Strawbale gardening is another form of container gardening. Not everyone has a house with the extra space to plant a traditional garden so container gardening is a way to solve the space problem. You can put a straw bale most anyplace that will support the weight of a wet bale of straw. Places like a patio, a balcony, roof top, or even a concrete part of your driveway will do fine. After all, you’re planting in the bale of straw and not in the ground.
First you’ll need to purchase one or more bales of straw. It’s best to use wheat or grain straw not pine straw or hay. Bales usually come in 50 pound bales. Be sure to check for mold before going home with your bales.
You can set up your bales on pretty much any surface but make sure they’re in a place that will get 6-8 hours of sun, just like an ordinary garden. When setting up strawbale gardening, don’t put so many bales together that you cannot reach your plants for watering and harvesting; usually no more than 2-3 bales wide.
Set your bales horizontally so they retain more water, but only if the strings keeping them together are synthetic or wire. You should also push the bales together as tightly as you can to help with water retention. You might also try banding the entire group together with string or wire.
Now that your bales are in place give them a soaking, then you will only have to water them once or twice a day. You don’t want your bales to dry out for any long period of time; like a week or more. They do take a lot of water so make sure you have a nearby water source or you’ll end up spending an inordinate amount of time hauling buckets back and forth.
Your bales will need to decompose and you can jump start the process by adding fertilizer. Once the bales are partially decomposed they will hold water much easier. It’s best to start your strawbale gardening in the fall so that your bales are ready in the spring.
If you have laid out your bales horizontally you should be able to plant about a half dozen small plants per bale. You can plant things like lettuce or cucumbers. Other plants like beans can be planted thicker. You can transplant directly into the bales or you can plant seeds beneath 2 inches of compost.
When selecting what you are going to be planning keep in mind that tall plants like corn are not suitable for strawbale gardening. You can grow most any small plants and even tomatoes if they are the smaller variety or you keep them well pruned. The different squashes are great for this type of container gardening.
Strawbale container gardening is great in certain circumstances. Growing tall plants like corn will not work.
Placing your bales is important. If you have them in a place where water pools, like on a flat roof or balcony, your plants are going to drown. Because of the amount of water needed, you want to make sure you have a nearby hose.
You will still have issues with weeds sprouting but you can eliminate part of the problem by wrapping your bales in dark plastic for several weeks before planting. This process is called solarizing. Just make sure you remove the plastic before prepping and planting.
This type of straw bale container gardening is great for people with limited mobility or for those with poor soil or no traditional garden space available.