For those who haven’t started a garden, just the thought can feel intimidating. So many things to consider: what do I want to grow, what will grow where I live, where do I plant my garden, how do I take care of it, and a host of other concerns.
Fortunately, one type of gardening is extraordinarily simple which makes it ideal for first-time gardeners (or people who just like a simpler way of doing things). The type of gardening that I’m talking about is straw bale gardening.
Now, let’s be clear, while it’s not uncommon for people to use loose straw to cover the ground in a garden, that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about gardening using the full straw bale, still wrapped in string to keep it in it’s rectangular shape, at least initially.
The beauty of straw bale gardening is that with some consistent watering and a little nitrogen fertilizer sprinkled on the bales, over the course of about two weeks, the straw/water/nitrogen fertilizer combination will have started to change the interior of your straw bales into compost which is perfect for planting a variety of garden plants. Once this change has begun, simply plant and water appropriately (in other words, according to the needs of the plants that you will be growing). It also doesn’t hurt that, because you are planting directly into the bales, you can plant virtually anywhere without concern about soil quality, and you can plant in a relatively compact area.
As a side note, some people recommend putting plastic underneath your straw bales to keep the water from soaking through your bales into the ground. Also, perennials may not be the best plants to use with straw bales because the bales disintegrate (turning into mulch) by the end of the second year using the bale.
If these steps and benefits didn’t convince you to try straw bale gardening, here are five reasons according to Susan Perry that you should try it:
1. Less work.
With the bales above ground, there’s less stooping and bending, and no digging, aerating, or tilling. Your knees and back will thank you! You can even place the bales on a pallet for additional height.
2. Weeds are virtually a thing of the past.
Any lurking in the straw are killed by the heat the first two weeks. The few that might appear later can be plucked right out with your thumb and finger.
3. It’s economical and healthy.
Going organic has never been easier! Straw bales cost about $5, and a bag of Organic Blood Meal is less than $10. You’ll also avoid spending money on soil amendments, fungicides, and disease and pest control.
4. Plants grow faster.
Straw decomposition in the interior of the bales provides a warmer environment. This fosters quick root development and faster plant growth.
5. Gardening is possible even if you have poor quality soil.
Your plants will have no idea that you could never garden before!
Have you had any experience with straw bale gardening? Share your experiences below.