Baxter County Master Gardener Program • University of Arkansas System • Division of Agriculture • © 2013 BCMG
How to Condition and Plant a Straw Bale Garden from bonnieplants.com
#1. Choose a spot in a sunny area. If the area is grassy, put newspaper or cardboard beneath to keep grass and weeds from growing. You could also put the bale on cement or on a frame to hold it. The Bonnie Plant site has plans for a frame.
#2. Place bale where you want to grow the plants because once you start to condition the bale it will be too heavy to move it.
#3. Place bale narrow side up so string is on the side. You will have less chance of cutting the string that way while planting.
#4. Turn the bale so the cut straw side is up. Cut/hollow straw will allow moisture to penetrate better into the bale.
Conditioning the bale.....10-14 days before planting. Bale will begin to decompose with moisture.
Days 1-3 Water bale so it stays damp.
Days 4-9 Use a liquid fertilizer in addition to watering to add nitrogen to speed decomposition.
Days 10-14 Start watering only, again, until bales inner temperature is similar to the outside temperature.
Use a meat thermometer to check the inner temp.
Choosing plants: Avoid tall plants like corn or indeterminate tomatoes (which may need support) and running plants like sweet potatoes which require large areas to grow.
To plant bale: Space plants as you would in soil
Fertilizers: Bonnie Plants has suggested a liquid fertilizer of their brand, you can also use Miracle Gro, an organic fertilizer or numerous others. Use at strength recommended.
Happy Straw Bale Gardening, Barrie Hazelton
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