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Thursday, June 10, 2010

#6 Strawbale gardening experiment

Another alternative to the traditional till and plant gardening method is creating garden beds from straw bales.  I couldn't find a book about this type of garden bed but there's some info online at various sites. 
The bales are placed with the straw running up and down to encourage drainage.  Because the bales are wrapped with twine, they need to be staked at the ends in case the twine breaks after a few weeks in the garden.  It seems that each site offers a little different means of preparing the bales for planting so I'm kinda winging it.  The bales have been in place for 2-3 weeks.  The rain has soaked through and the decomposing process has begun. 
When it's time to plant, some sites say to simply use a small shovel or spade to pull the straw apart deep enough to set your plant down into the bale. Then release the straw to close around the stem.  Others say to add some soil to the slit to ensure that no oxygen can reach the roots, while still others advise you to remove some straw making a hole in which to plant your crops in dirt as you would traditionally.  Also, a trough of dirt can be layed on top of the bale if you are going to direct sow seeds.
We're going to try it all and I'll probably be adding some organic nutrients as well.  Stay tuned to see how it works.  Hopefully, I'll have pictures to show soon.


  1. Any advice about finding straw bales without seeds in them? Every time I get a bale, they are full of seeds, and I have enough weeds in my garden without encouraging new weeds.

  2. I think straw is bound to have some seeds but in all the reading I've done about using straw bales for gardening, they talk about "conditioning" the bales prior to planting. This process involves wetting the bales and allowing the internal heat to begin to compost the inside of the bale and in theory killing all the seeds. I thought I had done that but I still had a seeds growing out of the bales. The up side is that they are really easy to pull out. I also read that you can add feritilizer (nitrogen) to the bales during the conditioning phase to increase the temps but I didn't try it. There's always next year. :) Hope this was helpful to you.


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