How to Grow: Straw Bale Gardens

Learn how to grow tomatoes and other vegetables in straw bales with less work and weeds.

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I’ve seen vegetables planted in just about everything. Whether it be old bathtubs, broken down cars, old shoes or even a used gas grill, gardeners can get creative when it comes to space saving techniques. Well, here’s an old space saver that’s come back to life in a new book. It’s called straw bale gardening. Ruth Stout started it years ago and now Joel Karsten has got a new twist on this idea. Joel makes vegetable gardening less work and more productive by growing veggies in “conditioned” straw bales.

Here’s what he suggests. Use straw, not hay bales. Straw bales don’t have weed seeds in them. Lay bales on their edge, rough side up and condition the bales for 2 weeks. The conditioning consists of watering the bales daily and applying fertilizers to start the decomposition process. After following this regiment for about 12 days, cut small holes in the bales, add potting soil and plant your tomato, pepper or other transplants. You can also grow veggie seeds on the bales. Spread a 1 to 2 inch thick layer of potting soil over the top of the bale and direct sow. Because of the watering and fertilizing, the bale starts to decay and the vegetables feed off it. Since you’re growing on a bale, there’s little or no weeding and you have an instant raised bed. You can make a row of bales held together with metal fence posts, wire and a 2 by 4. And by fall you have a pile of usable compost. I’m going to try growing some cucumbers in my bales this summer to see how they do.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio

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