French Straw Bale Garden Grows Crops and Flowers On Urban Balcony
July 11, 2013 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Spotted in April at Paris’s urban garden show Jardins Jardin: a very original and beautiful concept by Thomas Hanss and Raphaël Cloix of Société Architecture des paysages. Une Récolte en Ville (City Harvest) is a stylish mini-straw bale garden fit for a terrace, deck or balcony. I love how the straw bale looks juxtaposed with this urban decorative iron balcony railing.
We’re used to seeing straw bales used for vegetable gardens, the bales always placed in neat rows or creative designs on the ground. Here’s a particularly gorgeous example:
Photo via Joel Karsten.
Straw bales can really come to the rescue when soil is bad or space is limited. Plants love them! Why not make them decorative?
What makes this option extra beautiful for a terrace is the fact that you can grow your flowers and herbs on all sides of the bale. The entire surface of the bale is open for business!
But while hanging on the terrace, wouldn’t the straw just kind of fall apart and make a mess? No, it won’t fall to pieces in front of your eyes. Here’s why: before planting in a straw bale, you have to “condition” it.
How to Condition the Straw Bale
This can be a 12-day to 3-week process, depending on your predisposition for thoroughness and the particulars of your climate. Conditioning the bale requires soaking it daily and applying the nitrogen fix of your choice intermittently. Bone meal, fishmeal or compost will do the trick. By soaking it day after day and applying the nitrogen fix, the bale begins to decompose, which makes for great growing.
Photo via Root Simple .
This conditioning is what enables the straw bale to retain its shape. Since the bale will be hanging, keep it soaked. Also, as you can see on Une Récolte en Ville, using netting or thicker twine around the bale looks great, enables you to secure your bale to your railing, and aides in the containment of the straw.
How to Plant the Bale
When you are ready to plant, take a sharp trowel and separate the straw. Place your plant down to the first leaf and let the straw fill in around it. If you’d like to grow from seed, put a little compost soil in the space where you have separated the straw before placing the seed there. Do be aware that decomposition makes the bale hot! Wait for it to cool down before planting.
Photo via the lovely Tiny Terra Ferma in Philadelphia.
You end up with is a truly dynamic presentation of natural beauty designed to fit perfectly into your less-than-natural, urban environment.
We’d love to hear your experiences with growing in straw bales. Any tips would be great—and if you do attempt to recreate Une Récolte en Ville, you must let us know!
Unless otherwise noted, photos via Architecture des Paysages.