Straw Bale Gardens
If you would like to know more about the straw bale gardens, or what goes into helping out with the garden, please read through the Straw Bale Garden Diary for an overview of the process and timeline.
Our primary needs for this year are individuals who are interested in helping with:
- moving 40-pound bales of straw into place in the garden (Spring)
- planting (Spring)
- watering, watering, watering (Spring, Summer, Fall)
- harvesting (Summer, Fall)
- culling and breaking down the garden (Fall)
And just a quick reminder here to visit the Westmont Seed Library and help yourself to some seeds for your own garden this year!
Straw Bale Garden Diary—Entry 1 of 6
Last spring, during a program on Winter Sowing, many participants expressed an interest in learning more about the concept of straw bale gardening.
Why a straw bale garden?
- No weeds!
- Plants are about 2′ off the ground and a raised bed is often easier to work in.
- Produce is not eaten by rabbits.
- When the growing season is over, bales decompose into wonderful, rich compost.
In order to demonstrate the process, program instructor and Master Gardener, Pat Miller, took up the challenge and began preparation for our very own straw bale garden here at the library!
Straw Bale Garden Diary—Entry 2 of 6
With the help of her son Ajay and daughter Maya, and Jon Yeager, Village Forester, Pat gathered 15 bales of straw (not hay, as many of us were quick to learn!).
Then she began conditioning them, which is the process of fertilizing bales and watering them daily to begin composting. It is the composting area of the bale which supplies the “soil” to plant in.
A variety of seeds were planted in the bales: cucumbers, kale, swiss chard, green beans, carrots, peppers, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, radishes, tomatillos, parsley, cilantro, and basil.
Straw Bale Garden Diary—Entry 3 of 6
Tomato plants were planted (these had been started through the process of winter sowing). Then, it was time to wait for the seeds to germinate and plants to grow.
It was decided at this point that all harvested produce would be donated to People’s Resource Center food bank here in Westmont.
As the plants began to grow, the main job was to keep the bales well-watered. During hot, dry periods the bales were watered every two to four days. (This is one of the few disadvantages of straw bales gardens—they dry out quicker than soil.)
Straw Bale Garden Diary—Entry 4 of 6
The garden became an educational tool for library patrons and several classes were offered on straw bale gardening.
Throughout the summer and early fall, produce was harvested, weighed, and taken to PRC.
This otherwise vacant space produced a nutritious gift for the community and added interest to the entrance of our library.
The total amount of produce taken to the pantry was over 130 pounds! (Even the flowers were cut and distributed!)
Straw Bale Garden Diary—Entry 5 of 6
Summer was behind and only cold weather plants kept growing. By Thanksgiving, the garden was culled and the straw used as compost in other gardens around the library.
Many insects had visited the garden and one even left a gift behind—a Praying Mantis egg case was found when cleaning up the garden!
Straw Bale Garden—Entry 6 of 6
A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM PAT MILLER
“All of this would not have been possible without help from Erica Davis (and occasionally her husband) who worked with me all summer long. She is a volunteer extraordinaire!
Jon Yeater, who found an additional 10 bales of straw and delivered them, was most generous. My children, Ajay and Maya Rao, who helped me set up the bales and break them down in November.
I hope that you enjoyed the garden. I would like to organize another garden this year, but will not be able to manage it without some help.
The greatest need is setting it up in the spring—moving bales which can weigh 40 pounds—and tearing it down in the fall. Planting the garden goes quickly with many hands and sharing the watering duties with others makes it more manageable.”
Keep on growing!