WHAT HAPPENS TO USED STRAW BALE GARDENS?
I was very successful growing brassicas, Red Kuri Squash, Tomatoes (fertilised by leftover liquid coffee), and other crops in fermenting straw bales this year. Peppers were not successful in these gardens.
The bales provide nutrition, heat, and worm food as they break down, which extends the growing season and accelerates crop cycles. The resulting soil is light and fluffy, allowing for excellent root penetration. Ambient heat around the fermenting bales creates a microclimate, which allows me to keep growing cold-tolerant crops, even after frost.
After removing the summer crops, the bales were looking a little worse for wear, so I removed the bale twine, and manually compressed them by about 20cm (picture 2, above). I also added a top-dressing of more soil.
The result is, they have broken down into one long raised bed! I have planted it with my over-winter crops of broccoli romanesco, kale, and some short crops of pak choi and various salad greens. In the coldest parts of winter, I’ll easily be able to fit a row cover over the raised bed.
This was my first year growing in straw bale gardens, and I am thus far very happy with the result. I was glad I had the foresight to build a retaining wall around them, and my advice for folks looking to try these gardens would be to do the same. My two free-standing straw bales gardens will be cannabalised into mulch at the end of the season.
Read more: Straw Bale Gardens (USA / Canada / UK & Europe)
Monday Nature-break: I’m pretty smitten with our mango tree right now, 22 years old, just past a bountiful fruiting and leaf-renewal, and the healthiest and prettiest it has ever been. I’m quite sure its new-found vigor is due to our placing a compost-rich, generously-watered raised bed of veggies right outside the tree’s canopy drip line, where its far-reaching roots drink up all the goodness.
That is the benefit of a permacultural “guild,” or polyculture planting!
About 4-5 months ago, I shared a few snap shots of my MIL’s newly installed garden beds. Everything was still frosty and barren in the Spring.Fast forward to now, we helped her bring in a pretty nice harvest this year.
And yes my MiL is really that tall; the woman is a Viking.
- Water tank: Filtered water is kept in the tank and slowly released into the breadbaskets below
- Vegetables growing in breadbasket: Breadbaskets filled with porous lava stoned are used to grow vegetables. The stones and vegetables roots trap the nutrients and filter the water which then flows into the fish tank below.
- Fish droppings enrich the water with nutrients for growing vegetables
- A variety of small vegetables can be grown such as swiss chard, cows peas, eggplants, sweet peppers, etc.
- Pump: A solar powered or had pump recycles the water to the top tank, ready for the cycle to start again.
- Chickens provide meat and eggs for consumption and/or for sale. Their droppings are captured and used to feed the fish.
This unique system integrates fish, poultry and vegetable farming using recycled water. It is designed to maximise the yield of each component, whilst minimising the amount of water required. Our research has shown that Haller’s aquaponics system uses only 2% of the water conventionally needed for the same vegetable production. This is particularly important in drought-prone areas in Africa. Haller’s aquaponics system is also affordable, it is made with low cost materials that can be found locally.
We have made several changes to this initial design – in particular to the fish tanks. A revised illustration is currently being worked on.