The Tale of a Straw-Bale Garden

I’ve got another update on my straw-bale garden for you. And really, I can’t say this enough, if you don’t have a lot of space, good soil, or gardening experience, you SHOULD give straw bale gardening a try. We’ve had amazing success with our 4 bales and are already planning on expanding to 8-10 bales next year.

That being said, I’d like to share some recent (read, taken this morning) photos of the garden and the changes we’ve made to it over the past several weeks.

As you can see, we’ve had to add a lattice arch in the front. When we first planted, we had a cucumber, squash, and zucchini plant. Unfortunately, we had a rabbit – or something- eat the cucumber plant… but I thought they ate the squash plant. Why? Well, cucumber and zucchini vegetables look very similar – both long and green…. so, in my head, the plants had to look similar, too. Turns out, not so much. So, a couple weeks after I replanted the “squash” I found that I now had 2 squash plants, 1 zucchini and 0 cucumber.

Long story short, Dad really wanted a cucumber plant, so we used a leftover container from our tomatoes last year and added a new cucumber. Well, those cucumbers, they vine out pretty fast. And our new plant, it was threatening to choke out the tomatoes. Enter the lattice – I made the arch because we had flexible plastic lattice and the arch shape takes up less room and is less of a hassle to mow than the other options I came up with. Plus it was easy to set up with a couple of pieces of leftover PVC pipe.

Ok, on to the tomatoes – so far we’ve harvested close to 30 tomatoes with LOTS and LOTS more waiting on the vine. These plants are almost as tall as I am, and, if you’ve been following my garden updates, you’ll notice they’ve grown so tall that they hide the scarecrow that was attending the back corner.

You can just barely see her hat from the back.

You’ll also notice that we’ve had to “prop-up” one of our tomato cages and our zucchini plant. The tomato is in a straw-bale that, in all honesty, I’ll be surprised if it lasts the season. This one bale gets the most sunlight and is decomposing faster than the others – which is resulting in a shrinking bale and a growing tomato plant; and that would be ok, if the cage was sunk into the ground for support. But it’s not. When we put the cages in, the bales were tall enough to take the full stake amount without it entering the ground; and now the plants are so big that pushing the cage further down risks breaking the plant limbs and sacrificing precious tomatoes.

We also found that the zucchini plant was places to far forward in the bale, and as it grew, it began to pull out and over the edge. We were afraid it was going to pull its roots out, so we placed a couple of scrap boards under it for support. So far, we’ve harvested 1 squash and 1 zucchini. There have been several zucchinis start, but not get pollinated and end up wilting away. We do have another squash that should be ready to harvest in a day or two, and the hope of another zucchini.

As soon as we get a large-enough harvest of tomatoes I’m going to my grandma on canning lessons. So far, we’ve just been having BLTs soooo good, so good!  and I’ve been having this yummy sandwich I made up for lunch each day. It’s 2 pieces toasted bread, a wedge of laughing cow swiss cheese, some fresh dill, a fresh sliced tomato and 1/2 an avocado. It’s mouth-wateringly good!

I’ve also made squash and zucchini chips from this recipe and zucchini banana bread from this one.

But, I’m looking for some other, delicious ways to use up all these vegetables. So, if you have a favorite recipe using tomatoes, zucchini, or yellow squash, I’d love for you to share it with me 🙂 Thanks!

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