Straw Hay Bale Gardening Sweeps Social Media: No Weeds, Less Water, Less Work
Every-time I have logged on to social media this week, I have seen more than one post on Straw Hay Bale Gardening, with one particular article getting millions of views.
What a cool concept. No weeds! Little watering! And even better, excellent yield results!
Although the practice of gardening in straw bales dates back to ancient times, social media seems to have only discovered this most excellent idea.
Gardening with straw bales is the answer to any organic gardener’s prayers. If your soil is so poor that amending, or enhancing, it with compost, fertilizers, or leaf mold makes you exhausted just thinking about it, then using straw bales for planting may be the perfect solution.
Benefits of bales
- The ability to place an instant garden wherever the sun shines
- A way to avoid poorly draining, hard-to-work or diseased soil
- A far less laborious gardening experience, eliminating digging and weeding
- Less water
- No fertilizer
- Excellent yield and quality
Basically, you treat the bales with nitrogen and water over 12 days in preparation for planting. Then, you plant on top, on the sides – anywhere in the bale – and everything grows! The nutrients from the decomposing grasses feed the plants during their cycle. Afterwards, everything can be put into a compost pile to use in your garden next year!
Brilliant! Raised beds that you don’t have to build!
This method of gardening works very well from areas inside the Arctic Circle, to the heat of the Caribbean. If you can find bales of straw, or similar bales of tightly compressed organic material, you can garden this way. From airid desert regions to the rainiest places in the world, if you have access to sunlight and water then this method of growing will work.
No special tools are required, and no knowledge of gardening is really required to be successful. The elimination of many of the most common problems associated with vegetable gardening, makes this method great for beginning gardeners, organic growers, or those experienced gardeners that are just tired of all the hard work.
How To Build A Straw Bale Garden:
Purchase straw bales from your local garden center, or direct from the farm. Straw is easiest to come by in the fall. Before you set up your bales, lay down landscape fabric to prevent weeds from growing up through the bales. If you arrange your straw bale garden before the winter, you’ll be all set to plant when springtime comes.
Arrange the bales side by side in rows, with their cut sides up. The strings that bind the bales should run across the sides, not across the planting surface. The strings will help keep the shape of the bales as they start to soften and decompose.
Before you can plant in the bales, they need some special preparation, so buy the bales at least two weeks before you want to plant. Place the bales where you want to grow; once they are prepared, they will be too heavy to move.
The first week
- Water the bale thoroughly, until water runs out the bottom of the bale. Sprinkle the surface with a nitrogen source (Conventional lawn fertilizer. Make sure it doesn’t include pre-emergent weed-killer. Use 1/2 cup per bale, per application), applying at the recommended rate.
- Every other day, add more of the nitrogen source; water thoroughly. Do it a total of three times during the first week.
- On the days you don’t apply nitrogen, just water the bales thoroughly.
The second week
- For the next three days, apply the nitrogen source daily at half the original rate. Follow up with thorough watering.
- After three days of adding nitrogen, water daily.
- At the end of the week, sprinkle each bale with 2 cups of balanced fertilizer, such as organic 5-5-5. Water thoroughly.
Return to simply watering the bale, and continue doing that until the temperature inside the bale starts to reflect the temperature outside. Use a compost or meat thermometer to keep tabs; you’ll see the temperature start to rise after the first day or two, spike about midway through the process, then start to come back down. Once it reaches ambient temperature, the bale is ready to be planted.
You can grow just about anything in a bale that you can in the ground — with a few exceptions. Tall plants like indeterminate tomatoes and corn, for example, get too tall and heavy, and can start to break the bale apart.