WHAT HAPPENS TO USED STRAW BALE GARDENS?
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)