Straw Bale Garden Update

THE PREMISE: I have straw bale gardening fever. In fact, around the office I’ve become known, variously, as enthusiastic, evangelical, and even fanatical about the subject. That’s all right with me. It has been my pleasure over the past year to work closely with Joel Karsten, author of Cool Spring Press’ bestseller Straw Bale Gardens. From the very first SBG I saw in Joel’s backyard, through signing him up with Cool Springs, working out the look and organization of the book and editing the manuscript, to watching the publicity and sales build at an amazing and humbling pace, the experience has been thoroughly rewarding. And, after all that, I think I can safely say I understand and believe in this method that the New York Times calls “transformative.” But could I make it work in my yard? That’s another question.

Joel Karsten assesses his straw bale garden

Mark Johanson

Straw Bale Gardens author Joel Karsten (seen here in June 2012) sets a high bar with the immaculate and extremely productive test gardens he tends in his backyard. Can his not-so-green thumbed editor make an SBG of his own work, too? After all, they only live two miles apart.

I have just begun the great experiment of growing my first straw bale garden along the south side of my house in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It’s only a three-baler, but we don’t need much more. I do have a bit of an advantage in that Joel, the author, lives just a couple of miles from me, and I know I can call him up anytime if I have a question or problem. But my intent is to see if I can make this work using only the information printed in our richly illustrated book that the San Francisco Chronicle says is “put together and written so well that even doubters will consider this resurging form of gardening.”

My first weekly installment will go live tomorrow; should be a fun ride. I look forward to your comments.