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Picking Plants for Your SBG— What Do You Like To Eat?

Choosing Plants for Your Straw Bale Garden

“When choosing the plants you’d like for your Straw Bale Garden, the first question you should answer is ‘What do you like to eat?’” says Straw Bale Gardens Complete author Joel Karsten, “Of course, it’s always fun to experiment with something you’ve never bought at the grocery store, too. There are few crops that I would caution you against growing in your Straw Bale Garden, but some crops are not very conducive to this method.”

Planting Corn Surprisingly Good Choice

Corn is the major non-choice crop for SBGs, according to Karsten. “Corn has such a large root system that only a few plants would fit in a bale, and the corn gets so tall it will shade most other plants nearby,” notes Karsten, “The few ears of corn you’d produce are not valuable enough to account for the space it takes to grow it.” The only other no-grow SBG crops that he mentions are perennial ones like asparagus and rhubarb, which grow back from the same root system every year and take several years to become established before annual harvests can begin.

In this case, Karsten does offer an alternative plan that utilizes straw bales. “If you plan to establish a plot of asparagus or rhubarb, however, you can simply put the bale in a location where you want the plants to be long term,” he says, “Bury about one-third of the bale before you condition it. Once conditioned, plant the asparagus or the rhubarb roots in the prepared bale, and come back in three years to observe that an established plot of said crop is now ready to harvest every year going forward.”

Navigating the Plant Profiles Book

In the “Plant Profiles” chapter near the end of his book, Karsten offers “useful information to help you select the best herbs and vegetables for your Straw Bale Garden. We’ll take a look at the best way to plant your seeds and transplants, and how to care for your seedlings to ensure that you get the most from your harvest. You’ll find recommended cultivars for each plant, and even some ways to prepare your produce in the kitchen.”

Typical home garden crops included are beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, melons, onions, parsnips, bell peppers, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, squashes and pumpkins, strawberries, tomatoes, tomatillos and zucchini. Herbs listed are basil, chives, cilantro (coriander), dill, garlic, oregano, parsley, sage and thyme.

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