Apr 6, 2014

Recenlty, Joel Karsten, garden author and horticulturist, visited our Denver Home Show (March 14 - 16). Joel demonstrated the soil-free fruit and vegetable growing technique of Straw Bale Gardening. This method, created and perfected by Karsten, allows gardeners to grow a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables with the advantages of a raised bed garden but without the expense and time commitment.

The Benefits of Straw Bale Gardening:
  • All the advantages of a raised bed garden including the raised height, less compaction, easier planting and harvesting – but without the major expense and commitment that a “normal” raised bed garden involves.
  • Fresh growing media every spring with a new bale of straw means no lingering insect or disease problems that can accumulate in traditional soil or previously used planting mix.
  • Earlier Planting: As new straw decomposes, it releases heat. This emission of heat greatly encourages the growth of young seedlings and transplants as they are establishing in the bales early in the year. This heat also allows much earlier planting into the bale versus the much colder soil, which cannot be planted until later in the season when it finally warms up.
The net result of these advantages is simple - Bales brimming with a harvest as diverse as peanuts and cabbage; gangbuster strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, beets, radish, potatoes, and lettuce. Organic practices fit the model perfectly and newbie gardeners are treated to success rather than the small and large failures of traditional veggie gardening. But the kicker according to Karsten is what is not in the straw. “Weeds are like kryptonite for most well-intentioned super gardeners, sometimes swallowing the ambition of a rookie gardener in only a few hot July days.” says Karsten. “Straw Bale gardens are as rewarding and bountiful as they are easy and efficient to grow.” With weeds feeding on hotter summers, wet winters, and higher levels of Co2, thick carpets of rooted weeds are deal-breakers for many not willing to invest the sweat equity. Straw Bale gardens are as extensive as the mind; labor minimal; and can be practiced literally anywhere sunlight and access to water exist. Rooftops, backyard patio, asphalt parking lot, or over an existing patch of lawn… the options are many.