Straw Bale Garden Experiment

Straw Bale Garden -4I’m trying out a straw bale garden this year.  I love raised beds and this looked very simple and economical.  Here’s what is great about gardening on straw bales:

  • It’s container gardening using much less soil.
  • Creates a raised garden to ease achy knees and back – it also keeps your harvest slightly more inaccessible to certain critters.
  • Poor soil on your land doesn’t matter anymore.
  • Bales become compost over time and help feed plants nutrients during the process.

What might not be so great:

  • As the bales decompose, they lose their shape and fall apart.  If you need everything to look nice and neat the entire growing season, this might not be for you.
  • Bales can be a pain to haul and get quite heavy when wet.  Make sure you know where you for sure want your garden before you begin watering the bales!
  • You need to condition the bales before planting.  This takes a small amount of work and a bit of waiting time.
IMG_5443
Here’s my little garden. I’ve got 4 bales circled together with a small space in the center. I’m going to try growing potatoes in that deep center well.  See our fence around the garden?  It’s extra deterrent to keep the chickens out of the garden.  They can easily hop onto the bales but the extra foot or so of the fence keeps them out. . . . I hope.

Want to try a straw bale garden yourself?  Here’s how you get started:

  • Position the bales into your preferred design.  Make sure and lay the bales with the string around the sides.  It not only helps to keep the bales’ shape more intact but it’s easier for you to plant in the cut ends.
  • Condition the bales for 2 weeks:  Sprinkle organic fertilizer (I used blood meal) on the bales every other day and water them thoroughly.  Make sure to try and water the bales even on the days without fertilizer.  Here in FL, we’ve been getting rain aplenty and it’s made my job much easier!
  • When the bales are conditioned, you can dig holes to plant your seedlings in.  Just add a bit of soil to the hole and pop the plant in.
  • If you’re starting from seed, you can put down a layer of soil on top of the bales.  1″-2″ deep.  Note that my little garden is already a little sloppy looking.  There were two little boys helping me throw soil around and they get a tad exuberant.
Spring Garden 2014
For our spring/summer garden, we’ve planted tomatoes, peppers, green beans, black beans, lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, and pumpkins.  Potatoes are coming soon.

I’ll let you know how everything goes as the season progresses.  Warning – I’m not really good at problem solving when there’s a disease or a pest so I might have some questions for you if something gets out of hand!

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