If the turn of the calendar has you starting to think about spring gardening, you're not alone! At Homestead Gardens we're also gearing up to turn over that first shovel full of soil and plant something. If you've been hearing about straw bale gardening that doesn't require you to dig up the sod in your yard, here's some background info on one of the latest trends in gardening.
Straw bale gardening can be done wherever you would grow a natural garden. You can lay the bales out on your grass, stack them on pallets for a porch garden, or grow a garden on the corner of your driveway. Because bales keep plants off the ground, you can plant them earlier in the spring (remember that you'll need to cover plants if frost threatens), and as the straw breaks down during the season, it naturally fertilizes your plants. At the end of the summer when you've harvested all your plants, cleaning up is easy. Just compost the bales and you're done!
So What Can You Grow in Straw?
Pretty much anything. If you're using plants, just create a hole in the bale and stick the plant in. You can grow them out the sides or directly on top. If you want to use seeds, sprinkle them on top of the bale and cover with a bit of potting soil so birds don't eat your seeds. If you want to grow vine plants or tall plants like corn, you might need to add additional structures to support the plants.
For watering, you have several options. Our Homestead Gardens staff recommends prepping the bale for a week prior to planting by watering it until it's damp to start the decomposing process. You can measure the temperature inside the bale, and when it is equivalent to the air temperature, it's a good time to plant. Once planted, water the bales the same way you would your garden – daily if it isn't raining. Some gardeners will string a sprinkler hose through the plants on top of the bale for easier watering access.
Straw bale gardening is a great way for homeowners without yards to grow a delicious vegetable garden. Be sure to ask the Homestead Gardens staff about their suggestions on types of vegetables that will do best in your bale garden.