Straw Bale Gardening Solves a Host of Soil Problems

Straw Bale Gardening caught our attention.

Why? Because so many tree roots have grown into the west side of our garden that the trees are stealing the nutrients and water making it difficult to grow our vegetables. When we read that straw bales can be placed anywhere, even on a driveway or roof top, we thought maybe we could redeem that side of the garden.

And so we started our adventure in straw bale gardening following the instructions in Joel Karsten’s book Straw Bale Gardens Complete. You can also visit his web site

Of course we preferred organic straw bale, but could not find any so we settled for the locally available wheat or rice bales. Hmmm, which should we choose? Since we didn’t know which would work best we opted to buy some of each. After the wheat bales sprouted “grass” all over them, we decided to purchase the rest as rice bales. When the spring rains kept them very wet, the rice bales sprouted obnoxious mushrooms. So now which type of bale is the best? The jury is out until the end of the gardening season.

Placing the Straw Bales

Setting the bales into place takes a strong person. And the job may become impossible if the bales get wet before you move them into place. So keep the bales dry until you position them according to your design. Take a peek at our bales in this video after Pat set them in place.

Once in place it’s time to condition them with fertilizer. Joel Karsten gives specific directions on which fertilizers to use in a 12 day program along with proper watering of the bales. You can choose organic or non-organic fertilizers. Of course we chose the organic for our bales, blood meal and chicken meal. See this video demo of applying the fertilizers.

Fertilizing the Bales

The fertilizers start the composting effect on the straw, warming up the bales so you can plant earlier in the season than you would be able to if you were planting them in the soil. Also, with the help of a trellis you can put a tent of plastic or row cover over plants to keep them warmer in the early days of spring or if that late frost tries to surprise you.

So far I haven’t mastered the technique of sprouting vegetable seeds in the bales. Some of the little seedlings have germinated but then they die, probably because they don’t have enough water on the surface of the bale although the interior is very moist.

However, the tomato and broccoli plants are thriving in the bales.

Broccoli in Straw Bale "Gardening

Tomato in Straw Bale Gardening

And then there’s the potatoes. Joel says to push the potato starts about 12 inches down into the bale. Our bales are tied so tight that it took some muscle to pull some straw out so I could get the potato down that far. Then I stuffed the straw that I had pulled out back into the hole to cover the potato. I wondered if the potato sprouts would be able to make their way through that tightly packed straw. So far 4 of them have popped through the top of the bales and are growing into nice plants. We’re still waiting for the rest.
Potatoes with Onions in Front Straw Bale Gardening


We also pushed some onion sets into the edges of the potato bales and have some nice green onion shoots growing.







We will keep you posted on our saga of straw bale gardening as the season progresses.

Blessings to you and your garden,

Dr. Jo

About Dr. Jo

Dr. JoDr. Jo delights in sharing the message of health. She believes disease is optional if you know how to take care of yourself. And she’s a great coach to help you reverse or prevent disease.

So she writes this blog to keep you up to date with information that may undermine your health if you are not aware of it. She also provides tips on healthy living, how to reverse degenerative diseases, delicious recipes, and ways to enjoyably change your habits to healthy ones.

Similar Posts

Post a Comment