The Biker Chef and I got the brilliant idea to do a garden this year. I had read about Straw Bale Gardening, and thought, Why not give it a try? We were going to need to either dig up a plot or put in raised boxes, or some other container, anyway, but straw bales are their own container. You set them up anywhere in your yard, even rooftops, concrete slabs, small yards, big yards, or driveways. It’s actually a good way to do urban gardening. So, we purchased 27 straw bales from a local farmer, bought the book Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten, and went to the library to hear him speak. We did our research (Actually, the Biker Chef did the research. I’m technically his assistant.) 

Biker Chef prepping the bales and adding the posts and wire for support.

Biker Chef prepping the bales and adding the posts and wire for support. Early May in Minnesota.

Biker Chef planting the starts into the straw bales. Mid-May in Minnesota

Biker Chef planting the starts into the straw bales. Mid-May in Minnesota

Straw Bale Garden on June 6, 2015

Straw Bale Garden on June 6, 2015

Some of the plants took. Others did not. The book has a chart for conditioning the bales for 12 days prior to planting. You basically add fertilizer and water them. We set up the soaker hoses once we had the plants in. Also, the Biker Chef put them on a timer, so they water every morning. The tomato plants on the far row seem to be doing well. The broccoli and peas bit the dust, but the green beans seem to like it where they are. We have a few radishes, kohlrabi, cabbage, and various peppers. We also planted a few potatoes and shallots. The plants that vine out like cucumber, pumpkin, and squash are placed more on the sides of the bales. It appears that about half of them will make it. We have extra tomato plants! Does anyone need them? On the side of the house, we planted more tomatoes and peppers, as well as sunflowers, marigolds, and wild flowers. We were ambitious. I hope all the efforts pay off. Although, the Biker Chef says that if it does, “We’ll be canning tomatoes till the cows come home.” Even though we don’t have any cows. Friends, neighbors, and relatives might expect gifts of produce and canned goods this fall!

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Squash and watermelon, June 6, 2015

Squash blossom, June 6, 2015

Squash blossom, June 6, 2015

Biker Chef examining his crop. June 8, 2015.

Biker Chef examining his crop. June 8, 2015.

We pulled out the old swing set and used that area for our straw bale garden. We’re wondering if it’s too shady. I thought it would be sunnier since we lost a couple trees in the big wind storm last fall, but it sure looks shady here. The grey coming out of the bale on the right side of the pic is mushrooms. We’re not intentionally growing them. When mushrooms appear on the bales, it means that they’re getting heated up inside. In other words, they’re working. The mushrooms die and fall off. My plan is to do a weekly (or so) update on the crop. It’s our first year doing straw bale gardening, and it’s a learning process.

How does your garden grow?