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Minnesota, Roseville Minn- St Paul
Tell us a little about yourself.
12 days straight. I’m 3/4 of the way through a paitn job.
Roseville, MN between St. Paul
Tuesday March 24, 2020! The beginning of a crazy time! We are on spring break so I hope youare getting outdoors. HEre’s Joel Karsten from stra balegardening
I’m in Minnnesota
I grew up in Southern Minnesota on a crop and dairy farm
grew up on a farm
moved to the city in college
Was gonna go back to the farm but I met a girl, never made it back to the farm
- involved in several community gardens
travel around esp. in the winter and spring speaking at home and garden shows here in the US and some in Europe as well about
the straw bale garden method
Where do you want to start Pioniering this method, one thing my shuanbend who grew up on a ranch is there is a difference btwetn straw and hay.
straw is what remains cereal grains are harvested like
Wheats and oatmeal
bale up the stalks
bedding for livestock
has hollow stalks
stems are hollow
- hold air
- acts like insulation
livestock can lay on the bed of straw has this amazing path to suck up and hold on to moisture
that’s what makes it so good at holding on to large capacity moisture inside a bale which will hold 5 gallons of water
acts as a reservoir for urine for
son or pitchfork in the manure spreader so it’s like a diaper for livestock
hay is food ~ Fodder
if you say I’m feeding my dairy cows a hay bale that usually means
if your are feeding horses it could mean alfalfa or clover but it could be grass hay
bale up grass that has seed heads
alfalfa has lots of proteins so it’s a very valuable crop it’s easy to grow
grow it to bale it and feed it to livestock
not a byproduct of oats or wheat
straw is a by-proudct
reasons you grow hay is to feed it to livestrock
- more expensive
- has a lot of protein in it
protein breaks down into the
could use a hay bale but it’s
- more expensive
- breaks down quicker
- doesn’t hold moisture as well
hay bale you only get one seasons of growth
he uses it mostly for mulch, he says you get weed seeds in the garden
depends on when you cut the crop when you get to
cut when you get to 1/10th flower so when one in ten plants has a flower with seeds are mature
weeds that have mature seeds
hopefully not too many weeds
if you are balling like grass hay usually it depends becuase if you cut it a couple of times a year the seed has won’t mature
If you don’t cut it at all and you just cut it in the fall and bale your ditch grass, that could have all kinds of seeds in it
sometimes same with straw if you get a really good combine that gets all seeds off when harvesting but if you have a combine that is not adjusted right you can get a bale of straw that has lots of seeds in it too
happens early in the season
prepping the bales getting to plant
spray with a little vinegar and knock them back, then you don’t have to deal with the weeds
delights of straw bale gardening is you don’t have to deal with weeds
How does somebody start?
Process called Conditioning.
I should go back a bit
when I started straw bale garden
necessity of the mother of all invention
grew up on a dairy barn
When we had a broken bale, the string we would just toss against the barn and say we will come back down but as soon as it gets raining it’s never used and you always say is never bed your baby with a wet diaper
rained on all summer
The biggest vegetables are growing out of the bales
My dad would say hey kid run and get the pitchfork and put it on the manure spreader
try to pick it up with the fork it would fall through the tines of the fork so decomposed
go to college and get a degree in horticulture first instinct is to grab the shovel and run to the yard and see what kind of soil you have so I had a had a half inch of top soil
College kid I just bought a house
had no money to build raised beds
I remembered back to when I was on the farm and the great big thistles to grow the corn
same nutrient profile to grow thistles as it does to grow tomatoes and peppers
Got some bales and did some experimenting
tried different methods
First year I did this, about 2-3 months into the seasons
I knew I would never go back to traditional garden
perfected the method over the first couple of years.
I always say for the first 14 years I did this there weren’t a lot of people who cared
15 years ago this spring, I got on the local news channel 11 affiliate, the NBC affiliate
it just exploded, the next day they started calling the tv station saying where do you get this?
early days of the internet
built a little website
self published booklet
that little booklet started going all over the world
- early days of Facebook
- started to spread
first published book
straw bale gardening in 2013 for cool spring press started this explosion
- 30 languages
- 60 countries
cult within gardening the straw bale gardening community is really sort of a family
- teach each other
- encourage each other
- teach each other the techniques for people who are just starting
is to understand that plants down’t grow very well in plain straw
recently decomposed straw
take the bale 12 day prep process
rapid composting inside the bale
the inside of that bale is going to become soil it’s in very early stage, by the time we plant the inside of the bale will be
don’t just buy a bale of straw and pop a plant inside it, it doesn’t work you need to do this conditioning process first!
amazingly well over traditional gardening methods in my opinon.
Do you have to buy other stuff besides the straw bale? What do you put in it? Or do you put compost in the middle of it?
straw bale metod
do I just dig the bale out and put the dirt out t there then your just soil gardening up in the air – defeating the purpose
You need to get some source of nitrogen
blood meal works really well for this method
- we like to use pork blood meal
- feather meal
- corn gluten
a lot of people who are vegan or vegetarian
you can find alternatives
You need something that has minimum of 5% nitrogen content
chicken manure if you have access to pure manure
what I discourage people from doing if you have bedding mixed in with your chicken manure if it has lots of
- wood shavings etc
- wood chips
- straw mixed with the manure
because then you get enough stuff worked down into the bale there
something with at least 5% nitrogen content
use it every day for ten day period
- water every day
- nitrogen is going to feed the bacteria
not about feeding plant roots
invisible process you can’t see it what we are doing is feed the bacteria inside the bale
you can’t see it hapen but you can feel it happen
feel that bale get warm
comes from the colonizing bacteria
metabolize the straw
work together with mother nature’s other tools from her tool kit
- bacteria > the heavy lifter
they begin decomposing and metabolizing the straw
breaking down the leaves and stalks of the bale of the oats or wheat into the cells broken into compound then broken down into individually charged molecules of things we would recognize
micro and macro nutrients that the plant used to grow the
ions and cat ions
root of a new plant to absorb through the roots
when you put the tomato in the bale
absorb through the roots
new stems and new fruits that come out and grow out of this bale
basic biological process
new growth from plants you put in the bale
You put plants not seeds right?
You can plant seeds bigs ones like beans and peas, something as big as your pinky finger
stick them right into the
tiny seeds like carrots or radishes or something real small seeds
need to make a seed bed
I recommend you buy a bag of planting mix
don’t want anything that is going to have disease or soil borne
if you take a shovel of top soil
you have introduced weed seeds or potentially disease that harbors
lots of advantages
common question I get is why would I want to grow in straw bales when I have all this soil in the backyard?
no weeding thing
You go the whole summer! we get lots of posts on Facebook and twitter and Instagram
I am so excited I have gone all summer and not pulled one weed out of my garden. I should have been doing this the last 20 years.
The other common one
I will never go back to planting in soil, this is the greatest thing ever!
They do that say that!
people fall in love with this method of gardening, it’s hard to explain how it excited people become! It spreads very quickly
why do you think it has become this phenomenon?
it’s so conspicuous
You could walk your dog every night, and a friend could ask you does that blue house, do they have a vegetable garden? you will say I don’t remember?
but if they put in a straw bale garden then everyone will know that house and then they see them plant
- grow out of these bales
- amazing harvest that they get
sort of becomes an attention grabber for the neighbor! They see:
Somebody did it!
- easy to do
- not a lot of maintenance
become a teacher
literally pull over and ask questions
what are doing here?
is this vegetable garner explain how this work?
You become a teacher
spreads because o f that
Big advantage, you don’t have to bend over
everyone’s doing to get to the point where you become a seasoned gardener, it becomes more and more difficult to prepare the beds
modifying soil beds
that’s a lot of physical labor
roto-tilling your garden
That’s a lot of physical work!
Once you get the bales in position
If you can get the delivery person
no physical work left after that no weeding or hoeing, or lifting!
might need a pruning sears have a planting trowel
You could put a lawn chair next to the bale and do your planting from a sitting position. If you are in a wheel chair from a comfortable position
you do have to buy the bales
You are gonna use it for 2 seasons
first year you are going to grow warm seasons crops
things that like warm roots
The second year you need to squeeze it together put chicken wire around it – they do slop into one. I like to squish 2 bales into one
then you plant your cool season crops
by the time you get to the 3rd spring you go and use what remains this beautiful compost
making your own miracle grow at home
- flowers on the patio
- window boxes
sometimes you get it as a potting mix inside of a container
You really get 3 distinctive uses or seasons of use out of that 5-6$ bale
count up all the weeding time and watering you save
doesn’t grow any weeds so you don’t have to weed your garden
eliminates all that labor that you would normally spend
A lot of my listeners are green future growers because they like to create green businesses and maybe they are thinking I can grow bales for people, like a landscaper who comes and does the lawn, since this seems like it doesn’t require as much time per house.
I think it’s a great idea?
We actually threw around a concept talked to a garden center. We called it
snap fresh vegetable gardens
market it through home and garden shows
order a vegetable garden based on what do you like to eat
That garden would be delivered and set up by the garden center and all the prep would be done in advance, the bales would be delivered ready to plant or even planted.
All the family would be responsible for the harvesting process
To be able to walk out your back door and get pounds of vegetables out of 6-8 ten bales of straw and in the Fall the garden center would come back in the fall take it all away
it would be for many families
break down was
The garden centers said its a labor issue
early in the spring
of course you need one of your quality employees
take them away from the traditional garden center business
for many of them that’s their busiest time, and they thought taking key employees out of my garden center or nursery would be bad for business.
that it was a high labor
A couple of your full employees committed to doing this
We thought about it a lot. I think if it was the only thing someone was doing. IDK I would think there are seasonal workers who would be looking for work.
I can come up with a business idea like every couple of hours.
I like people like that!
So what’s next? I get a lot of people, who I talk to who are like, I don’t have a Mike to build my deep garden beds, or get my soil all prepped for me. One of the reasons I don’t do it is I’m usually working full time. This would be good for people who are busy. There are days where I don’t see the garden by the time I drive and stop at the store etc.
good for a modern family
- organic stuff for your kids
- teach your kids how gardens work
If you don’t have experience gardening
I grew up gardening with my grandma Josephine
even for the parents would be valuable for them to learn to garden as well
what kind of soil do you have?
What kind of soil modification are you doing?
- fertility level
- insect and disease problems
pests that harbor year to year in the tomato blight
they can cause tomato decline or tomato failure
in peoples gardens
a great solution is to not use your soil anymore and go to a straw bale that sits on top of your soil, as long as you don’t touch the soil and then touch the plant, the disease won’t go to your plant
can be really important if you can move your tomatoes on your ranch or farm
if you have a small lot and you get the blight, you can’t really grow tomatoes for 4-5 years while it goes away out of your soil
can’t grow potatoes
build up of disease problems
switching to this method allows you to not have to worry about doing any crop rotation
every time you bring in a bale you’re starting fresh
great solution for lots of those soil borne problems
Modern family who is busy and doesn’t have time to do
- really of prep
literally 45 sec per bale
sprinkle fertilizer on top, spray with your hose with your done
- 45 secs on each bale
- 45 sec on 10 bales
- 10 minutes a day for 10 days
- 18 days for the blood meal to add fertilizer for water
- let it sit for another 8 days let the bacteria grow
if you didn’t grow your starts out
get your tomatoes already started
if you are doing seeds you can direct plant
right into the bales
for most of your crops if you normally grow them by seed you can plant them by seeds in your bales
If you have other crops where you sometimes start crops and other times you plant seeds, try the seeds because you will see the bale is so much warmer so you get faster root growth inside the bale
- catch up
- toss up
- go with the seeds its less expensive
- set up an irrigation system
- soaker hose
- hose and timer
don’t have to remember to water your hose and timer will water for you
number one mistake is they over water their gardens
If you over water you get symptoms will look like they are underwater they wilt, exacerbates the problem, think they need more water and it exacerbates the problem
Important part of straw bale gardening is never water more then one gallon per bale per
one gallon will saturation the bale, dehydrate if you put more then that on it’s gonna run through the bale and carry with it all your soluble nutrients
- things your plants are gonna need inside that bale
don’t over water
one gallon per bale
how fast does the water come out of the spot
one minute you get a 2 gallons then in five minutes you get ten gallons
As the plants get bigger you maybe increase frequency but never increase the dose
- every other day
- every day when its really hot
8 foot tall tomatoes
might water 2x3x a day
click dial on your hose end timer
So this is my question? What do you put under the bale if it’s on the patio? or soil?
if you are doing them on soil you just put on top of the soil, I encourage people to mulch around them with wood chips to keep weeds from them growing between the bales
I do see a lot of people who test it to see if they are going to like it and they just put it right on top of the grass and then they mow around the bales
just like you have containers right in the middle of your lawn, you are not going to be successful if you plant pumpkin because you are going to get vines
once they care convinced this is successful
I suggest you put down a layer of cardboard over the grass you want to kill
then cover that with 4,5,6 inches of arborist chips
cut from underneath your neighbors tree on Saturday morning
hey can you dump that in ym driveway
cover the cardboard with the run of the mill arborist wood chips
it melts down and decomposes and biomes a beautiful layer
wont get any weeds that will grow
top those woodchips off every couple of years
i didn’t do this I was consulting on a garden in Kearny, NJ
just over the bridge from manhattan
federally contaminated brown site
covered with this row cover cloth
big huge 30 feet wide
covered up the ground with it and then put wood chips on top to keep sun from breaking down the fabric and bales on top of the fabric
currently community garden that’s entirely grown in bales
tons of people participant in this Kearny Community Garden
federally contaminated location that couldn’t be use for anything
it really is adaptable! Great method for urban gardening from that standpoint as well.
Interesting I was just on the Green Gab podcast with Marla Cloos we were talking about community gardens.
it’s easy to get volunteers to come on
- harvest day
- planting day
but on weeding day no one answers the phone!
if they have their own plot
are you going to weed their plot so those weeds affect your part of the garden
where straw bale gardening there are no weeds, it eliminates that aspect of gardening
process so much simpler
current inspired a nice garden in the Bronx
along the shoreline
saleine came in and ruined everyone’s garden soil
saline from Hurricane Sandy
huge community gardens
Shoreline in places like the Bronx
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?
Sure! I did enough weeding before I was 15 on the farm, we had a dairy farm and a crop farm then my dad didn’t have enough to keep himself busy we had a tree nursery about 30 acres which all has to be weeded between the trees
then we had, my grandma had a huge vegetable garden
3/4 quarters of an acre all that had to be weeded
plenty of weeding before I left home for college
For every gardening isn’t that the worst part of gardening? Some people don’t mind.
I don’t mind a little bit on the side of a deep bed I don’t mind here and there, Mike’s monster minifarm not so much.
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?
I love to go out with a cup of coffee
- early morning
- mid summer
- when stuff is getting ripe
- pick some cherry tomatoes
- green beans
- eat my mid-morning snack in the garden
- enjoy the birds and the sounds
most people have to start pulling weeds bad issues with the straw bale gardening, I hate to say this the maintenance is so low you go out looking for things to do
Sometimes I go out and train my tomato vines are drawing up the careless
anything I can do while still holding a cup of coffee isn’t too strenuous.
Go out and enjoy the garden.
I hear you there! Me too!
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
Probably, I would say from my grandma Josephine
she was a wonderful garden
Sometimes it was a little weedy, she would try to convince her grandkids to come down and weed, we lived on the same property but in a different house
3 sisters and myself
our job to come weed the garden
they didn’t want to so it was always me
her biggest advice was just ignore the weeds and enjoy the flowers!
It’s sort of a good way to go through life
- some people you don’t like
- things you don’t want to do
good people you do enjoy being around so just try to ignore the ones you don’t like.
That is so apropos right now in this day and age too!
I like that I’m very optimistic.
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.
My Felco #2 pruner
favorite tool i have
- lifetime warranty
- easy to sharpen
- buy new blades
half the time I use it for the screwdriver
cut irrigation pipe
cutting bale strings
wire if you don’t mind have to buy a new blade every once in a while
famous name brands that have been around forever.
A couple of years ago I would have said whatever, but my mom sent me these Cutco pruners and they were the best. They cut the lilacs like butter. You get so many more blooms when you cut them. I just need a mailbox to put them in so they are always in the garden.
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
roasted tomato basil soup from Ina Garten
simplify or modify
tomatoes on my grill
any tomato for this
literally and you know when you have some and they sit on the counter
slice in half
aluminum foil in a jellyroll plan
throw them on the grill and cook them on the grill and cook them down so they get nice and charred pick them up
slide into a bowl
ton of basil like 4-5 cups
tomatoes and basil
it’s just the best
freezes so well!
Makes me think I should go to the freezer and take one out for lunch today
pop it in the microwave the freshest tasting!
Anyone who hasn’t had tomatoes basil soup and you should try it
I was at this event and I was sharing a tent with the development chef from Progresso soup
I talked to him about the tomato basil soup, I convinced him that Progresso needed to do a tomato basil. I swear they stole that recipe fromIna Garden
started writing cookbooks
big star on tv
dream is to own
law school profess
Are you a podcaster? A favorite Podcast?
not a gardening podcast
A favorite internet resource?
university of Minnesota
deal with the plants that we can grow in our climate
from our standpoint
gardening or horticulture
focuses all about northern climate gardening
writing is spectacular
see what you think
printed every 2 months
6 magazines come every year
I like what you aid about people always learning. I feel like when I was a kid I was told that if I didn’t go to college after high school I would never finish and I just think you never stop loving learning and that’s just not true.
There was this phenomenon
assisted living facilities in Ohio
told me about this experience
in assisted living
gardeners their whole life
as an activity they could start a garden
to convince the management to spend money and give space
spend the money on the raise beds
convince them to allow me to use the parking lot in the back
let me put up a straw bale garden in this parking lot they let me put up the straw bale garden on the parking lot
got people interested in this assisted living
People ~ family and friends would call and say they were coming to visit and they would say meet me in the garden in the back of the parking lot so I can
show you my tomatoes
it became this real thing
they were more knowledgeable about this method
weird role reversal I would come to work at 7 in the morning and before breakfast wheeling themselves out to the parking lot trying to get to the garden it was just this all encompassing experience growing this garden in the parking lot
talk of the town
made it in the way to learn, even when they get much older, you might think someone in their 70s-80s maybe not interested in learning something new but it has to be something they are interested in where they feel they can contribute
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
there are 4 really great books written by this author Joel Karsten
Tell us about those!
straw bale gardens in 2013
I wrote a self published before that
It came out on March 15, 2013 and on March 21st that book got, 6 days later, it got a full page book review in the NY Times
raved about it ~ this is revolutionary! and amazing!
gardening so much simpler
do an interviews
speak all over the place
This guy came to my house and interviewed me for an entire day, then came back again for another day for half a day so it was a full day and a half to write this in-depth article.
the most emailed article in the NY Times for that 7 day period
That would be a dream come trye for me, if my mom did
when they were doing statistics
most amaze about it was it had the most emailed article within 7 days. The writer said, I never had this much interest
click on the button that says email it to a friend.
I never had that many shares it
look up the statistics which has
first time ever most emailed article!
The second book was basically a revision of that book, maybe answering some questions that maybe I had overlooked from the first book.
how people are using straw bale method around the world. 12 different countries on 5 continents.
People using Straw bale method to solve a problem that they couldn’t solve using any traditional methods.
This woman was trying to garden where there was a 14º slope and when you till up any soil you are going to run down the slope when any kind of rain comes, so she struggles to grow anything there.
amazing success at 5k feet in Switzerland
ever had attempted to do
vignettes about people all over
3rd world countries
- South African
- gardening is not a hobby to grow food to sustain themselves and survive
how do you teach them
don’t need land
bales fro free
prep them for free
- liquid we use
- urine which is about 12% nitrogen
- urine is sterile
works really well to get these bales to begin this decomposition process
Within 60 days from when they hear and learn they can actually be harvesting food for 0 cost in terms of money, just takes some time, probably hour and 1/2 time total to get it ready
its having an amazing impact
Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be straw
resources they have
limited they may be
sending them bags of food
Where do they get the bales from?
you could make your own bales
doesn’t have to be straw
tub or wooden box
- how to make a baler out of wood
- leaver on top
In many of these places where the grow rice as their main agriculture crop, the by-product is rice straw
- burn it to get rid of it
- don’t like when farmers do that
So farmers are happy to give you their straw, for free, as long as you come get it.
So they get the straw, make it into bales
- prep those bales
- squish straw really tight and put a string around it
- make it in a bag
you can use
- anything that will decompose
Will make a bale and that bale will decompose
- lake weeds
piles of weeds that they harvest out of lakes those will make nice bales
- corn stalks
- bean stalks
- pea straw
Any organic material you could take all the weeds you pull out of traditional garden and tie that up and make a decomposing bale made from weeds
I can just hear my listeners heads spinning. Since we have been talking for a while here’s my final question:
If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be?
For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
Alight used to be the American Refugee Committee
focus basically on 17 countries
refugees in camps in those countries
overlooked populations in the worlds
define being poor
not having averrable resources
have around 2k people that work for them
completely funded by donations
do amazing work!
we all take for granted where we live
fresh water to these people
- dig wells
- down to the grass roots
- rebuild this society
- maintain civil order in a society
That’s where people go to start, I’m envious, if I was 40 years younger gone that kind of direction. I admire what these people do
If you are one of those people who are donating money and wonder if this organization that is being wise, this is one that is being wise
time an looking into and what they can accomplish
ability to get medical treatment if something happens to us. I am really nervous that if this gets into the refugee camps
they don’t have the cleanliness that we don’t have. It will be a disaster if it gets in there because they are just so compacted together. They have a campaign going on to try to help raise and prevent and make sure there is soap and wash stations to help people trying to keep clean.
How do we connect with you?
my partner kelly and i
any subject related
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