Last Updated on March 18, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
Straw bale gardening is also sometimes known as hay bale gardening, even if there is a difference in the material. The bales themselves are used as both garden beds and growing mediums, resulting in an affordable yet lush method of growing organic vegetables.
To put in simple words, the bale of straw is taken and conditioned for a couple of weeks by adding fertilizer and water. It then becomes a spot for planting. It is used mostly for vegetables, but anything could be grown in it. The straw slowly decomposes providing nutrients for the plants and an airy environment for the plant roots.
Vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, beans, peas, and herbs are the easiest to grow using the method of straw bale gardening. And once you get the hang of it, you can even cultivate squash, cucumbers, zucchini, and pumpkins as a master gardener.
Having plenty of good rep in the gardening world, straw bale gardening may still be a new term especially for beginners. To speak historically, it has been used for a long time, but due to the development of more traditional gardening, it seemed to have fallen out of favor. But in recent years, it is once again gaining popularity as there is an increase in the interest for this form of gardening.
As far as science goes, straw bale gardening works smoothly and people have been using it to get their vegetables growing well. But does it provide enough benefits for you to choose it over traditional gardening? Let’s look into it! Here are some Pros and Cons of Straw Bale Gardening:
Pros of Straw Bale Gardening
1. Easy on Your Wallet
The inexpensive factor of straw bale gardening is a major pull as you can easily find hay around if you live in a farming-friendly neighborhood. If not you can get straw bales at nurseries and feed stores for a very little price depending on the size, whom you buy from, and the going price where you live.
2. Easier on Your Back
Being one of the least physically demanding kinds of gardening, straw bale gardening will not have you bending down to the ground, picking your veggies or pulling out any weeds. All you’ll have to do is initially get your straw bales in place and it’s easy to harvest and care for plants without bending over, plus there is no need for a lot of digging. So you will certainly not be facing any backaches from this one!
3. Space is not a Problem
If you’re someone without adequate gardening space, straw bales might be just perfect for you. With smaller homes becoming more common, small scale gardening has become the way to go. Placing the bales anywhere there is sunshine can help you grow veggies, herbs and flowers without cultivating or digging in a single straw bale. And the bale can be placed anywhere for example, a stoop, lanai or rooftop as long as there’s sunshine present.
4. Manageable and Effective
Being a small scale form of gardening, it is upto you to control almost everything about straw bale gardening. Which means that the garden can be modified
Basically, you are creating a micro-environment in which you can plant exactly what you want.
You can have huge success with growing vegetables in straw bales. Although you have to stay on top of watering, compared to other container gardens, the bales do retain water pretty well.
5. Produces Healthy Plants
To add a final point, gardening in a straw bale has a well-known success rate. Because of a higher germination rate, over watering is not a possibility, the tools required are minimal and there is no necessity of crop rotation.
Since the bale needs to be frequently watered, the container grown plants need the same. And when the bale is kept watered, the straw over time turns into compost, that leads to healthier and well-nourished plants.
Having many appealing features, and being a temporary garden concept, straw bale gardening seems pretty much up everyone’s alley. But before jumping in, you’ll also need to consider the downsides of straw bale gardening. Like everything else, there are a few drawbacks to planting straw bales, and here they are:
Cons of Straw Bale Gardening
Even when straw bales are used instead of hay bales, unless the weeds are suffocated before being planted in the garden, the bales will sprout and when left alone, they might begin looking something like giant Chia Pets. On the brighter side, the sprouts are not as difficult to pull out or you can even trim them with scissors.
There might also be some mushrooms and fungus growing in your bales. They are mostly quite easy to get rid of or you may choose to ignore them as they won’t usually be harming your plants.
2. Requires Plenty of Water
For this form of gardening, you will need to keep the medium moist and in order to do so you’ll have to constantly sprinkle ample amounts of water. As such large quantities of water may not be accessible to every gardener, it becomes quite problematic. According to experts, it is nearly impossible to over water straw bales. Water passes through them quite easily and quickly, also, drip hoses are hard to use with straw bales.
3. It Can Get Heavy
Straw bales in their wet form can get pretty heavy, so much that it might get tough for gardeners who are not on the stronger side. So if you’re not as good with weights or have an injury, you may need some help to set up your straw bale garden.
4. Not a Pretty Sight towards the End
As the bales compost, they tend to get a little untidy and saggy. So by the end of the growing season, your straw bale garden may not be on the neater or more maintained side. And if you’re someone who likes to keep the garden trimmed and appealing to the eyes, straw bale gardening might not work very well for you at off-seasons.
As there are plenty of pros to be counted when it comes to straw bale gardening, a few cons are to be noted as well. Which is why, you may have to well consider your points before switching your traditional gardening method with straw bale gardening.
Just the same, it is a fun and easy technique that is suitable for almost every kind of gardener. Hope it works great for you if you decide to make the switch. Happy gardening!