Have a green thumb but nowhere to garden? You’re not alone. Many people would love to have a garden but are constrained by things like a lack of space or rocky soil.
Thankfully, there is help! Straw bale gardening is exactly that – a garden made of straw bales. Want a very small garden? Use one bale of hay. Want a larger garden? Use more bales.
When choosing your straw bales, look for wheat, oat, rye or barley straw. Once you have your bales, take care in how and where you arrange them as it is hard to move them once your garden begins to grow. It also is a good idea to laying down galvanized wire bird netting before you lay down your bales to keep away moles, gophers, or other animals that would like to chow down on your plants.
When choosing a location for your garden remember that like any vegetable garden, it needs up to eight hours of sun. Some experts suggest laying down landscape fabric to prevent weeds from growing up through the bales. Next you should arrange the bales side by side, cut sides up. The strings that bind the bales should run across the sides, not across the planting surface. These strings help keep the shape of the bales as they start to soften and decompose.
To get new bales ready, you will need to thoroughly soak them with water and keep watering them for five days. The goal is to let the temperature inside the hay bales slowly rise. After five days, let the bales sit for another week or two to cool.
Annuals of flowers, herbs or vegetables are a good choice for straw bale gardening. Young plants can go straight in the straw. Depending on the state of the stray you may have to use a trowel to pull the straw apart about, add some compost soil, and then put the straw back in place. If you like, you can plant seed on top of the bales as long as there is an inch or two of compost soil on the bale.
Plants that take stakes are not recommended for straw bale gardening. Top heavy plants are probably not a good idea either. If you have your heart set on tomato plants, you can let them dangle over the side or place your bales near a wall that doesn’t rot and they can climb up the wall. Straw bale gardens take more watering than regular gardens so plan on watering about twice a day so your garden does not dry out.
When it comes to thrifty, versatile ways to garden, it’s hard to beat a straw bale garden. What’s best, your garden this year will turn into compost to feed your garden next year. How’s that for a great recycling plan?