Straw Bale Gardening

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Flower-pot-man illustrating article on straw bale gardeningStraw bale gardening has interested me since I first read about it.

The idea of planting straight into straw and letting nature do it’s thing is very appealing – it seems so easy and I like easy.

This was my first ever attempt at planting directly into a  straw bale and I read that the best straw to use is barley.

Ordinary grass straw contains too many weed seeds which would soon strangle the growth of the other plants.

However, for some strange reason barley straw is not so easy to find in Galway unless you are looking for larger quantities and it took me months to finally lay my hands on a few bales.

I mostly looked up the for-sale adverts in the local paper but each time I rang someone who was advertising ‘straw bales for sale’ they either weren’t interested in supplying a mere ten bales, or they arranged to deliver them and then never turned up.

This not turning up thing is a particular favourite of many small businesses in Galway and has driven me slowly mad since I moved here.


Actually this has happened so many times that I began making little effigies of the no-show people out of potatoes and sticking pins in them.

So, if some straw suppliers suddenly start writhing around in great pain – you’ll know my effigy sticking is good – even if my potato growing is not 🙂

Anyway, I eventually managed to get some bales delivered from a local gravel and stone supplier and they arrived a few weeks ago.

After such a long wait I had to celebrate so I marked the event in that great Liverpool traditional way – with some lager and a packet of crisps!


After my bales arrived, the rain was constant but at least it did me a favour by saving seaweed-on-cardboard illustrating an article on straw bale gardeningme the bother of wetting the straw.

After a couple of weeks I decided to make a start on two of the straw bales. I placed them in an area beside my raised vegetable beds.

I also planted some willow here for shelter from the harsh wind coming in off the Atlantic ocean.

As you can see in this picture above we mulched this area with cardboard and seaweed last year.

My lovely hens have had a good dig and a dance around in it since then and no doubt they have added their own magic manure as well.

I was going to plant directly in to this area when the weather warmed up but being me, and this being Galway, I couldn’t wait.

Using the straw bales gave me a bit of a head start.

I placed two of the straw bales over the mulched area and planted up some potatoes.

I had saved some small ones of my own (Queens) from last year and chitted them in the airing cupboard.

Actually, I forgot all about them and these strange-looking creatures below are the result.


Since I wasn’t sure if my own strange creatures would grow I added some seed potatoes called ‘Great Scot’ which I received as one of the perks of being a member of the wonderful Irish Seedsavers.

By the way, I must give Irish Seedsavers a little plug as they do fantastic work saving our heritage seeds.

Irish Seedsavers also run great workshops and courses. They are located in Scarriff, in our neighbouring county of Clare and are well worth a visit.


Back to the bales. I added some compost and let it break down for a week or two. Then I  broke holes into the bales with a trowel and inserted the potatoes as far as I could.


I also gave them a good drink from my special home-brewed seaweed and nettle wine.

I have plenty of this since nettles grow in abundance in my garden and I am lucky enough to live near the sea.

A few months ago I had a flash of enthusiasm and decided to make quite a lot of this brew. I am glad I did because the plants respond to it really well – so I must have done something right!

straw bale illustrating an article on straw bale gardeningSo that was it – easy! In fact it was so easy I can’t help wondering if I did something wrong.

I might see if I can add a few plants later on. In the meantime I have no idea whether this experiment will work or not, so you shall have to wait and see! I really love homegrown spuds so wish me luck!

Meanwhile if you would like to learn from an expert Joel Karsten is a lot more experienced than me and he has an entire website dedicated to straw bale gardening – click here for Joel’s Straw Bale Gardens.


Have fun in your garden and if you have tried straw bale gardening yourself please do let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you.


P.S. Just a quick update – the potatoes grew wonderfully well in the straw – so if you are thinking of trying straw bale gardening – go ahead. It was much easier to access the potatoes from the straw than by digging them out of the ground.








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