Wow, looking back I really lost my way this fall. It was an odd fall that stayed warm through November. My straw bales, located in front of my lannon stone home and protected by the strong wind thrived late into the season. I had a major problem with a wasp invasion in July and August that kept me away from dealing with the cherry tomato and squash vines. By the time I was able to wade through the vines safely, they were everywhere and I mean everywhere. The tomatoes were prolific and fantastic in taste. Sweet and juicy, ripening late season which made them even more enjoyable. The summer squash, Zephyr being my favorite (put a link?) grew endlessly. I picked them small to keep them sweet and ate them raw or sautéed. A simple salad of Zephyr squash, cucumbers and fresh herbs…yum!
I planted early season Kale and Swiss Chard that grew until mid-November when we finally had a bit of snow and frost. The kale would have lasted through December if my daughter and her friend didn’t run all over the tops of the bales during the first big snow of the season! Cherry tomatoes grew and really got going late in the season. I think that as the straw decomposed and held the heat in August and September, the tomatoes thrived. Pepper plants did not do well, nor did my watermelon. Squash grew like crazy and I had early summer squash still growing in the fall.
What did I learn from my straw bales this year? That they are fantastic and a terrific way to grow veggies. I already knew this but it never hurts to learn it again! I had fewer pests and diseases than the main garden and the plants grew later into the season. What would I recommend? Try straw bale gardening IF you have ready access to water, they are best with drip irrigation daily. My husband set up my hose with a timer, all I had to do was set the timer for15 – 30 minutes and the watering was done. Amazing.
And next season? Expand of course! More flowers for color and pollination. Dwarf type of tomatoes to contain the long vines. The tomato jungle really was too much to handle and I hate wasting tomatoes to chipmunks and mice that can eat them on the ground. I’m going to add spaces between the rows of bales for walking and management as well as to control wasps and hornets. Carrots grow like crazy in year old straw bales and I’m going to try fingerling potatoes in the old bales. And maybe peanuts this year. Why not?