A conversation about climate change and gardening with Master Gardener, Del Hampton, got me thinking about giving straw bale gardening a whirl. While Master Gardeners Betsy Massie, Kate Wodtke and I were plann
ing the 2013 Gopher Adventures youth gardening program, I hit on the idea of trying a straw bale garden as part of "Goldy's Garden", the kids' garden area located in the Horticultural Science display and teaching garden at the corner of Gortner and Folwell Avenues on the St. Paul campus.
Joel Karsten, author of Straw Bale Gardens: The Breakthrough Method for Growing Vegetables Anywhere, Earlier and with No Weeding
, has been making the speaking rounds these days. As a result, I've received quite a number of questions from people about the feasibility / practice of straw bale gardening. I didn't know how to respond, so I thought it would be a good idea to give it a try. Besides, I'm always interested in alternative growing methods for small space / urban gardening. In addition, Stephanie Kasper, a student in my online class, wrote a very good article on pallet gardening. Both of these alternative growing methods present interesting options and fit well with our vision for Goldy's Garden. "Goldy" is always eager to get kids interested in gardening!
Currently, I am at the tail end of "conditioning" the bales. I've added 20-0-4 fertilizer to the bales at a rate of 1/2 c. (nearly) every other Days 1-9, and then 10-10-10 on Day 11. Planting is supposed to be scheduled for Day 13 (tomorrow 6/13).
I've done a fairly good job following Joel's schedule, though I admit missing a day or two of the initial applications. I also added 1/2 c. of 20-0-4 days 7-9 (skipping day 8) instead of 1/4 c. each day. The cool weather also hasn't been very conducive to heating up and breaking down the bales though the rain has been welcomed, but my trellising went up easily and the bales make a great entrance to Goldy's Garden.
Plants selected for the straw bale garden include cherry tomatoes, swiss chard, malabar spinach, pole beans, basil and nasturtiums.
Two pallets were recycled, covered on the back and th
ree sides with landscape fabric, and filled with potting soil with fertilizer included I planted one pallet with a 'Twice As Nice' melon and three mints. The second pallet was planted with four bush cucs. I propped one end of each pallet up on cinder blocks pointing south to maximize light and add some interesting form to a flat area of the garden. Watering is a litte messy, but I'm guessing this will lessen as the roots develop.
Stay tuned for updates!