Strawbale Gardening Class at Bloomington Library

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Straw bale Gardening at Bloomington Library

Straw bale Gardening has become a big hit with the recent introduction of Joel Karsten, book called Straw bale Gardening and has taken the garden world by storm and giving growers a new media to grow vegetables, herbs and annuals. If you would like take a class on Straw bale gardening then wait no further. University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, will be giving a program at the Bloomington Public Library on Tuesday, June 23

6-7:30 p.m. just in time for the last minute gardeners to grow a few crops in this revolutionary way.

Growing in straw bales has remained popular due to the fact that it essentially solves every impediment today's home gardeners face: bad soil, weeds, a short growing season, watering problems, limited gardening space, and even physical difficulty working on ground level.

University of Illinois, Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, says it's like growing vegetables in a compost pile where the roots grow bigger and stay warmer. She constantly touts better roots means better shoots means bigger fruits.

The science behind the decomposition of the straw bale is what makes it the ideal growing media for vegetables. The Straw bale starts out with a cooking process where fertilizer is added to straw feeding bacteria. Then the bacteria turns the straw into soil.

After a 10-12 days of adding fertilizer and water to your bales, you are ready to plant your vegetables for cheaper than a bag of high quality soil. Karsten has a specific recipe of adding fertilizer and water in the book but in the end says any combination will get the cooking process done. During the cooking process, the bales will form of dark soil clumps known as peppering. Mushrooms may form and can be removed but not eaten.

Do not plant the bale until the top 4-6" inches cools down, not warm to the touch. If planting seed, place 2" layer of top soil on straw bales. If planting vegetable transplants, dig a hole fill with soil and plant. Bales can be doubled up for more space. Plant 4 cucumbers, 4 peppers, 2 eggplant and herbs. Add supports and drip irrigation for worry free gardening. Add flowers to the sides of the bales for decoration and throw on the compost this fall.

Straw bale gardening has become an exciting venture and will be a highlighted by the University of Illinois throughout the season on the horticulture blog entitled "Flowers, Fruits and Frass." Horticulture staff and 4-H youth will be growing vegetables for the Nutrition team giving them access to fresh organic vegetables and herbs for their programming.