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Try Your Hand at Straw-Bale Gardening

Poor soil, no soil, trouble bending and kneeling: all this matters not when you use the straw-bale gardening practice. Bales or bundles of straw are used as individual planters, or they can be used to create a raised bed. Today we focus on the single-bale method.

Straw bale gardening
  • Position the bale in a sunny location.
  • Layer newspapers where the bale will rest to reduce weed germination.
  • Once the bale is wet, it will be very heavy, so pick your location with care.
  • Place the bale so its twine runs horizontal, and wraps around the sides, not the top and bottom.
  • Place bale with the straw’s cut end facing up. (If you flip the bale over, you will see bent lengths of straw.)
  • Condition the bale: The bale will begin to breakdown, which is good, but the heat generated in the process will kill new plants. Therefore, for three days water the bale so it stays wet. On days 4 through 9 water with liquid fertilizer to condition the decomposing straw. On day 10 start watering with plain water until the core temperate of the bale is the same as that of the ambient air. (Use a compost thermometer to check the temperature.)
  • Plant! Pull aside straw to plant your veggies. Use some of the displaced straw to cover the soil.
  • Fertilize and water. Since you are not adding compost or garden soil to the bale, you will need to fertilize.
  • End of the season: The straw will be gray and on its way to decomposing. Simply turn it over and leave it to sit. Come spring you will have compost for gardens and containers.

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