Video: Make a Straw-Bale Garden Bed

comments (24) March 22nd, 2010

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Video Length: 1:58
Produced by: Kate Frank

Four straw bales and some compost are all you need to set up this nifty biodegradable garden bed. There's no digging, no weeding, and no need for crop rotation. By the end of the season, the bed will have disintegrated into a glorious pile of compost. And next year, you can build another bed in a new location if you choose.

After you try it, show it off to other members in the
gardener's gallery.
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posted in: raised beds, straw bale

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Posted: 9:02 pm on October 17th
dieptexaccist writes:
Posted: 2:00 am on December 2nd
UCMG2000 writes: This idea is perfect for gardeners who have soil that has been damaged. We were flooded during the last hurricane, and we were told not to plant food crops because the soil was contaminated with sewerage and motor oil. It will take a few seasons for our soil to recover, but in the meantime, this is a perfect way to keep gardening.
Posted: 4:45 pm on June 24th
lsn833 writes: Interesting to see The Grange in Central Point mentioned! My straw bales from there this year were not seed free, and everywhere I mulched with them I now have growth. This didn't happen last year. My bulb beds, my strawberries, asparagus, etc. now need weeding, which was what the straw mulch was supposed to keep down!

Don't use hay for this, use straw. I'm not going to, but I enjoyed the video! My straw bales get moldy and slimey after they are wet for awhile, so I wonder if the same would happen here, if I planted on top of them.

Do you need to fertilize? There isn't much soil for the plants, and their roots will be in straw before long, with no nutrients there. Also, you said "compost" but the photo shows potting soil. Did you use potting soil? I have great compost from our garbage co. but it says right on it not to use it alone.
Posted: 6:48 pm on November 16th
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Posted: 2:55 pm on November 7th
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Posted: 12:00 pm on September 2nd
chantique writes: We made two straw bale beds. The plants in both are months behind the same plants, planted the same day in the dirt garden right next to the straw bales. I finally separated the bales in one of the beds and filled the space full of dirt, using the bales as the borders. Those plants are doing well are catching up. The heat and humidity of Alabama should be enough to break the bales down, so what did we miss? (Yes, we used straw, not hay. Bales in our area weren't all that cheap either)
Posted: 8:19 pm on June 23rd
AmyStewart writes: Hi everybody,

Thanks for the questions! Let me see if I can answer them all:

Several questions about rice straw vs. hay vs. barley straw. "Hay" is usually the upper part of a grass, cut fresh, which contains seeds. This is good animal feed, but you don't want it in your garden because the seeds can sprout and you'll get weeds.

"Straw," on the other hand, is the stubble left in the field after the first cutting. It's the stalk of the plant, without the upper part where the seeds are. So whether you use rice straw, or barley straw, or any other kind of grass-like straw, the point is to get straw, not hay. The kind of straw you can get will simply depend on what crops are grown near you. I live in California, where rice is grown, so rice straw is available to me, but barley is not.

Why not use landscape fabric? A plastic barrier between your plants and the earth will keep roots from going as deep as they would like to, and keep beneficial soil microbes from traveling around. The idea here is to smother weeds with something that will break down and become part of the soil, not be separated from it.

Why leave the center open? This is just an option if you want to plant root crops, like potatoes or carrots, that need very loose soil to grow properly. The roots of your tomato plant can make their way into a straw bale, but potatoes would need a lot more breathing room.
Posted: 12:29 pm on February 1st
creativerita writes: I am so glad to find this web site. I am going to try the straw bale gardening this year. I noticed that several people were intent on using rice there some reason for this. I go to the CoOp and purchase wheat straw bales to use in my chicken house so I was going to use this ok?
Posted: 10:52 pm on January 31st
Oldlazygardener writes: Why not cover the whole thing in landscaping fabric and reduce weeds / watering?

I suppose any permeable covering would work ... newspaper, cardboard, etc.
Posted: 10:14 am on April 7th
eye_of_the_wind writes: I think this idea of using sterile rice straw bales! I live in a sensitive area with full sun all day. I would like to use these bales but I cannot locate this product localy. What can I substitute in my area; North East?
Posted: 9:15 pm on April 6th
Cybrcruzrr writes: This is an interesting idea, however, I'm a custom hay farmer and would recommend straw rather than hay. Hay is usually some combination of grasses and legumes: timothy, canary, rye, marsh, alfalfa, clover, and more. Hay contains wanted, and sometimes unwanted, seeds. Whereas straw is the stalk remaining after the seeds have been harvested. Straw is generally used for animal bedding and landscaping, whereas hay is reserved for food. In summary, if you want to spend a LOT less time weeding your garden, buy straw instead. Happy Gardening. Nina
Posted: 9:40 am on April 6th
Dogwoodlover writes: Thanks for the responses. You can get barley hay bales at the Grange Co-op in Central Point, and possibly at the others too. I would call first.

I am going to try this with barley hay bales!!
Posted: 12:00 pm on April 3rd
KentNC writes: Deb: any type of straw/hay/grass bale will work. Pine Straw will NOT work. Totally different animal. I've never used grass/hay bales because they are a lot more expensive in my area than wheat or oat straw, but if you're only using a few bales, then cost may not be a big factor.
Posted: 11:20 am on March 31st
HootsWithOwls writes: I also live in So. Oregon. If barley straw bales are an acceptable alternative, where can I get those?

This hay bale is a great idea! I was going to buy or build a raised bed this season, but I wasn't ready to put $$ into it.

Posted: 11:02 am on March 31st
HootsWithOwls writes: I'm wondering if this apple technique with Tangle Trap will work for those who have aphids, etc, in lemon and lime trees or nut trees?

Does anybody know?

Posted: 10:58 am on March 31st
KentNC writes: Good introductory video. For those who want more info and a lot of bale gardening pics, feel free to take a look at my thread on a local site:

Straw bale gardening: no weeding, no hoeing, no tilling! A great way to garden, especially if you have poor soils or physical limitations that prevent you from traditional "dirt" farming.

Have a great and blessed day!

Kent in NC
The Straw Bale Man
Posted: 10:49 am on March 31st
DanielleGardenGirl writes: Sorry to hear about your rice bale troubles. Here in the Northeast I did a straw-bale garden last year using Mainely Mulch--a sterile straw sold commercially at garden centers. The main thing is to make sure you use STRAW--not hay bales. Straw (whatever the type) does not incorporate the seed head of the plant when it is processed. (Therefore no weeds to contend with). I think your barley straw bale would work well.
Posted: 9:31 am on March 30th
Dogwoodlover writes: I tried to buy rice straw bales, but was told the transportation expense was too high for them to carry them. We are in Southern Oregon. If the costs are too high here, how can they carry the rice straw bales in other places? Is there an alternative that wouldn't be too weedy? Would barley straw bales work as well? I was so excited about trying this method.
Posted: 3:08 pm on March 29th
GenevieveS writes: This is wicked cool. Rice straw makes amazing compost so I can imagine it breaks down and feeds the plants well through the season.

As for Amy's comment about "lots of squash", LOL - the part in Animal Vegetable Miracle where they discuss squash, and the sneaky tricks used to get rid of all the extra, cracked me up. Lots of squash indeed.
Posted: 11:56 pm on March 26th
albin1e4e5 writes: Never thought of doing this, but I may try now. One question ... why leave the center open?

Another great video segment. Thanks.

Posted: 12:45 pm on March 26th
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