Some of us may know that straw bale gardening is another method that we could use for the purpose of growing our vegetables and is quite an efficient and also an inexpensive system to use. If we have the room and space outside in our backyards or backgardens, it would be really easy to get this system up and running. I will state though, that this idea is probably more suited to rural dwellers rather than urban areas for a number of reasons. Primarily, its actual bales of straw that we are using first and foremost and secondly, it would be a considerable task to go hauling these straw bales in and out of our hallways, to get them out to our backyards or perhaps up and through sets of stairs to high rise apartments and so on. Gardening with straw bales is probably not suited for apartment balconies or patios for the reasons just mentioned and other reasons, as we will see down below.
The practice of straw bale gardening has been around since the sixties or thereabouts and since then people have been experimenting and doing all sorts of trials and tests with this type of gardening. They experimented with all of the different vegetable varieties in order to see what veg. types grew better than others and what were the yields and final results, from using this method. The overriding factor or advantage of using this method of gardening is, it can be used in practically any type of terrain or surface type, ie, if we have a rocky or unsuitable soil in our back gardens or back yard, the straw bales will offer a readily made solution to this problem. In other words, garden preperation is instant, just haul in 2 or 3 bales of straw, locate in your preferred area and we are done. Maintenance is practically zero and the only notable task afterwards is a little watering and observation.
Getting our straw bale garden set-up;
We can have a straw bale garden set up and growing for approx $20 – $40, which is unbelievably inexpensive and will become very profitable, if managed properly. Straw bales for this purpose can be purchased for approx $1 – $3 each so about 3-4 bales will be sufficient, for starters. For approx another $10, we can purchase some fertilizer as we will need this amendment to add to the straw, unfortunately, the straw does not have the capacity to grow vegetables on its own and needs enriching, initially. For another $10, we can buy all the seeds, seedlings and plants that we wish to grow in our straw bale garden. By the way, we are specifically talking about small square bales and not the large round bales or large square types either. This small bale measures approx 3 -4 ft. in length, is about 2 ft. in width and about 18″ in height, so therefore they are very easy to manage and manipulate into place.
Once our straw bales are in place for our vegetable garden, its very easy from here on out, most of the hard work has been done at this stage. Some people put down some newspapers or cardboard, especially if we are placing the bales on concrete. This idea will prevent the concrete surface from getting stained or if we are placing the bales on a grass surface, this method will also prevent unwanted weeds from coming through our bales. So as we can see from a maintenance point of view, there is very little preperation involved, no turning or tilling of garden soil and no back breaking shoveling or raking of the soil to contend with. As we can see from the video above, it really explains and outlines how simple this process is. One of the important steps to remember is to place the bales on edge, that way there is a deeper area for the roots of our vegetables to get hold and start to grow and flourish.
The next important step is to water the bales generously as that will start the decomposition of the straw and thus allowing our vegetables to begin the growing process within. After that step has been completed, add some topsoil, fertiliser or compost and with our hands or a trowel, gently force the soil and compost into the body of the bale, ( as per video above ). This step will add nourishment and important minerals into the straw, as we must remember that the straw bale is now taking the place of the soil in our raised beds or ground garden as such. Leave to sit for approx 7-10 days and then we are good to start planting.
What to grow in straw bales;
Essentially, we can grow nearly all of the standard vegetables that we would normally grow in a raised bed or open garden. Once the last frosts have dissappeared over the horizon, we are good to go. If we have a greenhouse or coldframe set up, we may have started some of the vegetables in these settings and if so, as soon as the weather has warmed up considerably, we may begin planting in our new outdoor straw bale garden. The usual varieties will grow without much trouble, provided we have followed the critical steps as outlined above. Cabbages, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, leeks, carrots, tomatoes, runner beans, peas and all of those types will easily flourish in this envoirnment. Larger veg. varieties like sunflower, sweet corn and perhaps pumpkins would not be suitable as they may topple over after some time, due to their height and weight etc etc.
The only drawback using this method of gardening with straw bales is that the straw bale will have decomposed to a state where, it will not be suitable for next year’s harvest or garden. So the bales will have to be replaced year on year. But that said, all is not lost as the used straw can be used as a mulch in other areas of our garden. Another idea is to gather up all the remaining straw and litter material after our harvest and put into the compost heap, where it will transform into perfect organic compost after some time. The watering issue needs careful attention, especially if we live in an arid dry climate, but this can be easily off-set by setting up a soaker hose or drip irrigation system.
I hope that this overview of straw bale gardening is useful and informative and hopefully explains what and how this system of gardening works. If you would like some further info. or details on any aspect of the above, or if you would like to join in the conversation, please use the comments section down below. If you would prefer to contact us directly, you can do so via email here at;