Even though we are deep into the dark, damp days of autumn, I am thinking about vegetable gardening next spring. And if it is future-tripping to look at my yard and remember where the sunlight hits it in May, and to use these gray months to plan next year’s garden, so be it! Since starting a whole-food plant-based diet over a year ago, I enjoy growing fruits and vegetables more than ever, and the planning process is half the fun.
So I was very happy recently to meet a neighbor who is experimenting with something called straw bale gardening. Notice the grassy slope near the utility pole and the fire hydrant in the picture below.
Last spring my neighbor Anne Curran placed several bales of straw on this unused patch of grass, the start of something called a straw bale garden. She purchased organic straw bales at the Urban Farm Store, and used wooden stakes to prevent them from sliding downhill. Anne recently sent me some great pictures of the process.She treated the bales with organic fertilizer and let them rot for a month. “The rotting process was smelly but it disappeared once the mushrooms were gone and we planted,” she wrote.
She then planted a variety of seedlings. This garden is near the entrance to our neighborhood, a place people pass by every day without taking much notice. Now, both the straw bales and beautiful flowers invited attention.The plants grew fast, and climbing stakes were added.I took this picture of the tomatoes on a very hot day in August.These were later replaced with a variety of fall vegetables and flowers.Anne wrote, “We’ve harvested tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, tat soi, arugula, mizuna, kale, basil, carrots and celery thus far. We’ve got some cauliflower and romanesco in process. We did a little of everything for our experiment!” Straw bale gardening was recently featured in the New York Times, and more information is here. It is valued as a relatively easy, inexpensive way to have a garden in any unused sunny space – the bales could even be placed on top of pavement. I can hardly wait to try it. Anne, thank you for sharing your ideas and experience, and for the lovely sense of place you have given this corner of the neighborhood.