Buddy Profile

I am a graduate from the University of Minnesota and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture Science a long time ago now. I started using the Straw Bale Gardens® method over 25 years ago when I discoverd the lack of topsoil on the property I had just purchased. Over the years I worked to perfect the method, and started spreading the word about how it works, and what great production it gives while eliminating many of the problems that a traditional soil gardener faces.  I have written four books on the subject, and I now spend much of my time giving presentations around the world about the Straw Bale Gardens® method.  I stil am an avid vegetable gardener, and test new varieties each year and continue to grow a 25 bale garden at home each season. I am also a fan of tulips, dahlias, roses, hostas and day lilies, and have a garden filled with perennials and annuals each year.

My current book titles include “Straw Bale Gardening” copyright 2009 which was self-published, “Straw Bale Gardens” copyright 2013 on Cool Springs Press, “Straw Bale Gardens Complete” copyright 2015 and “Straw Bale Solutions” copyright 2018 on Cool Springs Press for Quartos USA Publishing Group. If you have never grown a Straw Bale Garden, I’d suggest getting my third book “Straw Bale Gardens Complete,” it will give you the best how-to step-by-step information on setting up a garden from scratch.

I consult with many new gardeners via my Facebook.com/LearnToGrowAStrawBaleGarden page and on twitter @strawbalegarden as well as instagram @strawbalegarden. If you are looking for advice, please reach out to me through any of my social media outlets, and I will get back to you asap.


5 responses to “Joel Karsten”

  1. Hello, I am Debra Evans and I live in Ohio. I started a straw bale garden of 15 bales in 3 rows 4 feet apart. I purchased organic fertilizer first and at 3 cups per bale I ran out and it is cost prohibited. So I purchased generic fertilizer that is 10-10-10. The fertilizer is just sitting on top of the bales it does not seem to break down. I also only water from the well I attempted to haul 2 gallons of warm water out to the bales but it is a lot to carry for me. I know the book states warm water would help the bales along however, it states that if you use cold it will just take longer to ripen. Since it is only the middle of May I am not so worried however, the fertilizer just laying on top of the bales concern me. I am very excited to see this garden florish and the people who have seen what I am doing just scratch their heads. I want to prove to them that this works. Thank you for your time. Debra

  2. Hello Joel. My name is Shayne. I first saw your book at a hardware store. I checked it out when I saw it at my library. Now I am putting it to the test. It is my goal and would be my greatest gardening accomplishment, if I could keep a garden growing through the winter here in central Utah. This year is my first try at it. I was astounded at how easy it is to assemble enough raw materials to make my own bales. I use a large garbage barrel, three 12 ft lengths of plastic rope, a few sturdy sticks, and cardboard. I lay the rope parallel across the barrel, set in cardboard with some overlap for what will be the other end of the bale, stuff the cardboard full of guts and pack it down. I fold the cardboard flaps over and tie it all down. Then using the sticks I twist the rope which packs everything in tight so I can slide the contents out in a nice cardboard bound capsule. Then all I have to do is loosen the top flap of cardboard, and I have the planting surface of the bale. I am assembling mini hoop houses over my bales which I haven’t yet cooked. I’d be interested in winter gardening success you or others have had in the Northern half of the country. Will the decomposing bale keep things warm enough to A, germinate some cold hardy seeds and B, keep them warm to enable them to grow through the coldest months?

  3. We purchased your book. Got 31 bales of wheat straw and have done the 12 days . Of the 31 bales we only have 1 cooking with a 100 F internal temp. Utilizing a long compost temp gauge the remaining 30 bales are 70 to 75 degrees.

    We started first 4 days in central Wa state with chlorinated municipal water. Remaining days were with irrigation ditch water, was turned on the 5th day. We don’t have the set up to do 31 bales with warm water.

    Our fertilizer was a 29-5-5 pasture mix. We are not experienced gardeners. what would you recommend we do from here?

  4. Hi!,
    I enjoyed your talk in Cumberland, WI this spring. So I got one of your books from the library and have it a try. I planted tomato’s, basil, and cucumbers in three small bales. The cucumbers croaked but the rest are fine. I’m wondering if something is wrong with the one bale that had the cucumbers.
    We’re not too sure about the bales being straw or hay.
    The blood meal that I used didn’t completely dissolve and there is still some on top. The bales seem to be decomposing and smell pretty ripe and warm.
    I’m hoping the deer don’t find the rest. 🙂

    1. Hi Shari,
      Glad you are giving it a go. It is possible the one bale was still too warm for planting. They can vary greatly. Try planting it again, it will likely take right off.



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