Growing a garden along a sandy PNW coast line or in hard-packed Georgia clay each come with their own unique set of benefits and challenges.
In our ten years living along the Oregon Coast we’d managed a handful of container gardens but never had much luck with the short growing season and crazy-windy days that come with living a few blocks from the beach. So when we made our move to the countryside just south of Atlanta we were excited to begin gardening (in a much warmer climate) but knew we’d face many challenges to gardening here as well.
We started out with a simple dream of creating our own unique little permaculture farm where we could grow our own food, raise small farm animals, and design a variety of creative learning gardens for our family and friends, neighbors and community. So, when we found a century old farmhouse on just under an acre of land, in a tiny country town, we knew we were home.
Despite having lots of sunshine and rain, higher temperatures and a much longer growing season than we were used to, as we settled in and began working on our little farm here we were surprised to hear that very few people garden in our area due to the hard packed clay and lack of good soil.
As an unschooling family learning more about Permaculture we are constantly looking for simple, effective (and creative) ways to become more sustainable. So naturally, the idea of straw bale gardening just made sense… with minimal work and maximum growing potential!
So we did a few online searches and picked up a bunch of bales from our local feed store and this, my friends, is how we became… That family!
You know, the PNW family of hippies who you can probably tell ‘aren’t from around here’ by the fact that they have 40+ (composting) straw bales and a teen practicing yoga in their front yard.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering… that wonky looking tree/shrub in the background just so happened to be caught on camera mid way through cutting it down to help provide more sunlight for the garden.
In an effort to ‘grow food not lawns’ we placed our bales in a nice sunny spot in our front yard that would be close enough to utilize the rain water catchment system we’ll be installing later this season. We only had to water our bales a handful of times in the first two weeks thanks to Spring rainfall.
Next, we topped the bales with a mix of mushroom compost and organic gardening soil (along with some natural fertilizer)…watered them in well and prepared to plant them.
The girls were a huge help with choosing the locations for each bale, deciding what to plant where, and hauling our veggie and flower starts from the greenhouse.
Some of the coolest things about straw bale gardening are that it’s relatively inexpensive and much more flexible than building expensive raised beds. Plus, you can create your own (self-composting) garden just about any where.
Whether you’re hoping to grow a small patio garden with with just one bale or a large family (or community) garden you can plant just about anything from veggies to a wide variety of flowers without the added work of digging or tilling up the soil first… making it a fun and simple way to garden with kids.
We’ll be sharing lots of helpful gardening tips and updates on our straw bale garden in the weeks to come… in the meantime be sure to join us on Instagram to follow along with our permaculture farm adventures!