Straw Bale Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide

Once you’ve acquired your bales, they’ll need a bit of prep to be ready for planting. Choose the spot where you want your garden — the sunnier, the better — and arrange your straw bales. Make sure that the cut end is facing up, so that the pieces of straw act like straws and will absorb water efficiently.

The first step is to saturate them with water. Use your hose to drench them until the water begins to run out from underneath the bale.

A gardener transplants an eggplant seedling into a straw bale. Plants can be planted in straw bales from seed or transplanted when they are bigger.

Because a straw bale doesn’t have the nitrogen that soil contains, you’ll need to add some. There are multiple options for nitrogen sources, but one of the best is blood meal. Sprinkle about three cups over the top of each bale, water it in well and leave it to soak in. That’s it for day one. For the next two weeks, follow this schedule:

Day 2: Water thoroughly, adding at least 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water to each bale.

Day 3: Sprinkle 3 cups (0.75 quarts) blood meal over each bale and water it in with 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water. Once you start adding your blood meal, don’t overwater, which will force the nutrients out of the bale. You want the bale wet enough to start breaking down, but not so wet that your blood meal runs out the bottom.

Day 4: Water

Day 5: Sprinkle 3 cups (0.75 quarts) blood meal over each bale and water it in with 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water.

Day 6: Water

Day 7: Sprinkle 1.5 cups (0.3 quarts) blood meal over each bale and water it in with 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water.

Day 8: Sprinkle 1.5 cups (0.3 quarts) blood meal over each bale and water it in with 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water.

Day 9: Sprinkle 1.5 cups (0.3 quarts) blood meal over each bale and water it in with 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water.

Day 10: Water

Day 11: Water

Day 12: Water

Day 13: Water and add 2 cups (0.5 quarts) of all-purpose 5-5-5 fertilizer.

Day 14: You are ready to plant.

All the nitrogen will make the straw start composting, which in turn creates a healthy environment for plants. On day 14, you’re ready to plant. Make a divot in the straw and insert seedlings, pressing a peat moss and soil mix around them. If you are planting from seeds, spread a 1 to 2 inch (2.5 to 5 centimeter) thick layer of potting soil over the tops of your bales and plant your seeds in that, according to the instructions on the package, or as you normally would plant them.