Many individuals want to follow the trend and start growing their fresh veggies. However, they may live where they have hard soil, which isn’t the best condition for gardening or limited space.
Raised beds are a solution, yet these can take a small investment and take time to build. However, there is a more natural way of growing vegetables that costs very little to start.
Read on and follow these straw bale gardening instructions, and you will be well on your way to your organic farm with hardly any effort.
What is Straw Bale Gardens?
Strawbale gardening is a concept of using bales as natural growing boxes for plants. They are an ideal solution for people without decent soil or who don’t have land. They are also a great way to avoid any plastic waste matter.
Bales are very similar to raised beds in operation but without the need to add new soil. One thing to note is never to try hay bale gardening.
Hay bales are made from dried grass used for farm feed, and they will contain all the stalks and seed heads.
You can source bales quickly from local farms and are very cheap. However, the type of straw, which is best, is alfalfa or vetch. Try to avoid corn or linseed bales.
Finding the Right Spot
Like any gardening technique, bale gardens need a position in such a way to encourage good growth. Even if you are placing your bales in small spaces, there are things to consider.
Types of plants such as full sun, which need 6 to 8 hours of sun per day. If you want to plant veggies that don’t like full sun, you can do some companion planting, so these get some shade from the other taller plants. (Read Vegetable Garden Mulches)
You can find this kind of veggie is suitable for areas that don’t receive as much sun as others do.
Depending on where you locate them, you may need to add a weed layer underneath your bales to stop weed growth.
Conditioning Your Straw Bale Garden
Once you have your straw bale garden in position, you need to go through the conditioning process.
It takes around ten to fourteen days to prepare your garden. Once you begin, you find the bales are warm inside, and it is the decomposing straw, which can help extend a growing season.
Because of the lack of nitrogen, you need to feed your bales with a good organic fertilizer, yet first, you need to get them thoroughly wet on the tops and down the sides of the bales. It will be time to feed them this fertilizer around day four to five.
When watering, add until the first signs of water run from the bottom of your bale.
On the eleventh day, you can stop feeding, but you do need to keep the bales moist. On day 14, you should be able to shove your hand inside the bales.
If it is time to plant, it will feel warm to the touch, yet a bit cooler than your hand temperature.
Best Plants to Grow in a Bale Garden
It is easier to say which plants are not suitable for this growing method. Tall top-heavy plants like corn or running plants are best to avoid.
Plants you can grow are tomato plants or any tubers as their roots can spread easier than in harder soil.
Others you can choose are:
Cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, eggplant, radish, zucchini, squash, lettuce, cabbage, and many more. One not to forget is strawberries and herbs. (Read Why are My Cucumbers Bitter)
Planting in a Straw Bale Garden
You can add a couple of inches of potting soil or wood ash across the top of the bales. You will find this is a better method when planting seeds as they are hidden and can germinate effectively.
It is a recommendation to plant from seeds so all the roots from plant growth make their way between the rotting stalks of the straw as they would through any other growing medium.
Read our using Perlite guide.
Once you start planting, you will need to keep the bales well hydrated. The straw will drain and dry out faster than the soil does. No matter how often you need water, always stop once you see water running from the bottom.
Additionally, resist watering at night because the bales will be too moist for too long, and mold and fungi can set in.
Harvesting Your Straw Bale Garden
Straw isn’t a magic wand that can make your veggies grow in a shorter growing period than usual. Your veggies will be ready for harvest around the same as soil-grown varieties, although it will be more comfortable as you won’t have to bend.
If you grow potatoes, you need to cut the twines holding the bales together, and once you do this, it will be time to start composting those bales.
If you don’t grow potatoes and need to dismantle the bale, you can find they may last up to two years if you don’t produce many root veggies where you need to dig.
Either way, they will be a great addition to your compost bin once you are finished, as you will be composting already.
If you extend the growing in your vegetable garden, you may find it late in the year when you begin adding the bales to your compost bin.
Either way, you will have plenty of compost to add to your regular garden, pots, or even add to your new set of bales in the following spring.
For cheap and enjoyable gardening, there is nothing better and more straightforward than the humble bale of straw.
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