When it comes to the easiest, most productive and best method to grow an incredible harvest of cucumbers, you simply can’t beat growing cucumbers in straw bales.
What started out as an experiment a few years back has now officially become the only way we now grow our cucumber plants. Seriously, for us, it can’t get any better! Not only is planting a quick and simple process, maintaining the crop is just as easy.
The advantages are hard to deny. There are little to no weeds making weeding chores all but non-existent. Watering and fertilizing the crop is a breeze as well. And the harvest? As you’ll see below, it certainly might just be the best part of it all!
When we revealed this year’s garden plan a few weeks back, we were flooded with emails asking why we were now growing all of our cucumbers in straw bales instead of using our regular raised rows.
The answer is plain and simple: The straw bale method simply works so well, there is no need to grow them any other way!
Ever single year, our straw bale harvest of cucumbers has outperformed our traditional row planted crop by leaps and bounds. All with less work and hassle, and less issues from pests. With that in mind, here is a look at how to plant, grow and maintain an amazing crop of cucumbers – all in straw bales!
How To Grow Cucumbers In Straw Bales
Why Straw Bales Are The Perfect Growing Vessel For Cucumbers
Straw bales are the perfect medium for growing cucumbers. The height of the bale allows the plants to be off of the ground and out of harm’s way.
As the plants grow, it also allows them space to spread and tumble down over the bale. This is especially helpful for vining cucumber plants, giving them the space they need to sprawl and thrive.
Even more, by being off the ground, weeds have a hard time finding a home as well. Less weeds means less competition for nutrients from the soil. All of that, of course, results in healthier, more robust foliage. And the healthier the plants, the bigger the potential for a great harvest.
The advantages don’t end there. Straw bales also hold and retain moisture incredibly well. And if there is one thing that helps to grow cucumbers successfully – its adequate water!
When it rains or you water, the straw soaks the moisture in quickly to the roots. The same occurs when apply liquid fertilizer to your plants. It is absorbed fast and efficiently, taking the nutrients right where they are needed most – to the roots of the plant.
Creating A Straw Bale Crate – How To Grow Cucumbers In Straw Bales
Although you could plant your cucumbers right into a bare straw bale, we add a bit of support around the bale to help keep it together. We call these simple supports straw bale crates, and they serve a couple of very important purposes.
Created from 2×4’s, pallet wood, or even scrap lumber, the crates not only make the bales more attractive, they also offer two big growing advantages.
First and foremost, they help to keep the bales intact all season long. Without it, the bales tend to decompose and crumple down over time. As they do, the roots become loose and exposed, causing the plants to dry out way too quickly. In fact, by using the crates, we can usually get two years of growing out of each straw bale.
But the crates also make an excellent medium for attaching a trellis or fence panel. That can be a huge advantage when growing vining cucumbers. Not only does it provide excellent support, it also makes harvesting a cinch with the fruit growing at eye level.
The crates are easy to make, and last for years. In fact, we have been using the same crates we made from 2×4’s for the last four years and they are still going strong. For those interested, we include instructions for building straw bale crates in our Creating A Straw Bale Garden article.
Now let’s take a look at how to plant and maintain the cucumber plants in the straw bales for a big harvest!
Planting Your Cucumbers – How To Grow In Straw Bales
We plant three (3) plants per straw bale. Before planting, we cut three holes into the top of the bale in the shape of a triangle. We space them evenly apart, usually off-setting the middle plant a bit toward the back or front of the bale to make the triangle like planting pattern.
To make the holes quickly, we either use a sharp serrated garden knife (a Hori-Hori knife works great!), or a reciprocating saw with a 12″ construction blade. We make each hole about ten inches deep, and six to eight inches wide in diameter.
Next, we fill the holes with our homemade potting soil mix. Our homemade mix is made from a blend of soil, compost, worm castings, perlite, and a bit of coffee grounds and crushed egg shells. (See: How To Create Incredible Organic Potting Soil For Vegetables)
Using a good soil mix filled with nutrients is vital for success. We like our homemade mix because it works wonders in our pots, planters and hanging baskets, and has plenty of nutrients to help power a big crop of straw bale cucumbers!
Whatever you use, make sure it is not just ordinary garden soil or top soil. The more nutrients your soil has, the better. Once our plants are in, we finish by mulching the plants with a bit of the straw we removed from the bales.
Long Term Care – Fertilizing & Watering
There is nothing complicated at all about planting cucumbers in straw bales. But to have success, it is absolutely vital to provide your plants with both water and nutrients as the season progresses.
Because they are elevated, cucumber plants in straw bales will dry out a little quicker than those planted in soil. Especially when the plants are young and there isn’t a lot of foliage to help block the sun from drying the soil out.
We water our straw bale plants every day for the first few weeks. In effect, treating them like a hanging basket or container plant. After that, once the foliage starts to get thick, they can often go an extra day or two between watering.
One little note to help with watering – as your cucumber plants grow and spread, it can start to be difficult to see where the actual base of the plant is located.
To help, we stick a small wooden stake right by the roots when we plant. As they grow dense and thick, the stake points the way of where to water!
Fertilizing Tips – Growing Cucumbers In Straw Bales
In addition to good watering habits, it is vital to provide your cucumber plants with additional nutrients as the season progresses. Although the nutrient filled soil will help to get plants off to a great start, it will be quickly depleted as they grow.
After planting, we give our plants a weekly dose of compost or worm casting tea for the first 6 to 8 weeks. After that, we usually apply a dose every other week. In addition, we add a quarter cup of worm castings around the base of each plant every few weeks.
This one-two combination of a steady supply of nutrients is a huge key to the cucumber plants success. The plant’s roots take in the nutrients easily through the loose straw-soil mix and go to work quickly. We use this same fertilizing approach with our straw bale zucchini crop as well. See : Growing Zucchini Crop In Straw Bales
One thing is for sure, it all works like a charm – producing massive yields, all with little work. Here is to growing an amazing crop of cucumbers in straw bales this year. And to doing it all with ease! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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