Straw Bale Gardening

Advantages. 

Straw bales can be set up anywhere. You can set up this garden on your driveway, patio, grass, or dirt plot. At the end of the season, you have wonderful compost for your other gardens or to build new in-ground beds.

You can configure the garden any way you want in rows, squares, or u-shapes. You can very successfully grow vegetables and flowers without much work. This method is great for people who can’t bend down to ground level or are in wheelchairs.

Disadvantages

The bales are basically composting bins, so as you water them, any seeds left in them can sprout, so you have to pull out the sprouts before they get away from you.

Toward the end of the season they can become unstable and start to fall apart because of the composting. While most critters will leave them alone, ground hogs may be a problem. You may need to fence around your bales or garden to keep them away.

Setting Up the Bales

Bales are heavy after watering, so set them up where they will stay. Position the ends of the bales in a north/south direction to take advantage of the east/west sunshine. Place the side without bindings on top (cut side).

Conditioning the Bales

You need to start the decomposing process by adding fertilizer to the bales. There are many recipes for this conditioning process online. Many use UREA in a 32-0-0  formulation with nitrogen being the highest, but I have seen as high as 48-0-0 used. If you want to grow vegetables organically, use organic fertilizer. (see blog below for recipe). The process takes about 10 days applying fertilizer on odd days and watering every day.

Planting the Bales

 Planting is quick and easy. For seedlings, simply use a trowel to make a hole in the bale and plant your seedling.  Some people add a little compost or potting soil to the hole, but it is not necessary. For tomatoes, use a crow bar or long stick to open up a deeper hole. If you want to start seeds in your bales, add compost or potting soil to the top of the bale and plant your seeds.

Resources

Straw Bale Gardens Complete by Joel Karsten (Amazon.com)

Organic Fertilizer

http://thisfamilyof4.blogspot.com/2011/04/organic-straw-bale-garden-conditioning.html

Straw Bale Gardening

https://www.thespruce.com/straw-bale-gardening-848248