Straw Bale Crate Garden
A simple crate planter made from pallets and using a straw bale for a growing medium

So you have little space, little time, little money and you still want to garden.  Or maybe you would like to add a great looking focal point to your existing garden or landscape to grow something unique.   

Even better, maybe you know of someone who still likes to garden but can’t get out or handle as much of the physical activity anymore.

Here is a great solution to all three!  Create your own Pallet Straw Bale Crate Garden.  It’s attractive, simple to build, and best of all, low or no cost to make.

With a single pallet, (3) 2x4x8’s, a bale of straw, and a bag or two of soil and compost – you can create an instant garden space that can provide fresh vegetables or flowers all summer long.

To build on the cheap, you can create the straw bale frame using the slats from a single pallet
To build on the cheap, you can create the straw bale frame using the slats from a single pallet

You can purchase all the materials you need for under $15.00 – or build for virtually free using pallets and scrap lumber.   We made a few single bale boxes last week for our garden – and will use them along our fence row to grow our cucumbers in.  You can also double the measurements to make a double bale box and plant to your heart’s content.

The straw bale crates have a lot of built-in advantages!  They are easy to maintain – with little weeding ever needed.  The 2’ high design lends itself to less stooping and bending while tending, and the combination straw, compost and soil make for a great instant growing medium – without the hassle of digging up the earth.

The best part of all – at the end of the season – you can add all of the contents to the compost pile –or start a compost pile right in the pallet box to have fresh compost next year when you’re ready to grow again!

Here is how we made ours:

Start by assembling 2 rectangle frames from scrap wood or 2 x 4's.
Start by assembling 2 rectangle frames from scrap wood or 2 x 4’s.
Next - attach the two rectangles with four of your slat boards in each corner
Next – attach the two rectangles with four of your slat boards in each corner
Next - screw in additional slat boards to create the crate "look".
Next – screw in additional slat boards to create the crate “look”.

Materials List:

(1) Straw Bale
(4) 2 x 4 x 20”
(4) 2 x 4 x 44”
(1) Pallet – for vertical boards – be sure to use untreated pallets to be “food safe”
(1) bag of compost – substitute your own for free material
(1) bag of topsoil – substitute your own for free material

***The straw bales we use measure 20″ wide, 18″ high and a little less than 46″ long. Bales can vary in length – so be sure to measure your bale to adjust the length and width of frame boards.  You can also reference our previous post’s on How To Disassemble A Pallet Quickly, and How To Make Your Own Compost for more info.

Building The Garden:

Assemble 2 rectangles from your 2×4’s – screwing or nailing together 2 of the 20” pieces and 2 of the 44” pieces.   Once you have both rectangles together – use your pallet boards to attach vertically to connect the two rectangles to create your straw bale box.

We cut our pallet slat boards into 18″ lengths, (we got about 2 boards for each slat) and then screwed them into the inside of the two frames to form the crate. The spacing is up to you – we put about 4” between each board for ours – we wanted the look of an “old-time” crate.

Planting The “Garden”

Next -use a sharp knife, reciprocating saw or shovel to dig out a 6 to 8" planting hole
Next -use a sharp knife, reciprocating saw or shovel to dig out a 6 to 8″ planting hole
Simply place your plant in the hole and cover with more soil.
Simply place your plant in the hole and cover with more soil.
We like to put a layer of compost or mulch over the top of the bale to complete the look.
We like to put a layer of compost or mulch over the top of the bale to complete the look.

Now it’s easy – place the bale down inside the frame – you may need to wiggle a little and cut a little off here and there to get it to fit depending on the size of the bale.

Simply use a sharp knife or blade to cut out your planting holes – we went about 8” deep and 5” around– filling them with a good mixture of garden soil and compost.  Plant, cover up, water – and the garden is in!  Depending on what you plant – you can fit in 5 to 6 tomato plants, or a combination of pepper and tomato plants per bale, etc.  You can plant a little closer than traditional garden rows because of the raised beds.  Only your imagination is the limit to what you want to grow!

You will get some compression of the bale as the season progresses – the bale will slowly decompose, giving even more nutrients to the plants.  Your plant and roots will thrive in the soil, compost and straw because the garden is off the ground – there will be very little weeds that develop, and should be easy with the added height to pick and maintain.

End of the Season :

If you have a compost bin already set up – you can certainly take the contents and throw them into the pile.  The decomposed straw and soil mixture are great for a pile – adding a lot of carbon material. If not – use the crate box as a compost bin!  Mix up the bale and contents right in the pallet box structure – and start adding some shredded fall leaves, coffee grounds,  vegetable scraps , lawn clippings and more.  By next spring – you will have enough compost made to use in the next bale for planting, with extra if you need it.

So how about trying a straw bale pallet crate garden this year!  And if you have a neighbor or relative that loves garden but finds it difficult now – it’s a great gift to let them have their very own garden

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary

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36 thoughts on “The Straw Bale Pallet Crate Garden – Simple, Attractive – And Cheap!

  • June 5, 2016 at 3:04 pm
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    We are Chicago gardeners and are almost done building our pallets. I am having a sudden worry about rats! We have flower and a veggie bed, and haven’t had problems. These pallets will be sitting on a cement pathway in the back yard. Do you think that they will become a nesting ground? Advice please!

  • April 15, 2016 at 10:29 pm
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    I want to garden organically. If the straw had been grown conventionally, then would they not have pesticide and weed killer residue

  • April 26, 2015 at 11:53 pm
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    I have never heard anybody treating pallets with anything. The amount of toxins in pallets of straw are in any case less then the amount You get from “normal” food out there, so Id stop worrying and get planting 🙂

  • April 9, 2015 at 5:52 pm
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    Just love this post was wondering if strawberries and lettuce and cucumbers could be grown in these ?

  • March 29, 2015 at 10:56 am
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    This is sometimes easier said than done. I tried this, last yr with no luck after fighting the bale, trying to cut out holes. It DOES make a difference, how the bale lies, when trying to cutdig your hole out. The bale is compressed very tight from the machine that baled it. Maybe you can address this. I’d like to try one more time but don’t want to have this same issue.

    • March 29, 2015 at 11:07 am
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      Jane – I used a reciprocating saw with a construction blade to cut out my holes and it worked like a charm!

  • March 20, 2015 at 9:04 pm
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    Do you put the straw bale so that the cut ends are up or on the side?

  • September 7, 2014 at 11:53 pm
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    How do you tell if the pallet has been treated in any way? Thank you!

  • April 27, 2014 at 7:05 pm
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    Really like this idea, since Im unable to get down to the ground, But I love to grow things.

  • April 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm
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    Mice will eat the hay.

  • April 27, 2014 at 11:07 am
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    hay bales would have seeds so would not be a good choice.

  • March 29, 2014 at 10:48 pm
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    Have you ever tried using hay bales instead of straw?

  • March 23, 2014 at 7:07 pm
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    Love this idea! I had a strawbale garden last summer, but didn’t like the way the rotting straw looked after a month or 2. This is great to conceal the straw while allowing it to decompose. Thanks for sharing!

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:10 pm
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      Thanks Stephanie – that is exactly why we made ours as well!

  • February 12, 2014 at 8:34 am
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    Some really great ideas, I cant wait to get started!!

  • September 13, 2013 at 11:01 am
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    I’m going to,use mine to frame my raised bed garden with marigolds…then I don’t need to worry as much about the pallet quality. Thanks!

  • August 26, 2013 at 11:06 pm
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    Be careful about using pallets to grow things in. A lot of them come from China and are impregnated with some pretty heavy duty fungicides so the food or whatever doesn’t mold or get eaten by bugs on the boat trip over.

  • July 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm
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    I totally love this. And by reading a current post I see that you are already harvesting cucumbers while mine are just starting to grow 🙁 I have going to have several of these next year!

    • July 9, 2013 at 10:31 pm
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      Thank you – we are really happy with how it turned out! I’m sure your’s will be producing soon – it’s the waiting for them that is so hard!! Jim and Mary

  • July 2, 2013 at 10:56 am
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    I wouldn’t recommend a reciprocating saw. The saw gets clogged with straw. i used a serrated knife from the kitchen drawer.

  • May 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm
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    Are you limited to leaf and vine crops with this? I am guessing that carrots would not work? My hubby is in the process of finishing 2 of these up for me for Mother’s Day. So excited! Thanks for the idea!

  • May 5, 2013 at 9:45 am
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    great! I need some outdoor space and I would be all over this project. I came over from Six Sisters… Hope your weekend has been great! Emily @ Nap-Time Creations

  • May 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm
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    Do you think this would require more or less water than a traditional garden? We’re in a drought right now & water restrictions are already being discussed!

    • August 26, 2013 at 11:03 pm
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      I live in the high desert of California and use them to grow sweet potatoes in. I wrapped black mulch around them – about three times then used a landscape staple to fasten it. Once it gets really saturated with water, it doesn’t require much water at all – probably a lot less than watering soil that doesn’t have at least 8 inches of mulch. If you mulch the top with loose straw it will require even less.

  • May 2, 2013 at 10:08 am
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    You can use high nitrogen fertilizer and water over 12 days to start the straw bale to rapidly composting, thus making the bale wet, so mice don’t live in it, warm, so you can plant plants earlier, and decomposed, so that you don’t need to fill holes in the bale with dirt, the plant grows in the straw compost. Joel Karsten’s website (http://strawbalegardens.com/) has some info about it, but since he’s trying to sell you his book, he doesn’t give how-to’s on his site. Google “straw bale gardening”. (Disclaimer: I saw Joel give a demo at the Minnesota State fair, bought his book, have 3 bales out back to see how it works. Looks good so far.)

  • April 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm
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    I look forward to every one of your posts. Thank you for sharing your experience. I will be trying out many of your methods as soon as I get back to my own property. Until then I’m bookmarking your site and pinning to pinterest. Once again, Thank you.

    • May 1, 2013 at 6:30 am
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      Thank you so much Barbara! We are glad to have you as a follower and wish you the best of luck in finding your new space to garden in too! Jim and Mary

  • April 30, 2013 at 11:26 am
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    Do you not have a problem with mice? We tried potatoes in straw one year, and even with several cats, the mice got most of them. Just wondering how you deal with the mouse situation.

    • May 1, 2013 at 6:26 am
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      We have had problems with mice getting into our old truck over the winter – but not in the garden thus far 🙂 I will let you know how the bales do this year and hopefully we won’t have a problem with them.

  • April 30, 2013 at 10:52 am
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    Love this idea. So much better looking than just a bale of hay sitting there, falling apart! And such a good idea for those of us who still would like to garden and have fresh veggies but can’t handle a full garden! Thanks for sharing.

    • May 1, 2013 at 6:23 am
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      So glad you like the idea! We just wanted something that would hold the bale together and still be attractive in the garden – and it really is a good solution for someone who wants to grow a few plants and not a big garden. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment! Jim and Mary

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