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Growing A Straw Bale Garden

Part Two –

In May, Tractor Man and I lugged four bales of hay down our slope and set them up as a garden! At the same time, we constructed a ‘Ranch Gate Garden’, by stringing three old ranch gates together that we found on our place, fencing in the 16′ x16′ garden. The fourth side we made from wire fencing and a door frame set with a discarded screen door as a gate.

Ranch Gate garden in Mid-June

Ranch Gate garden in Mid-June

We live in Central California in the foothills at 3000 feet. It’s a Mediterranean climate with wet winters and dry summers. Straw bale gardens are suitable for this area because it’s so easy to water with a timed soaker hose and weeds are few. Besides, I was fascinated by this idea and I could get my hands on straw bales easily at our local hardware store.

To start, I conditioned the bales, by wetting them down and adding blood meal and followed all the directions in the book, STRAW BALE GARDENS: Straw Bale Gardens: The Breakthrough Method for Growing Vegetables Anywhere, Earlier and with No Weeding by Joel Karsten!

All this can be found in Part One – Creating a Straw Bale Garden

June

In mid June, the garden has been planted and fertilized twice with a quick start fertilizer for transplants. Planting was easy! I sat right on the bales to separate the straw and tuck each plant in. There is no soil used and the straw becomes the growing medium, becoming softer and softer as the weeks go by.

All the weeds I find each few days...

All the weeds I find each few days…

Just a few weeds

Just a few weeds, pop up between the bale and my ‘magic’ carpet.

The small flower beds on either side have Black-eyed Susans, Hummingbird Mint, Salvia and Blue fescue grass,…all tough survivors for hot dry summers in California. The hose reaches them, too.

Mid-June progress

Mid-June progress

July

This month is HOT and I’m grateful for the watering timer wired to the gate around the garden. With an easy twist, I can time it for 30 minutes each morning. Other maintenance is little! There are few weeds and all are easy to pull with out much bending.

Straw bale garden

Straw bale garden, strawberries, tomatillos and tomatoes.

The 'L' shaped bale garden

The ‘L’ shaped bale garden

Ranch gate garden in July

Ranch gate garden in July

Tomatoes growing in straw...no soil!

Tomatoes growing in straw…no soil!

Japanese eggplant and small Red Zebra tomatoes

Japanese eggplant and small Red Zebra tomatoes

Peppers, onions and tomatoes

Peppers, onions and tomatoes

'Straw' berries

‘Straw’ berries

Japanese eggplant and small Red Zebra tomatoes

Japanese eggplant and small Red Zebra tomatoes

San Marzano plum tomato

San Marzano plum tomato

Mountain view

Mountain view

I like how the little flower beds are turning out

I like how the little flower beds in front are turning out

The Ranch Gate garden is in a forest clearing,…our place, 7 acres, is right next to the Sierra National Forest. It’s set about 100 feet down the slope from our house and beyond is a seasonal stream. (Tractor Man calls it a ‘wash’,…I call it a stream!) The stream runs steeply down the hill and has a trickle at least all year long.

I think having the garden here and close to a water faucet will encourage me to keep the whole area weed free and eventually plant more. Already, I’ve planted some deer and drought tolerant and native shrubs on the far side from this view point.

A visit from ‘The Sophisticate’ …my 26 year old daughter, confirmed what I hoped….she said, “Mom, this is really cute!” hahaha

I’m looking forward to sitting in the nearby chair under the tree opposite and watching my ‘crops’ grow, planning more additions to my garden. ~~ Sue

The wonky 'gate.'

The wonky ‘gate.’

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