What is it? I didn't know until a few years ago when my son Joel who lives just west of Guelph found out about it, read up on it and then embarked on it. (He is the kind of chap who enjoys creating new projects and enlists the assistance of one or more of his three children, sometimes his busy wife, whenever he can).
There is a fair-sized piece of land on which their home sits. Each year it seems he has obtained an increasingly larger number of bales so the rows become longer. The harvests have been impressive.
I shall try to explain the process as much as I know, but Joel would happily explain the details.
Joel orders new straw bales each year: the old ones are removed and broken up for compost. The fresh ones need to be placed in position to "cure" for approximately four weeks before the traditional planting time around the May 24th weekend. During this curing period, heat builds up within the bales. At some appropriate time, Joel adds nitrogen (example, Scott's Turf Builder) and water. In the meanwhile, Joel assisted by one or two of his young daughters, has planted a variety of vegetable seeds in the garage. Right now some of these have already germinated --this year aided by some kind of greenhouse Joel has obtained. (Due to self-isolating, I have not been able to see this yet).
Then the straw bales are partially hollowed out, soil is placed in them into which the seedlings are transplanted. To avoid having to continually water the plants manually in dry hot weather, Joel has devised a system of watering with tubing and plastic jugs, attached to poles, and fed by a water source --I think water from rain barrels.
I have only tried growing vegetables in a straw bale once, last year, with some rather poor-looking tomato plants I rescued from somewhere late in the season: I have to say they did re-remarkably well with the straw keeping the roots warm.I was harvesting tomatoes until the first frost.
If you wish to ask Joel any questions personally, his email address is:
email@example.com. In the meantime I shall ask him to join this forum so that he can respond to any comments you may post.
Below I am attaching some photos of Joel's straw bales from right now above, previous years and examples of the harvest.