Friday, March 5, 2010

This Year's Game Plan

This is the year we deal with the dreaded evil wiregrass.

As mentioned a few days ago, I'm pulling up all my tomato fencing, carpet paths and drip hoses just so I can rototill my lasagna-garden beds and rake out as much of the cut-up wiregrass as possible. Then, the entire garden, or almost all of it, will be covered with black plastic. The idea is to literally bake the soil and burn up the wiregrass in the soil.

Of course this will affect the rest of the healthy soil microbes, and mean I'll need to refresh the soil with manure, compost and everything else I can think of to bring it back to life - BUT- if I don't bake the soil, the wiregrass will just increase and choke out the desirable plants.

So my entire garden will be under black plastic this year but I still need to grow veggies.

The answer is straw bale gardening.

Photo from Nichols Garden Nursery

The idea is perfect not only for my situation but for anyone who wants to garden without digging, tilling, building raised beds, or doing much weeding.

Straw bales are available at most gardening centers, or at rural farms if you're lucky enough. At our Lowe's they cost approximately $4.00 each.

Clicking on the credits for either of these pictures will take you to two sites with much more detail. The basic idea works this way:

1) Set the dry bale whenever you want your garden to be. Water the bale for 10 days.

2) To plant seeds, spread a layer of compost, fertilizer, and potting soil over the top of the bail. Water. Plant the seed in this layer.

3) For seedlings, hollow out a planting hole, and fill it with compost, fertilizer, potting soil, and water again. Plant the seedling in said hole.

3) You must water everyday. I've seen a couple ideas, and the best is at the site below (Charlotte Nelson's) - the idea of laying the drip hose across the tops of a succession of bales. I'm planning on hooking up the drip hoses to my rain barrel system.

4) The top site, Nichols Garden Nursery, mentions I'll need something called legume inoculant for my peas and beans. I've no idea what this is, but as soon as I find it, I'll let you know.

This is the goal:

Photo from Charlotte Nelson's Straw Bale Garden

Pros would also include less chance of disease and soil insects finding the plants, easy to mow around, bales should last at least two years, and after they begin to fall apart and decompose, they can be used as mulch (on what will hopefully be my newly wiregrasss-free garden).

Plus, I'm thinking I can build mazes with the bales and provide instant entertainment for the neighborhood kids.


  1. I...I...I...don't know what to say! The roots can really get enough nutrients from the straw??

    I'm gonna be grilling you shortly on rainbarrels...I think I'm gonna need one (or more) if I want to plant anything in my backyard here...

  2. Yes,Miss Bettye it really does work. And it would be perfect for your urban backyard. Tidy too. Less effort. If you have a gutterspout and you can stick a barrel under it, there's your rain barrel. Put a spout in it, hook up a drip hose, and voila, fresh tomatoes or cukes or whatever right in your own backyard.

  3. Good luck Carole! I can't wait to see how this goes for y'all!!