Checkerboard Planting in Bales of Straw

In traditional soil gardens seeds are planted in rows, and the spacing between each plant is normally referred to as the “in-the-row” spacing and is determined by how much room a mature plant will occupy.

In Straw Bale Gardening, we still use this standard in-the-row spacing but it is common practice to NOT plant in rows, but instead to plant like a checkerboard.

Or more accurately, plant every black square on a checkerboard.

The seed spacing should still follow the standard in-the-row distance for spacing, so no seeds are closer than that distance from one another.

The reason this works with bales is because the raised height of the bales allows better air circulation, and with vining plants we encourage the vines to grow up onto the trellis we build above the bales.

The trellis allows the plants to stretch upward and outward and utilize more of the vertical space above the bale.

Root growth in typical soil, tends to be somewhat more restricted than root growth inside of a bale. This can be a factor of compaction, or lack air space in the soil, whereas with Straw Bale Gardening the inside of the bale is much less compacted and allows much easier root growth down into the bale, allowing young vegetables to get a larger root system established earlier in the season.

This larger root system translates to a larger capacity to take up moisture and nutrients, which in turn translate to larger, healthier, and more plentiful production of produce.

Spacing in soil has to allow for these smaller roots which tend to grow wider instead of deeper where the soil is more compacted. In bales, this isn’t an issue, because roots can grow deeper that is traditional in a soil environment.

Seeding in a bale will be tighter per square foot that in a soil planting, but this ability to grow deeper roots helps compensate for that density.

4 thoughts on “Checkerboard Planting in Bales of Straw”

  1. So by checkerboard, are you referring to the placement of the bales as a checkerboard or the placement of the plants and/or seeds ON the bales?

    Also, do folks tend to place the bales with twine facing up or sideways?

    Thank you in advance for your input.

    1. Placement of seeds on the bales. Great question we didn’t anticipate.Thanks for asking! The best option for placing bales is with string on the sides. There are 3 reasons for that. If you search our Community Forum with the keyword “sides” you should find other discussions about this. We also just added a graphic to a blog article from Joel that shares more information. Here’s the link to that: https://www.strawbalegardenclub.com/articles/what-side-of-the-bale-goes-up-what-if-my-strings-are-on-that-side/

    1. Hi, Bob. BaleBuster® is an obvious recommendation. Delivery is very fast & it is an All-in-One solution so you don’t need to waste time or energy looking for any additional treatments for Day 10. There are some special ingredients in the formula to help maximize the yield for your Straw Bale Garden. Every region has different stores with different brand names of fertilizer type products. That’s a big reason why Joel spent several years developing BaleBuster® – he knew it was frustrating for many people to try to research & figure out what was available in their area.

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