Straw Bale Garden Instructions

Straw Bale Garden Instructions

 

Our first task is to accquire or purchase some small straw bales for this gardning exercise. I say accquire because some farmers in our community will be giving away these for free, especially if they have been left ouside in the elements and are somewhat damaged and therefore no longer deemed to be of any use to them. The beauty about this issue is, if we could source bales in this condition, these would be ideal for our straw bale garden exercise, due to their partly rotted and decomposed nature, more about this later. If we cannot manage to get these from our farming neighbours, the next port of call would be our local hardware stockist or perhaps our local garden centre or nursery. These centres are now stocking these bales as they have recently seen a big demand for these, primarily for the purpose of straw bale gardening.

Some other straw bale garden instructions that we will look at is the actual size and make of this gardening accessory bale. The bale is a straw bale as we have mentioned above and not a hay bale, just to distinguish betweeen the two types. Hay bales come in exactly the same size as their straw counterparts, but the hay material is not as beneficial or as suitable for this purpose, as that of the straw. The other key detail is the size of this straw bale, we are not talking about big round or large square bales, which are also made by agricultural contractors and farmers. This straw bale is approx 3-4 ft in length, about 2ft in width and approx 18″ in height.

 

 

Straw bale garden instructions;

 

As we will read further on about straw bale gardening, we can see how easy and simple this exercise really is. A list of our main requirements are as follows:

  • Straw bales ( 2-4 approx ),
  • Water source,
  • Newspaper, cardboard or weedblock membrane,
  • Small garden trowel,
  • Organic fertiliser,
  • Topsoil  ( approx wheelbarrow ),
  • Garden compost ( 50kg bag ),
  • Plants, seeds or seedlings,
  • Trellis frame ( for later ).

In our checklist above, we can see that our requirements are pretty much standard fare, apart from the fertilizer, which needs to be a good organic grade. The fertilizer can be sourced from our garden or hardware centre and a lot of gardeners use bonemeal, fishmeal or blood meal for this purpose. These types of fertilizer are relatively inexpensive and all of them carry the trace elements and nutrients that are important to a successful growing season and harvest.

 

Organising our straw bale garden;

 

Once we have all of the above in place, our next step is to go ahead and create our straw bale garden. This task is really simple as all we need do is to place or locate the bales in an area that is convenient, sunny and also as near to our dwelling house as possible, for sourcing our veggies when they have grown. In essence we would treat our straw bale garden the same as we would our open ground or raised bed garden. If we locate our bales in an open windy site, the chances of a successful garden are considerably reduced. If we have a boundary wall or fence outback, this area would be ideal, for a number of reasons. We could place the bales parallel to the wall, which would act as a shelter factor and if we decide to grow some of the tall climbing plants like peas, tomatoes or cucmbers etc, the wall or fence would be ideal to attach a trellis or frame to support these later on. It’s also important to have our straw bed facing south if possible, in order to get the benefits of the sun.

 

Straw bale layout

 

Layout and design of the bales.

 

There is no organised or determined plan for the layout of a straw bale garden, it’s basically whatever takes our fancy. For this exercise, we can be as creative or uncreative as we wish. We could place them side by side, have them individually as one item or perhaps make a row of 2-3 in a line. The only issue here is that we will be able to access all sides of these later for watering or maintenance tasks. Some gardeners would place them in fours, just for aesthetics and functionality, ie, the square or rectangle shape would help to support all of the bales as one unit, during the growing season.

If we are locating or placing these in a grass or garden surface, we may or may not use some newspapers underneath the bales. The same would apply if we decide to make our straw bale garden on a concrete or yard type surface, we would also lay down some newspaper, cardboard or plastic sheeting, so that the bale garden would not stain or mark our concrete surface and also to prevent weeds and other unwanted plants from infiltrating through to our straw bale garden. For this exercise it’s important to note that the bales are placed on edge and not flat. The reason for this determination is that we have a large depth area downwards for the roots of our vegetables to take hold and grow.

 

Straw bale veggies

 

Other factors to note;

 

As soon as we have designed and constructed our straw bale garden, the next important step is to water the bales generously. If we are thinking of doing this method of gardening for the first time, it would be a good idea to just place the bales outside in our backgarden or backyards, say a month or two in advance. The reason is, Mother Nature would take care of the watering and soaking job for us, as this step is critical to a good successful straw bale garden unit. As soon as the bales are heavily watered, inside the decomposting process begins and renders the straw into ideal gardening compost material. We will see that the outside layer ( 1-2″) of the bale keeps its integrity or shape. This is due to the drying elements of our weather and climate. The outside will dry off to a degree, due to wind or sunshine warmth, while the inside of the bale is like a planting or a growing container.

 

Final thoughts;

 

As soon as all of the above straw bale garden instructions are complete, we are ready now for the planting and sowing steps. One final task to confirm this detail woud be to dip our hand into the bale itself, if the inside feels all wet, cold and mushy, that is a sign that the bale is composting and ready to accept our seedlings and plants.

As ever, if you would like to comment on any aspect of the above, please do so, via the comments section down below. Alternatively, if you would like to contact us directly, you can do so through email here at;

support@buildingraisedbeds.com

8 thoughts on “Straw Bale Garden Instructions

  1. Hi, Phil. Thanks for the informative post you wrote on straw bale gardening. I’ve actually done that before, and it worked! The first year I did it was a learning process. I planted some tomatoes, and as they got bigger they kinda started to fall over. It was hard to anchor them because the straw was rotting as it’s supposed to do. Still, I got a good harvest and there weren’t any weeds.
    The second year i think the straw has some kind of seeds in it because I got lots of sprouts I didn’t plant. I didn’t have as much luck the second year. Still, the process works! Thanks again
    Grant

    1. Hi there Grant

      many thanks for stopping by and reading this post, its greatly appreciated. I agree with you 100%, there is definitely a learning curve involved with this system of gardening and I guess we can be lucky or unlucky. The thing is when writng this straw bale garden instructions post, it was designed to educate and inform people of how this idea can be planned and implemented, even for beginners or pro gardeners,we still have to start with the basics.

      In your own situation, where the bale collapsed as the straw was disintegrating and decomposing, I have seen some gardeners, who built a little timber frame around the stra bale, just to hold it in position.

      Anyway, thanks again for dropping by, best wishes going forwad with your gardening endeavours.

      Cheers Phil Browne

  2. Thank you for the informative information about straw bale gardening. I have also tried this before, but I believe my bales were not rotten enough. When I did more research I came across a very complicated process and then wrote it off as to complicated. Your approach looks easy and profitable! I will use the straw I have sitting under the snow in the spring to give it a try again! Thanks for the great inspiration!

    1. Hi again, Shelley,
      Many thanks again for offering positive comment feedback on the straw bale gardening post, its warmly welcomed as always. I omitted to address the issue of fertilisation of the straw bales in my previous response to your earlier post.
      My reply would be to fertilise before (7-10 days) planting and also during the growing period. While the straw bales will make for good growing containers for our vegetables, they never the less are nutrient lacking and need amendments or enriching.
      Any good grade of organic garden fertiliser will suffice and this is always available at your local garden centre.
      Thanks again for taking the time out to read this article
      Best wishes,
      Cheers Phil Browne

  3. I love your straw bale gardening and the simplicity that it offers. Last year I tried growing in straw bales, but after reading your article, I believe that they were too dry and not rotten enough. After some research, I thought the only way to be successful was very complicated, your method of just leaving them out in the weather should do the trick, and I think the bales that I have under the snow will be perfect this spring. Do you recommend fertilizing before planting or once things are planted? Also do you find seeds or baby plants do better? Thanks

    1. Hi there Shelley,

      Many thanks for stopping by and reading this post, its greatly welcomed and appreciated. I am glad that you have read and found the missing details of information, which may make your straw bale gardening more successful in the coming yeras.

      I totally agree with you that if we follow that simple steps that are required to make this type of gardening a success, it will be well worth it going forward. Issues like watering generously and weathering  will help greatly, for sure.

      Seedlings will always fare better than seeds as they have gotten a headstart and commenced the growing process, so that will prove more advantageous always. Seeds on the other hand will do ok, but just takes longer and needs some more tlc, every now and again.

      Thanks again for dropping by,

      Happy gardening,

      Cheers  PB

  4. Hi Phill,
    Thanks for sharing this great article about straw bale gardening,
    As we live in South-western Quebec, every summer we grow our garden, but my husband takes care of it, lots of weeding on it.
    Looks like straw bale gardening is a good idea to try, I will forward your article to my husband.
    Alejandra.

    1. Hi there Alejandra,

      Many thanks for stopping by and reading this post, it’s greatly appreciated. I am glad that you liked what you read about straw bale garden instructions and hopefully the information will become useful for this year’s gardening.

      It’s definitely something different and it is really simple and easy to implement. It will also cut down on weeding and other maintenance issues, that seem’s to take up a lot of our time.

      Thanks again for stopping by,

      happy gardening.

      Cheers PB

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