How Are the Straw Bale Gardens Doing?
We started on July 3, 2012, looking like this. After conditioning the bale, we planted eight squash starters into our bale. How have things been going? So far, so good.
This is how the bale looks as of today. The plants look happy and are growing well, but have not produced the same amount of food as the control plants in the garden.
What have we learned?
Although the experiment is ongoing, there are a few key points I have learned so far. Examples include:
- The older the bale, the better. The plants struggled at first, so don’t expect too much too fast.
- Feed frequently. I had to feed these plants with fish emulsion monthly to get them to look like this. Without the extra bump, they were having trouble with yellowing leaves and leaf burn. I am guessing this is due to the roots having broken through the volume of soil they were planted with and venturing in to the straw only. It’s a desert in there, they needed the extra nutrition until they could get established.
- Start early. I started conditioning these bales in June, and that’s too late. I would roll the clock back two months on the whole process. That way, by the time the real heat of summer set in (late July/August for us), the plants have had plenty of stress-free time to get their roots established. When the heat sets in, they’ll be able to handle it.
- Where’s the squash? I have gotten exactly one squash from the whole bale. The garden plants have already been yielding, but the bale seems to be behind. I see more female flowers now, but we’ll have to see if they make it to the dinner table.
We’re not done yet. There are about two more months of hot, dry weather on the horizon. I think they bale will make it, but it is not keeping up with the control group in the ground. More time is needed. I remain optimistic, though, that by next spring we’ll have enough data aand practice to make this a viable gardening option.
Are you interested in straw bale gardening? Do you know someone who has done it with or without success? Talk to a fellow straw bale gardener and see if they have tips to share on starting one of your own! If you have ideas to share here, we’d love to hear it!