Today's topic is straw bale gardening and if you have never heard of it before you will be amazed at what you see!
I was introduced to the "Straw Belle," Charlotte Nelson by a forwarded email about Nelson's garden with a note that said, "You might be interested in this." I was not just interested but amazed! Nelson, who began to garden using straw bales in 2009 had these beautiful plants and vegetables growing out of straw!
I had never heard of anything like this and so I asked to see more photos and Nelson, by this time an avid straw bale gardener obliged. Since she started gardening using this method, she has become a believer because of her amazing results. Not only that, she loves to get the word out to people who might not be physically able to garden traditionally, that they can plant in bales without all the back-breaking labor.
It all began in 2009 which was a very good gardening year for Charlotte and because of her success, she enlarged her garden exponentially.
Nelson said, "The 2009 season was my "straw bale testing" year, and so in 2010, I increased my straw bales from 10 bales to almost 50. Her garden has increased every year since.
"I call it my "lazy lady garden," due to the lack of digging and weeding, etc."
One thing I like about her method is now nice it looks in her yard, the grass is totally undisturbed. There is no tilling at all. In the photo below, her lawn is beginning to green for the summer and is undisturbed.
I love her flowering trees. If you examine the wooded area closely (especially in the first photo). You can see flowering trees intermixed with the trees in the woods behind her straw bale garden.
This is a photo from 2011. Beautiful!
Her gardens have been more beautiful each year.
Another view. I like that she is planting marigolds in with the vegetable plants.
According to Nelson, she had an abundant garden even during the recent droughts.
Not only has she had tremendous success in her vegetable garden, but she never has to weed and her garden is not as susceptible to disease. I am guessing it is because of the straw and the plants don't come into contact with the soil. She also seems to have a longer growing season than most gardeners.
"I still had tomatoes in early November ... not to mention a boatload of different peppers and eggplant. I also created a small area for spinach and turnip greens to test and WOW, they did so well in the bales, too."
She does have a fence to keep out deer, just like everyone in our area but she has had incredible success.
During the summer months, Nelson sells her excess produce and I can tell you she certainly is an inspiration to me.
Instructions on how Charlotte created her first straw bale garden are still online here in case you want to know more.
Nelson also visits garden clubs as a speaker and has presented her straw bale gardening method to the Backyard Association meeting of Coweta Master Gardeners. I attended that meeting and she was literally mobbed with interesting questions from people who wanted to learn more.
At that meeting she said that one benefit of straw bale gardening are worms! She said that when the bales disintegrate, as they will after a few years, they turn into a haven for earthworm. As any gardener knows, that is the sign of healthy soil.
Want to know more about Nelson? Here is a magazine article where you can find more photos and an interview with Charlotte Nelson. The article begins on page 12.
I want to leave you from a few more photos from Pinterest because there is more interest in straw bale gardening each year.
Above a trellis using straw bales from strawbaleman via Pinterest.
This photo is from WSU Master Gardeners of Thurston via Pinterest.
And this pretty green garden from janderson99, also via Pinterest.
Nelson is now experimenting with growing popcorn from seeds from Orville Redenbacher and planting grocery store celery stalks. I have a feeling there will be much more to tell about Nelson in the future. She is a gardening free spirit and also a very nice person!