A couple of weeks ago I shared about my adventures in Straw Bale Gardening here.
Since then, the plants have really taken off! See for yourself:
One Month After Planting:
*We did have to replace 1 tomato plant after something ate it. The plant in the front, second from the right, is the replacement.
Honestly, I cannot imagine an easier, more productive way to garden – especially if you, like me, are just getting started with gardening, or have had a bad history with it. In fact, I love it so much that I’m already planning on doubling the amount of straw-bales I purchase in the fall.
And productivity is not the only advantage! Below, I’ve listed more 10 of my favorite advantages to straw-bale gardening.
1. Little Set-Up Work – really, to set up the garden, all you have to do is purchase the bales in the fall and let them set out all winter (preferably in their final location, string sides outward. We used our bales for Autumn decorations in the front of our house and found that after setting out for even a couple of months they get pretty heavy with water). The week before you plant in them, get some of your favorite type of fertilizer (I used Miracle Grow for tomatoes) and soak the bales with a mix of water and fertilizer every other day, and thoroughly water EVERY day. After one week of watering and fertilizing, you’re ready to plant. Just make a hole, add a bit of your favorite top soil (to secure the plant in the hole and provide some more nutrients), and add the plant.
2. No Yard Prep – Along the same lines as #1. Since the bales act as a raised garden bed, you don’t have to do anything to your yard in preparation for planting. No tilling, no weed killing, no yard prep. Just place the bales and go.
3. Little to No Weeding – The straw bales kill most of the underlying grass before the weeds can penetrate through. That being said, my yard is all weeds (no manicured lawn) and with that comes the lovely, viney Johnson grass. This stuff will climb the edges of the bales, and squeeze between the seams – however, it’s easy to pull and usually if you pull one strand, you’ve pulled all of it. (Also, if my Dad would weed-eat around the bales more often, this would not be a problem.)
4. Big Results from Small Area – We have 4 bales arranged in a square that is probably 4 feet x 4 feet. From that, I’ve already counted over 25 tomatoes! (squash plants just started blooming, so I can’t report on how many of those we’re expecting, yet). Every tomato planted is producing. Even if you had room for only a single bale, you could plant 2 tomatoes, or 1 squash and 1 tomato, or even 2-3 squash! The possibilities for fresh produce are nearly endless!
5. Easier on Back and Knees – Again, the bales enable the plants to be raised at least a foot off the ground. this makes harvesting, watering, heck even checking the progress of the blooms much, much easier on your back and knees. Less stooping, less squatting, less awkward-angle leaf-missing watering.
6. Less Watering Troubles – the straw bales act as giant sponges, and boy can they hold a ton of water. But that’s not to say you should water them less, I still water my bales about every other day (and this will go to every day once the temperature gets into the 90s), but I don’t worry about over watering. The bales will hold only so much and their drainage is spectacular. You really can’t over water them. So, what I’m trying to say is, I worry less about water. If I forget a day, it’s ok, there is enough water in the bales to allow for a slight “grace” period. If I get water happy, that’s ok too. The bales will absorb what they need.
7. More Pest Resistant – Since the bales are their own soil and raised, they prove to be much more pest resistant that traditional soil gardens. I will say that initially, I did have something eating my small tomato plants – but after I sprayed the plants with a mix of hot sauce and water the problem has disappeared.
8. 2 Year Life-Span – I’ve been told that the bales in your garden will last for 2 planting years. I’m not sure ours will hold up, but I’ll let you know. If I can reuse them, that will be awesome. If not….
9. Organic Compost Material – the bales make for stellar composting material once the planting season is over. Just combine the used bales with your current composting and you’ll have a great nutrient source for next year. We just started a compost bin like this one, and it’s working well so far.
10. Novelty Factor – Ok so this is a stretch I know, but you know it’s true. Growing a garden in straw has a certain quirky-ness to it. And more than once I’ve found myself talking to random people in the grocery store or the bank, “Oh yes, our tomatoes are doing really well. We grow them in straw!” And the look on my their faces, priceless.
How about you? Are you planting a garden this summer?
If so, I’d love to hear about it 🙂 Also, if you’ve got questions about my garden, feel free to post them. I’ll do my best to answer any question you have.