A straw-bale garden made from pea straw is just about the easiest and cheapest raised garden bed to build and the best thing about it is that, over time, the straw on the outside starts to rot down and eventually the whole thing can be composted and used on the rest of the garden. Absolutely nothing is wasted!
Although it can be filled with a good quality vegetable garden mix from the local soil suppliers, it is also fun to try the no-dig method of gardening. Once it’s built all it needs is to have more organic material thrown onto the top every few months.
BUILDING THE WALLS
The size of the garden can be almost any size that you like but the dimensions are limited by the size of the bales. Most bales are 90cm long, 45cm wide and 35cm high. Think of them like enormous Lego blocks and lay them out on the ground in a rectangle shape. Make sure that it’s not too wide as you will want to be able to reach into the middle. A garden that is one bale high is fine but it can also be made two bales high.
Once the bales are in the correct position, ask an adult to hammer a stake in through each bale and into the ground. The stake should be hammered right in to the bale so that it can’t be seen and won’t be a danger. If this can’t be done, get a very long rope or thick string and wrap it around the whole thing to tie it together firmly.
FILLING THE BED
Line the base of the garden bed with flat pieces of cardboard and layers of newspaper. Spread wads of lucerne hay or pea straw over the bottom and then follow with a layer of sheep, cow or blended manure. A handful of Blood and Bone combined with Sulphate of Potash. Next put another good layer of straw and then more manure, just like making a sandwich. Water between each layer. You can also put in shredded paper, leaves from the garden or scraps from the kitchen and lunchbox. Keep going until the top is level with the top of the bales. Finally, put on a good layer of compost which is what the seedlings will be planted into.
If you want to plant into a no-dig garden straight away, choose shallow rooted plants such as lettuce, herbs, cucumbers and pumpkins or tuck potatoes in amongst the layers. Otherwise, wait for a few weeks for the mix to settle down a little and perhaps add some more compost if it is needed.
The soil and straw in the middle will settle right down. Don’t dig it over, just add more layers of straw, scraps, manure and compost and keep planting into it. Eventually, if the bales break apart, start a new garden next door with fresh bales and use the old bales to fill it up or break the old bales up and use them for the most amazing mulch throughout the garden.
TIP: If there isn’t enough compost to cover the whole garden bed, just put bucket fulls in the areas where the seedlings are going to be planted.