Straw Bale Gardening

Sheila Custis
by Sheila Custis
1 Material
I am trying something new this year, straw bale gardening. I started with ten bales and now have 40. I may add more or just see how these do the rest of the season.
When you get your bales home you need to season them a bit before you start planting. Use a high nitrogen fertilizer. This is the first number you find on the bag. Ex. 29-0-0. Make sure there is no weed killer. Put 1/2 cup per bale and water in real well. The next day water heavily. This will speed up the decomposition of the bale. You will do this for at least 10 days before planting. This will heat up the inside of the bale so it is important to keep them watered, alternating ferrilizer and water each day.

When you plant your starter plants, cutting into the bale will still be difficult. I have a cultivator tool with a serrated edge to cut through. Use any straw you remI've to snug up around the plants. I like to put a small amount of soil around the base too.

For seeds I placed a small layer of soil on the bale, placed the seeds, then added another layer of soil on top. I tried planting them into the bale but they didn't sprout that way.
Seeds planted on top of bale.
tomatoes do great planted right into the bale.
You may notice mushrooms growing all over your bales. This is good. The bales will produce them as they decompose. This is the fertilizer naturally produced for your plants. Did I mention you don't need to add fertilizer to your plants? The bales provide everything they need. I added some Miracle Grow early on and burnt up a few of my plants.

If you get ants, use diatomaceous earth according to the package and you will get rid of them. It will not harm your plants and does not have any chemicals. I found a bag at Wal-Mart.

So far, I have planted tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, cilantro, bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, basil, eggplant, radishes, garlic, strawberries, cauliflower, snow peas, pinto beans, cabbage, carrots, purple hull peas, black eye peas, corn and broccoli. I also have peanut plants in planters between the rows and I have a few more raised beds with potatos, green onions, purple hull peas and parsley. Along my fence I have rosemary, blueberries, asparagus and green beans.

Suggested materials:
  • Straw bales
Frequently asked questions
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3 of 11 questions
  • Kathy Fong Kathy Fong on Apr 19, 2017

    How long do straw bales last? More than 1 or 2 growing seasons? My yard is small and I have dogs. I can't imagine doing more than 3 to 5 bales. Then I'd have figure out how to keep the boy dog from watering the bales on his own.

  • Lei8973874 Lei8973874 on May 25, 2017

    Is cut side up Or side up?

  • Sanders e thornburgh, sr Sanders e thornburgh, sr on May 20, 2020

    I have been adding 3 cups of high nitrogen fertilizer for several days now plus watering bales daily and the tempature on my bales are not getting hot. Does this mean that my bales are not decomposing?

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  • Sheila Custis Sheila Custis on May 04, 2017

    Thank you Judy. You are right, they are heavy. You can use a dolly to move them around. The most important part is con the bale prior to planting. You could even put them out at least a month early to really soften them up. I will probably use this technique from now on. My garden has never been this healthy and we are already harvesting some of the peppers.

  • Sheila Custis Sheila Custis on May 14, 2017

    Today is May 14th. The garden is lush and beautiful.