Whether you have a second driveway, a paved activity area in the backyard or additional paved space for parking, you may feel as though you have limited options for landscaping. Removing that asphalt can be expensive, but that doesn't mean you're stuck with it. Here's a look at what you should know about straw bale gardens so you can call and discuss them with your landscaper.
What's the Big Deal About Straw Bales?
A straw bale garden is a great way to transform an otherwise urban-looking environment. It gives you more green space, and it adds more plants, which can help improve air quality. Additionally, if you use your straw bale garden to grow vegetables, it can help you reduce your grocery budget without sacrificing fresh produce.
How to Build a Straw Bale Garden
Your landscaper can help you with the design and implementation of the straw bale garden, but here's a look at the basics you'll need to know.
It Starts With a Moisture Barrier – The very first layer you need to create is one that keeps moisture at bay. Black plastic sheeting or a root barrier will help with this. It prevents transfer of moisture seeping out of the garden into the asphalt, which can ultimately damage your asphalt. It also protects the plants that are growing from suffering contamination due to chemicals in the asphalt itself. Without that barrier, the chemicals may seep into the roots, which could be hazardous to your flowers or even your health, if you're growing vegetables.
The Straw Bales Must be Properly Prepared – The number of straw bales you'll need is going to depend on how much space you have to cover. You can ask your landscaper, or just measure the dimensions of the asphalt space carefully first. It's better to have a few too many than not enough. Place the straw bales on their sides over the barrier. You'll want to completely cover the root barrier sheet. Then, water the bales enough that all of the hay is wet. Once it's wet, apply about a pound of limestone over each bale, or enough to cover the bale surface evenly.
The Seeds Need the Perfect Environment – Apply about six ounces or so of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to each of the hay bales. Once the fertilizer is distributed, water them again. Keep the hay damp for a week or so to encourage composting. About three days into the process, check the temperature of the hay bale center. It should be about 100 degrees or so, showing signs of heat buildup from the composting. If it's still normal temperature or barely above, that means you need more fertilizer. Repeat the fertilizer application process and check it again in a few days. Once composting starts, you'll want to wait a week or so before you plant the seeds. Then, put the seeds directly into the hay.
The watering and care afterward will depend on the seeds you plant. Follow the instructions for whatever you're trying to grow just as you would if you planted it in soil. Talk to your landscaper or Maddox Garden Center & Landscaping, Inc. about any other tips for your climate or your property's sun coverage.