I love gardening, flower gardening and vegetable gardening. My flower gardening is quite enjoyable but does not reap the same benefits as the vegetable garden.  Well, that is if my vegetable garden actually produced anything for us and not just for the woodchucks.  My vegetable gardening has gone through many phases with various results.  The garden is on a slightly sloped piece of land that is near the bottom of a hill.  Not the best place as it stays cooler and gets the first frost before the rest of the property.

First, I planted in the ground, in rows like most gardens.  That yielded very poor results.  The next year, I had the soil tested.  Amended it, fertilized, added compost and thought it would be good.  Not much better.  Okay, let’s try raised bed gardening the next year.  So, A few raised beds went in.  Lots of compost, some fertilizer and the results were not too bad.  Not like my Dad’s garden but there was a harvest.  So, the next year I added a bit more compost and stuff. I was excited to see what we would get. We got woodchucks. They are rascally critters.  They ate everything or almost everything.  I would beat them to very few things.  I tried lots of different scare tactics.  I sprinkled dried blood, fox urine, dog hair, made mobiles that clanked and so on.  They didn’t care.  I tried fencing in the raised beds.  I knew the squashes would find a way out but at least some would be safe.  Guess what, woodchucks can climb fencing.  After years of being beaten by the woodchucks, I just about gave up.  Then I tried planting in 5 gallon buckets and placed them close to the house.  Not bad.  I got a few tomatoes and the woodchucks are happy were they are.  But I was still not happy with the results.

This year a new experiment, I am going to try Straw Bale Gardening.  This year I am just going to do tomatoes to see how it works.  I am also going to still plant in my buckets so I can compare the results.

For those that have never heard of Straw Bale Gardening here are the basics.  You take a bale of straw, NOT hay.  Straw is just the stems and not the seed heads.  Set the bale on the ground with the strings that wrap the bale on the sides not on the ground.  Most straw bales have a top and a bottom.  You want the top up, the cut end of the straw so you see lots of holes.  You will plant directly in the straw but you want to condition it first.  You take 1/2 cup of regular grass fertilizer and sprinkle on top of the whole bale.  Make sure your fertilizer does not have weed killer in it.  Wet it down.  You do this every other day for about a week (6 days) making sure on the opposite days the bale is still wet.  Then for the next 3 days sprinkle 1/4 cup of fertilizer and water it in.   Day 10, you sprinkle 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer and water in.  Day 12 plant.

The straw will break down and as it does, it produces heat. The plants will enjoy the extra warmth.  Keeping it watered is important as the water will drain but you don’t have to worry so much about excess water like you do when you have a wet summer.


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