Thursday, April 28, 2011

How To: Straw Bale Beds

At the Escalante Community Garden (ECG), we’re all about aesthetics, inclusivity, and the 3 R’s (reducing, reusing, and recycling).  That’s why we decided to install some straw bale beds in our garden.  Straw bale beds are an excellent way to use a natural material to build unique raised-beds that are both beautiful and physically accessible for most people.  Here’s how you do it:

1.)  Obtain approximately 8-15 straw bales per raised bed you want to construct (depending on shape/design of bed).  Straw bales are typically sold at garden supply stores, or from local farmers.
Note: 2 stringer straw bales are typically 36” X 18”, 3 stringer bales are usually 48” X 24”.  Also, straw bales are better than hay.  Hay bales often contain more weed seeds, and could bring weeds into your garden.
2.)  Determine a flat location to build your bed(s).
3.)  Lay the straw bales out in your garden in the shape you want (1 bale high).  We use rectangles at the ECG, but feel free to be creative in your space!  You can create a circle, square, triangle, or something else!
4.)  For natural weed control, consider applying a few layers “lasagna” down at the bottom of the bed: alternating layers of cardboard and black, soy ink newspaper.
5.)  Fill the beds with your favorite organic compost.  We use EcoScraps.
6.)  Plant whatever delicious veggies you want to grow!  We recommend growing more shallow plants, such as: lettuce, potatoes, radishes, and corn.
7.)  ENJOY your harvest!

Note: When the straw begins to deteriorate after a few growing seasons, you can add it to your compost pile; the straw from the bales will act as a great semi-composted material!  If you don’t have a compost pile, use this as an opportunity to start one!


One of the ECG's Straw Bale Beds

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