Put Straw Bale Gardening in Your Garden Plans

Combining container gardening with vegetable gardening, straw bale gardening breaks the notion that plants can only grow in soil as these dirtless gardens plans will cause your plants to explode with beautiful, wholesome produce.

  • If you follow the relatively simple instructions in this book, I can assure you that you will be successful in Straw Bale Gardening. Just be prepared to answer some questions from your neighbors—there will be plenty.
    Cover Courtesy Cool Springs Press
  • My sister Laura and Grandma Josephine tending the chickens on the family farm. Yes, that is a little genuine Minnesota straw in the foreground.
    Courtesy Cool Springs Press
  • The Author, Joel Karsten, as a farmboy, working hard and dreaming up new ways of doing things.
    Courtesy Cool Springs Press
  • Because the straw bale generates heat as the straw decomposes, a Straw Bale Garden can get a head start in planting and yield ripe tomatoes weeks before the other gardens in town.
    Courtesy Cool Springs Press
  • Straw Bale Gardening vs. Traditional Gardening
    Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Author, lecturer, and straw bale gardening pioneer Joel Karsten hails from Minnesota, where he even grows peanuts and sweet potatoes in ordinary bales of straw. In Straw Bale Gardens (Cool Springs Press, 2013), Karsten explains the simplicity and benefit of gardening with straw bales and all the necessary details to start your unique garden and how to keep it growing. Maybe you desire to grow a garden but don't have the space or the tools to turn a grassy plot of land into an area of thriving plants and wholesome produce. By fitting straw bale gardening into your garden plans, you can overcome these obstacles. Read what brought Karsten to the innovative and efficient idea of Straw Bale Gardening and find the inspiration to start one, yourself.This excerpt is taken from the introduction of Straw Bale Gardens.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Straw Bale Gardens.

A Great Addition to Your Garden Plans

Straw Bale Gardening might seem like a strange idea at first. When people hear about it for the first time, they almost always ask the same question: does the plant actually grow in the bale? It seems that we’re so accustomed to the idea that plants only grow in soil that we have a hard time getting our heads around the idea of dirtless gardening. But the answer is yes. You plant your garden directly in bales of straw. Add some water, fertilizer and sunshine (not necessarily in that order) and your garden will explode with beautiful, wholesome produce. No tilling, no cultivating, no weeding. It really works. And it is growing. When you count up all the people who have attended my straw bale seminars, “liked” my Straw Bale Facebook page and bought my booklet on Straw Bale Gardens from my website, you get a number that’s nearing a hundred thousand. And those are just the Straw Bale Gardeners I know about.

If you pay much attention to gardening, you know that two of the most popular kinds of gardening today are vegetable gardening (as with the whole Urban Homestead trend) and container gardening. Straw bale gardening combines these two by growing vegetables (yes, you can grow flowers too) in what is arguably nature’s perfect container: the straw bale. Straw bales aren’t just the container, you see, they are also the growing media. As the straw inside the bale decomposes it provides nutrients for the plant for the whole growing season. Then, in the Fall, you toss whatever is left of the bale onto your compost heap and you start with a fresh bale in the Spring. The straw bale cycle is complete, and your root cellar is full of fabulous home-grown food.

A Little Bit of History

Straw Bale Gardens came about sort of by accident. As any kid who grew up on a farm like me can tell you, straw bales are everywhere — especially if you raise livestock. Straw is used mostly for animal bedding. It’s a valuable commodity and it consumes a lot of a farmboy’s summer. Stacking straw bales on a bale rack, then stacking bales, and then stacking more bales was a job that never seemed to end. It starts from the moment a farm kid is big enough to lift a bale of straw and smart enough to stack the rack securely to avoid a rack disaster. In fact, one coming-of-age moment in farm life happens the first time you are trusted to stack bales on a rack by yourself. If your rack makes it to the barn without spilling any bales, you are one step closer to becoming a farm man.

Once straw is dried, baled and racked, it must be put into dry storage quickly. Wet bales are worthless for bedding because they will never fully dry out. So when a rogue bale would tumble off the rack unnoticed in transport and eventually be rained upon, there was no point in doing anything with it but leaving it alone.

Tamara Bennett
11/7/2013 4:58:29 PM

I wanted to do this but looking into it I find that it is very difficult to find any straw bales without pesticides. Being that I wanted to do vegetables - I wouldn't trust that the straws pesticides don't get into the vegetables. Great idea if you can find organic straw.

11/6/2013 8:53:33 AM

Sounds like a great idea! The fire ants will really love their new home...........

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