Gathering Summary: Container and Strawbale Gardening, with Mary and James Laud

Straw Bale Garden (Wikipedia)

Straw Bale Garden (Wikipedia)

by Catherine Haug, April 15, 2013

(photo, right, from Wikipedia)

This is just a short synopsis; you can find more detail in the complete, printable pdf file:

Gathering Summary: Container and Strawbale Gardening, with Mary and James Laud, March 20, 2013.

There were no handouts, but a photo-board with some great photos was included in the presentation; I will add the photos to the summary as soon as I receive them.

Just prior to our event, we had a HUGE rainstorm all across the valley, but Mary and James braved the weather and gave a great presentation. They had intended to bring some straw bale garden examples, but were unable to do that because they were too saturated from the storm. They did have photos of straw bales in various stages of gardening, so we could get the general idea. They also brought some clever artistic examples of container gardens.

Presentation Topics

  • bag gardens
  • straw bale gardens
  • roof-top gardens
  • their greenhouse construction
  • container gardens
  • various methods of making organic fertilizers for container gardens
  • outdoor wood-fired pizza oven made on-site from fiber brick and fire clay or cob

Read on for audience comments and Q&A.

Audience Comments and Q&A

Comment: Herbicide-contamination in straw bales

Linda C. brought up the issue of an herbicidal spray used by farmers that contains aminopyralid. Manure (from animals fed non-Organic feed), and non-organic straw bales would likely be contaminated with this poison. It kills not only weeds but also some garden plants including:

  • legumes (pea, bean, etc),
  • nightshades (potato, tomato, etc.),
  • umbelliferae (carrots and parsnips),
  • composite (lettuce, spinach, etc.); and
  • ornamental flowers including dahlias and some roses.

This problem greatly affected Jean H.’s garden in 2009, when it was mistakenly mixed in with a broadleaf weed spray applied to her lawn and garden. Reference the following EssentiaList articles about the aminopyralid problem. You may want to use the test in the second file to determine if your straw bales are contaminated with this poison.

Q & A:

Mary’s discussion of compost tea (compost steeped in water for 3 – 7 days) brought the following questions:

Q: Paul Renner uses bokashi tea in this large greenhouse. What do you know about this?

A: Mary was not familiar with this garden tea, but Shirleen W. mentioned it provides effective microorganisms (EM) for the soil. It is made from sawdust or bran, molasses, and food waste. For more about this tea, see the following links:

Q: How do you make Comfrey tea?

A: Mary combines 2 – 3 gallons of comfrey leaves with some nettle leaves and kelp in a 15 gallon container of water. This sits 1 – 2 weeks, then she dilutes in following ratio: 3 parts water for 1 part tea to use as a foliage spray.

Q: Do you add worms to the straw bales?

A: James replied: No need to add worms. They find their own way to the straw bale, which is a magnate for garden worms.

Q: Where do you get the straw bales?

A: Look in Mountain Trader. They got theirs from Mark Brewer.

It was at this point that Linda C. brought up the problem of garden-toxic herbicides used on the straw (see above). A short discussion followed about encouraging farmers to grow Organic straw. If a lot of people get into straw bale gardening, this would provide a market for  Organic bales.

It is possible to test your growing medium for aminopyralid. See The EssentiaList: Test for hidden poisons in compost, manure, wheat straw

See the complete, printable pdf version of the Gathering Summary: Container and Strawbale Gardening, with Mary and James Laud, March 20, 2013. for much more detail about all topics discussed.

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