Gardening Basics

Growing Plants with Straw Bales

More and more people choose to grow their vegetables and other garden plants in straw bales. Straw bales offer numerous advantages to all gardeners who wish to grow strong, healthy plants.

While some people may say straw bales are an easy way to gardening, there are ways to do it correctly and incorrectly. If you choose to garden using straw bales, it’s important to know how to do it properly.

Why Straw Bales?

While straw bales offer some advantages to all gardeners who wish to grow strong and healthy plants, it’s important to note that this isn’t “an easy way out”. Straw bales are large, heavy and prickly. Using them is in no way “easy”, even if they do prove to be an easy way to gardening if done correctly.

With straw bales being so uncomfortable and heavy, you might wonder why you should use them at all. It would be easier to use traditional raised beds or flat-bed gardens with soil. However, straw bales offer some important advantages you don’t want to miss. Straw bales may be uncomfortable but they do make your life easier in the long run.

Straw bales are very healthy for your plants. They make plants grow bigger and stronger. This is particularly important for gardeners who have a poor soil in their garden or those who wish to improve their harvest in a cheap yet effective way.

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Reasons to Use Straw Bales

There are many reasons to use straw bales as a growing medium for your plants. Some of the main reasons and advantages include:

• The bales make a great growing medium. The inside of the bale becomes soil through composting. It provides a great growing medium for your plants. It also means that your plants are growing in a virgin soil. Such a soil doesn’t have any diseases or pests from previous plantings, which is a common problem with garden soil. It means you don’t have to rotate crops if you use this gardening method.

• The bales are sterile. Straw bales are generally sterile and weed-free. It makes them a great growing medium for your plants. This way, you can grow vegetables without having to pull weeds all the time.

• Straw bales warm early in the season. This is a great advantage to gardening. Bales heat quickly while the soil is still cold. It means you can get an early start on the season by using this method.

• The bales are high. Straw bales have a raised height, which is great because it allows easy access to those who find ground-based gardening difficult.

• The bales can be composted. At the end of the season, straw bales can be fully composted so by the start of the next season, you will have a lot of new compost you can use for gardening. You can use it to improve your soil and fill annual flower containers, hanging baskets or window boxes. You may also use it for your other gardening plants, if you have some you don’t grow using straw bales. The compost created with straw bales is very rich in texture, fertility, as well as drainage and moisture-holding ability.

These are just some of the reasons why you should use straw bales for gardening.

How to Use Straw Bales

Straw Bales are surprisingly easy to use. All you need is to get a few of them. This is a very affordable investment so you sure don’t need to spend a fortune if you wish to use this gardening method.

To start a straw bale garden, you will need to invest some, but this gardening method is still very affordable, especially compared to many other methods.

Here is a rough list of things you’ll need to establish a straw bale garden:

Bales. Start small, with about five straw bales. In case this method proves to be a success, you can always add more bales in the next season. The cost per bale is not high. A bale costs between five and ten dollars.

• Trellis wire (in case you wish to grow climbing plants).

• Two posts.

• Soaker hose.

• Plants and seeds you wish to grow.

• Lawn fertilizer (about five pounds for a five bale garden).

• Bag of sterile planting mix.

Before you can use your straw bale, make sure that the bale spends some time composting. It’s important that the middle of the bale is composted. It will create a suitable growing medium for your plants. Therefore, you need to leave your straw bales for a while until they have time to compost in the middle.

After the bales have composted in the middle, simply use them to grow your plants. Use the straw bales as a growing medium. Put some sterile planting mix inside of the bale. The planting mix will work well in addition to the composted middle of the bale and create a fertile growing medium for your plants.

Plant your plants in the bale, making sure it reaches the composted middle. Make sure to water regularly.

Depending on the plant type, you might need to use some support structures, such as trellises. These support structures are needed for climber plants such as pole beans or tomatoes to grow properly.

Other than that, you should take care of your plant in the usual way. Provide them with all the needed care and when the time comes, harvest them. Straw bales will prove to be a very healthy growing medium for your plants.

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips on how to use straw bales for the best results:

• Make sure to always use straw bales and not hay. Hay is filled with seeds, and some of them can be weeds. Since hay is used to feed livestock, it typically contains a lot of seeds. These seeds will sprout and you will get unwanted plants in the garden.

• When using straw bales, don’t forget to space your plants properly. This is the best way to prevent pests and disease problems. Proper spacing increases air circulation between plants and it makes leaves stay dry. Dry leaves help preventing diseases. Not to mention that any potential problems are more difficult to spread if plants are properly spaced.

• In case you wish to use climbing plants, you need to use a trellis system or another type of a support system. It will allow for maximum foliage spread, which will increase the plants’ photosynthetic activity. These support systems can be left in the ground after the season is over. The bales can be composted and simply replaced with new ones next season.

• Water your plants properly. You might want to use soaker hoses with a hose-end timer. The timer will click on early in the morning and provide about a gallon of water to the each bale. It is an easy way to water your straw bales.