We have experimented with growing plants in a strawbale because it gave us an instant raised bed which was more accessible for people to work with. We were also curious to see how plants would perform – the straw would provide a warm and airy growing media, a bit like a duvet, but would it dry out too quickly?
We put two bales on top of each other to raise the height further and avoid gardeners having to bend down. We chose strawberries to plant into it as the fruit would then be easy to pick as it trailed down the sides. Straw is also the traditional material used to raise the fruit from the soil and keep them clean.
One of the challenges of growing in a strawbale was cutting holes in the bale to plant into. We found using a combination of pruning saw, trowel and weeding fork to scoop the straw out, worked best. We made two litre holes and backfilled them with multipurpose compost. We heavily watered these holes and then planted the strawberries into them.
We are watering the plants every other day as wind blows through the straw and dries out more quickly than soil. However, we have identified a prized growing spot at the base of the bales where the water drains to and plants are sheltered from the wind. Here we planted nasturtiums and borage – both seen as good companions to strawberries and the tomatoes in the other beds nearby, as they encourage pollinators.