FINAL: Straw Bale Garden Update – Mystery, Adventure and More!

Okay… This is the last post about the Straw Bale Garden, at least for this season. What you’ll get in this post is mystery, adventure, tips for people considering trying this, a recipe for “24 Hour Pickles” and photos of my garden as it was winding down for the season.

It was surprising to watch how fast everything grew! We’d spot a new baby melon or cucumber or green bean, and be so excited! The next day, when we went out to water the whatever-it-was, it seamed to have doubled in size, overnight. REALLY!! Then as everything grew, it became an adventure to find the fruits of our labors amongst all of the leafy vegetation. One day we spotted a large acorn squash that we hadn’t seen before, and didn’t pick it because it wasn’t quite as big as I thought it might get. We watched it for a couple more days, and then decided that the next day we would have it for dinner. We liked to do our harvesting together, Andy and I, so that we could share in the accomplishment of having produced our own food.

Well, we went to get the squash and… here comes the mystery. It was gone! GONE! We searched everywhere. We had to carefully and gently step into the mass of vines, lifting the leaves in search of it. We checked downhill, uphill, in-between the bales, it was just gone. We looked at our fence system to see if and how something could have gotten in, but nothing appeared to be disturbed. Huh…

Well, a couple of days later the same thing happened to a ready-to-be-picked bell pepper. Just gone! We went to harvest for the day and it just wasn’t there. Again we searched the fence and the netting, but there was nothing visible. Ready for a bad ending? There was no sign of them when we cleaned out the garden either.  We never did find out where they went.

Here are some tips that I think will help you. We intend to make these changes next season based on what we learned from this one.

First, we went totally organic. No pesticides or foreign soils of any kind.
NEXT TIME – We will definitely use some sort of pest control! I had a terrible time with slugs. They ate ALL my strawberries!! AND they hollowed out my potatoes! That’s right, they left the potato skin and ate everything else. Also, where the slugs weren’t, the fire ants were.

Second, even though the book says it’s straw you can’t over water… you can. What happens is, that if you over water, the bales break down faster, which shortens your growing season. The water also, if left going for oh say 5 or more hours because you forgot to shut it off, carries needed nutrients away with the flood…
NEXT TIME – We will limit our watering to two (2), 20 minute sessions, morning and evening. Also, We won’t do soaker-hoses that are buried under the dirt and plants where you can’t check them without disturbing the roots. We’ll either do a sprinkler or a garden hose with an adjustable spray nozzle.

Third, is DON’T OVER DO IT! The book says you can, and even shows pictures of single bales crammed full of different plants. It shows how you can even plant on the sides of the bale. Not only did I overcrowd, I didn’t realize just how much space some of these plants need in order to thrive.
NEXT TIME – I won’t put everything right up against each other. I will allow LOTS of space for the “viney” plants so they don’t choke each other out! And I’ll remember that things in the straw bale garden get big!

Remembering to fertilize once a month is also very important.
Also, some plants may or may not do well for you in straw, but you’ll remember for the NEXT TIME which ones they were and you’ll plant those like you normally would, in the ground.

Okay, anyone that knows me, knows that I don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and that is putting it mildly. Well I had so many cucumbers that I was trying to send some home with two of my students Judy and Sheila. They, mostly Sheila, tried to convince me to make pickles, but I was not gonna have crocks of pickles and vinegar sitting around my house for months on end waiting for the golden hour where the work could begin and the actual canning could start! At least that’s what the “pickle canning” memories of my childhood conjured up. So, I finally convinced them that it wasn’t gonna happen, and that they should just take them. And so they did.

On our very next Tuesday class, Judy brought a jar of the pickles she had made with the cucumbers, to add to the lunch menu. OMG!!! I can’t tell you how good they were! I said that these couldn’t be my cucumbers, but she assured me that they were; and that she had made “24-Hour” pickles with them. She was very convincing, and so were those pickles. OMG! So… now this is like going against nature for me, LOL, but I got her to give me the instructions; and my sister Amy and I and got to work. I’m not going into a thing about the behind-the-scenes details of me and my younger sister in a kitchen together after so many years, but we were laughing a lot, and in the end, the pickles were great. They taste close to what “Bread and Butter” pickles taste like.

Here’s the recipe, enjoy!

What you’ll need:

  • 7 cups sliced cucumbers (about 5 medium cucumbers)
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 1 cups white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • bottle of pepper sauce (add this last and do it to taste!!)
What to do:
  • In a large bowl, mix everything accept the pepper sauce. Once mixed add the pepper sauce a little at a time. Mix it in and taste, mix in some more and taste, and so on until you get the “heat” just where you want it.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.  

The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for about three months.

Here are the last pictures of this years garden.

Well what do you think?

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