Sunday, May 8, 2016

Perfect gift for Mother's Day: Bales of straw...

you read that right.

Does your Mom like to garden?

You may want to turn her on to straw bale gardening and pick up a few bales for her. 

It's particularly wonderful way to garden if she's getting up in years and gardening chores are becoming harder for her to perform.

Instead of spending insane amounts of money and time to build raised beds, straw bale gardening may be just the thing for her.

The beginning
Plunk a couple of straw bales down on weed fabric, season them, plant them, and watch them thrive.  I'm transitioning to almost all straw bales.  Our local Ace carries them and they cost about $8.00 which is pretty expensive.  A straw bale lasts for about two to three years.  In the future I will locate a local farmer for my straw bales. 

The mastermind behind this concept is Joel Karsten, a resident of Roseville, MN.  His website called, wait for it, Straw Bale Gardens, has more information and his book, Straw Bale Garden Complete is available at Amazon or from his site.

Joel, a horticulturist who grew up on a farm, remembers when a straw bale fell off the truck and was rained on, rendering it useless as straw; any seed that landed on the useless straw grew bigger than anything else. The idea was born.  He ran it past some of his old professors at college who were not impressed with his idea.  Not to be deterred, he and his father started with 50 bales to test his theory.  It worked beyond anything they could have hoped for.  Now Joel travels the world teaching his method.

Seasoning is the first step and takes about 10-12 days.  It is easily accomplished with high nitrogen grass fertilizer and water.  Organic fertilizers can also be used.  At the end of the seasoning, your bales are nutrient-rich hot houses for your plants. About the only plants that would not be suitable for straw bales is huge things like corn.

My first three bales are in and the next three will be placed today.  I'm already so enthused that I'm planning for three or four more bales so I can plant some of my determinate tomato plant starts in straw bales.  The Hansel eggplants, jalapenos, and Aruba peppers will also go in bales.  Zucchini?  Not a chance.  Who in heck needs higher producing zucchinis?

Will someone please come and trim my bushes

 I hesitated to post these pics because the early spring garden is always so messy looking.  We can call this "keeping it real."  If you click to enlarge you can see how really messy it is.

This year, I will probably keep my lettuce, spinach, kale, and radishes in traditional gardens.  However, the simple addition of a bit of potting mix on top of the bales allows for planting seeds.

I use pine needles, readily available in North Idaho, between the bales.

 Let's look at some summer pics of straw bale gardens.  These are all rather ambitiously sized, so remember that just a few bales can grow lots of great veggies.

Planting seeds in straw bales

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