gardening with straw

Make a Garden with Straw

Garden With Straw: Grow Veggies in Straw Bales

What the heck is a straw bale garden, I wondered. How can veggies grow in straw bales?

When I picked up the book, the sub-title really caught my eye:

Straw Bale Gardens: The Breakthrough Method for Growing Vegetables Anywhere, Earlier and with No Weeding

Anywhere?? No weeding! How could I ignore that! Once I’d devoured the book, I just had to share it. I thought I’d share a quick summary of this detailed and fascinating book with you.

But don’t let it stop you from buying – the photos and detailed descriptions are worth their weight in gold. The author, Joel Karsten, teaches this method of gardening in workshops.

He’s the garden with straw ‘guru’.

The Steps:

Start by buying straw, not hay, bales. Most garden supply places have them in stock. You don’t want hay, because it has seeds in it, while straw is just the stem of the plant. Set your bales in a spot close to a water source, and in a sunny area.

Arrange the bales so it’s easy to plant and to reach for harvesting. Make sure the twine is running around the sides – it may rot if it’s next to the ground.

Water the bales thoroughly, and let them rest for about a week. This gives them time to heat up and to start decomposing. Spread about 2 inches of fresh compost or composted manure over the bales to speed up the decomposition, and water well.

Alternatively, you can spread a 5-10-10 fertilizer over the bales, and water thoroughly.

Begin planting in the bale when the straw (about 4 inches down) feels slightly warm – but is under 100 degrees F.   (You don’t want to burn the roots!) Start by digging holes in the straw, or separating the layers of straw, and drop a handful of compost or manure in each.

garden with straw

One bale is about the right size for 6 tomato plants. Insert your starter plants, as you would in a garden, firming them in place with more compost. Arrange the straw gently around the base of the plant, and water.

As your plants grow, you likely need to water them daily, since the water will move through the straw quite quickly, compared to soil. Provide support for tall or sprawling plants.

When you garden with straw bales, they last roughly two years, or the time it takes for the bales to break down to a point where they are no longer usable.

But as nature would have it, nothing is wasted, because  the decomposing straw can be added to your compost bin, creating a dense, rich compost to start over again!

Leave a Comment:

Lyn says

That is fascinating – not sure my condo association would agree with this on my balcony. Enjoyable intro to this idea though!

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