Straw Bale Gardening: What’s It Good For

straw bale gardening

Have you stopped to consider straw bale gardening for your homestead?

Perhaps it’s just straw bales from 2013 resurfacing for a final breath. But, it seems me there’s chatter going on about the easy simplicity, dare I say stellar gardening-ness, of growing a vegetable garden out from the innards of pale yellow straw bales.

No digging.
No weeding.
No bending.
No problem.

Imagine Creating a Straw Bale Garden

When I stop to imagine bringing this no-dig gardening technique into our horticultural lives, here’s the picture I get:
Hubby and I will climb into The Big Blue F350, drive off down the road, over hill and dale, to the straw baler’s place or the feed store, which ever is nearest and cheapest and load up the truck (and trailor, probably) with straw bales. We’ll haul them the home. Then call the Boys:
Come on, Boys, we are going to unload all this straw so we can grow vegetables in it for just ONE SEASON.
One by one, the bales will come off the truck.

We’ll move them into the garden.

 Where do you want them, Mom?

Over there, Son. Put them in nice tight long rows so it can feel like Halloween all year.

Clad in denim and plaid, we’ll stride along side our Oktoberfest rows like we’re set up for a hoe-down. With gloved hands (straw can be sharp!) we’ll pry apart the centers of the bales, one by one, pack a little soil in there, and a plant.

We’ll water and watch them grow.

The decomposition going on inside the bales is nothing short of garden-science spectacular. Micro-organisms and all that good stuff. The straw heats up, breaks down and creates a little growable haven for your plant’s roots. Tomatoes seem to like straw bales. Or so I read.

Time to Bale Out

I have straw bales in the garden. I see what they do, even though they don’t see me because they’re sheltered under large plastic tarps to protect them from the elements (Did you get that? I have to protect the new darling of gardening from weather.)
Anyway, they’re frail. They disintegrate quickly, turn black and tarry with mold; mold I don’t want on my plants.
They’re good for one whole season. (One season?)
But, they’re cheap at $9/bale. (Oh. Wait. I need 30 bales.)

A Gardener’s Dream or Nightmare?

I came across a fellow gardener who is also unblessed with the worst soil a gardener can ask for, and whose thoughts turned toward the possibility of planting in stout blocky yellowy bricks of grass. After two weeks, she took a gander and proclaimed:
“The bales were wet and aged (after) two weeks or more. The plants aren’t looking good. Several tomatoes died and most of the plants are turning yellow. I have fertilized with Miracle Grow. Not looking like a great idea so far…”
Her Garden Knight strides in to save the day:
“From what I’ve read, (Fair Lady), straw bales don’t hold moisture and thus dry out quicker than regular soil so you may need to water more often. Depending upon sun exposure and air temp your straw bales may need to be watered two or three times a day.I’ve also read that wrapping landscape fabric around the bales helps keep the moisture from evaporating so quickly.”
So, I need to mulch my mulch? And water…more…during a drought?

A few questions naturally start running through my mind like a NASDAQ ticker tape.

  • How will we guard against the ever disintegrating cubic garden pots?
  • How will we keep mold from infecting the plants?
  • How will we keep the bales from getting too hot in the 100-plus July heat?

It doesn’t matter!

Straw bale gardening is the Bomb: No digging. No bending. Who cares if your bales spontaneously explode in July. Celebrate it with a BBQ and Friends, like it’s part of your Independence Day. Who will be the wiser? (Besides, it sounds like a good dowsing from a fire hose is beneficial to straw bale gardening.)

I can hear Linus saying, “Straw bale gardening is the Charlie Browniest!”

Straw Bale: What’s It Good For

On to better news: Straw bales are excellent for mulching your garden and laying across roads during the rainy season. Some use it for livestock bedding. Straw bales have a good a purpose on the homestead. But, I’m not going to plant inside them. Besides, what in the world will we do with all that straw?
What about you? Is straw bale gardening (kindle ebook) a good choice for your homestead?
Footnote: Absolutely no disrespect is intended toward the "inventor" of straw bale gardening or to anyone who is reaping the harvest of growing in bales. This writing is pure opinion, not rooted in "scientific" fact.

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