Tag Archive | straw bale

Straw-bale Gardening

Not everyone has the luxury of a large plot of land for growing vegetables, so alternative Straw-Bale-Gardening-660x497garden styles are continually being developed. One that continues to be popular is using a bale of straw as the garden or garden “pot”. This style of gardening is not for everyone. It can be messy and the bale, once saturated with water, is exceptionally heavy. However, for gardeners facing the challenge of poor soil, excessive weeds, space issues, and short growing seasons, this method of gardening can provide a solution. Because the bales hold moisture, as they decompose they provide a rich medium for veggies.

“The biggest benefit of straw-bale gardening is that the bales heat up as they begin the ‘conditioning’ process, and thus allow earlier planting,” says Joel Karsten, author of Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Gardening Method. “The warm root zone means faster, early-season root production and earlier-maturing vegetables.”

Raised bales are easier to reach and work on for those with physical limitations. And they almost eliminate weeding, a benefit many straw-bale gardeners love most.

Follow these steps to garden with straw bales.

  1. Pick a prime location. Choose heavy, highly compressed straw (not hay!!) bales, directly from a farm if possible. Find a location that gets six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Lay landscape fabric to keep weeds from growing and arrange the bales cut sides up, with the strings running along the sides.
  2. Condition the straw. Two weeks before planting, start “cooking” the bales. Treat them with high-nitrogen fertilizer every other day and water heavily for about two weeks to accelerate decomposition of the straw inside the bale.
  3. Plant seedlings or seeds. Seedlings can be planted directly in the bales. Just make a hold with the trowel and add a little planting mix to cover the exposed roots. Seeds require a bed of potting soil to hold moisture on top of the bale until germination. If you wish, plant annual flowers or herbs into the sides of the bales to make them more attractive.
  4. Protect and support. Position tall posts at the end of each row and run wire between them at 10-inch intervals from the top of the bale. When seeds sprout, drape a plastic tarp over the bottom wife to create a greenhouse for chilly nights. As the plants grow, the wires become a vertical trellis, supporting the tiny veggies.
  5. Harvest and compost. When the season is over, the bales turn into usable, healthy compost for next year’s gardens.

Straw Bale Gardening – take 2

Guest speaker Jim Beard shares information about Straw Bale Gardening

I’ve done posts before on Straw Bale Gardening (see June 9, 2016 here), but I thought a repeat was in order as we’re all thinking about getting our gardens going for 2017. For those who not yet tried it, this might be the perfect alternative to creating a big vegetable garden. At our Garden Conference on April 1, guest speaker Jim Beard (subject of October 15, 2015 post here) had a wonderful presentation about the benefits of trying straw bale gardening.

According to Jim, you plant from the top the first year, plant from the bottom (potatoes) the second year, add it as a wonderful addition to your compost pile in year 3. There’s a little work involved, of course, but all good gardening requires some work!

I’d be interested in your efforts — let me know if it’s successful for you!


by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Straw Bale Gardening

by Sharon Morrisey, Horticulture Agent for Milwaukee County and advisor to UW-Extension Master Gardeners

For a new twist on container gardening, try straw bale gardening. This emerging technique skips the container and substitutes partially decomposed straw for potting mix.

It starts 11 days before planting after the bales are put in place. Lay them so the string is on the sides and not the bottom. A stake driven in at each end will help hold bales together. Tall stakes can double as end posts for vertical supports to hold vines or tomato plants.

Conditioning the bales begins with three days of thorough soaking. For each of the next three days, sprinkle 1 cup of ammonium sulfate or 1/2 cup of urea on top and water soak again.

For the next three days, use one-half as much fertilizer. On day 10, simply water. If, on4565926778_fb192ef49d_b day 11, the bales no longer feel warm on top, you can plant. Otherwise, wait until they cool to body temperature.

Transplanting into the bales only requires stabbing into the straw and prying open a space large enough for the roots. To sow seeds for individual plants, pack a little potting mixture into the openings you make, place the seed at the proper depth, cover and add a little mulch to hold moisture and prevent the potting mix from washing away. To make rows for crops, such as lettuce or spinach, use your trowel to cut a trench, fill with soil, and plant.

The rest is the same as traditional container gardening. Water daily and do not allow bales to dry out. A soaker hose running the length of each bale will make this much easier. Fertilize once a week with a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer.