Save Soil and Cut Down on Weeds With Straw Bale Gardening
January 12, 2016
Looking to cut down on soil use (or don’t have much yard to spare)? Hoping for a natural anti-weed solution that doesn’t involve chemical measures? Then you may want to consider straw bale gardening. Straw bale/hay bale gardening is taking the gardening world by storm, and it’s no wonder. The method can:
Reduce or eliminate the need for soil. The straw itself serves as “plant food” and a permeable area for roots to grow.
Reduce weeds. Weeds do great in soil, but usually can’t thrive in straw.
control pests. Your plants are lifted off the ground, reducing some pest infestations.
Make physical access easier. As the plants are higher off the ground, you’ll be bending down less.
Help prevent rot of certain fruits/vegetables. Veggies and fruits that usually grow along the ground (for example, pumpkins or watermelons) are raised up and sit on the hay, keeping them drier and preventing rot.
Reduce the need for fertilizer. The straw decomposes over time, creating its own self-perpetuating fertilizer.
How to Plant a Straw Bale Garden
First, you’ll want to select a locale for your straw bales. Obviously, for most plants, Watermelon Straw Balesunny is best, but check your variety. Make sure you put some space between your hay bale rows so you can walk between them to tend your plants and so that there is sufficient breeze/aeration between crops.
Next, choose quality, compact straw bales. You may be able to find these at feed supply stores; some garden stores will also carry them. If you’re still having trouble, call local farms in your area and ask whether they would be willing to sell (or give) you a few bales.
Before planting, you will need to condition your bales by watering them once daily. Do this for 7 consecutive days. Conditioning your straw makes it more pliable, permeable and begins the breakdown process that provides nutrients and a supportive bed for your plants to take root.
Now you can plant. Use a spade to cut down slightly into the bales if there isn’t sufficient space for your seedlings’ roots. Some gardeners add a little soil into depressions in the bales before planting in order to get things started. For the most part, this shouldn’t be necessary, but particularly for very young/new seedlings, you may want to give it a try.
Water as necessary. The hay should both hold some moisture, and allow for proper drainage.
Watch for weeds. The hay will provide a natural weed barrier to an extent, but some particularly hardy varieties may take hold. These will be easy to pull from your straw bales and shouldn’t require any digging.
Harvest as you would any fruit or vegetable of your planted variety.
Straw bale gardening is fun, looks great and can be placed nearly anywhere there’s sufficient sun and breeze. Enjoy!