Have you heard of gardening with straw bales? I’ll share with you why I’m trying it, and how to set it up in your garden.
Every year I grow a garden and I look forward to it every year. Over the last several we have noticed a huge decline in our produce and what does well.
We have amended our soil, we rotate our plants, and do all of the things that we should, yet our yield continues to decline more and more.
The culprit for us is that our previous neighbors redid their landscaping and put pine trees and aspens on the other side of our garden. This makes our soil very acidic no matter what we try and do, the root system is all over in our garden, and we are constantly getting aspen suckers that we’re cutting down.
This year we are trying straw bale gardening.
WHy is straw bale gardening good?
- It lifts the plants up above soil that isn’t the best
- It is natural
- It composts over time which will feed your plants
- It offers good drainage
- You start fresh every year to help avoid spores and eggs that might end up in your soil.
Where do I get straw bales?
I was able to find a local farmer who was selling the bales for $5 per bale. You can use a search engine to find local stores or farms that should have them near you. One of the most important things to ask before purchasing is that they do not spray their bales with any pesticides. You don’t want those chemicals near your food.
When should I start my straw bale garden?
We had a big snowstorm during our spring break in March so I couldn’t pull out the old line when we purchased our bales.
I stacked my bales along my fence to wait for the snow to melt. You can buy them in the fall and keep the bales all winter long, or you can wait until spring to get your bales.
Once the snow melted, I removed the old watering line and anything else that I wouldn’t need in the garden beds.
The snowstorm took our rabbit fence out, so we mended that as well. You can see other tips on how to keep pests out of your garden here.
Should I use straw or hay Bales in my garden?
You want to use straw because you can see that straw is hollow in the middle like the ones we use in drinks. This allows the bale to transport the water it’ll need to help the plants grow.
How do I set up the straw bales?
You want to make sure the strings on the bale are on the sides of the garden. So it’ll appear that the bales are sideways.
We have 3 rows in our garden, and we purchased 10 bales so that I could put 5 bales in the last row, and 5 bales in the first row. You can have as many or as few bales as you want to grow. This is very adaptable for just about any yard.
We didn’t put bales on the middle row as we have strawberries and rhubarb that will come back in half of that row. I’ll be growing some other things that have done well despite the roots and other factors that come up in that soil.
As you can see we have water available on each row. We’ll be running our hose along the top of all of the bales.
When should I start my straw bale garden?
Counting backward will help you decide when you should start your straw bale garden. I know in Colorado we cannot plant until mid-late May at the earliest as sometimes we get late snow. From there you’ll count backward as you’ll need to condition your bales to get them ready for planting. It takes approximately 12 days to condition. Before that you’ll need to get your bales, set them up, figure out what watering system you’ll be using, set it all up, and get the supplies you’ll need for conditioning.
We bought inexpensive lawn fertilizer and we needed to make sure that it had 20% nitrogen, and was not a slow-release type. We also bought a fertilizer with 10-10-10 which is nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Make sure both don’t have any week killer herbicide or crab grass killer in it.
We have everything we need to get started. We’ll start conditioning the bales in May, and you’ll see our next post about conditioning and what we plant in our garden next.
Gardening with Straw Bales Set Up video
If you want to know more about straw bale gardening, you can check out this post Straw Bale Gardening 101
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