How To Construct An RS Combo™

The following post is an excerpt from my book Growing Vegetables In An RS Combo

If like me you are interested in new ideas particularly with regards to growing vegetables in limited spaces, then the RS Combo™ concept should really ‘float your boat’ :)

Growing vegetables in straw or hay bales has recently become very popular, And the idea behind growing veggies in Raised Bed gardens has been popular for some time.

Both these ideas have their advantages over traditional ‘row’ gardening methods. You can read more about the actual RS Combo concept here for more details of the ‘why’s and wherefores’ Meanwhile here’s a pic of my latest RS Combo to give you an idea of the planting possibilities when you combine a Raised Bed Garden with Straw Bale Gardening methods.


With all that said, lets get down to step by step construction details… Read the remainder of this entry »

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Onions In Straw Bales – Now’s The Time To Consider Planting Them Out!

Finally the ‘warmer’ weather is beginning to creep up on us, and if you are a keen gardener then you’re probably just itching to get the veggie plot started :)

Yes, admittedly here in Scotland it is still a bit on the nippy side with frost still making an early morning appearance. However if you are catching on to the ‘growing’ (like what I did there!) trend of planting in straw bales, then you can consider getting things in motion right now. One of the reasons for this is that the straw bales themselves being well insulated against the cold, allows for slightly earlier planting out. That and the fact that the heating up process that takes place during priming, means an earlier stating point for planting.

Check out this post for more information on preparing your bales. However that being said, as soon as the ‘babies’ start to show their heads I would have some protective garden fleese on hand to cover them for the first few weeks against the risk of a hard frost.

Planting Onions in Straw Bales

So. Onions. This is a great early crop to consider as onions are able to withstand a mild frost just fine – in fact reccomended. Planting them out in the straw bales is simple and will only take a few minutes of your precious time.

Straw Bale

The picture above shows the bale of straw (not hay) after being primed for ten days or so. This means that it is ready to recieve its crop of onion sets.

Before proceeding simply snip along the top surface of the bale to remove the worst of the ‘sticky-up’ bits of straw. This just makes it easier to lay out the compost base for your onion sets to be planted in.

The growing medium in this case is 50/50 sand to compost. Simply lay out a layer about 2 inches (50mm) thick on top of the bale, keeping it about 2 inches from each edge as in the picture below. Flatten it out with a builders trowel or something suitable just to level off the surface.

onions growing in straw

Once this is done you simply poke the onion sets into the compost, spacing them about 3-4 inches apart. By following the pattern in the picture above you should get about 24 onions to a bale. Here I have set out two bales at right angle to one another as they form part of a larger pattern. One of the bales as you can see is partially wrapped in cling-film. This is just to give an example of what you can do if you are concerned about moisture loss from the bale. This is especially if you live in a hot dry region.

Bear in mind that with this type of no-dig gardening, similar to growing vegetables in Raised Beds, plants are able to be grown closer together than in  a traditional vegetable garden. This is due to several factors but the two main ones are nutrition and space. The growing medium of the bale and compost is highly nutritional, and the onions are not competing with weeds for nutrients. There is no space needed between the onions sets for this very reason also – which all means that they can be grown closer together.

The cling-film (you can use landscape fabric or black polythene also), helps to retain moisture. It also helps with the composting process within the bale.

Back to the onions. Sorry the picture is not the best, however you should be able to see that I have planted a mix of white (Stuttgarter Giant) and red (Red Arrow) onions. Care is VERY simple for onions. They do not have many insect predators so need little protection against creepy-crawlies. However…Onion fly maggots can cause problems, so covering the growing onions with fleece or fine mesh may be a good idea if they are a problem in your area. Watch out for crows, pigeons, and magpies. These pests will pull the young onion sets out of the soil just for the hell of it :)

Also be prepared to gently push them back into the compost again as their roots start to grow, pushing them up and out! Once the roots have established themselves properly then its all good – harvest when the leaves begin to turn yellow by lifting and leaving on the soil surface for a few days to dry out before storing in a cool dry area.

UPDATE – Check out this link for updates to this harvest in the summer :)

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Growing Vegetables Using An RS Combo™

R.S. Combo Picture

Most, if not all of you reading this article will never have heard of an RS Combo™ - at least not in this particular context. This is because up until my new book on the subject was published a short time ago, the phrase has never been used to describe this technique – Yes I am officially claiming it as my own :)
However there are many of you who will have heard of the concept behind growing vegetables in Raised Beds or Straw Bales. Both these techniques fall into the category of no-dig gardening methods, and are indeed very effective ways to grow veggies.

So what exactly is an RS Combo? Well it’s simply a way of combining the Raised Bed idea with the Straw Bale. This maximises the benefits to be had with both techniques, whilst neutralising the disadvantages inherent in both of them.
The ‘RS Combo’ is simply my abbreviation for a ‘Raised Bed – Straw Bale Combination’ which is quite a mouthful!
With that said, here is a short-list of the main advantages/disadvantages of growing vegetables using these two techniques individually. Read the remainder of this entry »

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spring vegetable gardeningFor the keen gardener the Spring season just cannot come quick enough! The long dark winter nights suddenly start to stretch out and the first snowdrops and other early bulbs, begin to poke their way through the melting snow. Suddenly the garden begins to come alive, and our thoughts immediately turn to preparing the growing beds and the multitude of tasks to be done. Raised Beds, Straw Bales and Containers all have to be prepared for occupation!

Of course if we have organised ourselves over the winter months, everything from now on will operate like a well-oiled machine! It’s just as likely however, that other things have occupied our minds and now we are frantically thumbing through the seed catalogues and clearing out the greenhouse.

Good organisation as every gardener knows is the key to success when it comes to getting the best results from the vegetable garden – or any other garden for that matter.
With that in mind, here extracted from my latest book on Spring Gardening is a list of 11 top jobs to be done if you want to increase your chances of ‘veggie success’ during this coming spring/summer season.
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Growing Early Vegetables:

hot bed vegetable gardeningSo the winter is upon us and the growing season is at an end?? far from it if you know about the concept of Hot Bed gardening – a technique for growing vegetables from very early (or late) in the season.

This is not a new idea (is there anything new under the sun?), and indeed was used by the Romans when they invaded Britain only to discover the place was bl**dy freezing cold, and they had a very limited time in which to grow their favourite veggies!

Yes, apart from being fantastic engineers and road-builders, and having the military capabilities of the borg (for all you trekkie fans) – they were also keen gardeners it seems :)

So what do you do when faced with a short growing season and the need for growing vegetables year-round? Simple, you increase the length of the growing season itself by whatever means possible. This can be done in a variety of ways from useing the principles of raised bed gardening, growing in hot houses or greenhouses, or indeed using hot bed gardening techniques.

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