You can create a quick, easy raised bed using bales of straw. The idea is simple: You form a bed frame with the bales, then fill the space inside with a mixture of premium quality potting soil and compost. A raised bed made of straw bales is a convenient, inexpensive way to build your first garden or add to your existing growing space.
Bales of wheat straw, oat straw, or alfalfa straw work best. Hay bales also work, but they carry a lot of seeds, which may become a nuisance. Look for bales bound with synthetic twine, which won’t break down.
Over the first growing season, the bales will settle and decompose a bit, adding nutrients to the thriving garden inside. A raised bed made of straw bales could last a couple of growing seasons, depending on where you live. (It will decompose more quickly in warmer, damper climates.) As an added bonus, when the straw does begin to break down, it will begin to create a rich soil you can use for future planting.
(Some gardeners plant directly into the bales, which requires that they first “cure” the bales so that they break down and create a composting, soil-like growing environment. You can learn more about this technique in our HAY BALE GARDENING: EFFORTLESS FOOD PRODUCTION WITH NO WEEDS, NO FERTILIZER & LESS WATERING (VIDEO)
Step 1: Plan your bed shape and size, and buy the number of bales accordingly.
Step 2: Arrange the bales in a square or rectangle. Fit them together tightly.
Step 3: Fill the bed with soil. We used half potting mix and half compost.
Step 4: Arrange a soaker hose on top of the soil, and attach it to your primary hose and spigot.
Step 5: Plant the bed with Bonnie Plants vegetables and herbs.
Once you have the bales and have arranged them in your yard, the next step is to “condition” your bales. Buy yourself some 42-0-0 fertilizer, or some urea (nitrogen), and from here you will be introducing nitrogen into the bales over a 10-day period that will have the fungi, bacteria and insects breaking down your bales into fresh, virgin compost to feed your plants. You can also pee on your bales, as it is high in nitrogen and minerals, so start saving up pee in bottles for a fertilizer cost savings of about $40.
Days 1,3,5,7,9 – Add 1/2 cup of nitrogen to your bales and spray them with water so the nitrogen will soak in.
Days 2,4,6,8,10 – Soak the bale with water only.
During the conditioning process, the temperature of the bale will rise significantly, from my research, up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, the bales will become so hot that it’s important to keep the bales wet to eliminate the risk of a fire. Although risk of fire is minimal, keep this in mind when deciding where to stage your bales. When the conditioning process is complete, you’ll know it because the temperature inside the bale will have come back down from hot to warm. Now you’re ready to plant!
Simply plant your vegetable seeds or germinated seeds into the bale, water them once a day and you’re on your way to healthy produce in a few exciting months. The best part is, at the end of the season you’ll have yourself a heap of fresh compost that you can further compost or add to your other gardens or perennial plant beds for nourishment.