Notes from Windward: #69


Strawberries on Straw Bales


     One of the challenges we face with food production here is our clay rich soil which has very low concentrations of organic matter and some of the essential nutrients for plant growth. A few years ago, we experimented with creating raised beds for strawberries by using straw bales. For information on that project, Click Here).

three year old wasted straw bales

     The strawberries took quite well to the straw bales, sinking their roots down into the depths of the bale that retained moisture even through our dry summer days. The drawback to our experiment with straw bale gardening was not the method itself but the lack of fencing to protect the strawberries. The sheep and deer all thought the strawberries were a great idea as well and gladly helped themselves.

Carina creates pockets in the new bales

      So we ended up moving the strawberries to the grow tubes in Vermadise. But in the meantime the straw bales have continued to decompose, creating topsoil rich in organic matter where there was once just clay with very little work involved and using locally available, inexpensive resources.

Mark transplanting strawberries

     So we decided to try strawberries on straw bales again, and rather than fencing in another area, we thought we would better utilize the space in an already protected area. So first we brought over straw bales and then soaked them through with water. We dug out pockets of hay in which we placed first a little compost and then the strawberries. Finally, we covered the top of the bales with compost, tucked in and around the newly transplanted plants, and then watered the new raised bed a little more. Voila!— a new raised bed from start to finish in less than an hour.

the reconstituted straw strawberry bed


     Growning berries on straw is an example of our quirky sense of humor, but beyond the pun, this small project is a good example of the research we're focused on, work that's directed at manifesting ways to quickly feed people on marginal land with minimal energy inputs.

      As the costs of transporting food continues to rise, and as climate change requires food to be hauled longer distances, people are going to have to find ways to produce their own food where they are with what they have at the moment. Even those who already have plenty of well established organic beds will find themselves playing "catch-up" for years to come as people make the shift from relying on food grown and transported with fossil fuels to relying on locally grown food and resources.

Walt ties on a load of straw

     Growing food on strawbale beds is a key way to accellerate the process of creating viable organic beds on marginal soil. And, having fresh strawberries readily at hand to add to your morning cereal is great too.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69