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How to make straw bale gardens

How to make straw bale gardens

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They must be the ultimate in lazy gardening. PHIL DUDMAN explains how to turn a simple straw bale into a productive organic garden in seconds flat.

I’m as time poor as the next person, but even when time is tight, it’s no excuse for not planting those seedlings or getting a new organic patch up and running.

A busy friend of mine reminded me last week of a quick and easy garden idea that can be set up anywhere, even on a concrete slab and it takes very little time or effort. All you need is a couple of straw bales, a bag of organic compost, some organic fertiliser and seeds or seedlings. It’s a bit like container growing, only the bale of straw becomes the container.

Start by arranging the bales in any way you like, side by side to make a block, end to end to create a line, zigzag, circle, whatever takes your fancy. The main thing is be sure the strings around the bale are the side touching the ground. Then sprinkle the bales with fertiliser – a handful of blood and bone and a good pinch of sulphate of potash per bale – and water them well until the bales are thoroughly soaked. This will activate the decomposition process, which creates a bit of heat. Don’t plant straight away, just keep the bales moist and plant in about two weeks time when it cools down. Once that’s done, it simply a matter of making some planting holes in the bales, filling them with organic compost and planting your seedlings. Keep the compost and bales moistened and the plants will take off. As the straw decays it provides more compost for the roots to explore. Don’t remove the strings that hold the bales together until the bales have slumped and settled.

This is a great way to kick off an organic vegie patch in a spot where there was no patch before, and because the bales are raised, they’re like an instant raised bed that’s easy on your back. When the first bales have completely broken down, bang on a few more and start again. Over time you will create a very rich soil in this place without ever having to dig.