Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Straw Bale Garden Part V: Growing Vegetables

Straw Bale Garden Part V: Growing Vegetables:
basil in straw bale garden
It’s too early to call my straw bale garden a success but, so far, the vegetables I planted in the bales are growing. I got a late start on planting–I put in the tomatoes, squash and basil in mid May/Early June–just in time for the cloudy, cool weather we have here in early summer.
raised bed vs. straw bale tomato
Check out the difference between the tomato I planted in a bale on the left, compared with a tomato in one of my raised beds. The tomato in the bale is doing a lot better.
mushrooms in straw bale
The bales are home to organisms that support healthy vegetables: mushrooms and worms. When I dug into the bales to plant some chard seedlings yesterday I found a lot of worms. I had thought that straw bale gardening was like hydroponics–essentially fertilizer added to a growing medium. But the presence of worms and mushrooms indicates that well rotted straw bales are more like the kind healthy soil that supports a web of soil organisms that, in turn, help vegetables grow.
squash in straw bale garden
Some of the plants, like this winter squash, I planted as seedlings.
cucumber in straw bale garden
Others, like this cucumber, I sowed directly into the bales by making a little hole and putting in the seed with some home made seedling mix.
Again, the vegetables in the bales are doing better than veggies in my two remaining raised beds. The reason, I believe, is that the beds are depleted and the compost I added to them was low quality.
While more resource intensive than growing in the ground or raised bed, straw bale gardening has a lot of advantages for the beginning gardener. Integrating fertilizers into a straw bale is a lot easier than making high quality compost and a lot faster. While not a long term strategy, I’m looking forward to trying straw bale gardening again.
How is your straw bale garden doing?