Idea: Straw Bale Garden Bed; Santa Rosa, CA

Natural Materials With a No-Till Future

One of our primary intentions for the 8th & Bee Homestead blog is to showcase the multitudes of fantastic ideas and models of garden, food forest, water conservation, soil building, etc solutions, and more. We’ll be visiting homestead and farm sites far and wide, and featuring easy-to-replicate solutions here.

In this how-to, we spotlight a straw bale garden bed project from Santa Rosa, CA. Click any of the images below to enlarge.

Start With Straw BalesSetting-Bales-Crop

For those of you in the Sonoma County area, you can also see an example of these garden beds at Tolay Regional Park. The homeowners liked this model for the natural materials, and because it can broken down in the future, adding organic content to the soil, from the straw and green waste.

A total of five straw bales were used (3 front and one on each side). A more traditional wood side was used for the back, to adjust to the slope of the yard.

Completed BoxGarden-Bed-Built-Crop

Here you can see the completed box. Wood planks were used for the back of the bed due to the slope of the yard (vs digging much more into the yard to be able to place and level hay bales all around).

Metal rebar stakes were used to stabilize the planks and the front bales and 1×1 hardware cloth was used to line the bottom, to keep gophers and other critters out.

The straw bales will help slow and sink water flowing down the slope of the yard during the rainy months.

Bring on the SoilGarden-Ramp-Crop

Approximately 2 1/2 yards of soil was used to fill the bed. Check your local area for organic or biodynamic soil options.

Check out that creative ramp solution to help get the wheelbarrow up and over the straw bale wall!

Planting and WaterGarden-Planted-Crop

A simple drip system was installed and a diverse planting of kale, chard, squash, sunflowers, lettuces and more!

Early SummerAxtell-Garden-EarlySummer-Crop

The Early Summer garden in full effect. You can see the diverse planting layout even better here, along with some great stacked functions in action. Note the taller and leafier plants providing cover for smaller crops.

The homeowners have also planted a number of other crops in containers around the perimeter of the main bed.

Late SummerAxtell-Garden-LateSummer-Crop

The squash runneth over, but fills the yard space nicely. The owners have said they’ll plant those in a separate bed next time, but they’re also good in this current setting (maybe at a smaller scale) as a companion plant.

If you have a project or solution to share — simple or complex — tell us about it! Food, soil, water, and neighborhood or food justice examples of any kind are all welcome. 

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