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Rotted Bale Garden
Jim Templeton says he never had so much fun or success gardening until he started planting his vegetables and flowers into rotted wheat straw bales.
  The Decatur, Alabama man got the idea from a Southwest Georgia newspaper clipping given to him by a friend. The article was a 1997 county extension agent's column and it provided directions for "taking the stoop out of gardening."
  Using 20 small square bales that he bought at a local garden and landscape supply store, he followed the directions exactly except that he added a small can of worms to each bale to help open it up.
  Here's what he did:
  "Start with a bale of wheat straw (hay can be used, but pine straw won't work). Bales that have been sitting out in the weather will give you a head start because they need to rot before you plant. Fresh bales require 10 days of pre-treatment.
  "Place the bales in full sun where they can stay all summer, because once they start to rot, they're not very mobile. Don't remove the twine around them, because you don't want them to fall apart. Putting a stake at each end will help hold twine-bound bales together once the twine rots.
  "Saturate the bales with water and keep them wet, watering once or twice a day for the next three days. On the fourth day, apply a half-cup of ammonium nitrate to the top of each bale. Water it in well.
  "Repeat this on the fifth and sixth days (ammonium nitrate acts as the energy source for microbes to feed on the straw and cause it to rot). On the seventh day, cut back to 1/4 cup of ammonium nitrate per bale, and water it in thoroughly. Repeat this on days eight and nine.
  "On the tenth day, apply one cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per bale and water it in thoroughly. By the eleventh day, the bales should be ready for planting. Mix topsoil and cow manure together in a 50-50 mixture.
  "Put about four inches of this mixture on top of each bale and moisten it lightly with a fine water spray. Plant your tomatoes and peppers right into the bale, using your hand to pull apart the bale and insert the roots. Each bale should accommodate two tomato or four pepper plants.
  "Seed other vegetables, such as cucumbers, squash, beans, cantaloupe and watermelon into the soil mix on top. Three yellow squash, six to eight cucumbers or 12 to 15 bean seeds per bale is about the limit."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Jim and Margret Ann Templeton, 506 8th Ave. SE, Decatur, Alabama 35601 (ph 256 355-8881; email: jntempleton@pclnet.net).

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2005 - Volume #29, Issue #2