Marie Noplos/Daily Journal: Janell Miersch decided to try a new type of gardening this year, using straw bales as planters.

Archived Story

Sprouting bales [UPDATED]

Published 11:08am Thursday, June 28, 2012 Updated 11:08am Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some grow flowers in their houses, front yards, or back yards. Some, like Janell Miersch, even grow them in straw bales. Janell plants flowers, fruits, and vegetables everywhere.

Miersch and her husband John moved to Fergus Falls two years ago after 30 years in the Twin Cities. They decided to move to town after she got a job offer for the Department of Natural Resources in town as a hydrologist.

“It is nice to come to a smaller town,” said Janell. “We now have more room for our gardens.”

Janell has gardened for more than 40 years.

“I used to garden with my dad growing up,” she said. “It is nice to eat fruits and vegetables that you work hard to grow during the season.”

The couple takes time in planning their garden each year, deciding what new things and breeds they want to try to grow. Miersch’s gardening philosophy casts every season as a new experiment.

“That is most definitely what we are doing this year,” she said.

This year’s experiment idea came to them from visiting the annual Garden Day at Kennedy Secondary School, sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension-West Otter Tail County Master Gardeners. After listening to the keynote speaker Joel Karsten talk about straw bale gardening, “We looked at each other and said, ‘We should do that,’” Miersch said. “He made it sound so neat and easy to do.”

The couple had a few bumps in the experiment. Trying to find the straw bales was difficult, as was trying to design the layout of the new straw bale garden and what to put into it.

“Once we got it all figured out, we started seeing so many benefits from using the bales,” Miersch said. “We have found fewer bugs eating our vegetables and plants, bunny rabbits can’t get up to them, (there are) fewer weeds, and it is much easier to weed and harvest not having to bend over so far.”

Straw bale gardening is unique in that you don’t have to have dirt. You can plant seeds and or plants right into the straw. Once the bale starts to become compost on the inside, it allows for a unique plant rooting environment.

“We had a poor season last year,” said Janell. “We grew just enough vegetables and fruit for ourselves; we had no extras to can, freeze or give to family and friends.”

This year, she and John planted similar vegetables in their bale garden and their main garden as we planted in the bale garden and both seem to be doing fine so far.

“The bale garden gets more direct sunlight, so I’m curious to see if that makes a difference in the outcome of our produce,” Miersch said. “That’s the great thing about gardening: if something doesn’t work one season, try something new the next.”

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