Grow Anywhere Gardening

Straw bale garden at fairYou don’t need a large plot of land to grow your own food or some flowers to brighten your home. You can grow plants anywhere! That’s the theme of the MSHS Educational Booth at the Minnesota State Fair this year.

You can grow plants in a wooden box — as many people do through our Garden-in-a-Box program. You can grow green beans in a container. Or herbs in a water feature. We show all these options at the educational booth.

But the showstopper has been our straw bale garden tomatoes. Many Minnesota gardeners are using a method pioneered by Joel Karsten, who has a website dedicated to gardening using decomposing straw bales as a growing medium. Northern Gardener editor Mary Lahr Schier has been trying the method this summer with good results. Here’s her explanation of how it works:

The concept behind straw bale gardening is fairly simple. You “condition” the bales by flooding them with water and fertilizer (you can go organic or traditional — I’m trying both ways) for 10 days. During the conditioning, the inside of the bales starts to decompose and within a couple of weeks you have a very fertile medium inside the bales. You can plant seedlings directly into the bales or add potting soil or compost to the top of the bale and use seeds. When the season is over, you harvest your crops, take the twine off the bales and knock them over. Viola! Compost!

If you are visiting the fair, stop by our booth to pick up more information about straw-bale gardening as well as other ways to garden creatively.