Following the previous post on growing in hay bales, I wanted to give you an update on the progress so far and share some problems you may run into and how to tackle them.
The hay bale garden took some time to get going due to the cold weather and the need to keep it moist.
It is worth noting that the straw underneath the top layer will be a brown-black color as the decomposition progresses and mushrooms may be present as you dig or sprout on top of the bale. The mushrooms should not be eaten and should be removed and either added to the compost pile or trash can. (Remember, never eat wild mushrooms unless you can categorically identify the species and that it is safe to do so, there are more poisonous mushroom species than there are edible ones).
The biodynamic garden hay bales had some grass/corn/barley sprouting on the top of the bale which was easily pulled out every couple of days. Once these sprouts were removed, we decided to plant up these bales. We chose potatoes, three red skinned potatoes from the grocery store which had chitted in the cupboard and three purple skinned/fleshed potatoes which we had purchased from our local nursery and planted on a root day after watering the bales with biodynamic preparation 507 (valerian tea) then spraying the bales with biodynamic preparation 500.
To plant in the bale, dig a hole in the straw; I like to pile the straw next to the hole and dig with my hands. Once you have the hole deep enough; place a bit of compost/potting soil in the hole then plant your potato on top. We then filled the hole with more compost since potatoes are greedy feeders. Cover the hole with the straw you removed from the hole.
In JimJim’s garden, we planted bush beans on the top edges of the bale with corn and squashes on the top of the bale. We planted a mixture of seedlings and seeds in a little compost to see if planting seedlings is better than planting seeds in this type of garden. The squashes were a mixture of those sown from seed and ones we found growing in the compost bin when we went to add more kitchen waste to it!
In this photo, you can see that the bale has sprouted grass or barley seeds in it which need pulling out. In the biodynamic garden, the removal of the weeds would be done on on a fruit day according to the biodynamic calendar. To the right in the photo above you can see the broccoli and cauliflower growing in JimJim’s garden with some chard growing next to it.
When we planted this bale, we parted the straw and added some compost and planted seeds and seedlings directly into the compost.
The bales once planted will need regular watering and feeding to start with and may need feeding if some deficiencies present themselves on the plants as they grow.
We’ve lost two purple potato plants to slugs, we thought that the yellowing leaves were an indication that they were in need of a high nitrogen fertilizer.
It turns out that the stalks were eaten and we suspect slugs or woodlice to be the culprits, for now the second purple potato plant is barely hanging on and we’re feeding it regularly to see if we can pull it through.