Growing Cucumbers In Straw Bales – How To Grow Cucumbers Like Crazy!

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After receiving numerous inquiries and emails regarding the cultivation of cucumbers in straw bales, we’ve concluded it’s high time to devote an entire article to this wonderfully straightforward and efficient method of growing an abundance of delectable cucumbers.Our journey with cultivating cucumbers in bales began back in 2014 as a mere experiment in our garden. Remarkably, that initial endeavor remains our most cherished and triumphant to date.For us, the simplicity of growing cucumbers in straw bales is irresistible. Planting is a breeze, and both tending to and harvesting the crop are equally effortless.

growing cucumbers in straw bales
Believe it or not, there is a straw bale underneath that mass of a cucumber plant. We are always amazed every year at just how well our cucumbers grow in straw bales!
Growing Cucumbers The Easy Way – In Straw Bales

There are numerous advantages to growing cucumbers in straw bales. Firstly, by elevating your plants in straw bales, weed management becomes nearly effortless, sparing you the constant task of weeding. Moreover, the absence of competing weeds ensures that your plants receive the full spectrum of nutrients without interference.

Yet, the benefits don’t stop there. With your crop raised above ground level, pest issues are significantly minimized. Additionally, tasks such as watering, fertilizing, and harvesting become exceedingly simple with this elevated setup.

Furthermore, the combination of straw and soil we employ provides cucumber plants with optimal conditions, including essential nutrients, ideal moisture levels, and efficient drainage.

However, many inquiries revolve around the process itself. Questions like whether conditioning the bales is necessary, how to prevent straw bale disintegration, and where to incorporate the soil are common. Today’s article aims to address all these queries and guide you through the process of planting your cucumbers using our method.

Our approach to planting in straw bales differs from many methods found online, yet we find it remarkably simpler and less convoluted.

growing cucumbers in straw
Our cucumber plants in their straw bales early in the growing season. If you look in the background, you can see that we also grow our zucchini using the same method!

Moreover, it has consistently demonstrated remarkable productivity, a testament to our nearly decade-long experience employing this method. With this in mind, let’s delve into the process of cultivating cucumbers prolifically in straw bales!

Growing Cucumbers In Straw Bales – How It Works & How To Do It!

Why Straw Bales Work Great For Cucumbers

Straw bales serve as an ideal medium for cultivating cucumbers. The elevated height of the bale keeps the plants safely above ground level, providing ample space for them to spread and cascade over the sides as they grow.

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This attribute is particularly advantageous for vining cucumber varieties, allowing them the freedom to sprawl and flourish. Yet, the benefits extend beyond just physical support. Straw bales possess excellent moisture retention properties, a crucial factor in successful cucumber cultivation.

When it rains or when you water the plants, the straw swiftly absorbs and delivers moisture to the roots, ensuring consistent hydration. Similarly, when applying liquid fertilizer, the straw efficiently absorbs and distributes the nutrients directly to the root system, where they are most needed for optimal growth.

Listen Below To Our Podcast On Growing Vegetables In Straw Bales!

Planting In A Straw Bale – The Simple Steps To Success

Let’s begin by discussing the straw bales and our planting process. We prefer using traditional rectangular wheat straw bales, which typically measure around 24 inches wide, 16 inches high, and 48 inches long. These bales usually come with three strings around them, which we keep intact.

Unlike some methods, we opt not to condition our bales before planting. Conditioning involves allowing the bale to partially decompose, which can be beneficial if you’re not using any soil for planting. However, we’ve found that incorporating a bit of soil is not only more effective but also quicker and easier.

We plant three cucumber plants per straw bale. Before planting, we cut three holes into the top of the bale, spacing them evenly apart. Typically, we offset the middle plant slightly toward the front or back of the bale to create a triangular planting pattern.

For cutting the holes efficiently, we use either a sharp serrated garden knife or a reciprocating saw equipped with a 12-inch construction blade. Each hole is approximately ten inches deep and six to eight inches wide in diameter.

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We cut out each planting hole in the bale, then fill it with a powerful mix of soil.
Fill Your Planting Holes With Power!

Following that, we proceed to fill the holes with our homemade potting soil mixture. Our blend comprises soil, compost, worm castings, perlite, and a touch of coffee grounds and pulverized eggshells. Utilizing a nutrient-rich soil mix is crucial for achieving success in cucumber cultivation.

Ensure that whatever mixture you use isn’t solely ordinary garden soil or topsoil. The higher the nutrient content in your soil, the better. At this stage, you can opt to plant seeds or transplants, though we find seeds to be more straightforward. Once the plants are in place, we finalize the process by mulching them with some of the straw we initially removed from the bales.

By adopting this planting method, we circumvent the need for conditioning the bale. Moreover, the combination of soil encased in straw proves to be optimal for cucumber root systems. The soil provides structural support for the roots, while the surrounding straw effectively retains moisture.

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Giving Our Straw Bales Support – Growing Cucumbers In Straw Bales

Before delving into the specifics of fertilizing and watering your cucumber crop, let’s address an additional measure we take to provide extra support to our straw bales.

While it’s possible to plant cucumbers directly into a straw bale without requiring any additional support, we opt to enhance stability by constructing a homemade “fence” around our bales. These straightforward supports, which we refer to as straw bale crates, serve several crucial purposes.

Using 2×4’s, we build a simple crate to hold our bales intact. They are also great for attaching a trellis to as well.

Crafted from 2×4s, pallet wood, or even scrap lumber, these crates not only enhance the visual appeal of the bales but also offer two significant growing benefits.

Primarily, they help maintain the integrity of the bales throughout the season. Without them, the bales tend to deteriorate and collapse over time, leading to loose and exposed roots, which can cause the plants to dry out too quickly. By using the crates, we typically extend the lifespan of each straw bale to two years, making them well worth the effort of construction, especially considering their reusable nature.

Additionally, the crates provide an excellent platform for attaching a trellis or fence panel, which proves invaluable when cultivating vining cucumbers. Not only does this setup offer sturdy support, but it also facilitates easy harvesting, with the fruit conveniently positioned at eye level.

Constructing the crates is a simple process of screwing together a few 2x4s around a bale. What’s more, they boast impressive durability, as evidenced by our continued use of the same crates for the past six years with no signs of wear.

Maintaining Your Plants – Growing Cucumbers In Straw Bales

Similar to cucumbers cultivated in gardens or raised beds, ensuring adequate watering and fertilization is crucial for the success of cucumbers grown in straw bales.

Due to their elevated position, cucumber plants in straw bales tend to dry out slightly faster than those planted directly in soil. This effect is particularly pronounced when the plants are young and lack substantial foliage to provide shade and reduce soil moisture loss.

cucumber plant
By creating a hole of soil in the bale, you can give plants the extra nutrients and protection they need to develop strong roots.

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During the initial few weeks, we water our straw bale plants daily, treating them akin to hanging baskets or container plants. As the foliage becomes denser, they often require watering every couple of days.

A helpful tip for watering: as your cucumber plants grow and spread, it can become challenging to locate the base of the plant. To address this, we insert a small wooden stake near the roots during planting. As the plants grow denser, the stake serves as a guide for watering, indicating the location of the base of the plant.

Fertilizing – Growing Cucumbers In Straw Bales

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