Straw bale gardens are a vegetable lover's dream—they're easy to make, versatile, and inexpensive. Use these straw bale garden instructions to build your own for fresh herbs and vegetables right outside your door.

By Claire Harmeyer

Straw bales are more than just a fall decoration to arrange pumpkins and gourds around—they're a bed that can grow these vegetables, plus many others! Straw bale gardens offer small-space gardeners the opportunity to grow vegetables just about anywhere. Say goodbye to digging, weeding, and other labor-intensive gardening tasks. Simply water your bale, dig a hole, and plant all of your favorite veggies inside.

The easiest vegetables to grow in a straw bale include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettucebeans, peas, and herbs. Once you've become a master straw bale gardener, you can tackle squash, cucumbers, zucchini, and pumpkins. Tip: For larger plants, only two of each variety should be grown in a bale, while up to five smaller plants can grow in one bale. Your straw bale will eventually turn to compost, so it can feed your garden the following year. How's that for organic gardening? Learn how to make your own straw bale garden with these three easy steps, and you'll have a go-to gardening plan for years to come.

Keeping Deer Away

We asked Joel Karsten, author of Straw Bale Gardens Complete, Third Edition and the originator of the straw bale gardening method, his tips on keeping deer away from your garden:

  • Electric fencing, set at exactly 32-inch and 7-inch height.
  • Bird netting stretched and suspended 3 inches above the ground around the garden. Deer don’t like the feel of it on their hooves, yet you can walk on it and run a wheelbarrow without difficulty.
  • Motion sensor sprinklers work well but must be set up very early and way before planting.
  • Double fencing; two 4-foot fences 3 inches apart work better than a 7-foot-tall fence but not as well as a 9-foot-tall fence. Deer won’t jump a fence without a landing zone on the other side. They can jump high or far, but not both. So two short fences are more effective than one tall one, and cheaper and easier to set up.

Buy it: Straw Bale Gardens Complete, $25

  • Working time 1 hr
  • Start to finish 2 weeks
  • Difficulty Easy
  • Involves Digging, Planting
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What you need

Tools
Materials
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How to do it

Step 1

Condition Straw Bale

To properly condition your straw bale for planting, you'll need to monitor its moisture levels. Water the bale thoroughly for three days to make sure it stays damp—check for moisture and heat by pushing your hand inside the bale. During the next six days, use a liquid fertilizer to ensure that the bale has enough nitrogen to grow healthy plants. Any standard vegetable mix from your local gardening store will work. After feeding the bale, keep it damp for two more days before planting. Finally, when the bale is warm—but cooler than your hand—you're ready to plant!

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Step 2

Dig Hole

Using a garden trowel, dig out the middle of the straw bale. Dig a hole slightly deeper and wider than the plant's roots. If you want to grow a tomato plant in your straw bale, dig a deeper hole than you would for other vegetables, like peppers, cucumbers, and squash.

Step 3

Plant Vegetables

Insert plants of your choice into the straw bale. Fill in around the plants with potting soil. Water well. Fertilize every week or two—doing so will make up for the nutrients that the plants would normally receive when planted in soil.

Editor's Tip

For top-heavy plants like tomato and corn, choose dwarf varieties to avoid breaking apart the bale.

Comments (1)

How difficult was this project?
Anonymous
March 26, 2019
I'm an e farmer. do you used wheat or oat straw? other than that, i'm going to try this year.

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