Exciting things are happening in my life. One of them being moving to the homestead of my dreams this spring. 17 acres of forest and meadow to work with and turn into a homestead with a garden, orchard, and pastures. One of the things I want right away is a garden. I haven't had one in over two years due to moving and miss growing my own food like other people miss going out to the movies, or getting their nails done.
One of the drawbacks (benefits?) of developing raw land for a garden is that you are starting from scratch. You have weeds, rocks, and questionable soil to contend with. Backbreaking labor tilling the soil (unless you have a tractor) and getting it ready for planting. I have allot of experience doing this as I would just get a garden going and then my ex husband would lose his job and we would be moving again! I was always saying goodbye to my hard work and dreams of a big bountiful well established garden.
Not to say that I didn't get a harvest. I luckily have a green thumb and have managed to do well even in the first year of any new garden by choosing my plants carefully. But any avid gardener will tell you that the more years you have a garden going, the better it will get.
We will be strapped for time and labor this next gardening season because we will be building a cabin on the property. Most of my time and energy will go into that. So I started looking at less conventional ways to garden in the hopes of having something started for a small harvest.
Where we are going to be living presents several challenges. We are going to be living in the mountains with a short season and cool nights, garden predators (aka deer) abound, the ground has never been developed and is full of large rocks.
After looking at many options (most too expensive) we decided on using straw bale gardening. I was sceptical when this gardening technique started up for one simple reason. When straw bales, or any other organic matter composts or breaks down it lets off heat and carbon monoxide in large quantities. This will actually kill your plants and seedlings. But after reading about straw bale gardening I found out that you "condition" your bales before planting. Which simply put means starting up the composting process a few weeks before planting. Problem solved!
Everything about straw bale gardening looks ideal. The bales can be planted with almost all vegetables, it creates a raised bed so less stooping and bending, it is naturally weed free, bales are cheap to even free and easy to move, you can easily create trellises and even cover your plants for early planting or protecting from frosts/predators. And after the growing season the bales will be more than half broken down and can either be worked into the soil or left on top to keep weeds down.
Here are several links to starting a straw bale garden. As well as how to condition your bales before planting.