I saw an interesting interview on the lunchtime news last week about a fun way to garden called straw bale gardening. Basically you buy a bale of hay and plant your plants in it. The author, Joel Karsten, says that one bale can hold 2 tomato plants or 4 pepper plants. You can also plant flowers or herbs on the sides of the very same bale.
What Didn’t Work
I have tried to figure out how to have tomato plant or two of my own for several years and it never seems to work out. About two years ago I tried the Topsy Turvy approach where you put soil in a hanging sleeve and plant tomato starts that grow downward. I got a couple of little tomatoes, but I’m sure I spent more money on the hanging sleeve, soil & tomato starts than I saved at the grocery store produce section. Last year, I gave up and just bought tomatoes at the farmers market.
Apparently, there are two tricks to getting the Straw Bale Garden up and running with gusto. The first is to PRE-TREAT the bale of straw with fertilizer and water for two solid weeks prior to planting. This turns the straw into its own mini-compost heap. The second trick is to use seed starter mix, NOT SOIL when you plant your seeds. If you buy plant starts you can use the soil/mix that they come with.
The straw bale is very good at holding water and at draining off excess water (in case the summer monsoons come). According to Joel Karsten, this method of Straw Bale Gardening will work well in any part of the country, wet or dry. If you live in a dry area you will still need to water this garden periodically, but not to the degree that the old-fashioned garden would require.
And, the best part of all is that Joel Karsten says you will only have to spend about 30 seconds per growing season doing any weeding at all. Keeping the weeds at bay requires a lot of sweat equity and usually some specialized tools with a traditional garden, but not with this.
Check out Joel Karsten’s book, Straw Bale Gardens Complete, for more specific info.
We have a ton of weeds in our garden so I’m thinking this may be the way I go this year. The neighbor said I could use all her extra hay so it can’t hurt to try. I have read that hay will work about the same as straw…and since the hay is free, I’m going to go for it. Stay Tuned!
Are you going to try straw bale gardening?