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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama
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A Garden Made of Straw

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***

Getting ready to garden...

Getting ready to garden...

A few months back I was talking to my mom on the phone when she excitedly told me she had signed up for a class in straw bale gardening.

Straw bale-huh?

Well, it turns out that you can make a garden out of straw bales (like hay bales, except straw), planting your veggies and such directly in (or on top of) the bales.

I was intrigued, so I decided to Google it and give it a go myself.

It’s supposed to be easier in some ways than a regular garden – no digging, not as much weeding or bending over…and since my thumb is far from being green I decided to go ahead and try it – easy is good, right?

I also have a strong desire for my baby Bean to know where her food comes from, and this is one way to contribute to that. I’m not sure how much she’ll understand as she won’t even be a year old until August, but I figure, the earlier, the better.

I have dreams of taking her to visit farms to see cows and chickens, going berry picking and apple picking, visiting farmers markets and other such field trips. I’ve heard stories of kids who have never even seen a cow and I’m determined that that will not be the case for my family!

Anyway, we were talking about gardening, right?

The husband and I recently went down to the garden center to check out their straw bales. Yep, they looked like hay bales, except made out of straw. We planned to get 6 bales and make them into a rectangle in the back yard, which ideally will provide easy access to each bale.

Also, we determined that they would not fit into our car.

So we had them delivered. The bales are $9.50 each (though I’ve heard you can get them cheaper; depending on where you live you may even be able to pick some up from a farm for a couple dollars a piece).

I’ll need a bag of compost for each one as well, so I anticipate spending around $80-$100 to start my garden.

Here in Ontario the growing season hasn’t quite started yet; the reason I’m getting them now is so they can be ‘seasoned’ or composted. It basically involves dousing them with a whole lot of water and some fertilizer for about 10 days, then laying compost or potting soil over the top of each bale.

The hope is that they’ll finish cooking right around mid-to end May, and then I’ll be able to plant!

I haven’t decided yet whether I will be using seeds or transplants; both are possible in a straw bale garden. I know I’ll be planting zucchini, because I love zucchini, and I’ll put in some herbs around the veggies as one site suggested, but I haven’t fully decided on what else I’ll plant. Any seasoned gardeners out there have some ideas for me?

If you’re as intrigued by the idea of a straw bale garden as I am, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The bales take a lot of watering – it will probably be the biggest task of your gardening efforts. It’s a bit of a trade-off – less weeding, more watering. We purchased a soaker hose to make this a little easier.
  • It is recommended to use straw – not hay. The best type of straws to use for gardening are oat, wheat, rye and barley. Corn and flax straw are not recommended.
  • You can purchase bales from garden centers, farms, and stables. You can even buy them already seasoned from some places if you don’t feel like doing it yourself.
  • Once you get your bales, decide where you’re going to put them so you don’t have to move them – they’re heavy!
  • Be sure to arrange them in such a way that allows you easy access to each bale, particularly if you are going big.
  • If you have a small space, you can make a garden of just one or two bales, but be careful with placing them on something like a wood deck or up against a wood fence, because it could rot the wood.
  • If you have gophers or any other fun animals who like to pop up through the ground, you may want to place your bales over the top of some chicken wire.
  • It’s not recommended that you try to plant anything that grows very tall – like corn – on top of your bale (though if you place your bales up against a rot-proof fence you can train certain plants to grow up against the fence from the bale).

For a bit more information, here are some of the best sources I’ve found:

My mom is also under obligation to share what she learns from her class, and to buy me the book they sell there, so I’m sure I’ll have a lot more info. to share once it gets closer to planting time.

In the meantime, I have visions of my head of freshly picked zucchini and herbs, the Bean experiencing the wonder of seeing her food grow and helping me pick the veggies, and the joy of caring for my own little Eden right in my back yard.

Have you ever heard of straw bale gardening? Is it something you would try?

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn’t think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.
  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family’s simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.
  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.
  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.
  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don’t like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).
  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.
  • The Farmer’s Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer’s Market has become her son’s classroom.
  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment‘s hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!
  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.
  • Nature’s Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.
  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter’s blossoming love of the outdoors.
  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.
  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it’s a lot more than seeds!
  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.
  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.
  • Growing in the Outdoors — Lily at Witch Mom Blog talks about how connecting to the natural world is a matter of theology for her family and the ways that they do it.
  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.
  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.
  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.
  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children’s generation.
  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.
  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family’s food.
  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.
  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don’t have a garden? “You can still grow food!” says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.
  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she’s doing.
  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.
  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.
  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.
  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer’s MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it’s important to teach our children the value of local farmers.
  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.
  • Urban Gardening With Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for city gardening with little helpers — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
  • Mama Doesn’t Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.
  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.
  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it’s never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.
  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.
  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.
  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.
  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.
  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.
  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse “bean teepee” and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.
  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.
  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.
  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.
  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!
  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin’ (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.
  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.



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54 Responses to “A Garden Made of Straw”

  • Nena says:

    This is SO COOL! I am thinking I just might have to try this! Thanks so much for this post!
    Nena recently posted..Happy Mothers Day

  • I am so excited about this post; it's amazing! I've covered ways to garden when you don't have a garden on my post, but I had NOT listed this one. Can't wait to see how you get on. Happy growing!
    Mrs Green @ littlegr recently posted..Growing food without a garden

    • Kelly says:

      Thank you! It should definitely be an interesting summer :) Looking forward to learning from your post too!

  • OMG how incredible, how absolutely incredible. GOT to try this next year (our growing season is fully fledged here in Ireland now!) We even have a straw bale!

    Never heard of this before, thanks for the heads up – can you grow ANYTHING? Like I can't imagine root veggies would work…

    Thank you SO much for this post! Am going to forward it to my hubby who might put it on his environmental newsletter!
    Lucy@Dreaming Aloud recently posted..Cultivating Abundance

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks Lucy! I was pretty excited about it too :D

      As far as I've read you can grow just about anything as long as it's not something super tall (like corn). The teacher of the class my mom was in also said you could plant potatoes in the side of or right underneath the bale; then if you pull the twine off at the end of the season it will be full of potatoes!

      I don't think I'll try potatoes this year but I know quite a few have done it. :) I'll post more info. when I get the book and start planting…(and thanks for the forward to your hubby! Where can I sign up for his newsletter?)

  • MJ says:

    This sounds fascinating! What a wonderful thing to share. I think we are all anxious to see how it turns out!!

  • This is so cool! I've heard of straw bale gardening but haven't yet seen it in action. I'll be checking back to see how it goes!

    I love the part where they don't fit in your car — that would totally be us. :)

    For what to plant, I'd suggest looking into some local sources for what grows well in your area, so you don't frustrate yourself with what doesn't (speaking from experience with melons and peppers here, ha ha). Tomatoes are often pretty easy, though I guess you'd want a determinate variety so it's not as tall. Oo…maybe strawberries!
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted..May Carnival of Natural Parenting- Urban gardening with kids

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks Lauren!

      I am thinking I'm going to try planting strawberries in the side of the bales (something I saw someone else doing) and love your suggestion of finding out what grows well here – I should probably do that so I don't get discouraged. :)

  • This does sound interesting – and cheaper than trying a raised bed! I wonder if you have to start over with new bales every year. Thank you for all of the info!
    Dionna @ Code Name: recently posted..Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener

    • Kelly says:

      Hey Dionna – from what I've read the bales can (possibly) last for 2 seasons. It will be interesting to find out if that is actually the case :)

  • mamapoekie says:

    cool, never heard of that. Wonder how it'll turn out
    mamapoekie recently posted..Connecting To Nature

  • Carrie says:

    Wow what a great idea! I've never seen anything like this before! Bravo for your sense of adventure in trying something new! I can't wait to check back and see how things are growing!

    As far as what to plant, consider planting what you eat! This is what I did when I planted my own new garden (a square foot garden, also a bit unique). So I put in lots of stuff for my salads, and for making my tomato sauce, for juicing green drinks and herbs for meal seasoning. Or you could also plant the things that are more expensive to buy in the store.

    Have fun!
    Carrie recently posted..The Tradition of Gardening

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks Carrie! I am actually pretty picky with veggies so I'll definitely only be planting what I eat…though it is oddly tempting to plant stuff just for the sake of knowing it would grow well! I also thought about planting brussels sprouts because organic ones are so expensive, but I saw from another poster that hers got attacked by bugs, so I'll have to do a little more research into that. :)

  • Wow, this is so cool! I had no idea! Thank you for sharing!!
    Charise @ I Thought recently posted..5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World

  • Rosemary says:

    Fascinating! I've never heard of this before, I love it. Keep us updated on how it progresses!

    We've always had great results with cherry tomatoes & various greens in Washington. :)
    Rosemary recently posted..Little Gardener

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks Rosemary! I'll be planting tomatoes for the husband for sure, and I was thinking of cabbage because they're supposed to grow well in straw. It's slowly starting to come together…

  • Very cool! I'll be checking as the summer progresses to see how things turn out for you. Maybe if our garden doesn't live up to our expectations, we'll think about straw bales for next year. :-)
    CatholicMommy recently posted..Dont Let the Pigeon Buy Another Book

  • Amanda says:

    I have never heard of this per se, but I do know that you can grow potatoes in a bale of straw (because potatoes can grow almost anywhere) so that might be a nice option for you. Carrots, green beans, lettuce as well? Celery? This is a very cool idea and one I will definitely keep in the back of my mind. I wouldn't have to worry about moving the bales though because I'm totally buff.

    • Kelly says:

      I am thinking about doing sweet potatoes or fingerling potatoes…they're on teh list of possibilities. Green beans too :)

      If I need to move my bales can you come over and do it for me? ;) They're full of water at the moment but I'm sure you can handle it. :D

  • this is so awesome!!! I LOVE that you actually started this process…I literally can not wait to hear how this turns out!!! not to mention…I'm a zucchini lover myself…had some for dinner tonight with chicken meatballs and quinoa pasta! please post MUCHO pics when you get this thing going ;)
    Jessica | Cloth Diap recently posted..Condo Kid turns Composter and Plastic Police

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks Jessica!

      I should admit that the picture in this post is not my own – it came from stock because I didn't have my bales set up when I wrote the post. ;) I will be taking many of my own to post soon though!

      That dinner sounds awesome :) Zucchini is the best!

  • Anna says:

    Genius. I was given a 'no dig' gardening book for my birthday but due to dragging my heels on the whole gardening thing I didn't get my act together. THEN as we were double digging our new patch a lady walked by and said we needn't be putting in all that effort because we could just grow on straw. It was a little too late at that point! But now here I am reading your post and thinking it's yet another sign that this is the path for me. Thank you very much. I will read and watch with interest.
    Anna recently posted..How Not to Grow

    • Kelly says:

      lol Anna – I HATE digging! I dug this very small patch outside my previous house to plant flowers and it was wretched work for me, especially as we didn't have a wheelbarrow and I was hauling the dirt away in buckets! :p

      I think I may be adding some container gardening (and maybe grow some potatoes in a barrel, which I've also read about) next year too – how cool would it be to have so many plants without having to dig at all! :)

  • Dee says:

    Very cool. I have some veggies I've grown from seed and thought I'd pot, but this looks like a great option.
    Dee recently posted..May 9

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