Friday, May 21, 2010

Straw Bale Gardening...

Mom came across this idea last Winter. We decided to use this method on one border of our garden - the side that butts up to the pasture - because the deer are a problem in our area, and mom learned some things about deer that made this method of planting extremely inviting. (More on that later.)

Straw bale gardening steps:
1. Buy any kind of straw (NOT hay - hay is stubborn and will grow grass that follows in it's footsteps) and arrange them anywhere you like, in whatever layout/pattern that tickles your
fancy. NOTE: The bales do NOT need to be on soil. The whole idea is that the plant's root system grows within the bale, excluding the need for good ground. It is best if you buy bales in the winter and let them weather for some time outside. We bought ours in the very late winter, and had to douse them with a hose for several days before they were ready... but now I'm getting ahead of myself...

2. Wet the suckers!! As I mentioned, we used a hose. You can put them out in the winter and it will have the same effect. The idea is to start the breaking down process within the bale. You'll find the bales will heat up as they begin to compost. The "cooking process" will last somewhere around five to seven days and the bales should start to cool down enough to plant.

3. Dig your holes. This was tricky. We tried everything. We dug with our hands, with hand tools, with the dog's tails... nothing. Finally, we rented an auger from a place in town, and - barring the fact that you need two strong men - it worked like a charm. (Interesting Side Note: When D and I started this day, Kevin (my cousin) was still at work. I helped D auger out holes in the first couple bales, then stopped short and said, "D I don't think I should do this anymore. If I am pregnant, I'm gunna shake this baby's brains loose!" A week later, we found out I was 4 weeks... well... "with child". Hmm. A little Cherry child to be exact. Excellent.) The holes need to be about a foot deep, and just wide enough to create a space for transplants or seeds.

4. Fill the holes with any good potting or planting soil. Add peat moss and/or a little bone meal if you so choose, and voila - you have yourself a nice little garden spot (and some beautiful wheat grass if you use wheat straw like we did!) We planted peas and cabbage in ours. They're doing great!!


  1. We are going to try this next spring on top of the snow. The idea is that we will be able to plant our cold weather crops before the snow has melted off of the garden plot. This year April was almost over before we could get our peas, lettuce, and spinach in...not because it was too cold but because I didn't want to plant them under three feet of snow.

    Maybe this fall I should put the seeds in so that they overwinter in the ground. Does that work?

  2. We have a whole crop of lettuce coming up where the end of last year's crop bolted. Winter didn't seem to phase it. You could sure try it.

    Those pictures of D and Kevin with the auger on the straw bale makes us look a little..... different? Wonder what our neighbors were thinking. We are most uncivilized. (:

  3. Yeah Faith, mom's got a point! We didn't get snow, but it definitely froze more than once out there!!

    Guess there's only one way to find out, huh... ; P