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Why have I got interested in this? by Margaret Hall

About two years ago one of the men in our club happened to mention “straw bale gardening” in a casual discussion we were having. I “pricked my ears up” because where I live at the Aspiring Lifestyle Village I was having some difficulty with a piece of land which did not drain well, and receives extra water off a glass house roof whenever we had significant falls of rain. I decided that maybe straw bale gardening would be worth trying.

Pea straw is plentiful here in our area, the cost is reasonable and so in 2019 my experimental venture began with 2 bales of straw and 4 pumpkin plants. I made sure the area got plenty of sun and that about 1 week before I planted the pumpkin plants I thoroughly wet the bales.

Lie the bales in a way that the twine is on the side and a cut side is uppermost. I had also been told that because the bales do not have much in the way of nutrients, you use a good dose of nitrogen in the hole where the plant is put.

I grew my own plants from seed, made a good sized hole in the bale, and put in a mixture of potting mix, nitrogen and a little general fertiliser before putting in the plants. It is essential in hot weather to keep the straw watered and also give additional liquid fertiliser to the plants now and then. The pumpkins grew well – trailing all over the ground and from 4 plants I had 6 quite large pumpkins. And the bonus is the straw breaks down into wonderful mulch for the garden.

And so last summer I had three bales of straw, 4 pumpkin plants and 2 courgettes – 1 pumpkin plant died (not sure why) but everything else did well – still eating the pumpkins and we had enough courgettes to give many away.

This season I think I will try the pumpkins and courgettes and also parsnips. For the parsnips I will make a space right along the top of the bale, fill it with potting mix and fertiliser and plant the seeds in that.

During the growing season you probably will need to give the plants a dose of liquid fertiliser. If the leaves of plants turn yellow there is a nitrogen deficiency, if purpling of the leaves it may be potassium or brown leaf edges can indicate potassium deficiency

According to what I read quite a wide variety of vegetables can be grown including tomatoes and peppers and potatoes.

A distinct advantage is that you can put the straw bales on ground which is unsuitable or in poor condition for growing.

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