Gardening care : Gardening Alternative; Straw Bale Gardening
Straw bales bring your vegetables high enough for easy maintenance and harvesting. The vegetable plants do not need to be weeded. Last, the straw bales can be recycled after 1 or 2 years as compose.
It is advisable to plan your garden before laying out your garden. I suggest using grid paper, since it is easier to lay out your garden more accurately.
You have the option of assigning what ever numeric numbers you want to each grid. For instance, each grid can represent six inches, one foot, two feet, three feet, etc. This way you will know on paper how much garden space you will need for the type and amount of vegetables you want to plant and harvest.
So certain questions need to be answered.
First how much garden space is needed in order to harvest the vegetables wanted? In order to find out, measure the length and width of one of the straw bales that will be used. (Small square bales are fairly uniform in width and length).
Second, how much space is needed in order to maintain and harvest the Straw Bale Garden? Add two feet around the sides and ends of every bale. If a person is in a wheel chair, allow forty-eight inches around each bale. These dimensions should allow sufficient space to maintain and harvest your garden.
Third, how many varieties of vegetables do you want to harvest? In order to know this you need to know how many plants can be planted in each bale. Here are some popular vegetables, and amount of plants that can be planted in one bale.
• Dwarf determinant tomatoes – two per bale
• Cucumbers – six plants per bale
• Squash, zucchini, and melons – three plants per bale
• Peppers – four plants per bale
• Bush beans – 12 to 15 plants per bale
• Bush peas – 12 to 15 plants per bale
To give you an idea how to lay out your garden and vegetables to be harvested, this is how my garden is designed. My garden design includes six cucumber plants, one zucchini plant and two melon plants, eight pepper plants, ten dwarf tomato plants, twenty-five bush beans, and thirty bush peas.
This means I need thirteen small straw bales to make up my Straw Bale Garden. These thirteen bales are laid out with ample space for me to maintain and harvest my garden. Because of my impairments, I need to allow forty-eight inches around each bale rather than twenty-four inches.
One word of caution. Make sure the bales are exactly where you wantr them placed. Once you have soaked the bales with water, they will not be able to be moved. This is why it is best to plan your bale garden in advance.
Before you lay out your straw bales, make sure you lay each bale lengthwise. This makes it much easier to plant by just parting the straw. Also make sure the twine holding the bales together are running around the bale. In other words, do not place the bales so the twine touches the ground. This will only hasten rotting of the twine. However, if your twine still breaks, you can use metal or wooden stakes to hold the bales together. (I prefer using sharpened wooden stakes).
How do you plant your vegetables in the bales? Just use a trowel or anything else sturdy enough to separate a portion of each bale to plant a vegetable plant. Next put a large handful of compst soil, or potting soil with time-released fertilizer in the hole you made. Take your young plant and plant it int the soil. Then move on and place another plant in the bale, and do the same thing you did with the first plant.
Since you are using straw bales as your gardening medium, you need to make sure your bales are kept moist (even after the initial soaking). The straw bales require much water, so it is best to have your garden hose hand. In addition, the straw bales also need to be given liquid organic fertilizer once every or two weeks.
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Don’t Spend a Fortune on Gardening Tools
It doesn’t matter what size your garden is, there’s no doubt that gardening equipment can help make taking care of your garden much simpler. However there are so many tools available that it becomes hard to know which tools you really need, particularly if you’re new to gardening. It’s simple to avoid the confusion by just buying the lot, but then you’ll be left with no money and a storage area full of stuff you don’t need.
So which tools are worth buying? Gardening involves moving dirt around, so a digging tool is always a wise choice. If you’re mostly working in pots or containers, then a sturdy trowel is a fabulous investment. A shovel is better if you’re going to be shifting large amounts of soil around, or to assist you with planting trees, vegetables and flowers. It might be tempting to save yourself some effort by choosing a power tiller or plough, but unless you have a very large garden, they probably involve more expense and trouble than they’re worth.
Another helpful tool to buy is a rake or hoe. Again, if you’re going to generally be working in smaller areas, a pot-sized equivalent is a good idea. This tools could be used to smooth soil and remove weeds. You may prefer to do this by hand, but it’s easier with the right tool, particularly in a large garden.
It may be worth having a couple of pairs – some heavy duty ones for rough work, and some thinner ones when you need to feel what you’re doing.
Once your garden is established, then at least one pruning tool is necessary. It’s worth spending a little more to buy a solid, reliable pruning tool, otherwise it may be ruined the first time you try to cut anything with it.
A few more tools that you can probably survive without, but will make gardening easier depending on the style of your garden, include:
- Garden fork
- Watering can
- Hose & hose reel
There’s no doubt, it’s simple to find cheap tools, but if you plan to keep your tools for a long period of time, think of choosing good quality tools as an investment. Cheap tools often don’t work as well, and are often less sturdy and easier to break. Happy gardening!
Container Gardening; Select Your Container and Grow
A nice thing about Container Gardening is that vegetables and flowers can be grown in almost any type of container. Just make sure there are sufficient drainage holes drilled in the bottom of each container. Four to five one-half inch holes will be sufficient.
The precaution is in selecting which container is best suited for what vegetable. For instance. Root crops like carrots, tomatoes, and other large plants require deeper containers. On the other hand, leafy vegetables do not need such deep containers. Here are some containers I use for the various vegetables I grow.
For tomatoes, I always select dwarf, determinate tomato plants. These grow and produce extremely well in 3 to 5 gallon cake frosting plastic buckets. Any bakery will be happy to save their buckets for you. Remember, you can only plant 1 tomato plant per container.
Green peppers grow and produce well in smaller buckets. Usually 2 to 3 gallon cake frosting buckets are sufficient. These containers can only handle 1 plant per container. Banana peppers grow well in 1 gallon milk jugs. I cut off the top of a 1gallon milk jug just below the top of the handle, and use them. This gives you a container that is about 7 inches deep. You can only grow 1 banana pepper plant in a gallon container. The nice part is that the gallon milk jugs sit very well on six inch window sills.
Gallon milk jugs can also accommodate 1 or two cucumber plants, 1 or 2 green bean plants, 4-5 leaf lettuce, and even one cherry tomato plants. All you have to do is buy liquids in gallon containers, wash them out and use them.
Bush green peas grow well in 3 gallon buckets. The roots run fairly deep, green peas need containers around 12 inches deep. Make sure you do not plant too many peas in any one pot, or you will crowd out the plants. To be safe, experiment with planting either 1 or 2 plants per container.
Bush beans also grow well in 3 gallon buckets. The depth of these buckets is sufficient to handle a bean plants root system. Just like the peas, experiment by planting either 1 or 2 plants per container. The last thing you want to do, is crowd out the root systems of the plants in the container.
Herbs can be grown in smaller containers, but need a large surface area. That is why the 34.5 ounce plastic coffee cans and 4.38 quart plastic ice cream buckets can be used to grow shallow-root herbs successfully.
Shallow-root herbs need any container between 4 to 6 inches to grow. That is why coffee containers and plastic ice cream buckets can be used. And besides. They sit very well on a six inch window sill. If you do not know which herbs have shallow root systems, you may need to experiment. And when you find out which herbs grow best in the coffee can containers, you have a very good supply of herbs for your cooking needs.
Leafy vegetables such as radishes, spinach or leaf lettuce can also be grown in either 34.5 ounce plastic coffee cans or 4.38 quart ice cream buckets. If you like radishes and or lettuce, these containers will work well.
Other containers can be made from treated wood. However, one word of caution. Make sure the treated wood does not have creosote, or penta as preservative. These chemicals will harm the plants.
Lumber is also treated another way. The treatment includes alkaline copper quat or ACQ, and copper azole or CBA-A AND CA-B. I am sure there are lumber companies that handle this type of treated wood. I know for sure that Home Depot carries lumber treated this way.
No matter which lumber company you go to, make sure you look at one of the ends of each board you by. There you will find a small tag stapled on that will tell you what the lumber was treated with. Only choose treated lumber that clearly shows it was treated with alkaline copper quat or copper azole.
Containers can be made to what ever length, width, or depth you need. I use wood that is 12 inches wide. This makes the containers around 12 inches deep. When containers of this depth are made you can plant lima beans, snap beans, beets, kale, lettuce, or peas. In other words, any plant can be grown that will grow well in about 10 inches of soil. This is because you need to put the potting medium in until it reaches about 2 inches from the top of the container.
The size of container you make is determined by three things. First the amount of growing area you have. Second, the root depth needed for a particular plant. Third, the width of the container needs to be wide enough to accommodate the plant you want to grow.
Container Gardening; Alternative to Traditional Gardening
There are many advantages using Container Gardening:
• Perfect for people of all ages.
• No digging or tilling is needed.
• Virtually weed free.
• Does not cost much.
• Plant a garden with limited space.
There are any number of various containers that can be used. Just make sure you know the width and depth of the container needed for the particular plant you want to grow. The cheapest containers are the approximately 3 gallon and 4 gallon plastic frosting containers from bakery shops. And also 4.38 quart plastic ice cream buckets can be used.. For instance. The 3 gallon frosting bucket is about 9 inches wide by about 11 inches deep. The 4 gallon frosting bucket is 11 inches by 12 inches deep. Whereby, the 4.38 quart ice cream bucket is 8 inches wide and 6 inches deep.
Here are some general guidelines that can help decide what size container is best for a particular plant.
• Lima beans – 12 inches wide X 8 – 10 inches deep
• Snap beans – 8 inches wide X 8 – 10 inches deep
• Beets – 6 inches – 12 inches deep
• Broccoli – 20 inches deep
• Brussel sprouts – 12 inches wide X 12 inches deep
• Cabbage – 20 inches deep
• Carrots – 10 inches wide X 10 inches deep
• Chard – 8 – 12 inches deep
• Chinese cabbage – 20 inches deep
• Collards – 12 inches deep
• Corn – 21 inches wide X 8 inches deep
• (Need 3 plants per container for pollination)
• Cucumbers – 20 inches wide X 16 inches deep
• Eggplant – 16 inches deep
• Horseradish – 5 gallon or bigger container
• Kale – 8 inches wide X 8 inches deep
• Kohlrabi – 12 inches deep
• Lettuce – 8 inches wide X 6 – 8 inches deep
• Onions – 10 – 12 inches deep
• Peas – 12 inches deep
• Peppers 16 inches deep
• Pumpkins 5 gallon tub
• Radish – 4 – 6 inches deep
• Spinach – 4 – 6 inches deep
• Summer squash – 24 inches deep
• Winter squash – 24 inches deep
• Tomatoes – Dwarf-12 inches deep & reg.-24 inches deep
• Turnips – 10 – 12 inches deep
You can use any size or virtually any kind of container as long as it provides adequate drainage, and is large enough to accommodate the plant. Regardless of the container, adequate drainage is needed.
A rule of thumb is the hole should be one-half inch in diameter. A minimum of 4 holes should be drilled in the bottom of each container. Place either newspaper or screening on the bottom to hold the dirt in the container. Be sure to avoid all containers with narrow openings.
One word of caution. Any container that drains water will discolor or stain concrete and wood flooring or deck. With container gardening more watering is needed than with a traditional garden. However, the water must drain out of the container. If it does not, the roots do not get the oxygen they need. Plus the roots will rot. You can get very inexpensive plastic saucers to put under the containers you are using. Discount stores have them in the gardening section.
Be aware that cheap plastic pots may deteriorate in UV sunlight. Terra cotta pots dry out more rapidly, and wooden containers are susceptible to rot. Redwood and cedar make excellent containers since they take much longer to rot than regular untreated wood. In addition, DO NOT use any wood that has been treated with creosote, penta, or other toxic compounds. The vapors can damage the plants.
Next comes the planting of the Container Garden. First is the growing medium. Make sure that your growing mixture drains easily, but still retains moisture. This will help keep the roots of the plants or evenly moist.
Soil less potting mixes work very well. A few brand names are Jiffy Mix, Bacto, Promix, and Jiffy Pro.
This type of growing medium drains quickly, is relatively free from disease and weed seeds. The nice part is the soil less medium can be bought at any garden center, and even the discount super stores just to name a few. However, when this type of growing medium is used, more frequent fertilizing will be needed.
Soil mix is another way to go. This growing medium is usually made up of one part sphagnum pet moss or compost, one part pasteurized soil, one part vermiculite or perlite, and possibly some composted manure. There are even some that have slow-release fertilizer mixed in. One brand comes to mind and that is Expert.A big difference between soiless mix and soil type medium is that the soil type holds more water.
The availability of sunlight needs to be taken into consideration. The vegetables need at least five hours of direct sunlight a day. Generally, leafy vegetables like cabbage and lettuce can handle a mostly shady area. Whereby vegetables like beets and carrots need more sun. However, vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers need the most sun of all.
Vegetables grown in containers need more watering than plants grown in a regular garden. Since the volume of medium is fairly small, the containers dry out faster. In fact smaller pots dry out faster than larger pots.
To be on the safe side, check containers at least once and twice a day. When it is hot, dry, or windy, the medium dries out the fastest. However, remember that too much water can be just as bad as not enough watering.
It is advisable to buy an instrument that when stuck into the growing medium will tell you if water is needed. This may seem like a pain in the neck, but is well worth it. Especially when you harvest a bountiful crop that has been well cared for.