Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Planting Straw Bales

A couple of years ago,
I discovered straw bale gardening.
Intrigued, I checked this book out of the library
to find out more.
Being the experimental gardener that I am,
I decided to give it a go.

There are several reasons why folks might utilize straw bales to grow:
1.  Not enough space in which to grow
2.  Poor or lack of soil in their location
3.  Mobility issues with bending down
4.  Living in a rental or temporary place

Although we do have poor clay soil on our homestead,
the other issues don't really apply to our situation.
I just thought it sounded like something neat to try.
I enjoy challenging myself to pursue new things.

Last year we had some success.
We grew mostly kale and lettuces in them.
In fact, anything other than root crops do fairly well.
The bales are saturated with water
(you can add fertilizer sporadically as well)
for 10-14 days,
and then they are ready to go.
A good, loose potting mix can be added to the top of the bales,
and seeds added according to their proper depth requirements.

The other option is to use transplants that you've grown or bought.
Creating a planting hole in the bale, 
the transplant is simply placed in the hole
with compost or potting mix.
That's it!
I've found that the bales actually retain moisture quite well,
so watering is not needed as often as say, containers.
Of course, anytime you plant seeds they must be kept moist until germination,
and seedlings need to be watched early on to coddle them a bit.
Soaker hoses are a good option for those who have a nearby spigot.
Drip irrigation would be even easier, if it's available.
I ended up watering by hand with very little trouble.

This year I cheated a bit on the "conditioning" aspect.
I didn't fertilize the bales at all before planting,
just went ahead and added my transplants
after watering them for a week or so.
They've done fine.
The first fertilizing is done when the crops develop flowers,
and then every month or so.
I can't even say I'm that diligent about fertilizing,
but my plants seem very forgiving.


This season, we've grown cucumbers, eggplant, okra and strawberries in the bales.
With a few open spots for fall planting,
I'll be adding broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts to the mix.

Even flowers do well in the bales.
Look at how happy this Black-eyed Susan vine is to envelope them.

We've secured a dozen or so bales for the spring
from a fella who lives less than 5 miles away.
He charges only $3 a bale for organic straw
because it's what he has left over 
and he needs the space for other things.
The bonus is that the bales that break down this fall and winter
will become mulch for beds in the spring.
They are also a great addition to the compost pile.
Then we'll start again with fresh bales for our springtime garden.
We love to recycle any way we can.

I hope you'll consider straw bale gardening.
It's a lot of fun and can enrich your gardening experience.
Get your bale on!


Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts!