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How To Successfully Plant a Straw/Hay Bale Garden

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image via "knitsteel"

Maybe you have poor soil quality, rent your home, or are unable to build raised beds on your property. Perhaps you're just looking for an inexpensive and easy way to start gardening at home! That's wonderful, this blog post was designed to help you discover the joys of "straw bale gardening". 

Why are people using straw bales instead of raised beds? They are considerably cheaper (typically less than $10!) than new lumber when building raised beds. They also require no tools, and very little labor is involved. You can also place them anywhere you'd like! No longer are patios, driveways, or your own yard off limits...even if you're a renter! 

image via "Ruth Temple"

How to get started!

Get your straw bales-
In most places you can source them from local farms in your area, but most garden centers also carry them.  Straw is usually easier to find in the fall, so purchase them when they are readily available and store them in a dry location until Spring arrives.

Setting up your garden-
Let weed fabric be your friend. Placing a layer underneath your bales will prevent any weeds from growing into your straw bale garden. If you're doing more than one bale, arrange them in rows and make sure you leave the twine un-cut. This will help hold the shape of the bales once they start to breakdown.

Prepare the growing medium-
2-3 weeks before you decide to plant in your bales, you'll want to regularly water and fertilize them. Bone and fish meal are excellent fertilizers. After you've been regularly watering and fertilizing your bales for several days they should start to become "warm" and moist when you poke your finger into them. This is normal and a good sign of it being time to plant.

What to grow-
You can plant just about anything you'd like in a straw bale garden. Just keep in mind that determinate tomatoes generally do better than indeterminate varieties because they don't get as tall and won't tear the bale apart once it reaches it's mature size. What is the Difference Between Indeterminate and Determinate Tomatoes?

IMPORTANT:  The key to successful gardening in this type of environment is sticking to low-lying crops that have smaller root systems. 

image via "knitsteel"
Time to plant-
You can either add small seedlings you have started already indoors, or you can directly sow seeds into your bale. If you choose to direct-sow, make sure to add an inch or two of organic soil / potting mix. 

image via "knitsteel"

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