Okay, I’m in. I had stopped putting in a real vegetable garden in favor of perennial culinary plants like artichokes and fruit trees, but after I saw Michele’s vegetable garden (pictured at right), all composted and ready for its spring planting, I started jonesing for a proper vegetable garden again.
Tomatoes and other heat loving vegetable crops are very hard to grow here because temperatures rarely get above 70 degrees. The warmest, sunniest spot in my garden is overrun by tough weeds, and I knew that I would lose the battle over the course of the summer if I just tried to put an ordinary vegetable bed there.
So I decided to try this straw bale gardening thing. There’s no digging involved and even the nastiest weeds should be smothered. The idea is that you soak bales of rice straw with water and liquid fertilizer to
get a little fermentation going. Give it about a week, top it off with compost, and plant right into it.
In this case, I formed a little square with four bales and left an opening in the middle that I filled with compost. I’m feeding and watering it every day for a week or so, and I’ve run soaker hoses across the top so that it won’t be such a chore to water. I’ve got 36 square feet of planting space here, enough for some cherry tomatoes, some squash, a few annual herbs, and maybe some peas and beans that can climb the side of the chicken coop.
I got the idea from Seattle Tilth, and there is another good article with some photos here. It suggests using wheat straw because it will be weed-free, but I’ve always used rice straw instead of wheat straw for that reason. At the end of the season, I plan to cut the strings that hold the bales together and turn the whole thing into a compost pile for the winter. Oh, and although you can’t see it here, there’s a little wire fence around the thing that I hope will keep the chickens out.
Anybody tried this? Got any words of wisdom?