Straw Bale Garden: Post Conditioning

In our previous post, we were at the beginning of the conditioning of the bales.  We anticipated a two week period for the process to take place.  It actually took three weeks.  During that time, we were looking for three things to happen:

  • The internal temperature of the bales to rise.
  • The growth of grass and/or mushrooms in the bales.
  • The internal temperature of the bales to then go back down.

We saw all three of these things take place over the three week period.

We were diligent in our application of water and nitrogen for the first two weeks.  So… why did our process take three weeks when so many others take two?

The simple answer is: We live in Michigan.  We began conditioning our bales at the end of April.

The temperature here in Michigan during the last week of April and the first couple weeks of May averaged in the upper 50’s during the day (with a few days in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s)… coupled with evenings in the 30’s and 40’s.  Saying that… we just didn’t have conditions to get the internal temps of the bales up to that 120 degree mark until around day 10.

However… once the internal temperatures did make it up to the ‘cooking’ point of conditioning, the external temp surrounding the bales seemed to create an environment for more of a ‘simmering’ of the bales.  Couple that with the fact that we used a slow release nitrogen, and we had a ‘slow cooker’ rather than a blazing hot oven.


By day 8, we were seeing grass growing from the bales.

By day 15, we had our first mushrooms popping up.  Life was good.

By day 20, the internal temperature of the bales was down to the ‘coolness’ we needed to give us the confidence that the roots of our vegetables would not be baked out.

In the end, it all worked… it just took an extra week or so to get everything where we wanted it.  The end result was the same.  And we are excited to see everything ready.

Now… we are ready to plant.

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