Gardening | 5 July 2017How Do Straw Bale Gardens Work? Share article facebook twitter google pinterest We’ve been enthusiastically talking about Straw Bale Gardening for a while now – Joel Karsten started a revolution for gardeners everywhere, and his ground-breaking methods (that don’t actually involve breaking literal ground!) have transformed the way we grow vegetables and more around the world. Joel’s first book met with a tidal wave of attention and praise, and as you’d hope, there’s even more expert information and how-to wisdom in the expanded second edition, Straw Bale Gardening Complete. But what is Straw Bale Gardening? The following is a quick overview of the main four steps in Joel’s process, along with a few examples of gardens belonging to delighted readers. If you haven’t already jumped in, now is a great time to gather a straw bale or two, pick up a copy of Straw Bale Gardening Complete, and transform the way you garden. How Does Straw Bale Gardening Work? First off, in straw bale gardening you don’t use much soil; it’s the straw itself that feeds the plants. Another key takeaway you may be delighted to learn is that weeding is essentially nonexistent. The bales elevate the base level of the garden, creating accessible raised beds for everything you choose to grow, and one of the biggest draws for every kind of gardener—whether you want to grow only a handful of tomatoes or create row upon row of fresh homegrown vegetables—is that straw bale gardening fits into spaces large and small, urban and rural. Here are Joel Karsten’s four basic steps to straw bale gardening: Place bales on any surface (driveways, rooftops, anywhere). Treat bales with high-nitrogen fertilizer (organic or conventional) to accelerate decomposition of straw inside bale. This heats up the bales and will allow you to begin planting up to two weeks earlier than with typical garden beds. Water heavily for 12 to 18 days. Laying the garden out in straight rows with 4 to 6 feet between the rows is the most efficient and productive plan. Others might choose to be creative with their garden layout, and that works okay as well, but it does make the wire trellis more difficult to build over the bales. Plant seedlings and seeds directly in the bales. Seeds require a bed of potting soil to hold moisture atop the bale until germination. Heat generated by decomposing straw allows you to plant two to four weeks earlier than if you are planting in the ground. Continue watering. Water, watch, and wait. Tending the straw bale gardens requires little maintenance. You won’t need to weed much at all, though you may need to prop up the occasional robust plant that exuberantly grows beyond the edges of a bale of straw. Harvest. After the season, bales have turned into beautiful, clean compost for use in your other gardens. Next spring, repeat the process with fresh bales. Underground vegetables such as potatoes may be planted in second-year bales in some cases. Straw Bale Gardening Success Stories Joel has been able to spread the word about Straw Bale Gardens to tens of thousands of curious people, and many of them have adopted the method. (He knows because they send pictures.) If you have ever been on Joel’s website or Facebook page, you’ve seen them. Here are a couple examples of readers’ straw bale gardening success stories. Mary maintains a very tidy looking garden filled with a wide variety of vegetables. She has always been one to try something new, but Straw Bale Gardening is something she plans to keep doing. Many of her neighbors are in “observation mode” this summer, next year she may inspire a whole new crop of SBGs in the neighborhood. Photo: Mary Young Even a tight location in a side yard where space is limited befits a Straw Bale Garden set-up. This garden is quickly producing a bounty of produce that will continue throughout the season in this protected location. Photo: Mark Johanson Have you ever seen such beautiful cabbage? John has become a big proponent of Straw Bale Gardening, and said he gets one or two people stopping by every day with questions about his garden. He has become an expert in his second full year of using the SBG method, and is happy to pass along what he knows to those who are interested. Photo: John Mortensen A great example of a small garden in an urban location. Tomatoes are a “must grow” for many gardeners, and absolutely nothing grows better in a Straw Bale Garden than they do. This garden has many varieties of heirlooms in production; I think we should swing back in a month or so with a pail, or some bacon and lettuce. Photo: Kate Clarity Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: AU: “Are you ready to learn about a transformative garden technology that could change your life – for less than $100?” – New York Times Take your straw bale gardening to the next level – in more places, with new products, and even, sometimes, skipping the straw! The reception and enthusiasm for straw bale gardening, introduced in 2013, has proved revolutionary in vegetable growing. Why? Because the bold promises in the book are kept: grow vegetables anywhere, earlier in the year, with no weeding. Gardeners everywhere are excited. Straw bale gardening works! In just the short amount of time that has passed, the gardening world and Joel Karsten himself have learned even more about how to apply this method in just about any environment: on a city balcony, in a rocky outpost, in a desert, and even in the tundra of Alaska. Straw Bale Gardens Complete contains all of the original information that has set the gardening world on fire. But it also goes much deeper, with nearly 50 pages of all-new advice and photos on subjects such as growing in a tight urban setting, making your straw bale garden completely organic, and using new fertilizers and conditioning products. There is even information on using straw bale techniques to grow veggies in other organic media for anyone who has a hard time finding straw. Fans of Straw Bale Gardens will not want to miss adding Straw Bale Gardens Complete to their gardening library. There is, literally, nothing else like it! Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.