prepairing straw bales for vegetable planting

imn2plntsMarch 22, 2012

Greetings everyone,

I am new to this forum and from what I have read here it seems to be an interesting, friendly and informative place. I would like to say hello to all of you and good luck in all your endeavors. I am starting a straw bale vegetable garden this year and would like to ask a question about preparing the straw for planting. I watered the bales for three days then added 1/2 cup of ammonium nitrate per bale for three days and then 1/4 cup ammonium nitrate per bale for three days. I watered in the ammonium nitrate well with each application. From what I have read the straw is supposed to heat up during this process as it is decomposing but I have yet to detect any heat. My questions are:

a. How long should it take for this heating process to run it's course?

b. Being as it has been 10 days since I began this process and the straw is cool to the touch is it safe to plant vegetable seedlings at this point?

c. Should I give it more time to heat up and cool down and if so should I stop the ammonium nitrate or keep applying it?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It is a very unusual method of gardening so you might get more info from a site that focuses on the method rather than one that is traditional gardening oriented. I did find this one long discussion about it from over on the Garden Experiments forum.

And a Google search pulls up several links to info on how-to do it and I linked a set of step-by-step videos below and I hope they are of help.

Just a guess on my part but I would suspect, from what I have read, that your bales are too fresh since partially decomposed bales is what is called for. But it looks like you could still hollow out the core and fill it with potting soil for planting.

Hope this helps.


Here is a link that might be useful: Straw bale gardening videos

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 10:43AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

I had never heard of that method of gardening until last spring, when the clerk at the local gas station was telling me about it. She said you had to wait 3 weeks before planting.

I asked through the summer how it was going, and she said the seeds sprouted, but they weren't doing well. By the end of summer, she declared it a total disaster and a waste of effort (not to mention not getting much in the way of crops). She said something hatched and the bales were surrounded by clouds of some kind of small flying insects.

She said she would never do it that way again.

Then I googled 'bale garden failure', and got lots of hits agreeing with her view. Below is one of them.


Here is a link that might be useful: Baling out of the perfect garden dream

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 11:54AM
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Thank you for the information digdirt and belgianpup.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 2:24PM
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