Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are common staples to most gardeners, but the mode by which Martin and Anita Hooper grow theirs is different.
The Hoopers plant their vegetables directly inside of straw bales.
“It’s just an experiment,” Anita said. “This is our first time trying it.”
The Hoopers have been home gardeners as long as they can remember. They got the idea of using straw bales from their son, who recommended they read a book about straw bale gardens by Joel Karsten.
“We only have four bales but our son is doing it on a larger scale,” Martin said. “He’s got 20 bales going down in Arkansas.”
The book outlines how to condition a bale with fertilizer and water over 12 days.
“I bought my bales in the fall around Halloween and let them sit out,” Anita said. “As they decompose, it creates perfect conditions for growing.”
Once the bales were ready, they poked holes in each and placed their plants inside.
“You can plant anything in it,” Martin said. “Next year we are going to plant strawberries or flowers on the sides.”
The Hoopers noticed they were doing less weeding. They also liked that they did not have to bend over as far to harvest.
They orient their bales in a V formation to maximize the amount of sun they can get in their yard.
The only drawback is that plants growing in bales seem to require more water than those planted in soil.
“Being up off the ground the plants seemed to dry out easier,” Anita said. “We use a soaker hose to help regulate the water.”
In other parts of their garden, the Hoopers have modified the way that they water their cantaloupe.
“We cut a small hole in the top of a two-liter bottle and screw it into a watering spike,” Martin said. “Then we just fill the bottles with water.”
Gravity does the rest. The water goes directly to the roots and as a result, less moisture is lost through evaporation.
The two-liter watering tactic is something they came up with on their own. They have been using the technique for about five years.