Fresh food inspires my cooking creativity. Better ingredients creates a better results. I am however not the most consistent gardener, which leads to a garden over run with weeds. I start with the best intentions, but become overwhelmed & discouraged.
When my Dad sent me a link to Joel Karsten's straw bale garden website, I quickly realized this way of gardening may be a good fit for me. I bought his book from his website & started planning.
I will admit there is a fair amount of ground work before planting, but a lot less weeding . There is a 12 to 17 day conditioning process. This process starts the bales composting providing a nutritious, warm place for your vegetables to grow. As there is a book & several websites dedicated to this I won't bore you with too many details. I'll describe my experiences & share plenty of pics.
i enjoyed the conditioning process I found it to be relaxing & enjoyable. I also stood through the process which kept me off my knees. So often times you could drive by to see me dancing to my music while watering my bales. I got a kick out of some of the looks from passers trying to figure out why the crazy lady was watering bales. One vehicle almost landed themselves in a ditch in his effort to figure out, what the hell?
I went organic this first time out, using Milorganite fertilizer. Next year I will try a cheaper lawn fertilizer without weed killer. Using organic fertilizers is a bit more expensive & takes longer to dissolve, making the conditioning process go from 12 days to 17. It also meant a lot more water to dissolve the organic fertilizer & get it to soak into the bales. Mr. Karsten's book says cheaper lawn fertilizer dissolves much more quickly.
A couple of other things to note about the above photo, the landscaping cloth & soaker hose. Next year I will lay the cloth under and between bales, not just between. This will keep grass & weeds from growing up along side the bales as seen below.
My first set soaker hoses provided a constant challenge forcing me to replace them. I bought a big box hardware store brand. I found myself regularly having to fix geysers. I invested in a small fortune of hose menders. I had more hose menders than hose.
I went into research mode trying to figure out how to solve this problem. Apparently the water pressure can be too high causing soaker hoses to rupture.
I had hoped to make it through the summer, but my soaker hose was becoming more menders than hose. So I found a replacement through Gardener's Supply Company.
This new system has been in place for a month & so far I haven't had to make use of any hose menders. The new system also seems better at distributing water evenly. Spend the extra money on a quality watering system.
Putting in the t-posts & 14 gauge wire creates a strong trellis ready for your climbers.
You can put herbs in the side the bale, but it was tricky cutting into the sides & not all of my herbs transplanted well.
I love to visit my garden & pull out only a few weeds by just bending over & plucking . I have a garden stool that made planting on the bales easier & put less stress on my knees. It is suggested to place the rows 4 feet apart. This makes it easy to move between rows for planting, maintenance & harvesting.
I started with 20 bales & am already planning next year's straw bale garden. I recently watched Netflix's Chef's Table with Dan Barber. Chef Barber is working with vegetable breeders to breed for flavor not necessarily for size. So my winter will be spent looking for heirloom varieties with flavor to plant in my 2017 straw bale garden.