May 20, 2019

Steal this Idea: A more affordable way to launch a community vegetable garden

Straw bale gardening is fun and, in many ways, easier that regular gardening—and the harvest is just as delicious.

Editor’s note: The Renewal Project knows that good ideas start at the local level. From time to time, we will share some of our favorite ideas from across the country that you can explore in your own communities. Have an idea you want us to share? Let us know at

Maintaining a garden can be challenging, but the outcomes are rewarding—especially when it involves the entire community. Take this idea from the Rickey Tribble Community Garden in Shannon Hills, Arkansas, and start a straw bale garden in your neighborhood.

The community garden in this small town just outside of Little Rock is teaching kids and their families about gardening while also helping their neighbors who may be food insecure. Anyone who wants to garden can sign up. They’ll get a straw bale and all the supplies they’ll need to grow produce: soil, fertilizer, and seeds. Volunteers also teach newcomers the basics of gardening.

Straw bale gardens allow plants to grow just as healthy as they would in a regular garden and the bales act as natural containers for the plants, eliminating the need for a pot or a raised bed. They’re also inexpensive. A typical bale is only a few dollars a piece.

A few tips to get you started: Look for wheat or oat straw bale. Do not buy hay, which is typically grass or alfalfa, because they still contain seeds, which will sprout. You can find bales at large hardware stores or your local garden center. Make sure to water them regularly, as the bales tend to dry out quickly. By the end of the season, the bale will break down on it’s own. You’ll be left with a nutrient-rich compost you can use in your other plants.

Rickey Tribble Community Garden volunteer Buck Buchanan told KARK that the gardeners get to keep what they grow, but often donate what they can’t eat to the local food bank, which is right next door.

Learn more about straw bale gardening on Joel Karsten’s blog.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.
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