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Monday, July 20, 2015

Straw Bale Garden- Does It Work?

Can You Really Grow Your Garden In Straw Bales?

Straw Bale Garden Jalapeno Peppers
Straw Bale Garden Jalapeno Peppers
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


If you want to learn all about straw bale gardens, you can learn everything from planning through harvest:

I was a little skeptical when I started my straw bale garden back in April.  I was looking for an easy way to get a garden started at my new house without a lot of hard work breaking sod and building up the soil.

I bought 25 straw bales from a local farmer for $5 each.  I used some metal stakes that I found in the garage to stake them down, and used some landscape fabric between the bales to prevent weeds from growing between the straw bales.  You can learn more about starting a straw bale garden in my earlier posts.

The big question I had, of course, was "Would this really work?"  Based on what I have seen through mid-July, I can say that it is working!

Straw Bale Garden Cucumbers
Straw Bale Garden Cucumber
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

We have harvested a few things so far- spinach, peas, and cucumbers.  As you can see in the photos, the plants are growing like crazy.  It is hard to even see the bales under the cucumbers.

Benefits of a Straw Bale Garden

The main benefits of a straw bale garden are that it is easy to start without breaking ground or roto-tilling, and provides easy raised garden beds without building anything.  Also, there are very few weeds to deal with in a straw bale garden.

Straw Bale Garden Broccoli
Straw Bale Garden Broccoli
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Drawbacks of a Straw Bale Garden

Some of the negative aspects of a straw bale garden are that you need to buy a lot of straw bales and get them to your garden.  It also takes a couple weeks of work to condition the straw bales before planting.  

I have also found that the straw bales don't hold water as well as soil, so they require more frequent watering.  I have set up soaker hoses right on top of the straw bales so I can let this run occasionally.  Believe it or not, I also found the soaker hoses in the garage so I didn't have to buy them either.

Straw Bale Garden Tomatoes
Straw Bale Garden Tomatoes
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
Some crops do not work well in straw bales- growing sweet corn in straw bales is not recommended, and I planted my zucchini in a small patch in the ground instead of in straw bales.

Even though I have listed more drawbacks than advantages to straw bale gardens, I think a straw bale garden is a good solution in some situations.  If you want a small garden and don't mind watering it frequently, a straw bale garden could work well.  The cost of the straw bales and amount of watering could be prohibitive for a large garden.

I plan to use the straw bales to make compost and transition to some garden in the ground and perhaps some new straw bales again next year.

Does Straw Bale Gardening Work?

Straw Bale Garden Herbs
Straw Bale Garden Herbs
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

The harvest is just getting started, and it has been great to have some fresh vegetables growing right outside the back door.    I wanted a garden that would be fairly easy to get started and not too expensive.  So far, the straw bale garden is working out very nicely.

Check back for more updates on how the straw bale garden turns out.

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