Monday, March 10, 2014
By KATHY VAN MULLEKOM McClatchy Newspapers
Here's something to consider for next year. When you don't have or want a traditional garden, you can still enjoy homegrown vegetables and herbs, thanks to some alternative ways of planting.
“Straw Bale Gardening” by Joel Karsten details a surprisingly efficient way to plant anywhere.
Tomatoes grow in a series of straw bales tied together. Among the advantages of straw bale gardening are back-friendly planting and convenient harvesting.
Here are two easy ones to try -- and you don't need a yard to use them:
STRAW BALE GARDENING
The new book "Straw Bale Gardening" details how to grow vegetables anywhere -- think patio, deck, porch, courtyard, driveway, parking lot, roof top or in the lawn.
Soilless, straw bales give you benefits to gardening, according to author Joel Karsten, a Minnesota-based garden author and University of Minnesota horticulture graduate, including:
• All the advantages of a raised bed garden, including taller height, less compaction, back-friendly planting and convenient harvesting.
• Fresh, insect- and disease-free growing media each season when you use new straw bales. Older ones can be composted or recycled.
• Earlier planting time because as the new straw decomposes, it releases heat that's good for seedlings and transplants. Poly tent covers are easy to fashion to protect crops from night temperatures that drop too low.
His book features dozens of graphics and full-color photographs that show how to arrange straw bales -- five to 20 bales -- into single-row or intricate-style gardens that support the growing needs of diverse crops, including peanuts, cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, potatoes and lettuce.
He also shares how to condition the bales over 10-12 days, using water and fertilizer so the bale center decomposes to create the ideal environment for seeds and plants. Planting mixes can be used directly on top of the bales to grow cool-season crops such as peas, beans and lettuces; trellising wire-type structures can also be used to support vining crops. The 140-page book, which includes plant profiles for the best crops, is $20.
"Straw bales gardens are as rewarding and bountiful as they are easy and efficient to grow," he says.
There's also pallet planting as an alternative to traditional gardening. Materials you need include a pallet, enough landscape fabric to line the pallet on both sides, vegetable or flower transplants, 1 cubic foot potting soil and fertilizer.
Here's how to plant a pallet, courtesy McDonald Garden Center of Virginia.
• Place the landscape fabric-lined pallet on end and fill with potting soil. Be sure not to pack too full so that the landscape fabric is bulging, but tap the soil down so it levels out, making sure to fill it to the top.
• Pick out veggies, herbs, or flowers in annual packs to use for planting. Veggies, herbs or flowers in cell packs are smaller and easier to work with.
• Cut the landscape fabric in the shape of an "x" to create a small hole or planting pocket and sprinkle in fertilizer.
• Plant the edible or flower in the hole and push any excess soil up around the roots.
• Space edibles out on each row of the pallet -- about 3 inches apart.
• Finish planting by adding edibles or flowering plants to the top of the pallet. These should be more vertical plants.
When watering, make sure the pallet is vertical with the open/top side up and slowly water every two to three days during spring or fall -- and daily during summer when soil dries out quickly. Sometimes water may need to be added directly toyoung seedlings. Be sure to allow enough time for the water to seep down through the soil to get to the bottom plants.
One more tip: You can either hang the veggie pallet on the wall or lean it to display your vertical garden.