How to Garden in Bales of Straw


In only 10 days, you can prepare an innovative garden bed that will produce large, healthy vegetable plants, ornamentals, and just about anything else you want to grow. Growing in straw bales is a smart way to have the garden you want if your soil is poor, your space is limited, or if you have a physical limitation that makes bending and squatting difficult. Straw bales are inexpensive and can be found at farm supply stores and shops that sell animal feeds.

Step 1

Place your bale or bales of straw in a position that will be convenient for you. Situate your bale so the string that holds it together is not lying on the ground. If you place them on lawn, be aware that it will die underneath your straw bale garden.

Step 2

Run a sprinkler on top of the bale until it is soaked; 30 minutes should do the trick. Repeat watering for three days.

Step 3

Sprinkle ½ cup of ammonium nitrate on top of each bale and water again. Repeat this application and watering for three consecutive days.

Step 4

Sprinkle ¼ cup of ammonium nitrate on top of each bale for three more days, watering well after each application.

Step 5

Pour 1 cup of a general purpose fertilizer having an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10 on top of your bale on the 10th day of this project. Water it again in the same way you watered in the ammonium nitrate.

Step 6

Plant starter plants into your bale on Day 11. Use a trowel or a spatula to create a hole, or crack, for the roots. Then place your plants into their planting holes down to their first leaves. Close the hole by squeezing the sides of the bale or by tearing off a small amount of straw from the side and inserting it into the crack you made.

Step 7

Water your bale or bales frequently: they will dry out quickly, so you might need to water them twice a day, in the morning and again in the evening, according to Drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses work well and can save time if you install a timer.

Tips and Warnings

  • Hay is different from straw: use straw bales instead of hay because hay comes from grass, which contains seeds that will sprout and be difficult to weed out. Oat straw will work as will wheat straw. Pine straw is not suitable, according to the Carolina Country website. Straw bales contain only stems of the plant from which it is composed. Straw bales are generally used as animal bedding. Hay bales contain the entire plant and are generally used as animal feed. Make sure the location where you locate your bale is its permanent position because it will become too heavy to move after it is wet.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 or more bales of straw
  • Ammonium nitrate
  • Measuring cup
  • 10-10-10 fertilizer
  • Trowel


  • Beginner Gardening: Straw Bale Gardens
  • No Dig Vegetable Garden: Straw Bale Gardening
  • Carolina Country: How to Grow a Straw Bale Garden
Keywords: gardening small space, straw bale, growing vegetables flowers

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.