Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A grand experiment to avoid pests

Today my husband bought some straw bales for me. These bales will my grand gardening experiment for this year. When Charlotte Nelson told us at our garden club meeting about her fantastic success with straw bale garden (see photo above), it started me thinking about a garden problem we have had the past few years and gave me a possible way to solve it.

For the past couple of years we have struggled to grow squash in our organic garden. The first year, great squash, the second year things were looking good at first. We had some early squash but then the squash declined fast because of squash vine borers and were then attacked by squash bugs. Last year we had a great start and then the squash vine borers attacked. We had a few more squash but didn't have the success we should have had.

When Charlotte spoke at our garden club meeting, I asked if she had a problem with squash vine borers and she doesn't but she also doesn't garden organically. It did start me thinking about that first year. We didn't have the pests at first because it was the first year and the vine borers had to first find our garden before we could become infested. The second year, we had vine borers early because they had burrowed into the soil and were ready to pounce.

This year we have already planted some squash in our garden, but we plan doing a couple of things differently. First we will plant some squash in straw bales at our house rather than in the garden. I am hoping that in the bales, we can avoid the squash borers until later in the season just like the first year. I will also spray them often with BT, but I think this method of planting on new ground, in this case bales, will give us a jump on the pests.

In the garden, we will use floating row covers and take the covers off at some point for bees to pollinate but will cover them over the rest of the time. I am hoping this will help us have more squash without pests.

So this is my grand experiment. My goal is to grow plenty of squash and maybe outsmart the squash vine borers. So far the squash vine borers are ahead on the count but I hope I will be at least even with them after this  year. If I can avoid the pests I will still have to work to avoid them but I will have less of them the next year.

I will have to figure out how to do what Charlotte does but with organic materials. Here is what she does.
How to create a straw bale garden
Buy bales are very tightly held together. Never use loose bales.
Day 1-3
Water bales thoroughly for the first three days. I watered in the morning and evening.
Day 4-6
Once a day, sprinkle each bale with ½ cup of ammonium nitrate (32-0-0) then water thoroughly.
Day 7-9
Once a day, reduce ammonium nitrate to 1/4 cup and sprinkle into each bale and water thoroughly.
Day 10
No more ammonium nitrate … but add 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer to each bale and water thoroughly.
Day 11
Plant your garden.
Other things Charlotte does:
* Place 3 inches of potting soil on top of each bale on day 10 after last 10-10-10 fertilizer is added.
* Use a spatula to push the transplants into the bale, it opens the bale a little better than your hand. I plant my squash from seed.
* Plant each transplant to the first leaves and press straw back together. 
* Choose one day as Miracle Grow day. I use Miracle Grow every other Friday.
* YOU MUST WATER DAILY. If it rains, no watering.
* NEVER let your garden dry out.

I will be starting with the bales and I will water them well for three days. After that I will use blood meal to fertilize.

I will update as I proceed with my organic planting in straw bales.

1 comment:

  1. Love this idea of the bales - thank you for sharing. Best of luck to you on your garden this year, Joanie