Saturday, January 21, 2017

Considering a Straw Bale Garden

It's that time of year again. The time when I pour over seed catalogs and dream of boundless harvests after an idyllic summer of warm sunshine and soft rainfall. I dream of a fantastic harvest of a wide variety of vegetables with visions of endless fresh veggies and plenty left over to preserve. If you are a homesteader or dream of being a homesteader, I bet you are doing this too.

This year will be my 3rd summer in Oklahoma. On my homestead plan this is the year of the garden. I have a vision of how my garden will ultimately look, however my budget prevents me from buying the galvanized stock tanks ($70 each x 15) the plan calls for. I am not willing to give up my vision, so I decided to explore some other, less costly options until I then.
  1. I could grow my garden in bags. Yes, bags. This is a form of container gardening I have considered in the past, but dismiss because I don't like the look very much. 
  2. I could just slap together some wood and form some beds, but then I still have to fill them with soil (costly) and then when I am finished with them I will have to find a way to move all that soil. Not the way I want to spend my energy. Too much labor with too little reward.
  3. Thirdly, I can use what I have on hand. I have lots of straw bales on hand. Bingo. 

Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten
Straw bale gardening is a form of container gardening. You basically prepare your bales by fertilizing and watering, then when ready, just poke a hole into the straw, put some soil in the hole, plant your seed, and keep the bale watered and fertilized. The bale will decompose over time and the plants will flourish. Use good straw bales and you won't even have to weed! Mind you this is a very simplified explanation, but have no worries, I will explain the entire process with pictures when I begin. You, dear reader, can follow along on my adventure and we can see if it will work.

Interested? Intrigued? Interested in trying straw bale gardening at your place?

You can read a great article about straw bale gardening written by Mary Yee here that gives a good overview of the process and has anecdotal information from the American Horticultural Society's attempt at a straw bale garden in Virginia.

You should also get a copy of  Joel Karsten's book (he is the guy who wrote the book on this process literally) Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Gardening Method. This book is the straw bale garden bible!

Currently I use my straw bales to insulate my tiny house against wicked cold winter winds, but soon winter will be over and I will drag the bales out to the open sunny spot where the garden is planned. I have 10 bales at this time and will pick up another 10. I figure 20 bales is a decent sized garden. By the way, 20 bales of straw is just $140. Fertilizer and a couple good size bags of garden soil is all I will need. How budget friendly is that?!!

Bring on Spring cause this gal is ready to grow stuff!