Wednesday, April 13, 2011 Filed in: Community Gardens
Don't pay for a bunch of soil, grow soil! Don't pay for a bunch of water, save water! Urban agriculture has no excuse not to grow food because of the latest techniques used to create garden beds. At the Willits Integrated Service Center straw bales are the way to reclaim the land, provide an amazing example of urban gardening and produce food for community.
The theory is very simple. If there is space that has no soil, in our case the middle of our court yard, it is better to grow soil rather than paying a lot of money to bring soil in. The straw bales become raised garden beds that can be used to grow anything but a root vegetable. The bales will break down into a berm of soil as beautiful as a compost pile in two to three years. The Nutrients the plants need will come from a 1" layer of potting soil and other specific inputs put on top of the bale. The bale itself acts as a rooting medium that will hold moisture and uptake applied nutrients. The result is an instant raised two foot raised garden bed for less than $10!
The process is easy.
First, purchase or get donated straw bales that are as seed free as possible. Our 25 bales of straw were donated from J.D. Redhouse, the local feed store.
2. The bales have been induced with a high nitrogen organic fertilizer, in this case, chicken and sea bird manure and water from a soaker hose. Within one week the bales had reached a temperature of 70 degrees. The bales will heat up for about 1 month and get very heavy with water and reach temperatures of 140 degrees.
3. The bales will be given the specific type of input they need for the plants they are growing before they are planted in.
4. The 1" layer of potting soil on the top is not necessary but is suggested if direct seeding.
5. Plant the plants on top of the bales by digging a small hole in the soft top side of the bale.
6. Water the bales once a day at first and then as the plants are more established, watering can be cut back to once every two days or sometimes once three days depending on the weather. We will use a drip system, donated from Drip Works, that will apply the water exactly where it needs to go.
7. Harvest the food when it is ready.
We will repeat steps 5, 6, and 7, until the bales have turned to berms that create food for the people.
Come see our straw bale demonstration garden at 221 South Lenore Ave, Willits CA, 95490
peas and carrots,