Monday, June 6, 2011

The Great Straw Bale Experiment!

I planted a few 'pockets' in each bale.
This is the time of the year when I begin to debate the 'big questions'.. Things like 'which aroma do I prefer? Lily of the valley or lilacs? Should I plant more arugula or go with my 'Wine Country' mesclun greens from Renee's Garden? Oh, the choices!! In between lectures, writing and the radio show (Hello to all who attended my lecture this past Sat at the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs annual convention - thanks so much for a fabulous time!) I have been sneaking up to the garden for my 'real' job - playing in the dirt.

One of the guests on my show last weekend was Michelle Muis, who works at Blomidon Nurseries in the Annapolis Valley. She told me that she was using a few old straw bales to create a straw bale veggie garden. Genius!! I had heard of this before, but never really considered it.. but, now that I have 8 half-rotted straw bales kicking around, I thought that I would also try this. I use straw bales each year for winter cold frames for my taller crops - leeks, kale and such. Usually, when the straw bale cold frames are disassembled, I use the straw to line my pathways, feed the composter and as a mulch under the tomatoes and other veggies. But, why not try planting a few crops IN the bales!

A tiny tomato seedlings and a calendula.
So, late last week, I lined a few bales up in front of and behind the garden and removed (with a bit of effort) some of the straw from the center of the bales. I filled these 'holes' with a mix of good soil and rotted manure and planted a few different types of veggies - tomatoes, zucchini, white pumpkins and a few calendula and cosmos seedlings for colour! By the next morning, the zucchini was gone!! Only a trail of slime was left.. hmmmm.. whatever could have eaten my dear zucchini - darn slugs! A white pumpkin was also gone! Argh! So, I replanted a tomato where the zucchini was and planted my last white pumpkin seedling where the other had been eaten. This time, I sprinkled a thick layer of diatomaceous earth around the seedlings (take that, slugs!!).. So, after my first cup of tea this morning, I wandered up to check on the plants and what do I see? A slug has half eaten that 2nd white pumpkin - and was slithering away on top of the diatomaceous earth (DE) - seriously?? This is the problem when the DE get's wet.. it loses it's effectiveness.

Check out the fat slug!!
Anyhoo.. I've also been snapping a few other photos as so much is lush in the garden. What a lovely time of the year. The pole beans are coming (mental note - finish the deer fence!!), the tomatoes have taken well to transplanting and are putting on new growth every day.. A few of the seedlings have started to produce flowers (Jaune Flamme), so I have been pinching them to force energy into vegetative growth.. I want big plants before they start to try and produce flowers and fruits..

The weather may still be damp and cool (I wore a winter coat and scarf last week in the garden!!), but the salad crops are thriving - that is, if they can stay slug-free. I've also been putting in more potatoes for a long season of baby new potatoes - All Blue, River John Blue and Caribe. The kale also loves this weather.. and the carrots appreciate the steady moisture. At least, I don't need to water the newly planted beds twice a day! There's a gardener for you, always looking on the bright side! :)

Here are some other images from this morning's garden:

The sage flowers are coming!!

The chives are also starting to bloom.

Morning dew on the kale.

The giant red mustard in flower - yummy!

Spring spinach.. overwintered from last autumn.

The last few heads of 'Winter Density' lettuce in the open frames.

Catmint - is there a better garden edge?


  1. Straw bales are such a useful thing in all sorts of ways. During Winter they can be used as a 'straw bale urinal' where nitrogen and carbon heat up and can heat a greenhouse. Then in Spring, dig a little hole in the top of the bale, fill it with compost and plant a pumpkin in it!

  2. Hi there - can I ask where you're getting your straw? I can really use some, and I'm hoping to avoid going all the way into the valley...

    Thanks!! (your sage looks fantastic!!!)

  3. Hi Kim.. thanks!! The slugs are really enjoying the straw bale pumpkins!! I think I'll just stick to the tomatoes, they are dong very very well. I got my straw from Boutlier's Lawn and Garden last fall. They may still have some though, as the owner has horses and can usually provide some. Also, if you're not too far from Chester, I have gotten them from Oceanview Garden Center too. Hope that helps!!

    LOVE sage - can't wait until it blooms as the bees just go crazy!

  4. Yes...Boutlier's has straw...really nice! Seven bucks a bale though... but heh..don't have to drive to the valley!

  5. Thanks guys!! I was just at Boutlier's the other day. Didn't see straw, but I wasn't looking. :) They did have some nice looking mushroom compost though....


Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome your tips, questions, thoughts and ideas (and suggestions for new veggies to grow!)