the house that Jack built.”

In my case: These are the apples, the make the flowers, that feed the bees, that have the beetles, that the chickens eat.

If all goes well, in just a few years, I will be able to sell my home in the suburbs and buy my 40 acre homestead in Missouri. There I will plant the land in clover and apple trees to feed my bees. Those excess apples will provide a significant amount of feed for a sideline of pigs. That clover will be kept trimmed by a small herd of Dexter cows and will be followed by a flock of chickens (Joel Salatin style).

However, for now, it all starts in my backyard. Start small but dream big.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. That’s a good start to a great dream! This book is also a good read about keeping chickens: The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, by Harvey Ussery, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011


  2. Pingback: Honey Homestead

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