Post by Josie Gates
It is with great enthusiasm that we are pushing forward with growing more of our own food on Hurricane Island this summer. Along with some in-ground beds and above-ground planters we are testing our green thumb by trying a straw bale garden in an old granite foundation that is close to the galley. The bales are a great above-ground option for growing vegetables and flowers, and you can grow almost anything in them! On Hurricane we are interested in comparing how our food grows in the bales compared to our in ground plots. Here are some things we have learned about straw bale gardens:
To get the straw bales to start decomposing and ready for planting you have to go through a conditioning process. For ten days we conditioned our bales by each day putting about half a cup of fertilizer high in nitrogen on top and then soaking them completely through with water. This process gets the bales to start “cooking,” by breaking down the straw and starting the decomposing process. Once the bales have started to decompose they are a great holder for plants, allowing root systems to grow down into the bale just like they would in soil.
After the bales have been conditioned you can either transplant directly into the bale or plant seeds on top. We have decided to put transplants into our straw bales. To plant transplants we carved out a spot within the soil on top of the bale for the transplant and its roots and covered it with sterile potting soil. We have then watered and cared for them as usual. So far everything seems to be growing happily, despite some regular raccoon visits...
A special thank you to all of our community members who have donated seeds, seedlings, and flowers to our gardens this year. Your generosity is greatly appreciated!
Here’s to a fruitful season of growing food and flowers on Hurricane!