Growing a Veggie Garden with Straw Bales

Straw Bale Gardening by Modern Farmer

One of the trickier things about gardening is location. If you are lucky enough to garden in an obstacle free environment, you are one of the few. Many of us have to deal with nearby trees or structures that cast shade upon our gardening efforts. Since eradicating these sources of shade is not always possible, we sometimes have to simply work around them in the best way we can. With shorter days upon us, however, natural shade combined with limited sunshine in the first place can really hinder veggie gardening success.

We recently discussed the benefits of container gardening, one of which was mobility. Having a garden that you can move around is not a possibility unless you embrace something such as container gardening. If you plant directly into the ground, that is obviously a decision with some finality as the ground itself cannot be moved. The same concept applies to raised beds in that they are pretty stationary. However, something you can move in addition to actual containers is straw bales.

At this time of year, people are discarding straw bales left and right that have been used for nothing more than autumn décor. That makes it an opportune time to gather a few for yourself at little to no cost to bring home and use not only in the garden, but as the garden itself. You can even place them pretty much everywhere you want. set a straw bale wherever you want, even on concrete. Although the bales will be heavy to lift and grow heavier when they are wet, they are still a valid option for a mobile garden if that is what you desire.

Before beginning to use straw bales as a garden, the first step is to condition them. This is a process that spans a couple of weeks on up to a month during which you need to wet the bale and place fertilizer atop it. Doing this will actually causing the bale to break down and release heat, but the heat needs time to dissipate before you plant as it can be a problem for plants. This is why it takes time to prepare straw bales; they need to begin to break down and again achieve a safe temperature for planting.

Once your bales are ready to go, create a cavity in which your plant will go. This needs to only be large enough to accommodate the plant. After the plant is placed, add a little bit of soil. The plant will take root and continue to grow but will require fertilizer periodically to keep it going. In addition to growing your plants, however, the bale will likely sprout all kinds of other things as well. It is common to see weeds or fungus such as mushrooms, so prepare to remove and discard these as needed. When the growing season is over, you can use the bale for mulch or discard it as well.

Using straw bales as a garden is convenient for many reasons. If you have to relocate them for more sunlight or you yourself must relocate, they can be moved to a new location with a little bit of elbow grease. Do note that bales can vary dramatically in weight based on size, how tightly they are packed, and how much water they are holding, so moving it with help may be your best bet. Despite drawbacks such as weight and weeds, straw bales can give you a garden at a time of year when other means of growing may fall short, and having veggies all year round tends to make the heavy lifting worth it.


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