How to Seed a Straw Bale Garden

This entry is part [part not set] of 28 in the series Straw Bale Gardening

This post explains how to seed a straw bale garden and is part of a larger series on straw bale gardening. We are following Joel Karsten’s book Straw Bale Gardening.

First, I want to explain what Joel does, and then I will share what I did. Joel suggests taking some potting mix and making a 1-2 inch layer on top of your bales for seeds. I was going cheap, so I bought some very inexpensive compost and peat mix. For most of my bales, I just dumped it on and used my hands to spread it and pat it down.  The whole point of having the potting mix, compost, or soil is to help the seeds germinate. This top layer will stay moist and give the seeds a good medium to start in. The roots of new seeds will quickly grow down into the composting bale. Make sure to buy mix or material from a store and not use dirt from your garden. You don’t wan’t to introduce any weeds, bad seeds, or disease to your bales!

Here’s the video transcript. The post continues below.

Hi this is Chris from We are doing a series on straw bale gardening we are following Joel Karsten’s book straw bale gardens. If you want to see it on our blog, you can go to and search for straw bale gardens. Today we are talking about seeding. You don’t want to seed right on top of straw for obvious reasons. You know they are porous, you don’t wan the seeds to fall down 6-8 inches inside the bale. They will never come up. If you are doing a lettuce or something like that. So, what we do is we take some top soil. Make sure you buy it we don’t want soil from your garden because you don’t want to introduce any diseases. Take the soil This is just a composted manure with peat mixed in. You could use Miracle Grow, whatever you want. Just make sure it is from a store. Pat it down so you just have this nice little layer on top like this. We just used our hands and it was really simple. Just 1-2 inches thick is all you need. The only reason it there is to help the seeds germinate and start growing. You can see some of our lettuce is just starting to come up these different things here. Some of our beans are just starting come up over there. Once these little guys get going, the roots are just going to go down into the straw where it is decomposing and they are going to be fed and turn into really healthy plants. So I just showed you how to seed some lettuces. These are pumpkins. I’ve got a couple little patches right here. These are Dills Atlantic Pumpkins. I really want a 1000 pound pumpkin. Because it is just obnoxious and its going to be awesome. But, if it doesnt happen I’ll deal with a couple 400 pounders. That’s fine. I put three seeds in each pot here. We are going to narrow that down to 1 or 2 plants as they grow. We are going to pick the healthiest ones and let them take over and suck all the nutrients up and put them into the pumpkins. Instead of having to do the whole thing with dirt, I just made a couple of piles. The whole point is just to germinate the seeds. So don’t feel like you have to waste dirt on that. These seeds are going to start in there and come up. The roots are going to grow down the bale and hopefully, I’m going to get a couple thousand pound pumpkins.

Now, I will show you exactly how to seed a straw bale garden.

I started by dumping some of my compost and peat mix right onto the bales, over the irrigation hoses.

how to seed a straw bale garden how to seed a straw bale garden

Then I spread the topsoil edge to edge and gently patted it down with my hand. Plant the seeds like you would any other garden. Follow the directions on the seed packet. If it said to plant 1/4 inch, I planted them at 1/4 inch. Nothing special.

seeding a straw bale gardenOnce the topsoil was ready, I organized my plants. You can see what I planted at my angled trellis below. I started sweet peas, royal Burgundy beans, and a carrot mix. You will see how they come up over the next few weeks.

seeds for the straw bale gardenstraw bale garden beansOn the next bales, I planted Romaine, Iceberg, Buttercrunch, Prizehead, Pablo and Swiss Chard. Swiss Chard is a full sun plant and will be on a bale that gets full sun. The others will grow better with a little bit of shade that will come from the peas and beans growing up the trellis above.

There was one last space I had available. It is next to my asparagus patch. I will be growing a Dill’s Atlantic gigantic pumpkin there. My thinking is that by the time the pumpkin is overshadowing the asparagus, it will be time to let them grow up anyway (if you didn’t know, you can only harvest asparagus until about July 4th, at which point they need to be allowed to grow up into bushes). Supposedly, these pumpkins average 400 pounds and can grow to 1,000. On their website, they say some go over 2,000 pounds.   We will have to see what they do in an average guy’s straw bale garden. Because I only wanted 1-2 plants on a single bale, I made two dirt mounds and planted three seeds in each. Whichever is growing the best will be saved, the rest will be pulled out and possibly transplanted. I can’t wait for halloween and a couple tons of pumpkin in my front yard!

Dills Atlantic Giant Pumpkin Dills Atlantic Giant Pumpkin

I wanted to share one last thing with the new seeds. I just put the topsoil right over the hoses for the irrigation system. The water just dribbles out of it anyway, so I am not too concerned about erosion. I turned on the system for some pictures, and you can see below for yourself how well it waters them. Watch your own system and if you need to do a little extra watering until the plants roots reach the middle of the bales go ahead and do that. IMG_1252web IMG_1249web IMG_1256web


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Chris Ashbach is one of the founders of Dan330. Chris is a pilot and avid outdoorsman who loves fishing, hunting, camping, and exploring. He loves taking kids (especially his own) on trips to share his passion of the outdoors. Chris is also a gardener, volunteers at Let's Go Fishing, and teaches Sunday school. Chris holds a MA in Organizational Leadership and is faculty at a local university in Minnesota; teaching undergraduate business classes.