This week the Clermont County Master Gardener Straw Bale Demonstration Garden has again provided a wonderful harvest. More zucchini, cucumber, and peppers were harvested. This week onions, tomatoes, and banana peppers were also harvested. The green beans are close to being harvested, tomato vines are full of tomatoes, and the pumpkin vines have produced pumpkins of a decent size that will soon be ready for harvest. Harvests from this week will be used for an upcoming Food Preservation Class hosted by the Clermont County OSU Extension Office. The garden is continuing to be monitored for Japanese Beetles and other types of pests. With the recent rain we have received it has also flourished the growth of several weeds. The MGV’s have been hard at weeding out all their gardens this week. Pictured below is how the MGV’s store their daily garden notes and any other materials they need to have while at the garden. The MGV’s are continuing to keep a weekly schedule on maintaining the gardens and keeping track of their findings, tasks, and accomplishments within the gardens.
It’s time for the weekly update on the Clermont County Master Gardener Straw Bale Demonstration Garden and other MGV gardens, located on the Clermont County Fairgrounds. Master Gardener Volunteer Deb Garner had this to say about our gardens:
“Last week the straw bale temperatures held in the 80’s which permitted great growth.
The tomatoes are beginning to look very good with the beginnings of fruit sets. The Jet Star tomatoes seem to be doing the best. It is evident that the bales are composting well as some of the bales are now leaning with the weight of the tomatoes. A few additional stakes were added and some pruning helped.
The pumpkins are growing rapidly and the plants look very robust.
Peppers are doing exceptionally well. A few holes in the leaves were spotted but, no pests were seen. Many of the pepper varieties have the beginnings of fruit and the some of the Early Jalapenos are ready to harvest.
More radish seeds will be planted in the garden; as the present radishes are ready to pull.
The demonstration garden bed edges containing marigolds and nasturtiums are stunning. The Moonflower and Scarlet Runner Bean on the entrance trellis are climbing away! The amazing growth of these flowers have attracted many pollinators; as you can see in the photo depicted below of a bee on the Borage plant.
Other gardens located on the fairgrounds are coming along too. The container garden is very lush with tomatoes setting fruit and the cucumbers are climbing the trellis. Monarch butterflies have been spotted at the container garden.
The sensory garden has required a bit more work. Plants are in the ground in rather compacted soil; they are having some trouble becoming established. The sensory garden is truly a work in progress and many replants have taken place. Gardening is always a learning experience.
The weekend did bring rain and is sure to burst growth in the gardens. See you next week for another update.”
The Clermont County Master Gardener Volunteers have been continually hard at work maintaining this year’s Straw Bale Demonstration Garden; located on the fairgrounds. Last week the MGVs were able to harvest some vegetables from their plants; they collected two nicely sized radishes, and more are almost ready to be harvested. Several other plants were beginning to bloom or beginning to sprout, such as; the Mexican Sunflower, lettuce, and pumpkins. They were also able to transplant Zinnias into the garden. There were several days of rain last week, so the straw bales and soil stayed continually high in moisture. The MGVs are continuing to monitor for insects and pests as well; some plants were showing signs of damage and have been treated.
This Spring, the Master Gardener Volunteers in Clermont County are creating a straw bale demonstration garden at the Clermont County Fairgrounds. Using 22 straw bales, the MGVs are planting a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, beans, radishes, carrots, and lettuce. The bales are surrounded by herbs and flowers.
All vegetables will be donated to within the county. Let’s hope for a bountiful harvest!
The MGVs will be collecting data throughout the growing season so they can educate others in doing successful straw bale gardening. Come visit the demonstration straw bale garden at the Clermont County Fairground during the fair July 25-31!
Advantages to straw bale gardening are:
- Raises heights of beds making it easier on your back
- No weeding needed
- Low startup cost
- Extended growing season
- Impossible to over water
- Easy to move location of your garden each year
- Alternative to poor soil
- Holds moisture well
- Creates loads of A+ compost
- Prevents disease issues
- No heavy work i.e., tilling
- Minimum pests
Tips for successful straw bale gardening include:
- Use straw bales, do not use hay bales
- Place bales in full sun and near a water source
- Position bales north to south with no more than two rows side by side
- Cut side of the bale is up with strings on the side
- Condition each bale
Conditioning is the process of getting the straw bales to compost internally so they will support plant growth. The process takes about 2 weeks and involves spraying the bales to get water and fertilizer deep inside the bales so they can start to “cook”.
Schedule for conditioning the bales:
Days 1-3-5: Water into each bale ½ cup of lawn fertilizer high in nitrogen (i.e., 20-0-4, 46-0-0) with no pesticides nor slow-release features. (Water on days 2 and 4.)
Day 6: Water
Days 7-8-9: Water into each bale ¼ cup of same lawn fertilizer high in nitrogen
Day 10: Water into each bale 1 cup of i.e.,10-10-10 or 12-12-12- fertilizer free of pesticides
Day 11: Gather plants, seeds, and potting soil, while allowing bales to rest.
Day 12: Plant
It is essential that the bales be conditioned during this short period so that the bacteria inside the bales are activated and begin to digest the straw; making nitrogen and other nutrients available to the plants.
After bales are conditioned, plant seedlings or seeds in bed of potting mix. Water daily and enjoy your crop. At the end of the season, bales turn into clean compost for other gardens or as mulch.
For more information on straw bale gardening, check out Joel Karsten’s book entitled Straw Bale Gardens Complete