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Book review: Straw Bale Gardens

Straw Bale Gardens
The Breakthrough Method for Growing Vegetables Anywhere, Earlier and with No Weeding
By Joel Karsten

Twenty-five years ago, Joel Karsten graduated with a BSc in horticulture from the University of Minnesota. Regardless of the credibility his degree affords, the author credits his grandmother Josephine with teaching him the fundamentals of gardening techniques, leading with her mantra: “Work smarter, not harder.”

This segues neatly to Karsten’s promotion of straw bale gardening. With straw—never hay—bales, Karsten claims we’ll enjoy higher crop yields, no weeding, an extended growing season and flexibility because they can grace a balcony just as adequately as a large garden bed. An added benefit? No stooping: harvest crops that are waist-high.

Regardless of whether you use straw bales or soil, there are many useful gardening tips in this book, such as how to best irrigate with soaker hoses (never overhead sprinklers). Of course, there are other uses for eco-friendly straw bales, too: straw-bale buildings, anyone?

What makes this book unique?
Superb photographs and illustrations graphically explain the techniques Karsten discusses in his text. For instance, drawings spanning two pages well depict a ten-, fifteen- and twenty-bale garden’s layout, along with suggested plants.

A special thumbs up goes to the author’s careful explanation of how to condition the bales in order to provide a nutritional growing medium in which plants will successfully grow. The idea is to encourage the straw bales to compost internally, so as to promote root growth, healthy plants and fruitful crop yields.

Price: $21.99
Publisher: Cool Springs Press


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