Straw Bale Gardening


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Spring is getting closer and I have been dreaming of having a garden this year! I have already purchased my heirloom (Non GMO) seeds and I just can’t wait to get started! My husband and I had planned on building raised garden beds…until I came across a post on straw bale gardening! What! That’s right a garden planted in Straw Bales! Get this, no building raised beds, no plowing (if not using raised beds), less watering (once the decomposing starts), and my favorite…No Weeding!!! Whaaat! How can this be? A garden you don’t have to weed? Well let me tell you…

The trick is to use straw bales not hay bales!

Why? Because Hay bales will have seeds in them. Hay is harvested while it’s still alive and full of grain. Straw bales on the other hand have already had the grain harvested and have been left to dry up before being cut and baled. This is why straw can be used for construction, and not hay. I mean who wants grass growing through their walls or worse, attracting vermin who think your home is their own privet all you can eat buffet!

Okay so now that you know why straw vs hay, you’ll want to get the straw bales early and start watering them  for about 1 to 3 weeks Before you plant your garden in them. This gets the straw decomposing which is exactly what you want. Price varies from location to location and also depending on the time of year. You might pay anywhere from $1 to $10 per bale. When it comes to purchasing your straw bales go to a local feed store or possibly Home Depot, or Lowes,. …A warning from Permaculturalist David Kahn (source)

 “It’s tempting to pick up bales that stores have used after Halloween, but make sure they weren’t treated with fire-retardant. Fire retardant has some nasty chemicals in it that you don’t want in your garden. When in doubt, just go to the feed store–straw it ain’t expensive!” 

Straw bale garden

I love the idea of planting flowers or herbs along the sides of the straw bales! Image from Straw Bale Gardening ~by Joel Karsten

The steps to take for planting a straw garden are;

  • Place your bales so that the straw is oriented with the stems facing up, this will make the fertilization and decomposing easier.
  • For the first 3 to 4 days make sure you soak the straw bales thoroughly.
  • The next 3 days sprinkle each straw bale with about 1/2 cup of bone meal, fish meal, or compost, and water deep into the bale.
  • Cut back to 1/4 cup of the bone meal, fish meal, or compost, and continue to water for about 3 more days.
  • Now you can stop sprinkling the straw bales with fertilizer, but do continue to water and keep the bales nice and moist.
  • Place your hand (or a thermometer)  into the bales to see if they have cooled down to less than your body heat, about 80°F. Once they have reached this point you are ready to plant!

Now you can plant your garden just as you would in the ground. If you are using seeds like I am then put a layer of compost on top of your seeds.

Straw bale garden

Image from Straw Bale Gardening ~by Joel Karsten


My plan is to freeze what I can and also try my hand at canning for the first time. I’m thinking I might try fermenting as well, but that’s another post.

Have you ever tried the straw bale gardening method before? I would love to hear how it worked out for you! If you have never tried this before, what are your thoughts on it?

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  1. Donavan Roland

    Wow. This is a great idea for an urban back, side or front yard garden. You can make it large or small. You can spend your time tending, relaxing and enjoying without the back breaking labor of ground prep. I bet this would work good for a water melon plant.

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