Organic seeds that have been started for transplanting into straw bales or hay bales has become a popular gardening method. Two advantages for gardeners with poor soil conditions include a medium that will break down and improve the soil to some degree, as well as providing nutrients to the plants while they grow. Loose hay can be used as compost and mulching throughout the garden to protect plants, provide nutrients and reduce evaporation. Straw and hay provide slightly different benefits and can be chosen according to availability and price. Organic seeds should be planted in bales that have not been sprayed or treated with inorganic substances for best results.
It is best to begin with seedlings that have been grown from organic heirloom seeds rather than placing the seeds themselves into the bales, although if adding potting soil they can be sown directly. The following steps will help you be on your way!
• Choose the type of bale that works best for your needs. Straw contains fewer seeds and is considered the best choice by many gardeners. Look for oats, barley, wheat and rye or corn stalks. Hay bales contain more seeds as they have not been through a combine to remove them. It does however provide more nutrients for the plants and doesn’t generally require any additional nitrogen.
• Choose the placement then condition bales prior to planting organic seeds and seedlings. Water the bales for three days, and then add organic fertilizers such as blood meal or fish oil in small quantities for the next 3-5 days to begin a heat process. Continue to water the bales throughout this process. Water the bales thoroughly and check heat after 2 more days. Once they have cooled down to slightly less than body temperature organic seeds can be planted.
• Kitchen leftovers, excluding meat, can be added to the surface of the bales. This includes egg shells, vegetable peelings, etc.
• Plant organic seeds and heirloom seeds on top of the bales in a mixture of compost and potting soil. This mixture will require frequent watering to prevent it from drying out until the roots reach into the damp bales.
• Seedlings that have been started indoors from organic seeds can be planted just as they would in the garden. A small quantity of potting soil can be placed into the pocket prior to planting them if desired.
• Stake organic tomato plants as cages will not be sturdy enough when placed in the bales.
• Water and add organic fertilizers as necessary. Frequency will vary based on the climate and growing conditions.
One of the advantages of using a straw bale garden with organic seeds is the ability to garden without having to bend over or getting down on your hands and knees. Many people even carry a lightweight folding chair around to sit on one picking produce and pruning plants. There is no need to add high quality topsoil when gardening with bales. They are natural and will eventually break down and can be worked into the soil. Organic seeds, organic fertilizers and bales can be combined to create a bountiful fall produce in small or large home gardens.
Experiment with cabbage, tomato heirloom seeds, and heirloom melons for a beautiful and delicious heirloom garden grown on bales.