Straw bale gardening is growing rapidly in popularity. Straw is an agricultural leftover. Previously it wasn’t used for much other than animal bedding and mulch. In South Florida, you can purchase straw bales at many feed stores. Ideally, you’ll get straw bales from an organic farmer who hasn’t used controversial pesticides and herbicides on the their crops of cereal grains from which the straw came from.
Straw bales perfect for straw bale gardening in Florida are about 2 feet by 1.5 feet by 3.5 feet in size. When turned so that the cut ends of the straw faces up and the twine is around the sides, these are the perfect base for growing a sustainable garden. First you have to get the straw bales ready for planting. Start a couple of weeks before planting your seedlings. Water the straw bales every day and sprinkle with an organic fertilizer occasionally. This conditioning system starts composing the straw so that it can provide nutrients to your crops.
To plant your veggies, open up a hole in the straw, add the seedling without removing it from its soil and fill any extra space with sterile potting mix. This is the easiest way to start a straw bale garden. If you’d like to start with seeds, just cover the entire bale with a layer of potting soil and then plant the seeds according to the instructions on their packet.
Straw bale gardening cuts down on weeding and allows people with infertile soil or no soil to grow their own vegetables! So, even if straw bales seem like an expensive investment, when compared to the price of romaine lettuce, strawberries, kale or other fresh fruits and veggies, it’s incredibly affordable!
Joel Karsten is credited for pioneering the modern straw bale garden movement. Check out Karsten’s book, Straw Bale Gardens (Cool Springs Press, $19.99).
To find straw bales in Tampa, Florida, check out this directory.
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