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Learn how to create an easy raised bed with straw bales

Placer County master gardeners offer free workshop on straw-bale gardening

This collection of sweet potato plants grew in straw bales at the Far Oaks Horticulture Center a few years back. Once the bales are spent at the end of the growing season, they make great compost material, too.

This collection of sweet potato plants grew in straw bales at the Far Oaks Horticulture Center a few years back. Once the bales are spent at the end of the growing season, they make great compost material, too. Kathy Morrison

Think you have no space for a vegetable garden? Or is the sunny spot where you want to put a garden on top of rock-hard clay – or paved with concrete? Does your achy back keep you from gardening? Or the weeds?

Here’s one creative solution to all those gardening drawbacks – straw-bale gardening!

Learn how at a free in-person workshop, offered by the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Placer County.

Set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 9, at Loomis Library, “Turn Your Straw into Gold” will cover the basics of straw-bale gardening, which uses a bale of straw soaked in liquid organic fertilizer (such as compost tea) as an instant raised bed.

“Growing your veggies and flowers in easily 'conditioned' straw bales means no soil, no digging, no bending, only a trowel needed,” say the master gardeners.

Once the garden season is over, the straw can be recycled, too, they add. “Your used straw bales make great compost!”

As someone who has tried straw-bale gardening, I found it was a very productive method for difficult spots where nothing else seemed to grow. The bale was elevated enough where there was less bending to tend the plants, and weeds never had a chance to take hold. It was perfect for potatoes and sweet potatoes; when harvest time came, these root vegetables were easy to find.

Straw-bale gardening also works well for eggplants, squash, strawberries, beans, carrots and many other favorites.

No advance registration for this one-hour workshop is needed. Loomis Library is located at 6050 Library Drive, Loomis.

For details and directions:


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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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