Straw bale gardening is great for those who have either limited soil, limited space or have difficulty bending over. No tilling
also makes this Green!
What kind of straw should you use?Any straw is good.
Do not use hay bales.
Hay comes with grass seed and this is a major problem. You can pull out the grain seed relatively easily from straw bales but grass is much more tenacious and much tougher to pull out.
Straw is the stem of the grain plant.
Hay is the entire grass plant including stems, leaves and some seed heads.
PlacementSet the straw bales where you want to use them, once they are wet, they do not easily move.
Put the bales so the string runs around the bale and not in contact with the ground. This will also orient the bale so the stems run vertically as well. This is important if you intend to get two years (possible) out of each bale in your straw bale gardening efforts.
Any twine that is on the ground will deteriorate and the bale will disintegrate after several months. If plastic or wire twine is used then this is not as much of a problem.
Remember several things about placing your bales in your straw bale gardening layout.
Can You Reach?You have to be able to reach the tops of the bale to weed. You can create any shape of garden you want - arranging the bales in artistic or fanciful combinations. Straw bale gardening layouts can be placed end-to-end to create long gardens or grouped into traditional bed shapes or even set up as maze types of gardens. Note that having the bales support one another is good planning as they will be more likely to go two years if supported and less likely if they are standing alone.
Wet ThemWet the bales thoroughly. You'll find the bales will heat up as they begin to compost. This "cooking" will last somewhere around five to seven days and the bales should start to cool down enough to plant.
Pull any weed sprouts that emerge from the bale. Do not fertilize at this point or your bales will continue to cook.
After They Have CooledAfter the bales cool down, lay a two to three inch layer of compost and weed-free soil on top of the bales in your straw bale gardening designs, sort of like icing a cake. Potting soil works well as does an artificial peat-based potting soil.
You need this layer if you’re going to sow seeds. If you are only going to use transplants, then you can put the transplants directly into the straw.
TransplantTo transplant, use a sharp trowel and drive it into the straw bale (watch that you do NOT cut the strings) and lever the trowel to force the bale slightly apart. Insert the started plant and let the bale spring back together again. Water the transplant in as you would in the garden.
Also, you can use the top dressing on your straw bale and transplant into this topdressing as you would in the soil.
To grow from seed, sow seed as you would in the ground (remember you have to use the compost/top soil/ artificial soil "icing" on this straw bale cake if you are using seeds)
CrowdingRemember that you can't crowd plants
If you have to plant a tomato eighteen inches apart in the ground, you have to plant it eighteen inches apart in straw bales.
You can grow any annual garden vegetable, herb or flower that you'd like to see in your garden. There is no limit here.
Tall PlantsStake taller vegetables or flowers such as corn (they fall over because the straw does not give them enough support). Tomatoes will be fine if they are allowed to lay down over the edge of the straw bale.
Water You'll have to water almost daily in hot weather. The straw does not hold moisture as much as garden soil does or even artificial soil in containers.
FeedingI use Osmocote time release, get a free one here
I get it in the garden center at Walmart, just under $10, feeds the garden for 4 months.
Then I use quarter strength Miracle grow to water.
You can use these straw bales anywhere you have a bit of space and sunlight. They would be excellent if you're surrounded by pavement with no soil in sight.
So your straw bale gardening is only limited by your imagination.