Are you dreaming about a summer full of delicious beans, peas, lettuce, tomatos and onions, all grown in your garden? If these vegetables and more are on your wish list, you’ll be happy to hear you can enjoy them all when you grow them in a straw bale garden.
Straw bale gardening is a growing interest for homeowners, especially those who don’t want to spend time or effort digging up sod and weeding all summer long. It’s a great option for homeowners with poor-quality soil, or those who don’t own the land and aren’t allowed to dig.
You can plant anything in a straw garden, but for some plants, you might need additional support structures. For example, corn stalks need stakes, tomato and pepper plants will need cages of some sort, and if you prefer your vine plants off the ground, you’ll need a trellis for your cucumbers and zucchini to climb.
Seeds also work well in straw bale gardening. Just sprinkle the seeds on top of your prepped bales, cover with a layer of dirt to protect the seeds from hungry birds, and water like you would with a traditional garden patch.
Before planting, be sure to lay out your plants carefully. Once watered and planted, the bales will be too heavy and cumbersome to move easily. The staff at Homestead Gardens recommends creating rows with the bales, especially if you plan to do a larger garden. This allows you to walk between the rows of vegetables and ensures the plants get adequate sunlight. Consider planting your shorter vegetables like leafy greens and radishes and onions in the “front” of your bale garden where they’ll receive the most sunlight. In the next row, add your middle-height plants like beans and peas. In the back row, furthest from the angle of the sun, plant the tall, bush-like plants. If you have vine plants like squash and pumpkin, consider adding those at the ends of your garden, giving them room to extend their vines without overtaking your other veggies.
You may notice some plants produce bigger, better yields than others. Straw bale gardening naturally developes a good amount of nitrogen during the bale’s decomposition process. Squash and leafy green plants thrive on higher levels of nitrogen, while tomatoes tend to spend their energies growing more leaves than fruits. Keep this in mind as you add fertilizer during the growing season, because you may want to adjust how much is added depending on the plant’s needs.