How To Condition Your Straw Bale Garden

Straw bale gardening offers an alternative to containers for gardeners who are short on land.

If you’re short on good-quality soil or don’t have permission to dig up a garden plot because you’re living on rented land a straw bale garden could be your solution to growing food right outside your doorstep. The benefits of straw bale gardening are numerous:

  • They’re inexpensive to get started.
  • They’re temporary, but can last as long as three years.
  • All the materials involved are completely compostable.
  • It’s so easy!

But starting a straw bale garden isn’t as easy as planting your tomatoes and squash inside your newly required bale. It requires a 10- to 14-day conditioning period in which you begin to break down the straw and cultivate a fertile growing environment.

Here are these tips from Bonnie Seeds for conditioning your straw bale:

  1. Site your bale in a sunny spot. Once it’s there, it ain’t movin’.
  2. Position the bale. The narrow side with the cut edges of straw should be facing up. This will help the bale to better retain moisture.
  3. Water the bale. On days 1 to 3 of conditioning, simply irrigate the bale with a hose or watering can.
  4. Add fertilizer. On days 4 to 9, mix a high-nitrogen fertilizer into the water you irrigate with. This will help speed up decomposition of the bale, essentially turning it into compost. Natural high-nitrogen fertilizers include blood meal, bone meal and alfalfa meal.
  5. Watch the temperature. Starting on day 10, insert a thermometer into the bale to watch the temperature fluctuations. It will spike and then return to ambient temperature. This could take from one to four days; continue watering the bale without fertilizer as you wait.

Once the inside of the bale reaches the ambient temperature, your straw bale is conditioned and ready to start planting!

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