Thursday, May 17, 2012


Introduction to Straw Bale Gardening


Straw Bale Gardening
is simply a different type of container gardening.  The main difference is that the container is the straw bale itself and is held together with two or three strings.  Once the straw inside the bale begins to decay the straw becomes "conditioned" compost that creates an extraordinary plant rooting environment.  Getting the straw bales conditioned is an essential part of the process, and should be started by the first week in May for most parts of the country.  This gardening technique works anywhere in the country or the world for that matter.  Please consider adding Learn to Grow a Straw Bale Garden to your LIKES on Facebook by clicking on our badge, it would be very much appreciated.

Joel Karsten is a certified Nursery and Landscape Professional through the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association.  He also holds a BS from the University of Minnesota in Horticulture Science; however, his real gardening knowledge has come from 35 years of being in the garden.  He started pulling weeds at four years old in the garden with his Grandma Josephine, who taught him everything a good vegetable gardener needs to know in order to grow an extraordinary garden every year.   Joel's father, Glen Karsten, owner of Karsten Nursery, has been growing and selling trees and shrubs for many years at his tree farm near Worthington MN.  Joel spent many hours working in the nursery fields, planting and harvesting, until he made his escape to the University of Minnesota, for a four year "vacation" from the farm. 

Why Straw Bale Gardening?  Now living in Roseville, Minnesota, Joel spends much of his time tending his half acre residential lot, and growing mostly annuals, perennials, and ornamental grasses.  Growing a vegetable garden at "the farm" (3.5 hours away) seemed an impossibility because of the distance and obvious lack of attention that could be given to a garden with only a weekend now and then to do the work involved.  That impossibility became a reality when Joel discovered Straw Bale Gardening.  Minimal maintenance that results in maximum production was a concept that seemed like a perfect gardening solution.

Can I do this where I live?  The short answer here is absolutely yes.  This method of gardening works very well from the Arctic Circle, to the heat of the Caribbean.  If you can find bales of straw, or similar bales of organic material, you can garden this way.  You are simply replacing your existing soil with a "container" filled with beautiful "conditioned" straw compost as your growing media.  From the desert to the rainiest places, from the hottest to the coldest, if anything grows then this method of growing will work for you.

Who should plant a Straw Bale Garden?
  • Can't do heavy lifting?  If you are less capable or less interested in doing the heavy work of traditional gardening, such as tilling the soil, constant weeding, unending insect battles and persistent disease spraying, Straw Bale Gardening virtually eliminates these challenges.
  • Can't bend over?  If you have a physical limitation or handicap that restricts you from getting down on the ground, you will appreciate the easier access to the higher surface of a straw bale, which eliminates the bending to plant and harvest. 
  • Poor soil or limited space?  If your have a low soil quality, or if you have limited space that you can devote to a garden, you will love Straw Bale Gardening with its low cost, flexibility in garden placement, and great performance of the straw once it's properly conditioned.
  • Interested in broadening your gardening horizons?  If you are a seasoned gardener looking for a fun new method, you will be amazed at the results!
Using many of the tips and tricks Joel offers in his classes and the written material he offers as a guide to new straw bale gardeners, you are guaranteed to be successful with your first straw bale garden experience.

How can I learn more? 
Joel started teaching "Straw Bale Gardening" as a community education class in the spring of 2008, and has become a popular instructor for many School Districts around the country, teaching this new style of gardening in a classroom settings at garden shows and seminars.  If you live somewhere that makes it impossible to get to one of Joel's seminars you might consider purchasing his book "Guide To Growing A Straw Bale Garden", which will guide you through the entire process in a step-by-step format.  See below for the details.

Swapping soil for straw to grow a garden of veggies - KARE 11 TV News

click story title above to watch the TV Segment on KareTV
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