Straw Bale Gardening Mushrooms and Potatoes – You’ll Never Go Back To Growing In The Soil! Any Other Way Will Seem Silly Once You’ve Done It This Way.

Straw Bale Gardening Mushrooms and Potatoes

I should start off by saying that I have had a vegetable garden for a few years. The soil is poor, it is constantly full of weeds and my sprinkler system is on the fritz. I finally made the decision to try the straw bale garden because if nothing else, I would compost a bunch of organic material and could till it into the ground next spring.

Get cheap bales. They aren’t that expensive. If you don’t have bales, you can make your own out of organic material. I will have some notes below on how to do that. And also, just make sure that you set them up so there is plenty of airflow. You also, don’t forget that we have a lot of vines that are going to take up a lot of space too. So these plants are going to get bigger. So really make sure you give yourself enough space.

Alright, a couple more things about picking out your bales and setting them up. Make sure you get straw bales, not hay bales. Hay bales of lots of seed. You get them wet and those seeds will grow and you are going to have a great big weedy mess. Get straw bales, um, they are just left over from grains farmers have. They are all over the place. Um, if you have … when they make them, they cut one side. So there is a cut side. You can see here this is what it looks like. And you can see each of these holes in here. It looks like a straw. That is why it is called a straw bale. Ok? This one we put sideways to see what the difference would be. This is the side. You don’t want this side up. You want the straw side up. Because it is going to suck up the moisture better um, and hold the fertilizer and things in there better so it is going to decompose faster and you are going to get a lot more happy with it. But umm, we will follow this and we will see what happens.

Originally appeared :

Straw Bale Gardening Mushrooms in your bale

This post is about straw bale gardening mushrooms showing up in your bale.

Straw Bale Gardening is becoming more and more popular. A new type of gardening often leads to a whole new set of questions and concerns for the gardener. One we hear quite often is concerning mushrooms in your bale after the weather warms up and the bale has been conditioned.

Good news. We happen to live a couple of miles from an expert on straw bale gardening. Let’s make that THE expert on Straw Bale Gardening, Joel Karsten of Joel is the author of Straw Bale Gardens, a New York Times bestseller. We are collaborating with Joel to do a whole series on straw bale gardening this summer and fall.

We stopped by Joel’s house yesterday to check out his gardens. The pictures you see are from Joel’s own gardens. Joel is a wealth of information and as nice a guy as you will ever meet. Here is what Joel has to say about mushrooms in your straw bales:


Everything that has ever been alive eventually decomposes and becomes soil. Mother nature’s tool box of “decomposers” includes: Insects, worms, bacteria, mold and FUNGI (mushrooms). As a bale of straw, which is essentially a solid mass of tightly squeezed stalks, is watered, fertilized and begins to decompose, any spores of fungi that happen to be present or introduced by the wind, tend to sprout. Fed by the newly released carbon contained in the cells of the plants which are breaking down, the mushrooms often thrive. Most varieties of fungi that bloom and grow on straw bales are not long lived, dying off within 24 hours. The mushrooms you get tomorrow, are probably brand new from spores which sprouted the night before. The vast majority are harmless, however I never recommend eating any of the mushrooms that grow naturally, unless you first test them on someone you don’t like. Your plants will be unaffected by these mushrooms, so think of the mushrooms in your Straw Bale Garden as a compliment from mother nature. She is telling you that you have done a good job of preparing that bale for the newly planted transplants or seedlings that you will be growing. If a big mushroom is pushing your tiny seedlings out of the bale, then you may need to squish down that mushroom a bit, but otherwise just try to ignore them. If you try to brush them off or squirt them off with your hose, they will grow right back, sometimes in just hours. All in all, mushrooms are a great sign that you have prepared the bales correctly, so do your best to simply ignore them in your Straw Bale Garden.

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Potatoes –

It’s EASY to grow stuff in straw bales. I planted a piece of a potato into a straw bale, right on top of concrete (where I had no soil, no soil container, etc), and sure enough the spuds grew fine. They should be ready to harvest in a few weeks. It will be super EASY to harvest, since I won’t even need to “dig” for the spuds, just use my hand to pull them out of the straw… what could be easier?

Potato harvest from bales is easy, with no fork or shovel, simply cut the strings and kick over the bales, and pick up the potatoes. No marks on the potatoes from the forks or shovels, so they will store well, unblemished. Wrap them in brown paper, this helps them store longer. Keep them in a dry cool place, and check your stock often, tossing out any that have gotten soft or begun to rot. You’ll have delicious potatoes until the following summer when new stock will be ready again.

In normal soil gardens it is important to hill up the soil around the stem as the potato emerges. This is important because potatoes form on on the stem not on the roots. If planted too deep in the soil, the stem has a hard time emerging, because it cannot push up more than a few inches of soil. In a straw bale, we simply plant the potato cutting deep into the bale. While a bale may be 20″ high, we will plant 16-18″ deep in a “crack” in the bale. The looseness of the bale will allow the stem to easily reach the surface, and the potatoes will form along this stretch of stem, filling the bale with potatoes. I suggest two or three potatoes in a bale, even while planting other crops on the surface of the bale. These “surface” plantings will be harvested early before the potato vine has stretched its way above and around the bale. Wait for the vine to flower and this is the earliest the potatoes will be ready, however waiting for the vine to wither later in the fall will allow the potatoes inside to mature a bit longer.

Try Straw Bale Gardening, especially if you like potatoes, you’ll never go back to growing potatoes in the soil. Growing potatoes any other way will seem silly once you’ve done it this way.

Here is an overview of the project.

Time: 4 hours with 2 people to install the raised bed and about the same to harvest it and clean the spuds. Throughout the summer there was about 2 hours total spent putting more straw on top as the old straw compressed.

In vs Out:
We put in 30ish pounds of potatoes and got back around 250. I would do things differently in the future. The potatoes required at the outset could be severely reduced by cutting them up before planting. I would also space the potatoes out more as some of them appeared to be competing for nutrients.

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