Best plants for straw bale gardening

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Finding an easier way to grow our vegetables is always a goal of mine. The older I get, the more my body seems to protest bending and kneeling. If this sounds like you, then this article on the best plants for straw bale gardening is something to check out.

Gardening 101 is more than backyard setups. It’s growing in containers, raised beds, and, yes, straw bales.

best plants for straw bale gardening

So many homesteading rules have been thrown out the window. Traditional ways of raising animals, housing chickens, and even growing vegetables are all a thing of the past. Finding a way to homestead that works for you and where you live is our goal, and that means you might need to think outside of the box.

Straw Bale Gardening is a perfect example of this. Growing food in bales is a great way to set up temporary gardens year after year.

What is Straw Bale Gardening?

Straw bale gardening is growing vegetables using the bale as the container. First you work to compost the interior down into the perfect growing environment. Once ready you can add a bit of soil and plant seeds, seedlings or root vegetables growing them just as you would in a traditional garden.

What are the benefits of straw bale gardening?

There are many benefits of gardening in bales of straw:

  1. Allows you to grow a garden without tilling up your land.
  2. Easier on you physically.
  3. You can put the bales on tables eliminating the need to bend over.
  4. Zero weeding.
  5. You can grow more in a tighter space.
  6. Bales can be completely composted, leaving zero waste behind.
straw bales in a garden bed with grow bags nearby (1)

How to prep straw bales for planting.

Before planting, ensure that the straw bales are set up correctly. Place the bales in a location with good sunlight and access to water. Set them up where they will stay, as moving them when wet can cause the bales to fall apart. Use a recipe of fertilizer and water to decompose the interior. You can get that recipe here.

fertilizer being poured onto a straw bale

Best plants for straw bale gardening

Many different plants can grow well in straw bales, which means that almost every vegetable is the best to grow in a bale.

Veggies to grow in straw bales

  • Tomatoes of all kinds
  • Peppers of all kinds
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini, squash
  • Lettuce, carrots, radishes

Fruits to grow in straw bales

  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe

Other things to grow in straw bales

  • Herbs

Plants to avoid growing in bales

Because the condition of the bale will deteriorate in just one growing season, we find it is best not to grow perennial vegetables or fruits in bales.

  • Garlic
  • Strawberries
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
a hand planting a seedling in a straw bale

Tips for Growing in Straw Bales

Growing plants in straw bales has a few differences from typical garden beds.

• Watering is important; water the straw bale from the top to keep the bales moist but not too wet, as this may cause the bales to rot.

• Fertilization is another critical aspect of growing in straw bales. Use organic fertilizer to feed the plants, as the decomposing straw already acts as a natural fertilizer. Avoid using synthetic fertilizers, as they may damage the straw bale’s structure.

• Support plants that tend to get heavy with fruit. This includes tomatoes and peppers as well as climbing veggies such as snap peas.

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How to Compost Straw Bales

Straw bales can be composted or used as mulch after the harvest season. Bales that decompose well can also be used in garden beds. However, if they start to rot or smell, it’s best to discard them. Store the bales in a dry place if you plan on reusing them again next season.

If you have an issue with pets or diseases in a particular bale, do not use it in your compost, as you will be transferring those issues to your plants next year.

Bonus Idea: Planting with Children

Planting in straw bales can be a great family activity, especially for young children. The bales are easy to handle and set up, making it a fun and engaging project. Kids can design their bales by drawing ideas on the sides or decorating them with paint. Let them choose their plants and involve them in watering and fertilizing the plants. It’s a great way to incorporate gardening into a family activity.

a young child helping to plan flowers with a woman in a black top

Growing plants in straw bales is a low-cost and sustainable choice for homesteaders. With proper set-up, watering, and fertilization, many plants can grow well in straw bales. It’s a fun family activity that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike making this a unique way to incorporate gardening no matter where you live.

More Straw Bale Gardening Resources:

  1. Straw Bale Gardening for Beginners
  2. How to Prepare Straw Bales for Growing Vegetables
  3. How to Grow Herbs in Straw Bales

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