Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Learning More About Spinning Straw Into Gold

Last night I got my copy of Straw Bale Gardening by Joel Karsten and I read half of it as soon as I opened it! Chris read some of it last night while I was cooking dinner (more homemade tortillas!) and I finished the rest this morning. Now I am getting ready to sit down and start planning the garden this year.

For anyone new to my idea of spinning straw into gold, here's a brief overview of what I am thinking:

Spin Farming is S-mall P-lot IN-tensive farming. On our land we have a lot of trees and not a lot of space where a vegetable garden will get much sun. Hence we have a "small plot" that we are going to use for a vegetable garden. We will also have a larger portion of the land dedicated to growing a food forest, but that is another story! The SPIN technique focuses on urban farmers and gardeners, but the techniques still apply. You have three sections in your garden. One is dedicated to longer growing single harvest crops. The second area is reserved for growing two crop rotations, and the third is for plants that will reach harvest quickly for three crop rotations. They also talk a lot about growing crops that are High-Value.

Straw Bale Gardening is the practice of growing your vegetable garden in a straw bale. The bale acts like a container and the potting medium. We have very heavy clay soils here on the homestead. Most vegetables require well drained soil. Straw Bales will be a great way to start gardening this year, and when we are done, we'll make compost from the bales. That compost will be a really great soil amendment for us, and I can foresee, in just a few years time, we will have the awesomest soil around!

When I made the comment that we were going to spin straw into gold, I thought that the gold part would be money, or the food equivalent of money. I didn't even think about COMPOST! Gardeners call it Black Gold and it's my new favorite by product of Straw Bale Gardening. The straw bales only last one or two years before they are too far decomposed for planting in. That's when you make a compost pile, stir it up, add some nitrogen, and keep stirring until it no longer resembles anything that you added to it. It's amazing! And it's practically free. You can use your straw compost on next years garden and you won't have to buy much, if any, potting soil for your seed beds or planting pots!

We have a couple of different compost bins already. We have a worm bin, and we have a black vegetable/yard wast compost bin. We also have the rabbits making their little fertilizer right onto the garden bed! Rabbit manure is a cold manure and can be used directly in the garden, without the typical aging process. Right now all forms of our compost are being underutilized. I have some ideas -- ALWAYS WITH THE IDEAS! -- on how to use them better, but it all depends on how I will be able to put them into practice! And practice makes perfect fertilizer!

One of my ideas, is to put worm bins under the rabbit hutches. That way we can make fertilizer from worms and rabbits at the same time! I've heard that worms love rabbit excretions, and then we won't have to have the rabbits over top of the garden, taking  up valuable planting space. Here are some sketches:

Just in case you are wondering about the "it's important" that I wrote at the bottom of this photo, I was interrupted and couldn't remember what i was going to write! I think it was something along the lines of "it's important to make the worm bins larger than the rabbit cages so you aren't having to clean out the bottom area around the bins." 

When our Straw Bale Spinning turns out to be a success, we'll throw a party!