Straw Bale Garden: What I Learned

straw bale garden before and after

Straw bale garden–April on the left, November on the right.

The straw bale garden I started this spring has been one of the most successful vegetable gardens I’ve ever planted. In fact it’s still producing well into November. Here’s what I learned from the experiment:

  • Plants that suck up a lot of nitrogen, like squash, do well in a straw bale garden.
  • My tomatoes flourished but, due to the high nitrogen, made more leaves than fruit. I’m not saying you shouldn’t plant tomatoes in straw bales–results will be better than in poor soil, but it’s hard to regulate the amount of nitrogen when prepping bales.
  • Stake the bales. They will fall over eventually. I knew this but was too lazy to actually do it.
  • Straw bale gardens are a great option for those cursed by poor or contaminated soil.
  • I’ve got lot of bales to compost!

My future in straw bale gardening
I’ve decided to continue straw bale gardening on a smaller scale. I’m going to build some raised beds and fill them with soil, but I’m leaving room for two bales to grow nitrogen hungry crops, principally squash. I’m also planning on building a box to hold those bales so I don’t have to stake them every season.

Like most things in life it’s not an either/or proposition. You can have a conventional vegetable garden and save some space for straw bale gardening. I think the two compliment each other really well.

Self-Righteousness Fail: We Bought a Car

At least we got something interesting. Image: Paleofuture.

At least we got something interesting to drive. Image: Paleofuture.

Back in March, a video producer who was texting-while-driving slammed into me and totaled the early 90’s hatchback that Kelly and I shared. We went from a one car household to a car-free household overnight. A combination of environmental guilt and distaste for car shopping led us to a six month car free living experiment in Los Angeles. That period ended in late September when we purchased a car from a friend. It’s well past time we came clean and discussed the ups and downs of car-free living, as well as the reasons that led us to start burning dinosaur juice once again.

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Video Sundays: Doberman Outsmarted by Chicken

Via Doug Harvey, a video that brings back memories. Except that our late Doberman was deathly afraid of chickens, for some reason.

Addition from Mrs. Homestead: I wouldn’t characterize our dog as having been deathly afraid of chickens. Rather, I’d say he let the chickens push him around–very much like this video.  Once I found him trapped, unable to get to the house because the mean chickens were blocking his path, so I had to rescue him. But often enough they’d all coexist peacefully, with the chickens pecking right under his long legs while he sniffed around the yard.

Saturday Linkages: Gardening, Rocket Heaters and DIY Tips

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Forgot your reading glasses? No problem. Tip via Popular Mechanics.

A Garden Cannot be Designed http://landscapeofmeaning.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-garden-cannot-be-designed.html …

Seeds on seeds on seeds: Why more biodiversity means more food security http://garynabhan.com/i/archives/2347 

Lawn Pesticides Outlawed! by Susan Harris http://gardenrant.com/2013/11/lawn-pesticides-out-lawed.html?utm_source=feedly …

Chelle Lindahl’s rocket mass heater http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/chelle-lindahls-rocket-mass-heater/ …

Know Your Stuff: The 110 Best DIY Tips Ever http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/skills/know-your-stuff-the-110-best-diy-tips-ever?src=soc_twtr …

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Why is My Squash Bitter?

"Long of Naples" squash

“Long of Naples” squash growing in our backyard.

It’s the bees.

Squash is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, one of the most difficult vegetables to save seeds from. Cucurbitaceae have both male and female flowers and lots of wild, inedible relatives. Cross pollination is what Cucurbitaceae want to do. If you want to save seed and you take the precaution of taping up the flowers, bumblebees and solitary bees can chew their way through the tape to get at the pollen. In short it’s really easy to breed a freak Frankensquash or Frankencucumber, which can actually be toxic.

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