Beds on bricks and other folk tales – Raised beds, Part 2: Bale beds filled with soil

Raised beds:

Bale beds

Why bales?

Standard grass bales

Bales are tightly packed bundles of dry grass. As such they are completely natural, with the exception of the twine/wire that keeps them in shape. Remember – grass is a key ingredient of compost as dry grass (brown) is high in carbon and fresh grass (green) provides nitrogen (see a separate post on composting) and both are available in most gardens with a lawn – compost, literally on your doorstep. So with using the bales to make beds, we provide a slow release of nutrients.

Bales are used in different ways for raised beds. Our original idea was to replace the traditional plank/stone/brick surround of the traditional raised bed with something more organic – thus we chose bales. The idea of the bales was appealing in part because it would allow us to kneel and sit on the bales while gardening. In theory. In practice, they are a little prickly to be honest. In addition, bales should break down, providing more nutrients for the vegetables. The fact that the bales would break down was appealing as it did not restrict us to committing a particular spot to a permanent concrete and brick raised bed. Post applying this method, we came across other methods of using bales, but I’ll get to that later.

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Beds on bricks and other folk tales – Raised beds, Part 1: Principles

Our first attempt at growing veg directly in the soil of our new home was not as successful as we would have liked. On the other hand, let me just say right up front, I wish we could make our entire smallholding raised beds. They work that much better. It has been quite a journey, but we have refined the ideas each season, each year, and so far, it just works better and better. Its not just about putting the soil in a box and then planting though. Just like planting in a pot and expecting something to grow happily, preparing a raised bed is about adding the right stuff – but not as difficult as one may think. As mentioned before, our objectives with our farming was to try use natural, organically grown as far as possible. Where organically grown is not possible, material should be something that will not cause damage to the environment. Salvageable, recyclable is also important.

The following principles are explored in this series on raised beds. As they are quite common principles, I will not exhaust the explanation, rather outline our interpretation and application:

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Worm Farms (Vermicomposting)

One of our first Green Living projects was to start a worm farm.

Some of the advantages of a worm farm are:

  • It’s a disposal mechanism for most of your kitchen scraps
  • The earthworms turn the scraps into a rich compost
  • Moisture from the process drains through to provide “worm tea”. Worm tea is a liquid fertiliser that is extremely high in nutrients.

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