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The Pros and Cons of Straw Bale Gardening

Find out if straw bale gardening is right for you


container gardening picture of straw bale garden

Cukes Growing in Straw Bale Garden

Photograph © Kerry Michaels

I love straw bale gardening. It allows me to put a temporary garden in the sunniest part of my house, which happens to be the driveway. That said straw bale gardening isn’t for everyone. Here are some of the pros and cons.


Easy On Your Back – Straw bale gardening is one of the easiest and least physically taxing kinds of gardening there is. Once you get your straw bales in place, you don’t even have to bend down to pick your veggies, or pull out any weeds there might be.

Garden Anywhere – You can put a straw bale garden absolutely anywhere sunny. I wouldn’t put them on wood because they would cause it to rot, but a driveway or empty lot would be perfect.

Economical – Where I live you can get straw bales at nurseries, feed stores or even from some farms for about $7.00 per bale. I put four of them together to form my straw bale, garden so for $28.00 I had a large raised bed garden.

They Work – I have had huge success with growing vegetables in straw bales. While you have to stay on top of watering, I found that they do retain water pretty well, and as the bale ages it is turning into compost and providing nutrients that your plants can use.

It’s Cool – I love the novelty and look of the straw bale gardens.


Weeds – Even if you use straw bales, not hay bales, unless you suffocate the weeds before you plant your garden, your straw bales will sprout and if left alone will start looking like a giant chia pet. The good news is that the sprouts are easy to pull out or to trim with scissors. I’ve also had some strange weeds grow and even mushrooms and fungus, but they were either easy to get rid of or I ignored them and they didn’t harm the plants.

End of Season Funk – By the end of the growing season a straw bale garden can look ragged and pretty funky. As the bales compost, they get a little saggy and untidy. Also, if you have tall plants like large tomatoes, sometimes the bales can't hold up their weight and they can start to tip over. You can add extra staking, but I just grow shorter tomatoes, or just let them sprawl.

Bales are Heavy – Straw bales are heavy especially when wet. If you’re not very strong or have an injury, get some help setting up your garden.

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