Straw Bale Gardening

Straw Bale Gardening

Joel Karsteen pioneered a method for straw bale gardening that combines container gardening and raised bed gardening into one.  Straw bales serve as both containers and the growing medium. You prepare the bales; then plant in them.  The elements and time gradually break down the straw into a fine mulch.  Here  are ten reasons it’s gaining in popularity:

1. Grow plants anywhere, in any zone and any climate.

2. Stabilized bales are suitable for any terrain.

3. Soil conditions won’t matter.

4. No need to till the land.

5. No need to transport heavy, expensive soil and compost; straw bales are light, neat, easy to move and inexpensive.

6. Grow and harvest without back strain because all the work is done at a comfortable height.

7. No need for containers & construction of raised beds.

8. Weeding is a breeze.

9. No more digging to get your root vegetables.

10. Bumper crop; all other things equal, a minimum of 25% increase in crop yield is guaranteed.

Condition Straw Bales Before You Plant

The main thing you must do to prepare for your straw bale garden adventure is purchase your straw bales early so you can condition them. For 2-3 weeks before planting your straw bale garden, add about 4 oz. of lawn fertilizer per bale (nitrogen) to help the microbes accelerate decomposition. Spread the fertilizer evenly on top and water it down. Moisture is important.

When exposed to the elements, the bales will naturally undergo decomposition. The breakdown process is exothermic, releasing a lot of heat, as in compost piles. The heat can go as high we 145 degrees which can cook your seeds and seedlings. Check the inner temperature of the straw bales after two weeks to insure it has begun to cool down.  If it is still hot inside, allow more time.

Microbes in charge of decomposition use up some of the nutrients.  If you add compost and plant your seedlings before the microbes have done their work, they will use up the nutrients meant for the new plantings.

Learn from the Expert

The original expert can show you how to build straw bale gardens. Joel Karsteen is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.  You will find helpful ideas based on his experience.

Shop local and buy from KY Proud farmers.

Baldwin Farm hay and straw is $5.00 per bale.