Sunday, November 24, 2013

Straw Bale Gardening

Why, you ask... would I be
 talking about gardening here at the END of the gardening season, and on a day when it is 18 degrees outside with only watery sunshine? 

Well... we like to make our plans early, we gardeners. 

For many years, I worked shows in a ticket booth downtown, and one of the things I liked to do after the first of the year was go through my seed catalogs in the lulls between waves of people attending the Boat Show, the Garden Show, etc.. 

Some of you may remember that I won an Apple I Pad about a year ago, from an online contest. 

I did not know how to use it, and it sat until someone explained it to me. 
When I got it going, I downloaded something called 
Kindle for Ipad. 

It is just like the Kindle that is sold, only on my tablet. 

One of the books I have bought and read is called 

Straw Bale Gardening, by Joel Karsten. 

Folks, I'm sold.  You see... I can understand how it is possible. 

These are the top two bales of the straw fort I made to protect the ducks, who actually sleep in a bed of wet hay and leaves about ten feet away.  

You see the grass sprouting from them in the last two weeks? 

Well, this article HERE will explain how Mr. Karsten came up with his idea to first make the bales ready, and then to plant in them.  It is not as simple as dumping planting medium or chicken house cleanings on top. 

If they are prepared carefully, and put within a framework that holds the decomposing bales together (which I plan to do).... they can bear wonderfully.  

I follow Mr. Karsten on Facebook as well. 

Does this mean I am going to forego planting in my raised beds next season?  NO!  
I am actually going to run them side by side.  I love to experiment and compare different ways of planting, and I intend to condition these bales to get optimum production.  

You see in the above picture that Mr. Karsten provides a framework for the bales many times, not just to hold the decomposing straw in, but for the plants on the bales.  I want to try both vegetables and flowers, to see what I get from them.  Then the decomposed straw will be used on the planting beds when finished for the season, so it's a win-win all around.  It's so interesting on Facebook to read the accounts of those who have tried it and loved it, and tried it and failed... I learn something from all of them. 
One nursery has actually purchased 1000 bales of straw and is now conditioning them for the next growing season in their greenhouses! 

I'm thinking of using six bales as a starting point, and running an experiment on them this coming gardening season. 

I have already received Pinetree Garden's Catalog in the mail... I have never bought from them, but had heard of them.  I hope to get a spate of catalogs around the holiday season, and will curl up with them and get my orders ready.  We still don't have our greenhouse up, but we are going to use the hoophouse again next year, so I'll have ample things with which to experiment.  It makes gardening so much more fun! 

Is anyone else planning your garden for 2014 yet? 

(and thanks to those who gave us advice for Delilah, who is a little calmer this morning. She has exhibited heat symptoms since coming here five weeks ago... we sure wish she would come out of it!) 


  1. This is brilliant! Is there no end to the uses for straw? Feeding mules, building houses out of, kitty palace beds, crash barriers, wind breaks and now gardening, I think I may be sold on this idea! Thanks for sharing :-)

  2. Hmmm...we have a mow full of straw. I should experiment with this!!

  3. I am always planning the next years garden while I am still working on my current garden. I keep a binder with all my notes and such in it and use it to plan out the next years garden. I just need to sit down and go over my notes and stuff and get things in order so that when my catalogs start rolling in, I can order my seeds easier and pick some new ones to try.

  4. If Delilah has been exhibiting heat symptoms for five weeks straight, I would be suspicious of a reproductive tract tumor.

  5. Not much gardening done at all here other than some herbs and flowers, but I do love to see others efforts and rewards too. I have always loved looking at seed catalogs in the winter I had never heard of planting in bales, but it does make sense. Thoughts of warmer days is always a good thing. Hope you have a wonderful Sunday!

  6. Oh my gosh,, your mind is very busy!!!!!! We have not thought about anything yet- except keeping our pipes from freezing!
    You have the best ideas!

  7. Mary Ann,

    I was planning the straw bale garden for sometime, hubby and I read about Joel Karsten and discussed trying in this process. We are also considering making a plastic and wood house to help things along in early spring.

  8. After 8 futile years, I will not try another garden here. It makes me angry just to think of the time and effort I have wasted! The farmer's market will love me this next year.

  9. You remind me so much of my father and he loved his garden better than anyone I've ever known. If he were alive I could get him reading your blog, and he would love it.

    I always look forward to gardening catalogues coming after Christmas. And I still make lists even though not much gets carried out each year. Herbs are the only thing we really try to increase each year now. R.H. has been carrying in the old wheelbarrow full of herbs into a carport every night and wrapping it good, trying to keep it all growing through these cold periods.

  10. No, not yet. I hope we get to have our gardens this year.

    I saw something like this at the Fall Fest last year.

  11. Yup... we've got our favorite catalog, and marking pages for seeds to purchase next Spring.
    We love Baker Creek Heirloom seed catalog, and have had excellent luck with all their seeds :)

    Neat way to garden.... with the straw bales. Looking forward to seeing how your experiment turns out, next year.

    Have a great week, and a Happy Thanksgiving.


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