Container Gardening

Straw Bale Gardening

A Straw Bale: Garden In A Small Space

What is Straw Bale Gardening?

Well, in a nutshell, it is a different type of container gardening. Instead of a plastic, metal or terra cotta container you use a bale of straw to plant in. There is a bit of conditioning to be done to the straw before you plant but once you have it starting to decompose on the inside you have a wonderful environment to grow your plants. It takes about two weeks to get your straw bale ready, by the way, so you do need to plan a little ahead.

As I have begun to age, it is harder and harder for me to bend over to turn soil for planting and to be stooped over trying to pull weeds. Using the straw bale method, all of that is a thing of the past. Weeds do not grow in the straw and there is no soil to break up.

This system is perfect for people who want a garden but have a minimal space to garden in. A bale of straw can be placed on a balcony, patio or along the building. You will need to make sure that the straw bale is placed in the right place for the sun requirements for the plants you intend to grow but other than that, you don’t have to worry about it taking up a lot of room.

You do not have to live in a specific climate for this system of gardening to work, either. As long as you have sunlight and water, even the novice at gardening can succeed with the straw bale gardening.

Recycled Containers For Gardening

If you are looking for a way to use recycled containers in your gardening, you may not have far to look. Take a peek around the house and garage and see if there are items that might hold a plant or two that could be reused as a container for gardening. I would suggest that you pick something that you are rather tired of or have even thought of tossing out.

Recently my husband was showing me a couple of items that he had decided that he could not do much with. My mind immediately went to plants! My husband is an electrician by trade and collects parts from old lighting fixtures. He often times will use those parts to restore a light for someone and at times has created some pretty awesome lighting for our home.

The picture at below show the two items that I decided could be used as a garden container to hold some annuals. Would your mind have gone to the garden when you saw them?

They are old shades that were used years ago for outdoor lighting but now they will hold some pretty little flowers in my backyard. The green one has enamel paint on it so I won’t have to worry about it rusting out. The other one has had the original paint removed from it but it is aluminum so it should not rust either. You may need a few tools to help you get them sorted out, but the writers over at Home Tool Helper will sort you out on these issues.

So, my first thing to do was to place some stones in the bottom of each one so that the dirt would not fall through when I did my planting. I then filled them with dirt and did an arrangement of a combination of sweet little colorful annual flowers. I did not want them to tip over and they were a little top heavy so I also took some old field tiles that are made out of clay and used them for a stand.

Yep, those old tiles were saved by my husband, too. I have used them before in the garden to add height and interest. My husband and I have a bad habit of rescuing old items. Well, maybe it isn’t such a bad habit because some of this cool old stuff is just too neat to become obscure. Besides we both were a part of the antiques industry for many years and we find that there are always ways to find a new use for an old item. In my case, a lot of the times it will be in the garden.

Right now the plantings in each container looks a little sparse but as the summer takes hold they will spread and will look almost as if the plants are spilling out of the containers. Those lovely images we see in magazines have had some time to fill out before the picture were taken. Either that or they were filled too full for the picture and would not do well after having been planted for a short period of time. You want to remember to give your plants some room to grow no matter what kind of “pot” you put them in.

I know not everyone will have old metal lamp shades to plant in but I will bet that you have some fun things hanging around that you could plant in. If not, visit a local flea market or antique shop and look around to see if there is something that was not originally meant as an item to hold flowers in but would look really cool used that way now. Obviously it should be in a condition that is not perfect and can withstand being outdoors for a season.

My Tomatoes In Containers

In an earlier post I mentioned that I planned to try planting tomatoes in a container this year. This will be the second time that I give this method a try. My efforts last year failed miserably partly due to the drought conditioners in our area last year and I believe that I planted the plants in containers that were too small. So, I am beginning to document my second attempt with you today. The picture at the beginning of this post shows the supplies that I purchased in order to grow tomatoes in.

I purchased a 36 gallon storage container, bag of organic soil and two tomato plants. I spent $20.13 for these supplies. If my little experiment works I should save at least $40 by growing my own tasty tomatoes instead of buying them at the grocery store. The savings would be even more if I were to buy the same thing at a farmers market.

My first step was to place a layer of dried leaves left over from last fall and some good old Indiana soil with some soft clay included in it. I figure the clay content will assist in keeping some moisture in the soil. I also feel that this layer will begin to decompose over the coarse of the growing season and add some fertilizer to the mix. I mixed it up sort of like I would if I tossed a salad. I noticed that there were a few little earthworms that happened to get dug up and I left them in there. They will be beneficial in helping break some of this down and adding their own little contribution to the fertilizing process. It will act kind of like my own little compost at the bottom of the container.

Layer One

The next layer consisted of the organic soil that I purchased before I started. I like using this soil instead of pottting soil that has built in fertilizers in it. Those are probably just fine but when I can go organic I like to. The bag was the size that is supposed to cover 1 cubic foot of space so I figured it would make a good layer for my experiment. It should also help the layer below begin to break down, too.

Layer two

Next I filled the rest of the container with soil from my backyard. Why? Well, I am convinced that one of the reasons that Indiana tomatoes taste so much better than ones grown in other areas of the country is because of that clay rich soil. So, I want my container tomatoes to taste like I grew them in the ground. It may not work but I think it is certainly worth a good honest try. I left any little worms that happened to be in the dirt because they will keep the soil aerated and continue to improve the structure of the soil. They will also create a better environment for the absorption of water.

Layer Three

Once I had the container filled with the layers of dirt and leaves that I wanted, it was time to plant my two little tomato plants. I think two plants will be sufficient for us since it is just my husband and I. Although, my husband wants me to consider doing a second container after about two weeks so that we will have a longer season of enjoying the fruits of my experiment. He may be right so I am not ruling it out. I placed cages around the plants to help stabilize them as they grow. I already had the cages so they are not an added cost. And if need be, once they get bigger I can also put a stake in to keep them from breaking from too much weight from the tomatoes. I’m thinking positive!

Tomato Plants In Container

I’ll keep you posted as the weeks go by and take some new pictures as my plants grow. It will probably be about mid July before I can actually taste one to let you know if the soil experiment made a difference. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section and I will try to answer them for you.

UPDATE ON HOW THE PLANTS ARE DOING:

It has been two weeks since I planted these tomato plants in their new container home. They are growing very well and now have little buds for the flowers that should eventually give me tomatoes.

See how much they have grown in just two short weeks? Now do not be alarmed at what looks to be yellow leaves on the plants. It was early in the morning when I took this photo and the sun was just peaking around the corner creating more light on some leaves. We have had a few nice rains since the time that these plants were planted so I have not had to water them as of yet.

If you look closely in the center of the picture you can see the little buds that have formed and will soon be yellow flowers that will then become the tomatoes for my husband and I to enjoy. Unless something unforeseen happens with the weather, I think my little experiment is going to be a success.