Whenever someone on the Trail brings up a book, I check it out and usually try to find it and read it. So someone mentioned Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, I quickly checked it out from the library. It was horrifying; I was appalled by the ethics, the chemistry and the economics of the tomato industry that were laid out by the author. In addition, it made me think about the taste of tomatoes that I’ve been purchasing recently. All of this led me to the decision that I really wanted to grow my own tomatoes this past summer.
Unfortunately I have two big dogs who have no respect for my gardening efforts. Many of my perennials are protected by fencing or tomato cages; past vegetable gardens have been mowed down in their infancy by these marauders. For several years I’ve tried growing tomatoes in big pots on the driveway but I’ve never had any luck with that. After deciding that I really wanted to grow more tomatoes I did some research on raised bed gardens and fences, searching the internet to find some cost-effective methods. That was when I stumbled across straw bale gardening. You plant your vegetables directly into straw bales. Whenever anything seems that simple I am instantly skeptical so I spent several days finding websites, blogs and online photos of this method. Everybody seemed to think it was a great way to grow vegetables.
So one weekend morning, the Teenager and I drove down to the garden center and came home with four straw bales (no easy feat in our little Saturn Ion). For fourteen days I followed a schedule of watering, then fertilizing, then watering more. After two weeks, I dug little holes in each bale, added a handful of potting soil, then set the plants into the bales. Since the plants are on the top of the bales, they are safe from dogs and bunnies. And a side benefit that I hadn’t anticipated – no weeds!
The plants went wild. I’ve had to add tomato cages and stakes and eventually I had to pull two of the bales apart because the peppers weren’t getting sun. I got tomatoes galore – way too many for even the Teenager and I to eat fresh, so I now have lots of roasted tomatoes in the freezer to enjoy over the fall and winter months.
So I will definitely be having a straw bale garden again in 2013. I think I’ll do more bales and only put 2 plants in each bale. And I may branch out with peas and beans!
What are your gardening plans for this year?