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"How to Grow the Best Strawbale Strawberries: A Beginner's Guide"

We love straw-bale planting and have found that the best way to grow a small stand of strawberries is in straw-bales. One of the main reasons gardeners get frustrated with growing strawberries, is because of the constant weed competition. Serious growers can incorporate matted row systems or installing fabric mats or barriers. Although both are excellent ways to help keep the weeds from taking over your berry garden, we have found that straw-bale planting has more benefits. The process is quite easy. There is a ton of information on the internet about this method of gardening. I will tell you what we did and what works for us. Like everything you read, it may help you and it may not. But hopefully you will be able to take away some useful information to help you in your quest to having the easiest strawberry garden ever!


STEP ONE- FINDING YOUR BALES: The hardest part of the entire process is finding good clean bales. I say clean, because you want them to be of good quality and not weedy. If possible, take a drive to the location you will be purchasing the bales from. How do their fields look? You also want to make sure the farmer has not applied any herbicides to the field where the straw to make the bales had been cut from. If you are unable to find this information out, don't fret. You can still straw-bale garden! You just may have to do a little weeding of your bales! We also need to remember to start this process well before we are ready to plant. The bales will need to be prepped before planting!


STEP TWO-LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION:

After acquiring your bales you need to pick a location that is level, and in full sun. Line your bales up in a way that you can easily work around them and between them. The more bales you have the more you may have to stabilize them. If you have short runs, a Metal T-post on each end is sufficient. Longer runs, I use wooden tomato stakes in every other bale. The key is to make sure they are pushed tightly together when staking. Yes, these bales will eventually break down, but the tighter together they are the better they hold their shape.


TIP!!!!!!!! The first year we did this, I was forced to weed-eat along my bales and I ended up accidentally cutting through the baler twine of some bales. This caused those bales to break down faster. If you are a reckless weed-eater like myself you may want to lay weed barrier, mulch or use wire twine to secure your bales before planting into them!


STEP THREE-PREPPING:

After you have your bales placed and ready you want to prep them. This is where it gets a little hairy. You will read TONS of information on this. It can be quite overwhelming. For the first time you do this, don't get to deep into the science of it. We learn from what we do. If your results were not satisfactory then you know there is something you need to tweak. Our first time, we kept it simple and had great success. The next year we tried something a little different to compare. Have fun with the process and don't over think it. With all that being said, prepping is the act of preparing your bales to become nutrient rich growing mediums. We started by simply adding a 12-12-12 fertilizer mixture to the top of our bales. If this is not available find something high in Nitrogen. After applying the fertilizer, we heavily watered the bales. We let the bales set undisturbed until we see the emergence of mushrooms. This is when we plant.




PLANTING INTO THE BALES

Once the bales are ready, we use Fiskars Big Grip Garden Knife to create holes into the bales. Start by aggressively inserting the garden knife and rotating to loosen the straw. Then by using your fist, make a nice bowl shape to place topsoil/compost mixture.

Add your topsoil/compost mixture into each bowl.

Once you have enough places in your bales to plant you are going to take your strawberry root and again using the Fiskars Big Grip Garden Knife ( We use the heck out of this thing for everything on the farm! It makes so many jobs easier! ) you will insert your root in the small notch of your knife and push into the soil. Pay attention to not plant your strawberry root to deep.

Continue this method until all your roots are planted. Once completed, water generously.



HOW MUCH DO I WATER?

The great thing about straw-bale gardening is that they hold moisture really well. We simply stick our fingers into the bales to see how "wet" they are and water accordingly. On very hot summer days with long dry stretches we try to water every few days.


ENJOY

Now that your strawberries are planted you can enjoy your harvest!



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