Straw Bale Gardening1st June 2016 • In The Garden • Stephanie Donaldson
Rebuilding the vegetable garden happened to coincide with the arrival of a book about straw bale gardens, so when I found myself with a bed lacking in sufficient soil it seemed an ideal opportunity to experiment with the technique. The plan is to get a crop off the bales and come next autumn they will have decomposed down and the bed will be filled with lovely friable ex-straw bale. In my innocence I thought that you simply put them in place, gave them a bit of a water, let them start the process of composting and hey presto they could be planted. Turns out they need ‘curing’ over 2 weeks, so don’t plan to go away during this time as daily action is required.
I bought the straw bales from a local feed merchant in early April and put them in place but then covered them with a tarpaulin as I didn’t want them to start composting before it was warm enough to plant them.
At the beginning of May I started the ‘curing’ by soaking the bales on one day and ‘feeding’ them with fish, blood and bonemeal on the second day, repeating this process for 10 days, after which I gave a final feed of a high potash organic fertiliser.
By this time it was beginning to heat up, peaking as you can see at a rather impressive 143deg F. I kept it covered with cardboard until the temperature had started to drop and when it got to 80deg. I planted my courgettes and squashes. I will update you on how it goes – so far the plants look very happy and don’t appear to be cooking!