Red Monkey Flower
Red Monkey Flower
Red Monkey Flower

This simple method gets results!

All you need are some straw bales
Fish emulsion and/or bone meal/well rotted manures
Liquid kelp if you wish for trace minerals
Compost or sterilized bagged ammendment to dress the top

The Straw Bale Method

Soak your bale with water and fish emulsion every day for a week. Let it get hot and rot a bit - about a week or two. The bale is ready to plant when it is no longer piping hot. Spread a good layer of compost over the top and plant into the bale using seeds or starts. You can dig a hole and fill with compost before planting. Squid guts worked really well buried into the bale before planting tomatoes this year. Fish heads would be good too for heavy feeding crops.

You will need to keep checking moisture levels as the bale will hold more water than soil will (certainly more than sandy soil!). Keep it from drying out with attentive watering. Installing a timed drip works great too.

The advantages are numerous:

  • Inexpensive! Straw bales run about $4-6 a bale
    (use straw bales- not hay - you don't need sprouting hay seeds)
  • Less work! You don't need to build beds or bring heavy top soil in to your garden
  • If there are areas of contamination in your yard (motor oil, toxins) you can contain your planting area in the bale
  • The planting zone is now easier to reach because the bales are high
  • Bales are easy to keep weed free
  • Bales hold moisture well (better than the sandy soil in Marina)
  • Bales will be warmer than planting in the soil - good for tomatoes!
  • You can lay down bird wire before laying down the bale to keep out gophers
  • After the bale falls apart, you can use as mulch in other areas of the garden
  • If you are growing tomatoes or potatoes, you can keep viruses from building up in the soil by using a fresh bale each year

Check out these links that describe straw bale gardening in detail

Visit Amy Stewart on her video clip on Straw bale gardening

Wenatchee World article in response to Amy Stwarts article in Fine Gardening

BBC News "Pee Bales"


or just visit YouTube and type in" Straw Bale Gardening"

It really works!
Even in the coastal summer fog!