The beginnings of my straw bale garden

I got my straw bales! Yippee! This year I’m trying a straw bale garden, and the first ingredient of that is – obviously – bales of straw. Here they are sitting in a stack in my back yard.

straw bales for my straw bale garden

There are 20 bales there. Added to the four I had already, I will soon have a garden of two dozen straw bales! I had a nearby feed store deliver them, and they are neatly stacked in my yard waiting for me to pull and tug them into position on the ground. This is my first year doing a straw bale garden. It’s a large learning curve to undertake, but it seems to be the best solution to my yard that is overgrown with tiny blackberry shoots. The amount of rain we get here in Oregon ought to be awesome for keeping the bales from drying out.

I’ve had the starts going in my house for several weeks now. The beans are about to outgrow their pots, and the rest are about 3 inches tall. Beets, sunflowers, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, radishes, squash, gourds, watermelon, cucumbers, and many others that I can’t remember right now. And I have purchased starts, too – tomatoes and herbs especially. I don’t know anyone who has started tomatoes successfully from seed. (Although they must exist, or there would be no plant starts in the stores!)

When I can, I choose organic seeds. I know, the organicness of the seed has nothing to do with the organicness of the eventual fruit. But that isn’t my point in choosing organic seeds. What I am looking for is plants that grow well in organic conditions. Ones that don’t need artificial fertilizer to grow, and don’t need artificial sprays to resist bugs. And the best way to get plants like that is to grow the second (or third or fourth) generation of plants that successfully flourished in those conditions.

My garden can not be certified organic. To do that requires that the area not have non-organic amendments used on it for the three years preceeding the certification. Since I have lived here only 1.5 years, I can not know how the grass and soil was kept before I arrived. And since I will spend only four years here, it didn’t seem worth the bother (and expense) to get certified just for one year of being able to sell veggies as organic. So when (if) I sell any from this year’s crop, I must explain that while I grow with organic methods, the vegetables are not certified.

Which do you think is most important – purchasing certified organic vegetables, or knowing your farmer and knowing they grow vegetables organically even if they have not completed the paperwork to become certified?

Regardless of your individual answer, I know that I can only do what I can do.

I read a very inspirational quote the other day, perfect for my very first foray into straw bale gardening. It said that no matter how many mistakes you make, and no matter how slowly you go, you are already miles ahead of the person who did not even try.

I am definitely going to make mistakes with this garden. I might even be setting it out too early – local gurus seem divided on that. I might be using the wrong soil. I might not have balanced my compost 100% correctly and be feeding too much nitrogen or phosphorus or something. I might have grown my beans inside too long and have weedy stems instead of lush bushes. Heck, the neighborhood squirrels might discover the garden and eat it all. My own chickens might escape their coop and help! But no matter the result, I am learning. A straw bale garden is simply the next step on my path to being able to feed my family without relying on commercial groceries. Next year’s garden will be grown at least somewhat from seeds I save from this year’s crop!

Can you tell I’m excited??

So do you have a garden? What type? And do you have a specific goal for it (or your learning curve) this year?

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7 comments on “The beginnings of my straw bale garden

  1. What exactly are you doing with the straw bales? Are you planting into them? Using them to get rid of the blackberry shoots? What is the advantage of straw bales over planting into the ground (ease of work obviously)? Just curious, sounds like a neat idea!!

  2. Knowing your local farmers and knowing their techniques is more important to me than buying something that’s been stamped organic. I’m excited for your straw bale garden, and look forward to updates on its progress 🙂

  3. I agree with agventerous, I would love to hear a basic definition of straw bale gardening. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Sounds interesting. Yeah, I could Google it, but I’d rather hear your version of what it is and how it’s done (why must the bales be kept moist?) and why it’s advantageous.

    • So many people asked those questions that I’ve made a blog post about why I chose straw bale gardening, and the pros of it that I expect to use, and how to maintain it. Hope that answers your questions, do let me know if you have more!

  4. I have started conditioning my bales this week. I am excited too! I had trouble locating good bales, and when I did I didn’t have a way to get them home. I have four smaller awful bales that might even be hay, and 2 large nice straw bales. They didn’t come cheaply, though, and I doubt the garden store I got them from offer delivery. I have this summer to experiment with the few I have, and to locate a better source for bales. I will be posting my progress soon, and look forward to watching yours as well!

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