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:
- Site your bale in a sunny spot. Once it’s there, it ain’t movin’.
- 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.
- Water the bale. On days 1 to 3 of conditioning, simply irrigate the bale with a hose or watering can.
- 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.
- 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!