From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report. Straw bale gardening is a way to grow food above the ground. Straw is what remains of plant stems after grain is harvested. The long, dry tubes are gathered into bales. Bales are often about a meter long and half a meter high and wide. Straw is different from hay. Hay is made from whole plants and used to feed animals. Straw is used mostly for animal bedding. Joel Karsten wrote a book called “Straw Bale Gardens.” He says this ancient, and increasingly popular, idea is a form of container gardening. He says using containers makes gardening easier by reducing the need to pull weeds and deal with insect problems. Joel Karsten says straw bales can require less water, and prevent plant diseases caused by too much water in the soil. He says it is not possible to overwater a bale of straw because all the extra water just runs out the bottom. In areas with polluted soil, growing food in straw bales is easier than building above-ground containers for soil. Oats and wheat are the most commonly baled grains in the United States. Rice straw is also good for baling and gardening. The straw bale becomes both the container and the growing material. Preparing the bale takes about two weeks. The first step is to add water and fertilizer to the center of the bale every day for three days. This begins the process of bacteria breaking down the straw into a growing medium. Once this happens, the bales are ready for seeds or young plants. Some experts say planting seedlings is better than growing from seeds. You can find plenty of information about straw bale gardening on the Internet. For VOA Learning English, I’m Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 21May2013)
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