#WellnessReads: Straw Bale Gardens

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I am the first to admit that I am really geeky, embarrassingly crazy about vegetable gardening. And I don’t seem to be happy to just leave it at that. I am always looking at different ways to do things….well, or old ways reinvented. So when I saw this book at the library I could not resist the experiment.

With skiing not really that inspiring, and the weather so amazing, the garden was calling me by name! Now, why does this book make you better? Because we are what we eat! And it might make gardening more accessible to people who don’t want to put in the work to create raised beds, or those who don’t want to bend down.

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Before I get too far into straw bale gardening I will tell you about my first experiment with “alternative” techniques I tried when we first moved onto Poplar Street. Lasagna bed gardening. And no, it is not where you grow all the ingredients required to make lasagna in one bed like I thought!! But rather it is this reintroduction of the old method of sheet mulching. The concept is really just different layers of organic material heaped on top of each other to form this amazing crock pot of compost that super heats and super charges your vegetable garden. It turns hardpan clay soil like I had (I literally had to dig my carrots out with an adze!) to crumbly, deep loamy black soil that gardeners dream about, teaming with worms. And you don’t rip up your lawn or anything drastic like that. Nope. You just lay down sheets of cardboard, followed by your organic layers right on top of whatever is there. You also can just dump your compost wherever. And don’t till – at all. Really. I know there is a whole scientific process that is supposed to be followed, but the whole garden bed is an evolving compost heap that just keeps heaping up year after year! So this experiment, it happened on my very visible front lawn and much to the relief of the neighbours and passerby’s, it turned out just fine. I think the cardboard dump site bred skepticism, but in the end the winter squash were climbing up the cedar hedge, the sunflowers were twice as tall as I was, and the tomatoes were kind of amazing.

One of the big ingredients in sheet mulching is straw. So I decided to try straw bale gardening this year, so when I expand my lasagna beds again next year, I will have this partially decomposed, recycled straw to work with. Also, I am feeling a bit lazy and love the experiment factor. So here we go – straw bale garden. In his book Mr. Karsten encourages a lot of fertilizer be added to the bales, but my plan is to use half the organic fertilizer he calls for, and add manure. My kids have convinced me to leave some of it as a shelter/play structure with a living roof. I am willing to be the neighbourhood guinea pig. I was skeptical about lasagna gardening too, and now I would never go back to “other” styles.

Now get out there and join the vegetable garden nerd revolution (which is really awesome) one straw bale at at time!

PS – I promise to return this book to the library soon! And there is a great book about lasagna bed gardening (called Lasagna Gardening).

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