Organic Straw Bales

Asked January 17, 2021, 11:33 AM EST

I live in Milton-Freewater and would like to garden with straw bales this season, however I'd like to find bales that haven't been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. If I'm organic gardening it defeats the purpose by using "bad" straw! Anyone who can point me in the right direction would make me SUPER happy! Plus, any tips someone who's familiar with straw bale gardening in this area can give me would be GREAT too!

Umatilla County Oregon

5 Responses

As I read your question, it’s unclear to me if you are wanting organic straw to use as mulch over top of plants in in your garden or you are looking for bales to actually do planting in the bales themselves?

In general, the supply of organic grown straw is very limited. Most organic producers want to return the straw to the soil to help build soil organic matter. Therefore, most don’t bale any of their straw.

I talked to a local custom baler and to a local organic wheat producer.

The custom baler reported their supply of organic straw is sold out for this season and would not have more until the 2021 harvest. Also because they are custom baling they only handle large bales 3x’4’x8’ feet, which weigh about 1100 lb. I am assuming this would not work for your needs? They have certified weed free straw available in small bales, but it’s not organic. If that would meet your need, I can share contact information for this business.

Just so you are aware, weed seed in straw is the biggest issue for gardeners. It may be more of an issue in organic straw because there are often more weeds in organic systems.

You didn’t mention the amount of straw that you seeking. Do you need just a few small bales or more than that? The dimension of 2 or 3 string small bales is about 16” x 22” x 30-44’ long. Depending on the tightness of packing they usually weigh 40-100 lb. That’s about 20 to 50 bales/ton.

The organic producer, I contacted has some 12-15 year-old straw that he is willing to give away. If you are wanting to grow plants in the bale themselves, this material would likely be too loose and not serve that need. If you are wanting the straw for mulching, I think this would work fairly well. If you want this straw, I can provide you the contact info for the producer. You would need to haul the bales from the Pendleton area and it’s likely that some bales would be falling apart when handled.

Please communicate back with more specific information on your needs.

Oh, thank you very much for the info, Don! I apologize for the unclear request. I’m looking to grow veggies in whole bales. I’ve done some research and noticed that
people are growing in both straw and wheat bales, so wouldn’t be adverse to trying
out organic wheat.
Our garden is roughly 20’ x 30’ so I wouldn’t need too many bales. However, it looks like I may need to rethink the whole situation....that’s one of the reasons I made my request public in case someone else may have other ideas.
We just aren’t as spry as we used to be and the elevated height of bale gardening is
VERY attractive to us along with trying something that would reduce water usage.

Thank you for the reply. I now understand your need better. I also understand your concern for organic straw. Because organic straw in small bales is difficult to find, and you need just a few small bales, you may want to consider contacting a local farm and ranch supply for straw. Although this would not be organic straw, wheat straw is generally has very low risk of having pesticide residues.

Herbicides are used on wheat, but they are applied in March or earlier in the crop season at rates that are ounces per acre of active ingredient. Straw is harvested 4 or 5 months later. Herbicides will have been significantly been diluted and chemically broken down after this time. Bales of any local wheat straw would have very very low probability of having any detectable levels of herbicides. Personally, I would have no reservations about using locally supplied wheat straw for raised bed planting

I like the idea of raised beds for gardening because there is less bending over, making gardening easier.

There is much information on the Web on straw bale planting.

Organic or other wheat straw will have weed seed or wheat seed that may sprout when water is added to the straw bale.

Here are few links from the web that provide some information on straw bale gardening.

Thank you very much for your time and knowledge! You’ve been super helpful and I’d HIGHLY recommend to anyone they use your services!

Warm regards,