Straw Bale Gardening: pre-season

It’s that time of year when I try to push the gardening limits with winter ending and spring starting. The greenhouse is getting final cleaning to prepare it for the real season that will begin soon. And hot houses and cold frames will appear in the backyard. Living in a zone 5 climate you learn to push your growing season. azalea-flower-spring-purple
photo credit: forestgladesiwander

As I was gathering up my materials for a Straw Bale Cold Frame I was also thinking of additional garden spaces for this summer. So I decided to try a method of using the Straw Bale Cold Frame to start my plants and then arrange it so that the cold frame would become a square Straw Bale Garden later in the season. I made sure my location for the cold frame was one where I would want a mini small space garden all season and began laying it out.

I placed four large straw bales in a square shape and put the bales in an area with a bit of a slant. This will catch the sun at a southwestern angle. I then placed cardboard inside on the ground to kill the grass. Next I put a large amount of rotted manure in the square and topped with more straw. Once again I put a smaller layer of manure and a layer of straw, Finally I topped with compost. My Straw Bale Cold Frame has a 2-foot filling and has space for the seedling to grow.

I watered the Straw Bale Cold Frame and put a 3-½ foot by 3-½ foot window on top of the bales. These windows were from an old trailer that was being torn down so I hauled them away for free. What I like about them is that they have a lever to open the windows. This will give me a way to supply fresh air to the cold frame and cool the air on a warmer day.

I will let this sit a few days them plant it with spring crops such as lettuce, cabbage, spinach and onions. Normally I would use black plastic and clear milk jugs in this cold frame to help heat the frame naturally, but the manure should supply the heat I need. This is almost a hot house set up.  Loads of gourds..
photo credit: faeryboots

My plan is to use the Straw Bale Cold Frame for the early spring season then when the regular planting season arrives  fill the straw bale square with more manure. I think this will make a perfect garden for melons or for gourds, both of which need plenty of fertilizer. I plant to add poles inside the straw bales for the plants to grow vertically on.

I also will  add flowers or vegetables to the straw bales by planting them directly into the bales. This will add more decoration to the yard and make more use of the space. Time will tell if I decide to plant flower or vegetables, but I think this will make a fun mini small space garden for my backyard.

2 Comments

  1. It all sounds like a good plan. I may be moving to a zone 5 in the (hopefully) near future- actually I think it might be a 6, but I’m not sure. Your posts are very helpful in my research. Happy gardening!

    Tessa at Blunders with shoots, blossoms ‘n roots’s last blog post..Making Progress

  2. Hi Tessa, I am a zone 5 and I use garden cheating to create a zone 6 when I can ;). These straw bale cold frames are excellent and I start a lot of plants this way. If you move let me know I’ll help you out in any way I can.

    Love you site by the way. But for some reason I cannot leave messages there. 🙁 Denise

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