Growing plants in a bale of wheat straw is an eco-friendly alternative to gardening in plastic containers. Experiments have shown that yields are often higher, too, thanks to the build-up of heat in the decomposing straw. Bales also let you grow several plants in very little space, and they can be used on a concrete patio, deck, or driveway.
Because a bale holds plants higher than many traditional planters, you won’t have to bend over as far to care for them. You won’t need to use as much potting soil, either. As it breaks down, the straw will act as compost. Thanks to Home Depot Associate Jennifer Scott, Grow2Girl at http://community.homedepot.com, for creating this project.
Begin by tipping the wheat straw bales on their sides, with the strings facing out.
To condition the bales before you plant, keep them moist for the first two or three weeks. On days 4 through 6, sprinkle each bale with ½ cup of blood meal (if you’re an organic gardener) or a high nitrogen fertilizer (if you’re a conventional gardener) per day. Water it well into the bales.
On days 7 though 9, reduce to ¼ cup of blood meal or high nitrogen fertilizer per day, and water it well into the bales. This process will activate bacteria inside the bale, which will provide nitrogen to the plants.
By week 3, your bale is ready to plant. Select your plants. You can grow vegetables, herbs, or flowers.
Using a pair of pruners, make a few cuts in the straw. Use the pruner to pull some straw out and make a small hole for each plant. You will be making 8 holes, 4 in each bale of straw.
If planting from seeds, put 2″ of soil into each hole and add the seeds. If you’re using plants, no additional soil is needed. Put the plant into the hole and gently firm the soil around it.
Water the plants. Continue to water regularly (you may need to water 1 to 2 times per day during the growing season).
We planted 2 straw bales, using these plants:
Bale 1: ‘Black Beauty’ eggplant; Greek oregano; ‘Elegance Purple’ lavender; basil.
Bale 2: ‘Big Beef’ tomato; red bell pepper; ‘Boxwood’ basil; marigold (Marigolds add color and aid as a natural insect repellant. They also repel rabbits.)
Enjoy your straw bale planters!
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