The Steps to Successful Straw Bale Gardening Episode SG516

Joel Karsten Straw Bale GardensAmerica’s Straw Bale Gardening expert and author Joel Karsten has helped thousands of gardeners with his breakthrough method of gardening. 

In his career, Joel has been a successful entrepreneur and a lifelong gardener. Faced with his own challenging site for gardening after he bought his first home, Joel conducted his own research and found that Straw Bales could be a life-changing tool for today’s gardener and their family – giving them a longer growing season and providing a sterile (weed-free) environment for vegetables and plants.

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Joel’s best-selling book, Straw Bale Gardens, guides readers through the specific steps to successful Straw Bale Gardening helping them deal with challenging climates, less-than-ideal garden situations, and the time/physical demands of a traditional garden. 

Straw Bale Gardens BookWith Straw Bale Gardens, gardeners have an easier, proven way to garden – enjoying higher yields, without soil concerns, 100% organic or conventionally tended, and enjoyed in almost any location (even driveways and balconies).

People frequently assume that Straw Bale Gardening simply means sticking plants in a straw bale. Equally off base, some gardeners hollow out a straw bale and fill it with soil; turning their straw bale into a container. Neither of these methods is Straw Bale Gardening.

What Joel has developed, through his twenty years of gardening with Straw Bales, is a proven method to transform ordinary Straw Bales into a viable substrate for growing plants.

In this week’s episode (SG516), I chat with Joel Karsten about the specific steps to successful Straw Bale Gardening. It all starts with a process Joel calls conditioning and he shares his formula on the show today.


Learn to Straw Bale Garden

In this Episode:

  • A primer on Straw (13:00)

“Whenever I speak to groups, I always tell people:

The closer I get to the country’s tallest buildings, the harder it is for the audience to distinguish the difference between straw and hay.”

– Joel Karsten, Straw Bale Gardens

“We’re going to MAKE soil every Spring out of that virgin bale of straw.

What this does, of course, is eliminates any need for crop rotation. Read any book on vegetable gardening ever written, and there’s always a chapter called The Importance of Crop Rotation.

We don’t worry about that because we’re building brand new virgin soil inside this bale of straw. It’s essentially sterile – there no pre-existing problems.

– Joel Karsten, Straw Bale Gardens

  • How to plan for a Straw Bale Garden (27:00)
  • Conditioning Straw Bales – The Steps (32:00)

All I can tell people is – I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve tried different amounts and I’ve tried different products…

And, basically, this formula I’ve come up with is what really is a foolproof recipe. It works every time.

– Joel Karsten, Straw Bale Gardens

Straw Bale Gardening 6ftmama

  • How to setup the Straw Bale Garden (50:00)

Connect with Joel:

 Joel’s website

On Facebook

On Twitter


Links Mentioned:

Three Seasons blog post on 6ftmama


Still growing...

Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
Jennifer Ebeling
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  1. Randy on November 21, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    I’m very interested in starting a spring garden with straw. My big problem is that I can’t find any straw for sale anywhere the near southeast corner of Georgia

    • Gary Whitaker on November 21, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Randy try the market bulletin from the Ga dept. of Agriculture. A years subscription is 10bucks.Call 1 -800-282-5852 people advertise all sorts of gardening and farming stuff in it. I tried the straw bale this past spring I liked it also bought Joels book from barnes and nobles it was a big help. Hope this helps you.

      • Jennifer Ebeling on November 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm

        Thanks Gary for replying. I’m forwarding these to Joel, too. If he has other suggestions, I’ll have him post them here. Thanks for listening guys.

    • Jennifer Ebeling on November 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      Hi Randy. I’m glad that Gary replied to you as well – I was also thinking that maybe the Farm & Garden section of Craiglist might be of some assistance to you. I’ve forwarded your comment to Joel as well so if he has further suggestions, I’ll be sure to post them.

      • Randy on December 12, 2013 at 6:49 am

        Thanks everyone but I think I may have a source close by and will find out soon.

  2. Sam Lopez on December 15, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    My question is this: If I use the traditional lawn fertilizer approach for conditioning the SB’s, will this be harmful to my chickens when they are helping to compost the old bales in the fall / early winter ? Or do I have to use organic approach for them to be unharmed ?

  3. Michael Franklin on December 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    When is SG517 coming out? I can’t wait to hear the 3rd installment of Straw Bale Gardening.

    • Jennifer Ebeling on December 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      Hi Michael! It’s in production right now and will go live next week. Love that you enjoy the show!

      • Michael Franklin on December 30, 2013 at 8:49 am

        I can’t wait to hear it…and yes, I love the show!!!

  4. Michael Franklin on February 2, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Is SG517 coming out anytime soon? I have been checking back frequently to see listen, but I have not seen any sign of it. I thought it was going to be released at the beginning of January.

    • Jennifer Ebeling on March 4, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Hey there Michael!
      My iMac got the black screen of death a few weeks ago and before that I could tell that something was wrong – the bad news. But the good news is that my data has been recovered and I should be getting it back today or tomorrow. With any luck, the show can be released yet this week!!
      Thanks for staying tuned…

  5. […] is responsible for planting these little Pink Beauty radish. Straw Bale Gardening pioneer Joel Karsten got his first gardening job planting radish for his Grandma Josephine. It’s a great first […]

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