The Best Plants for Straw Bale Gardening and How to Create Your Own

Straw bale gardens are a vegetable lover's dream because they're easy to make, versatile, and inexpensive. Use these easy instructions to make your own.

hay bale garden planter in yard terra cotta pots
Photo: Brie Passano
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 2 weeks
  • Skill Level: Kid-friendly

Straw bales make fun fall decorations for arranging pumpkins and gourds around. But they also can become a bed that can grow these vegetables, plus many others! Creating a straw bale garden lets you grow vegetables just about anywhere without requiring a lot of digging, weeding, and other labor-intensive tasks. Give your bale a good watering, add fertilizer, dig a hole in it, and plant your favorite veggies. Smaller plants, such as determinate tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, bush beans, are the best vegetables for straw bale gardening. Herbs are a good choice, too. The bale will slowly turn into compost, which you can use to feed your garden the following year. Here's how to make a straw bale garden in three easy steps.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Garden trowel
  • 1 Hand cultivator
  • 1 Container to discard straw

Materials

  • 1 Straw bale
  • 1 Liquid fertilizer
  • 1 Tomato plant
  • 2 Basil plants
  • 1 Garden soil

Instructions

  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 ensure it stays damp, checking for moisture and heat by pushing your hand inside the bale. During the next six days, use a general-purpose liquid fertilizer to ensure that the bale has enough nitrogen to grow healthy plants. After feeding the bale, keep it damp for two more days before planting. Finally, when the bale feels warm but cooler than your hand, you're ready to plant!

  2. Dig Hole

    straw bale vegetable garden
    Brie Passano

    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.

  3. Plant Vegetables

    straw bale vegetable garden tomato
    Brie Passano

    Insert plants of your choice into the straw bale. Fill in around the plants with potting soil and water everything well. Fertilize every week or two; doing so will make up for the nutrients the plants typically 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.

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