straw bale gardening


These gardens are a great solution if you are lacking in good soil: especially if you live in an urban area with soil that is contaminated by things like glass, run-off or other waste.

Straw Bale Gardens teaches gardening in a way that isn’t only new but is thoroughly innovative and revolutionary to home gardening. It solves every impediment today’s home gardeners face: bad soil, weeds, a short growing season, watering problems, limited garden space, and even physical difficulty working at ground level. Developed and pioneered by author and garden expert Joel Karsten, straw bale gardens create their own growing medium and heat source so you can get an earlier start. It couldn’t be simpler or more effective: all you need is a few bales of straw, some fertilizer, and some seeds or plants, and you can create a weedless vegetable garden anywhere—even in your driveway.

Find it: USA / Canada / UK & Europe

#straw bale gardening #DIY #books #raised beds #garden hacks


Memorial Day weekend - year three of the SBG:0

Made the annual trip to Fryski’s Country Gardens in Caryville, WI to purchase my plants. Kind of cheated this year and sought out more mature plants. Once again Gary tagged along and convinced me that we needed more tomato plants. Here’s the list of things to grow:

  • 2 pepper plants (Red Knight X3R and Bell Boy)
  • 4 cucumber
  • 4 cantaloupe melons
  • 4 watermelon
  • 2 tomatillo tomatoes
  • 4 La Roma tomatoes
  • Brandiwine tomato
  • Lemon Boy tomato
  • Wisconsin 55 tomato
  • Black Cherry tomato
  • Supersweet 100 tomato
  • Yellow Pear tomato
  • Sunsugar tomato
  • Megabite tomato

The mushrooms came out last night in full force following the planting, as had been the trend of the last two years. Sir Nigel spends his time between the bales and the deck…slowing down but still aware. The raised bed seeds are finally heating up after a very cold start. Looking forward to another successful year!


The many uses of straw in the garden! I am putting the 8 free straw bales to good use with 5 straw bale gardens, and 3 bales for garden mulch.

I just finished that section of the brickwork path this last fall (1, 2, 3), made from bricks from the 1950s that I dug up in the garden. The raised beds are my new lasagna gardens, which are part hugelkultur as well.

You’ll have to excuse all the wires and chaos: my husband is a radio amateur, and he has antennas all over the garden right now.

Put Straw Bale Gardening in Your Garden Plans

Combining container gardening with vegetable gardening, straw bale gardening breaks the notion that plants can only grow in soil as these dirtless gardens plans will cause your plants to explode with beautiful, wholesome produce. [Find out how!]

By Joel Karsten

Photo Courtesy Cool Springs Press



Wattle fences and retaining walls can easily be built from the leftovers of pruning, or from coppiced wood. This technique is the most basic form of fence construction, having been in use since Neolithic times.

I continually harvest apple, dogwood, willow, and hazelnut wood from designated coppicing trees in my yard, because these local species happen to grow both quickly and straightly. There are a number of “fences in progress” that are built higher every time I go around and maintain trees. Preparing materials is easy: I trim the bases of prunings down to sturdy fence posts of a uniform height and circumference; the rest I trim into flexible pieces for weaving the rest of the fence. The leftovers from all of this are piled up in #hugelkultur mounds. I hammer the posts down 1/3 of their height, and the rest is just simple weaving back and forth, between posts.

I have used this method for #raised beds, #straw bale gardens, and purely for aesthetic purposes with great success, but then again, I am not one to complain when it’s 100% free!



School’s almost in session, let the water bath begin…

I’m holding my first baking pumpkin of the season! Ended up crowding the box and only 4 set on the corner vines. Well, that’s what gardening is all about, trying to figure out the best laid plans and realizing things need to change for next year. The tomatoes and tomatillos will find their fate soon, salsa verde, tomato jam, chutney, enchilada sauce and the new twist (pickled cherry tomatoes). As the summer winds down, the harvest picks up and life gets busy. 

Put Straw Bale Gardening in Your Garden Plans

Combining container gardening with vegetable gardening, straw bale gardening breaks the notion that plants can only grow in soil as these dirtless gardens plans will cause your plants to explode with beautiful, wholesome produce. [Find out how!]

By Joel Karsten

Photo Courtesy Cool Springs Press


Mizuna transplants in a straw bale garden.

Straw bale gardens are a simple form of raised bed, created by cutting a small, shallow depression in the top of a partially-fermented straw bale (it should be left out from Fall), and filling it with compost. Straw bales can often be found for free after they have been used for decoration: I received 8 from a senior’s home.

The compost is “watered in” and sinks into the spaces in the straw bale, and more compost is added on top. Once the bale has been sitting for a week or two (and it is “settled”) it can be planted with a variety of things.

Because of the decomposing action of the straw, the straw bale gardens are warmer than other gardens. In the very early spring, when the temperature is sitting around 10-15˚C, mine are planted with peas, lettuces, and cabbage-family crops. Their growth is greatly accelerated by the warmth of the bales. On nights that dip below 0˚, crops are covered in a plastic cloche.

Once the season heats up (20˚C and up, without extreme nighttime lows) and I have taken my first harvest, the bales will be re-planted with tomatoes, peppers, tobacco, nasturtiums, and other heat-lovers.

This versatile raised bed is by and large “weeding free,” although the occasional seed will sprout from the straw itself. I am gently pulling these out and planting a little square of them elsewhere in the garden.

Find the book:  Straw Bale Gardens: The Breakthrough Method for Growing Vegetables Anywhere, Earlier and with No Weeding (USA / Canada / UK & Europe)

#garden hacks #diy


Observe, Harvest, Eat or Preserve!

It started, my backyard maple has dropped its first crimson token of autumn. So the harvest picks up the pace and the bales continue to shrink. This year’s SBG has proven to be a new learning curve. I removed the lower third of the Brussel sprout leaves and the plants are now producing the mini sprouting heads below the vacant leaves—who knew?

Waiting on the Brandiwine heavyweights and consuming pounds of cherries! Tomato season is the best time of the year:)


Newest project!

I started conditioning a straw bale out on the balcony so that I would have some place to plant the seedlings I’m growing on my new rack in the craft room.

I picked up some seed packets from Home Depot (it’s not saving seeds from what you eat, but I’ll get there eventually!) and set out fifteen cups each of summer squash, eggplants, tomatoes, and peas.

Fingers crossed I get some cute little seedlings out of this!

And now to kick back with tea and do some homework. No rest for the wicked!


The art of the mini greenhouse: 12, 3; + the cold frame

Many of you folks are working without a proper greenhouse, much like me!

Here is a small tour of the little things I have built in my garden in order to create warm and sheltered micro-climates for my plants, against the Danish seaside weather I cope with daily.

  1. Home-made mistbank
  2. Two stakes and a bag, anchored with a clothespin, to protect the fig tree
  3. A candy-container cloche
  4. An aquarium (can you believe someone was throwing that away?), converted into a squash nursery - the straw bale behind it holds quite a bit of heat
  5. Plexi-glass lean-to wind shelter on a warm straw bale, sheltering numerous seedlings
  6. Plexi-glass lean to wind shelter on a black berm, sheltering a Carolina spicebush

The most important features of all of these are protection from wind, and retention of heat.

Protection from wind is provided by glass, plastic, or whatever I can find that allows the sun to shine through.

Retention of heat is provided by mulch, fire bricks, using black paint, or proximity to decomposing straw bales.

#greenhouse #DIY #garden hacks #straw bale gardening #seedlings


What do you use to fend off the cold in your garden?


Left my garden to my caretaker neighbor for 10 days!

Returned after a 10 day road trip to San Diego to find a bounty of peas, beans, cucumbers and a lowly cherry tomato and tomatillo. The Swiss chard and beets are almost ready too. Back to the garden vigilance, just in time to corral or encourage the pumpkin and squash to climb the fence.