Would you like to grow your own vegetable patch but don’t really have the best soil in your garden? This is not the only problem facing you! Certainly there is nothing more delicious than organic vegetables from your own cultivation and garden, but it is not uncommon for obstacles like the one already mentioned. Alternatively, there is the raised bed, which is filled with purchased soil. But the construction is not laborious, but the purchase of the earth is expensive. Now we have an interesting proposal for you that more and more gardeners are using. And that is the bale of straw bed. Yes you’ve read correctly! Gardening on bales of straw is great if you are looking for a substitute for potting soil. But that is by no means the only advantage of this innovative garden idea. In the following lines we would like to explain to you exactly how it all works.
Gardening on straw can be used no matter where in the world you are. The prerequisite is of course that you can guarantee water and sun. But otherwise you do not depend on where you live. So if you have a rather desolate and dry landscape in your garden with dry and nutrient-poor soil, you can just as easily fall back on your own cultivation with straw as well as anyone who lives in very rainy areas.
And because the whole thing is so simple and does not require any special tools or equipment, the idea can even be tried out by beginners without any problems. Those who already have experience will fall in love all the more with gardening with straw bales. And those who have no space in the garden for a bed and have always been dependent on vegetables in pots can now fall back on these original “planters” and garden comfortably on bales of straw.
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How does gardening work on bales of straw?
First of all, you should know that the plants are not placed on fresh straw. Instead, bales are used whose straw is already decomposing. The straw bale is treated in a special way for this purpose. Water and fertilizers are used here. The decomposition process then begins after ten days. In principle, the inside of the bales slowly transforms into new soil. In addition, this decomposition process generates heat, which is extremely beneficial for the young plants. In addition, the tubes store water after you have watered your plants and so even vegetables that require more water always receive sufficient moisture. This is the case, for example, with tomatoes. With them, a constant supply of water is necessary if you want to avoid irregular or even burst fruits. The straw bale gardening makes gardening easier here.
What about the nutrients?
As you can probably guess, straw is far from nutritious. So how is it that it is so good for plants? First of all, you shouldn’t consider the disadvantage of this property. Because that of course also means that no weeds can grow. And that’s great news. The regular plucking of the weeds is no longer necessary. But how should one then care for the little plants? A little fertilizer is simply added to the bales and they are taken care of! Sometimes it happens that seeds of the original plant are contained in the straw, which over time also begin to grow. But do not harm your vegetables in any way. But now we come to a more detailed explanation of how best to proceed.
Where can I get bales of straw?
It is best to use small rectangular or square balls. The round ones are just as suitable, but far too big and heavy for some. But you decide for yourself. Avoid bales from conventional cultivation. These often contain residues from various weed killers that are later released onto your vegetables. Straw bales are available directly from farmers, but can also be bought on the Internet at an exchange. Many farmers are now using the round variants. You can usually still find angular ones at horse farms.
Gardening on straw bales – instructions
This type of bed also requires a certain amount of planning and, of course, preparation. Once again, we’ve put together an explanation of the steps you can take when gardening on straw bales.
Preparing the bunions
Now is the time at the latest when you determine the right location for the straw bale, because they are still easy to move. But since you will now regularly water bales of straw, they will no longer be so easy to carry and could also fall apart. As already mentioned, the preparation process takes a few days. Use about 100 g of the fertilizer (guano, horn semolina or inorganic fertilizer) per bale and day, only fertilizing the bale every two days. It is best to always alternate: one day is only watered, then fertilized and watered, on the third day you only water again and so on. After about the sixth day you will notice a sweet smell. Then you know the process has started and you will soon be able to start gardening on straw bales and planting.
Gardening on straw bales – arrangement in the garden
The gardener bales are placed in a row close together. The interfaces should point upwards while the cord remains to the side. The resulting crevices can be filled with ripe compost and some potting soil. This prevents the plants from stalling. When the rows are ready, you can add trellises or other climbing options depending on the type of plant you want to plant in each row. If you stretch wire over the row of balls, you can also use it to create small greenhouses. To do this, simply put foil over it. The wire creates a gap between the foil and the plant. This now keeps the plants warm in the cool night and protects against frost, so that you can start gardening earlier. It also stores moisture. If you fear that the bales of straw will fall apart over the course of the months while you are gardening and would like to avoid this as much as possible, you can also cover the bales of straw with a frame made of wood and support them in this way.
If you use ready-made seedlings for planting, it is completely sufficient if you drill small holes in the straw. You can use a planting trowel for this. The seedlings are then planted in these holes, not removing all of the soil around the root ball. After that, fill the hole with sterile soil mixture, at the same time covering the open roots. You can also plant seeds directly. For this purpose, spread a 2.5 to 5 cm high layer of soil on the bale beforehand. As soon as the seeds form roots, they will start growing right into the straw.
After that, as in any other bed, it is abundantly watered. Since the gardener pads can store a lot of water, the plant is less prone to dehydration. At the same time, the large amount of air between the straws also ensures that the water can run off easily to prevent waterlogging. Meanwhile, many also use a hose irrigation system for the bales.
All vegetables are harvested – what now?
Once the time for harvesting and gardening on bales of straw is over and the plants have passed, you will have a few bales that are no longer too beautiful to look at. They are gray and soaked and no longer usable. But not quite. You can use all that straw for a vegetable patch in the garden next year. Simply spread it on the bed in autumn or store it on your compost heap and use it to fertilize the garden and flower pots.
What can you plant other than vegetables?
In principle, everything is possible when gardening on straw bales and can simply be tried out. Herbal plants thrive just as well as tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, and peppers, for which this method of planting is most popular. Also, consider some useful plant combinations to stimulate growth. Good partners are tomatoes and basil, radishes and lettuce or radishes combined with onions and carrots. The reason for this is that they need different nutrients and therefore they do not “steal” each other.
But flowers can also be planted and in this way create an interesting and colorful garden design. In addition to sunflowers as in the picture above, marigolds, nasturtiums and other annual plants are also suitable. Annual because you will throw away the straw or compost it at the end of the season.
Disadvantages of this original bed
As perfect and handsome as the garden design and maintenance idea sounds, there are a few disadvantages that you should be aware of in advance:
- For one thing, gardening on straw bales doesn’t really give you organic products. Plenty of fertilizer is used in preparation, with many using artificial ones to speed up the process. And nitrogen is one of them.
- The heat generated during this process is not only beneficial for your vegetable, herb or flower plants. These circumstances are also the perfect prerequisite for the formation of fungi which, although they do not harm the plants, will sooner or later be visible and are anything but pretty.
- Insects are attracted. Bumblebees, for example, love the hollow stalks and can even build entire nests in the balls. In this way you are doing something good for nature, because you offer the bumblebees shelter. So if they don’t bother you, it can even be viewed as something positive.