gardens · Homesteading

Hay Bales… And Gardens..

I started yet another project.

I don’t know why, I just did.

Well, I do know why. Its because I have wanted to do this for years. It looks interesting to me and why not try something that looks interesting and creative and different. ‘

2 years ago, I got extra bales of straw from a farmer friend so that I could try it in our community garden. We left that church and my bales got left behind for them to throw out and not even use in the gardens for good mulch.

Wasted.

My Daughter had some old bales that had gotten wet in the loft she keeps her hay in, so last weekend we pulled some of them down so that I could give it a try. They are hay bales not straw but they should work as well or better than the straw.

Hay is naturally high in Nitrogen which is what you want to get the composting process started. That and soaking down the bales daily. Anyone who has done haying in the summer knows that a wet bale gets hot and can literally set a barn on fire. That is the process you want to work with so that the bale begins to break down nicely.

For best results, TRUST THE PROCESS…… (generally good advice for living by the way.)

It takes about 10-14 days for the process and after that, once the bale cools down enough, you can plant right in the bale. Whatever it is that you want to plant in your garden, you can pretty much plant in the bales. Just don’t do something that is a perennial like rhubarb or asparagus because the bales will break down in about 2 years and a perennial plant needs several years to get properly established.

First thing to do is to lay out the bales in the pattern you would like them to stay for the season. I am not a rows person, so mine are in a squarish pattern and then I have 3 sets of 2 bales, I think for the potatoes, and another squarish pattern. Be sure to put the strings on the sides and the cut side up. If you need to, you can add a post to help stabilize your bales and later on, for trellising your plants. We just decided to live dangerously and leave them for now.

It helps that the ground is still frozen and none of my big, strong guys wanted to attempt to pound a t-post into that.

Here is the process:

Day 1- add composted, high Nitrogen, manure or a high Nitrogen fertilizer. I used, of course, composted manure. About 3 cups or so per bales. Then I soaked the bales well.

Day 2- Soak the bales.

Day 3- Add 3 cups of the high Nitrogen fertilizer of your choice. This time, I had picked up some organic blood meal so I used that. Then soak the bales.

Day 4- soak the bales

Day 5- Add 3 cups of the same fertilizer and soak the bales.

Day 6- soak the bales.

Days 7-9 Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the Nitrogen fertilizer on your bales and soak them daily.

Day 10- Add 3 cups of Phosphorus and Potassium. (Bone meal and Ash mix is an example.). Soak the bale. Now, on day 10, stick your finger into the bale, you should feel the warmth and the bale inside should begin to look black and even soil-like. That is the material breaking down which is good. You might even see mushrooms- if it is warmer where you are. If your bale is still HOT, continue to just water the bale until it cools down enough to plant in.

It is kind of a process, but you should be able to get your garden planted sooner. Some people have been able to get amazing crops out of their bale gardens! I heard of one lady who got 17 cantaloupe off of ONE plant!! That is shocking in our region where it can be difficult to get 2 cantaloupes off one plant normally.

I have never been able to get one cantaloupe out of my garden. I might be a little bitter about that…… This may be the year!!

Currently, I am on day 4. It is kind of a pain, since here, its been pretty cold yet so the hose is still coming out of the house. Thank goodness we have a faucet near the hot tub!! Then, because it has been so cold yet, I am wearing my snow pants and Carhartt jacket and gloves. The pictures of the straw bales gardens I have on Pinterest all have people in t-shirts and jeans or shorts.

That can’t be real…. They must have just posed that way……… notice the snow patches on the ground in my pictures. Yesterday we woke up to an inch or so of fresh snow on the ground. This is almost the middle of April. Seriously, I think we are actually in the 227th day of January!!

I just keep thinking of the produce. (I just might actually be able to pick CANTALOUPE from this garden!!!) This is gonna be a great garden. This is gonna be a great garden. This is gonna be a great garden…..

I’m warmer already…

hehe…

Blessings,

Vicki

Affiliate links today include Urea. You could get your boys to pee on the bales. Or your dogs. Neither of mine would do it enough, so this should do the job nicely!! 46% Nitrogen in this stuff- perfect for a straw bale.
Then here is a link for a high Phosphorus fertilizer. Sorry, nothing quite as entertaining for phosphorus like there is for Urea.

If you click on the links and choose to purchase through these links, I get a little back which can help me. Thanks so much for clicking them!!

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chicken keeping · Homesteading

Chicken Tractors- 2nd try…

Hubby just completed his designing and creating of our 2nd try at chicken tractors. Our first design didn’t work out as well, sadly. It was too tall, heavy and bulky for moving. Also, it didn’t move well. And it had gaps which allowed for predators to get at the chicks.

This is then our second try. After looking at several designs on Pinterest and Google, we decided this one would be our best option. Hubby figured out measurements and design. Then he and the boys built it.

He figured that a 5ft by 10ft frame would work best for the amount of chicks we will have. We have, currently, 50 chicks. When we move them, we will put 25 in each tractor to give them enough space.

He then added a “wall” around the lower foot or so of the tractor to which he attached the PVC pipes. These created the hoop portion of the tractor- the ceiling. He put doors on both ends to add to the use ability of the tractors. Later on, if we decide to, we can add a wire floor to one end and use that to put the feed bin and water tanks on.

For now, the plan is to hang them from the 2×4 that runs the length of the roof to help give the PVC structure. This connects to the frames for the doors. On top of the PVC hoops, we covered them with chicken wire, only to help hold the tarp roof. Chicken wire does not last like it used to so we only use it to help create structure.

They zip-tied the chicken wire and the tarp to the hoops. I see now that the zip ties have caused holes in the tarp already so we will have to make improvements there. The winds we have had have been a good test for our design. We see what we need to do better.

When we put the chicks in, we will attach chain to the 2×4 roof beam to hang the water and feed tanks on. This will keep them off the ground because the plan is to move the tractors daily. I may let them free- range some, but we will see how these work. They may just stay in the tractors and we move them daily.

Something we will experiment with.

I would like to also have a guard on the ground portion of the tractor, on the outside, to deter that fox. Last year, it was able to get under the tractor and cause too much damage. A little traumatizing for all of us.

The other thing I would like to add, is some sticks or boards across the center just for perches. We will have to see how much room we have after we hang the feed and water.

Now we just have to wait for them to grow a little more!!

Next to arrive should be some guinea fowl. They eat TONS of ticks and after this past year of dealing with tick diseases, we want to encourage tick eaters!! The end of this month then the turkeys will arrive. I have been reading about them and I am excited!

The plan is to sell some of this batch of broilers, so if you want some, please comment. Current market prices that I have seen for home raised broilers is about $2.50 lb. I am not sure how much these will weigh at the end. My guess is about 4-6lbs.

We will also be selling some of the turkeys come September or so. These are a heritage breed called, “Bourbon Reds”. My plan is to keep some for breeding and have my own flock. I am not entirely sure on sizes or prices for them. That I will have to look into. I am guessing more like $4 lb.

I will write more about all of that on another day. For now, just let those thoughts simmer in your brain and do a little of your own research.

Blessings!

Vicki

Here are some affiliate links that I could get a little income from if you click the link or choose to purchase from my recommendation. Your choice really.
This is the feed bin I currently use for my layer hens. I love it because it has held up amazingly well!!

Next link is for this book that is on my want list. Lots of books are on my want list, I know. But this one is all I need to know and I have read some great revies on this book!!

My last affiliate link for this post is the electric chicken netting I am hoping to purchase this year. I really don’t want the fox getting my chicks again this year. Thanks for clicking if you choose to!!