Preparing for another Straw Bale garden

I tend to have too many gardening styles. But a straw bale garden is usually in one of my garden plans.

This year I have plans for two mini straw bale gardens. One will be for melons or gourds. I like to make a Square bale garden form and fill the center with compost. Melons or gourds will produce much better with abundant fertilizer so the straw bales are laid out in a square with the center hollow so that it can be filled with compost or fertilizer. I also make sure I add the water to this section of the garden.

And to make sure my plants have warm roots (gourds love a warmer climate than I have I wrap black plastic around the outside of the bales to keep them warmer. This will make the bales break down faster so this garden shape may only last one year. (Often straw bale gardens will work for two years.)

The melons or gourds are planted in the straw bales after they have been treated, fertilized and have aged for 10 to 14 days. Make sure you add compost or fresh garden soil to the top of the bale fro added nutrients. I like to add 3 to 4 inches of soil. The soil also helps hold moisture in the bale.

My other garden will be for flowers and will be set up like a fence or border. I haven’t decided on what flowers I will plant but I think I will place sunflowers behind the bales and have a couple of bushel basket container gardens just for fun and décor placed near the straw bale garden.

As with all my gardens over the years, I do plan them but they also seem to change and grow different directions than I had anticipated. Sometimes that’s due to climate or the plants I have and sometimes I just think of a new idea and want to try it out.

Four reasons I think straw bale gardens are popular are:
1.  They don’t have to dig the soil, a plus for those who have no tiller or plow.
2.  They can be set up rather fast
3.  You can grow a garden in an area that would other wise be unusable.
4.  Once you learn how to treat and prepare a bale the garden is easy to get ready for a new season.

One other great use for a straw bale garden is it looks great as garden décor if your growing pumpkins and going for a fall garden theme. When my brother grew pumpkins and had them for sale a garden style like this would have been a fantastic theme.

Note: some people use hay bales and create the hay bale garden.  Hay bales are cheaper but do tend to bring weeds into the garden area and yards. But if the bales heat up enough the seeds can be cooked. I have used both straw and hay and each has its own pluses and minuses.

3 Comments

  1. How timely is this!! Wow! We have been searching for a method to make raised beds in our yard, as the soil here is very dry and can be rocky, and read about straw bale gardening. Your site came up in a google search.

    We recently moved into our home located in a small town at the edge of the foothills of the Rockies. We are deep in ranching and grain growing country, and access to relatively cheap straw bales should not be an issue. As you may guess the area is very dry and we may be facing drought conditions this summer as the snowpack is substantially lower than normal.

    Three questions:
    Do the bales absorb water and retain it for a goodly period?
    Does the bale temperatures increase to the point of a danger of combustion?
    According to Agriculture Canada our zone is 3 – 3a on the edge of 3b, can you recommend methods to increase the insulating power of the straw?

  2. Three questions:

    !. Do the bales absorb water and retain it for a goodly period? Soak the bales for 8 to 10 days before you plant them. Cover the tops with 4 inches or so of topsoil. This will hold in moisture and also help add nutrients during the growing season.

    2. Does the bale temperatures increase to the point of a danger of combustion? If you treat the bales first they will not combust, but this is a good question. Once treated the bales are cool to plant in.

    3. According to Agriculture Canada our zone is 3 – 3a on the edge of 3b, can you recommend methods to increase the insulating power of the straw? I live in a zone 5 and push the gardening season when ever possible. So you have two options. One is to cover the sides of the bales with black plastic to help hold in heat if you have a cold spell in the early spring or fall. Two, two a mini greenhouse or just plant the bales right in a greenhouse. I set up quick and dirt cheap greenhouses for spring and fall.

  3. Thank you for your response, it is very helpful. We are forging ahead with our bale garden plans.

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