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Straw bale garden produces the goods without the grief

SoVaNow.com / July 21, 2014
Fortune shined upon us in March 2013 when we read an article in Carolina Country entitled “Grow a straw bale garden.” Bale gardening produces beautiful and tasty vegetables without many of the chores associated with gardening. It has been very enjoyable for us, and we hope some of you will be encouraged to have your own bale gardens.

For many years, we had a large vegetable garden. It decreased in size when our four children left home and got even smaller as our ages and physical limitations advanced. Roto-tilling, weed pulling, and vegetable picking moved from pleasures to difficult tasks, so we stopped gardening. While we delighted in our sons’ stories of their own gardens, we really missed the joy of gardening and the taste of fresh vegetables.

So, we decided to give bale gardening a try. We purchased seven wheat straw bales and began our journey. We chose wheat straw bales because they have less grass and fewer weeds than hay straw bales. The first step was to prepare our bales for planting. It takes about ten days, with thorough watering each day, to begin the decomposition of the bales.

Planting your vegetables is a breeze. Simply use a trowel to make a wedge in your bale large enough to insert your plants. Our first crop included tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. To our great delight, all of them grew extremely well. Weeds were minimal, and the elevation offered by planting in bales made picking much easier. Sunlight is essential to the process so we chose an open sunny spot in which to locate the bales.

We enjoyed fabulous tomato sandwiches all the days until the first frost. Our cucumbers were plentiful...after eating, sharing and pickling, we still had more than enough. And at season’s end, we used the decomposed bales as mulch in some of our plant beds.

Little did we know that our simple experiment was the first known bale garden in Halifax County and would spawn a slew of interest. During this first season, we were taking the Master Gardener’s class. Our classmates and about seventy-five other people came to visit our garden, and all were amazed that vegetables would grow so well in bales. About the only thing one needs to do to be successful in bale gardening is keeping their bales moist; Mother Nature does the rest.

This year, we have a fifteen-bale garden. We have lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, string beans and butter beans. At least twenty other people in South Boston and Halifax County have their own bale gardens, and many others have stopped by or called. Funny, but we are considered the experts, this being our second year of bale gardening!

Straw bale gardening is great fun. There’s no soil to till, no weeds to pull, fewer insects, and very little bending. And the vegetables are every bit as delicious as those we grew in our bigger gardens. Try a bale garden next year and you’ll enjoy fresh vegetables all summer long.

(One source said he knows that at least 160 straw bales have been reserved for gardeners next year.)





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