A concept we had never heard of before until one of my blogging friends mentioned it, ( thanks Carole). We are always interested in trying new things, especially if they appear to be labour saving or easier on our backs. We have already increased the height of the raised beds for outside crops but the strawberries in the tunnel needed some thought, then Carole mentioned this idea. The more I read up on it the more it appealed, especially for the strawberries, last year I must have wasted as many as I cropped as the beds are too low and a little to wide.
The concept is simple, take a bale of straw and condition it, this takes about ten days and involves soaking the bales daily and adding a high nitrogen fertiliser every other day. Straw locks up nitrogen so this must be replaced. As the bales start to decompose they will heat up, they can reach a temperature of 135f after ten days or so, they will then gradually cool down. When the bales have reached to 38c or around 100f you can then plant into pockets filled with soil or compost. Because the bales are still warm you should produce crops a couple of weeks earlier than normal and the growing season should be extended. As bales are around 20 inches high it seems an ideal method for strawberries, no more back breaking cropping. I suspect you would only get one or maybe two seasons growing in a bale but what you will be left with will be a mound of lovely rich compost already in the right position.
|Bales installed, far right, garlic looking good.|
We will also do a direct comparison with tomatoes, we only need four plants, two will be done in a straw bale and two in large buckets, as we did last year. It will be interesting to see if there is any difference in yield, flavour and cropping time.
A few days ago I received an online news letter from the GIY ( grow it yourself) website advocating the use of lime. No mention was made about doing a soil test to see if in fact you did need to lime. Liming is said to sweeten the soil, it also raises the ph. We had done a ph test when we first moved in, we were 7 which is neutral, ideal for growing most vegetables, but since then we have added a tremendous amount of manure and compost. Manure can raise the ph level.
|Way to high.|