If you’re one of those who would like to grow a garden, but have space issues, you don’t own any gardening equipment, you have toxic soil, or no soil, you live in an apartment and only have access to a deck, or you have a spare corner to fill, straw bale gardening could be your answer. If you’ve never heard of straw bale gardening, you really need to check this out.
To be a successful straw bale gardener, you need a bale of straw, potting soil, water, some kind of nitrogen (manures, nitrogen, ammonium sulfate, some people just pee on the bales – yes its true) and seeds. That’s it. You can set your bale of straw anywhere the sun shines at least 6 hours a day. A bale of straw is a great medium to grow vegetables in because it is full of nutrients, will compost from the inside out, is weed free (except for those stray wheat berries that will sprout) and you can set it up anywhere. If you can find bales that have already begun the decomposition process, that is great! You’re wait time will be so much less.
Growing a garden on your driveway, gravel roadways, back patio, or on a patch of weeds is possible with straw bale gardening. Or you can set it up in the middle of your back yard if you like. The really exciting thing is, there is virtually NO preparation except setting the bale down where you want to plant your veggies. If you are setting it down on the ground and you do have problems with ground hogs, or other types of rodents, place chicken wire under the bale and that will take care of robbery from down under.
Another advantage to straw bale gardening is the elevation of the plants. No more bending over to do your gardening or to pick your fruits and vegetables. Straw bales are the lightest most inexpensive raised beds you can buy. With the average cost of bales between $2 – $5, the other types of raised beds cannot even compare. Additionally, the straw keeps the vegetables much cleaner and the beds are completely mobile. You can move them somewhere else anytime you want.
There are some heads up “To DO’s” that you need to be aware of. The bale will need to go through the heating up composting phase. So don’t plan on planting seeds or starts right away. If you do, the heat from the composting phase will be too much for seed germination or for new seedlings. Nitrogen is used to speed that process up. Regular watering is also needed.
The bale will naturally heat up as it enters the decomposition phase. That is what you want. When the bale cools down again, it is ready to receive seed or plants. A great way to get through this phase without planting too early is to set your bales out in the fall, add manures and water and the bale will be ready for planting first thing in the spring.
There is no end to plants that can be raised on or in a straw bale. Root crops do well, as do vine crops and leafy greens. By spacing your bales 3 feet apart in rows, you can easily mow between them and access plants on both sides without difficulty.
Here is a you tube video to check out along with a couple of very good websites on the subject. Growing in straw – it’s a great idea! Give it a try.