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Gila's Place

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There has been an uptick in gardening the past couple of years. Plandemic lockdowns left people with a lot of time on their hands, no place to go, and in some instances a shortage of food. In the beginning, there were some foods you just couldn’t get, and if you could find them, could you afford it?

Last summer, organically grown tomatoes in my rural part of the world were about $4 each at a local greenhouse/produce stand. That’s a first around these parts, to my knowledge. I suspect the prices will be higher yet this coming summer.

So, what better way to spend your time than to provide for yourself, your family, and sometimes your neighbors, while relieving stress and saving money?

People tell me that gardening is too complicated, too hard, or they don’t know how to start.

Gardening doesn’t have to be labor intensive it’s easy to learn and getting started is pretty simple.

I didn’t believe that until I lived in an apartment and tried container gardening. I grew tomatoes, peppers, green beans, onions, lettuce, spinach, and a variety of herbs, all in pots on my deck. I had two growing boys at home then and I didn’t have to buy any of the aforementioned vegetable for an entire summer and still had some to freeze and dry for winter. I felt accomplished and my bank account was certainly less stressed.

A few years ago I heard about straw bale gardening and did a lot of reading about it. Two summers ago I gave it a try. I combined the method with cattle panels making hoops between rows.

Of all the methods of growing I have tried square bales must be my favorite. I highly recommend it, especially for new gardeners.

No weeding. No major bending. Compact and easy to water. Place to hang pots. Aesthetically pleasing. Production levels, top notch.

This set up required 12 square stray bales, three (3) cattle panels, and a dozen 4′ fence posts and a bag of fertilizer, heavy on the nitrogen. You can get by with fewer posts if you overlap the panels. I planted three to four main plants per bale and things like peas and beans closer together. I grew in the top and sides of the bales and lettuce did great in the shade of the beans and tomatoes, planted in the ground, along the bales on the inside or the hoop.

Straw bales will work right on top of the ground, on concrete, or even a deck. (Make sure to protect the deck under the bale to avoid rotting your decking.)

Last year I used the same set up but didn’t add new bales. I had a spot behind it tilled up and put all my tomatoes and peppers in the ground.

Big mistake. Big. This spring I’ll be going back to those raised, weed free, bales that produce bumper crops with less work.

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