#straw bale gardening


Potatoes out of the straw bale garden today.  

I can’t believe you managed to grow potatoes in them! Great idea.

My Bedstefar used to grow potatoes just under a carpet of straw, because he liked to eat them raw, and it was much easier to pick them one-by-one when they were grown without soil.

#straw bale gardening

(via misadventured-piteous-overthrows)


I was very successful growing brassicas, Red Kuri Squash, Tomatoes (fertilised by leftover liquid coffee), and other crops in fermenting straw bales this year. Peppers were not successful in these gardens.

The bales provide nutrition, heat, and worm food as they break down, which extends the growing season and accelerates crop cycles. The resulting soil is light and fluffy, allowing for excellent root penetration. Ambient heat around the fermenting bales creates a microclimate, which allows me to keep growing cold-tolerant crops, even after frost.

My four main straw bale gardens were arranged in a long row, enclosed by a wattle fence I made out of red dogwood, coppiced in the local area.

After removing the summer crops, the bales were looking a little worse for wear, so I removed the bale twine, and manually compressed them by about 20cm (picture 2, above). I also added a top-dressing of more soil.

The result is, they have broken down into one long raised bed! I have planted it with my over-winter crops of broccoli romanesco, kale, and some short crops of pak choi and various salad greens. In the coldest parts of winter, I’ll easily be able to fit a row cover over the raised bed.

This was my first year growing in straw bale gardens, and I am thus far very happy with the result. I was glad I had the foresight to build a retaining wall around them, and my advice for folks looking to try these gardens would be to do the same. My two free-standing straw bales gardens will be cannabalised into mulch at the end of the season.

Read more: Straw Bale Gardens (USA / Canada / UK & Europe)

Veggie Bed #5

Using a combination of mulching techniques, I turned this former triangle of grass around a radio tower into a productive polyculture growing space, comprised of:

  • And a living fence/espalier of 15 quince trees, bordering the interior sunken plane around the radio tower. Vines of all sorts use the tower as a trellis.

I am growing many things in it this year, but it is slowly transitioning into a dedicated space for perennial vegetables.

Currently, this area contains:

  • Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes (the flower stalks are almost 3 metres high!) - perennial
  • Asparagus - perennial
  • Artichokes - perennial
  • Egyptian Walking Onions - perennial
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Chinese celery
  • Zucchini
  • Pumpkins
  • Swiss Chard
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Calendula
  • Marigolds
  • Naturtiums
  • Morning Glory

More (tagged as #biodiverseed veggie beds):  Veggie Bed #1Veggie Bed #2 - Veggie Bed #3Veggie Bed #4


The many uses of straw in the garden! I am putting the 8 free straw bales to good use with 5 straw bale gardens, and 3 bales for garden mulch.

I just finished that section of the brickwork path this last fall (1, 2, 3), made from bricks from the 1950s that I dug up in the garden. The raised beds are my new lasagna gardens, which are part hugelkultur as well.

You’ll have to excuse all the wires and chaos: my husband is a radio amateur, and he has antennas all over the garden right now.

#straw bale gardening #mulch #DIY

Mini wattle fence, to hold the herbs in the herb spiral.


Wattle fences and retaining walls can easily be built from the leftovers of pruning, or from coppiced wood. This technique is the most basic form of fence construction, having been in use since Neolithic times.

I continually harvest apple, dogwood, willow, and hazelnut wood from designated coppicing trees in my yard, because these local species happen to grow both quickly and straightly. There are a number of “fences in progress” that are built higher every time I go around and maintain trees. Preparing materials is easy: I trim the bases of prunings down to sturdy fence posts of a uniform height and circumference; the rest I trim into flexible pieces for weaving the rest of the fence. The leftovers from all of this are piled up in #hugelkultur mounds. I hammer the posts down 1/3 of their height, and the rest is just simple weaving back and forth, between posts.

I have used this method for #raised beds, #straw bale gardens, and purely for aesthetic purposes with great success, but then again, I am not one to complain when it’s 100% free!


Veggie Bed #4

Cross section of a new no-dig, raised “lasagna” bed // summer growth.

I am mixing three different kinds of raised bed technique here to raise/even the grade, and create a workable soil surface without digging: lasagna gardening, straw bale gardening, and hugelkultur.

#Lasagna gardening is using newspaper or cardboard, layered with compost, in order to build up the height of a raised bed.

#Straw bale gardening is planting crops in fermenting straw bales, which provides heat, moisture retention, and nutrition to crops.

#Hugelkultur (“hill culture” in German) is building up the grade of the soil using logs, sticks, and other forms of wood, and covering with compost, which sequesters carbon, and provides a nutritious, well-drained, elevated, aerated substrate for plants.


  • Red Kuri Squash, planted in a straw bale (Thanks to desixlb for the seeds)
  • Scarlet Runner Beans, using an old crib as a trellis (Thanks to kihaku-gato for the seeds)
  • Hild’s Ideal Brussels Sprouts
  • Spring Onions

More (tagged as #biodiverseed veggie beds):  Veggie Bed #1Veggie Bed #2 - Veggie Bed #3Veggie Bed #5


Red kuri squash in a straw bale garden, bordering a hugelkultur raised bed, with a trellis for runner beans made from a discarded crib. Brussels sprouts and spring onions fill out the rest of the bed.

#polyculture #straw bale gardening #raised beds #biodiverseed veggie beds #companion planting

Coffee Feeders

Previously: Coffee As Fertiliser

As discussed in “Coffee As Fertiliser,” I have been collecting and fermenting old coffee left in the pot to be used as fertiliser for my plants. Liquid coffee possibly contains more magnesium and potassium than coffee grounds, and is more acidic, but beyond that, there is not a tonne of research on how it impacts plant growth.

I have begun an experiment in slowly feeding the coffee (diluted with rainwater) to my newly out-planted peppers and tomatoes in the #straw bale gardens.

This year, I planted in simple plastic cups because they were either cheap or free. After planting my seedlings out, I have an abundance of cups to either wash and re-use, or re-purpose. In the absence of planting labels, I put a skewer through each cup as a placeholder label. After looking at the arrangement, I realised I’d accidentally made slow-release water and fertiliser reservoirs.

I halfway filled each cup with the old coffee mix, and after 24 hours, only a small amount has leached into the soil. This little setup should also help keep plants consistently moist on hot days.

Coffee also has the added benefit of being repellent to slugs, snails, cats, dogs, deer, and rats. It’s a great way to organically deter an array of common garden pests.

I don’t have a control group for this year that is in the Straw Bales and not being fed coffee, so this isn’t a proper #garden science post, but I will see how these fellows fare over the year as compared to their potted counterparts.

#coffee #garden science #fertiliser #straw bale gardening #pest control #peppers #tomatoes

Speaking of Straw Bale Gardening, everything is growing beautifully!

The heat from the bales has given these crops a head start compared to most other spots in the garden. I am already harvesting mizuna!

#straw bale gardening #raised beds





Find it: USA / Canada / UK & Europe

#straw bale gardening #DIY #books #raised beds #garden hacks

This is cute and all but straw is $4 a bale at a minimum and my dirt is free. Also I’m not sure how it would be weed free, because when I mulch and fertilize with straw the seeds from whatever the straw is grow and make straw weeds in my beds. I’m not convinced.


"My Dirt Is Free" should be the title of your autobiography.

Also this is one heck of a scam. Little did I know there was a straw bale pushing conspiracy out there. Jeeze people. Learn to fix your soil for planting a garden rather than … wait, was this published April 1st? Or in the Onion?

@monkeyfrog and @therealduckandpenguin 

I have 6 of these gardens, as well as 850m² of other gardens I manage, and the real benefits are:

  • Increased heat and humidity (microclimate): I live in a place with summers that are not consistently warm enough to grow certain crops outdoors (Scandinavia), and these gardens help me grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and tobacco; they also extend my growing season by about two weeks in the beginning of April. The difference in soil temperature is up to 5˚C between the bale and my other beds, and even after a late frost, my early crops were kept safe from damage (uncovered) by the mere ambient heat.
  • Water retention: they hold water for a longer time than a potted garden would.
  • Easy raised bed: the main appeal of raised beds is that they are more accessible and easier to weed for folks with mobility problems. I live with two pensionists, so these work for their needs.
  • Beneficial fungi: the decomposing bales also host a number of fungi, which provide nutrients to the plants.

I get the bales for free (in this case from a senior’s home), and I also know of a number of places where I can get them for free. However, even if they aren’t entirely free where you live, $4.00 is cheap compared to what people normally pay for raised beds or soil amendments. If you are building up your soil over poor ground (with sheet mulching, etc.) the bales can be used at the end of the season as a mulch.

As per weeds, if the bales compost outdoors over winter, and spend some time under black plastic in the early spring, the level of heat they produce as they decompose kills weed seeds. I heat treated mine before planting and haven’t had any weed problems whatsoever.

#straw bale gardening