Straw Bale Gardening – What is it?
As a keen gardener, especially in between journalistic projects, I am always keen to explore different ideas and one which recently cropped up in conversation was Straw Bale Gardening.
Although straw bale gardening has been around for sometime, the sixties in fact, there is surprisingly very little information available in the public domain about it. So in depth delving into archives and talking to experts in the field provided me with a comprehensive overview of this type of gardening which is outlined below.
How does it work?
Straw bale gardening is self explanatory in terms of the medium being used, straw bales. The exponents of this form of cultivation wax lyrical about its benefits including the fact that it can be used in almost any situation. For example consider an outside area that is currently tarmaced? Straw Bale gardening is perfect as it does not require the lifting of the tarmac and can in fact be used on top of the substrate. Also those who use straw bales often cite the fact that this form of cultivation is more eco friendly and actually produces more crops, up to 25% more than traditional soil based gardening is an oft quoted figure.
A straw bale for a start. Ideally sourced from a local farm. Barley, wheat, oats and rye straw bales are considered the most effective.
If placing the bales on grass or soil, then put down a membrane to suppress weed growth.
Place binding around the bale to help it keep its shape as when it starts to decompose it will soften and lose its shape.
Conditioning the bale
This may sound strange but it is an essential part of the process and the most labour intensive. Basically it involves adding fertiliser and water for approx 10 days, which then starts the composting process inside the bale. A telltale sign of composting is “peppering” which is where black soil like clumps may start to appear.
Once composting of the bale is apparent its time to consider planting. One of the interesting aspects or straw bale gardening is that the whole bale can be used. Planting annual flowers on the sides of the bales offers colour and aesthetic appeal. In terms of seeds ideally use some planting mix initially and then plant the seeds. The bale acts as an excellent growing medium and will sustain growth for some time.
So there you have it, Straw Bale Gardening in a nutshell. Your next mission should you choose to accept it is to simply give it a go.