straw bale gardening


Green, green, and more green!

I harvested green beans, several varieties of lettuce, kale, and basil for dinner today…and the harvest is just beginning! Rudbeckia flowers were moved to the deck to salvage the remaining blooms, d— bunnies! Despite my efforts of securing the raised beds with chicken wire and deer netting the rabbits are still visiting for any remaining unprotected survivors. You would think that a black lab and orange tabby might deter their effort, NOT! Eggplants and squash are beginning their journey. Another season has launched and I can’t wait to watch the journey:)



Wattle fences and retaining walls can easily be built from the leftovers of pruning, or from coppiced wood. This technique is the most basic form of fence construction, having been in use since Neolithic times.

I continually harvest apple, dogwood, willow, and hazelnut wood from designated coppicing trees in my yard, because these local species happen to grow both quickly and straightly. There are a number of “fences in progress” that are built higher every time I go around and maintain trees. Preparing materials is easy: I trim the bases of prunings down to sturdy fence posts of a uniform height and circumference; the rest I trim into flexible pieces for weaving the rest of the fence. The leftovers from all of this are piled up in #hugelkultur mounds. I hammer the posts down 1/3 of their height, and the rest is just simple weaving back and forth, between posts.

I have used this method for #raised beds, #straw bale gardens, and purely for aesthetic purposes with great success, but then again, I am not one to complain when it’s 100% free!



Straw Bale Gardening

One of the thriftiest, most versatile ways to garden is what’s called Straw Bale gardening. Often cheaper than garden soil or fertilizer, straw bales are found virtually everywhere. Craigslist, home depot or other home improvement stores will sell them for pennies on the dime when push comes to shove.

But what can you grow?

The answer: just about anything.

Moisture and heat collect in the straw bale like a trap. Tomatoes, corn and other tall plants can break the bale apart the taller they get, but potatoes and herbs will thrive in your bale. 

Hay bales start to decompose just hours after they get wet and can provide an atmosphere better than your greenhouse. By digging a hole into your bale, dropping in some soil around your plants and packing it firmly, you’ll add some stability to your plant and as your bale decomposes, it will provide a steady source of nutrition all throughout the growing season.


Look, my first sunflower in bloom!

Mid July and Gary and I are eating greens, beans, summer squash, zucchini and eggplants daily. The bales are completely camouflaged on the SE side and are beginning to feel the weight of the growing plants. I have wired and lightly pruned my tomatoes three times and they are still out of control. Molly, our new Golden Retriever joined us last Friday from a rescue. She was happy to see we have a fenced in yard with lots of ares to patrol. We sadly said goodbye to Thelma last December and then Louise (black lab) in July. Finally, the geraniums are grabbing the summer’s heat and humidity. I still can’t believe these are the same plants I started from seed in February.


Left my garden to my caretaker neighbor for 10 days!

Returned after a 10 day road trip to San Diego to find a bounty of peas, beans, cucumbers and a lowly cherry tomato and tomatillo. The Swiss chard and beets are almost ready too. Back to the garden vigilance, just in time to corral or encourage the pumpkin and squash to climb the fence.


Memorial Day weekend - year three of the SBG:0

Made the annual trip to Fryski’s Country Gardens in Caryville, WI to purchase my plants. Kind of cheated this year and sought out more mature plants. Once again Gary tagged along and convinced me that we needed more tomato plants. Here’s the list of things to grow:

  • 2 pepper plants (Red Knight X3R and Bell Boy)
  • 4 cucumber
  • 4 cantaloupe melons
  • 4 watermelon
  • 2 tomatillo tomatoes
  • 4 La Roma tomatoes
  • Brandiwine tomato
  • Lemon Boy tomato
  • Wisconsin 55 tomato
  • Black Cherry tomato
  • Supersweet 100 tomato
  • Yellow Pear tomato
  • Sunsugar tomato
  • Megabite tomato

The mushrooms came out last night in full force following the planting, as had been the trend of the last two years. Sir Nigel spends his time between the bales and the deck…slowing down but still aware. The raised bed seeds are finally heating up after a very cold start. Looking forward to another successful year!


Observe, Harvest, Eat or Preserve!

It started, my backyard maple has dropped its first crimson token of autumn. So the harvest picks up the pace and the bales continue to shrink. This year’s SBG has proven to be a new learning curve. I removed the lower third of the Brussel sprout leaves and the plants are now producing the mini sprouting heads below the vacant leaves—who knew?

Waiting on the Brandiwine heavyweights and consuming pounds of cherries! Tomato season is the best time of the year:)