Straw Bale Gardening

Straw bale gardening is easy, fun and  you to improve the soil while you decide what you what to do with a patch of ground. I’ll be planting a few bales at our annual Nichols Garden Nursery “Plant Day” this coming Saturday, May 16th. Varied crops will be growing for months since I plant greens, tomatoes, peas, beans, and peppers. When I plant peas and beans I always use legume inoculant so I don’t need to supplement with fertilizer. “Legume inoculant” allows these plants to utilize atmospheric nitrogen with nitrogen rich root nodules. Sounds complicated but works beautifully and results count.

Welcome our new straw bale blogging partner, fellow garden writer, Patsy Bell Hobson from Cape Giradeau, MO. She’ll also be growing a straw bale garden and I’ve included a link to her blog “Oh Grow Up”. You can follow two experienced gardeners living in very different environments using straw bales. See the  link to her site on the blogroll to the right of this page.


Last week I was in Anchorage, AK and spoke to University of Alaska Master Gardeners on Container and Small Space Food Gardening and  on straw bale gardening. I hope these Master Gardeners  ask questions and report their results. Anchorage was warmer and sunnier than here in Western Oregon. I think the incomparable beauty of Anchorage and the surrounding area shall be forever imprinted in my mind.

After talking with gardeners and growers from this area I realize the need for short season varieties that get off to a fast start. We’ll be looking for these characterics in our summer trials. It’s not only Alaska needing fast maturing varieties but gardeners from Montana to Maine who persevere and grow great gardens. It’s May and we are all eager to once again experience the joy of gardening.

Barbequed Pinquito Bean Recipes

Pinquito Bean Recipes from Nichols Garden Nursery

These two recipes were sent to my parents by a Mrs. C.L. Brown of Santa Maria, CA. She thought this outstanding and unusual bean should be offered by our nursery. We have offered seeds of these flattened pick bean variety to home gardeners for more than thirty years and have always shared Mrs. Browns recipes.

Jocko’s Barbecue Pinquitos-
A renowned Santa Maria steakhouse
3 cups dry Pinquito beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
1 yellow bell pepper diced
2 green chili peppers, diced
1 pound bacon, diced & cooked
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: After beans have soaked, bring them to a boil. Cover with three times as much water and soak overnight. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook 4 hours, or until tender. When Pinquitos are done, fry together bacon, peppers, onions, garlic. Add this mix to beans, season with salt and pepper. Cook an additional ten minutes.

For my kitchen use I have modified the recipe as follows and must admit I’ve never prepared the original always coming to a halt at the entire pound of bacon. These beans have a distinctive texture and never fall apart when cooked.
revised recipe
Barbeque Pinquitos
3 cups dry Pinquito Beans
6 slices bacon, diced, cooked and drained of fat
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
2-3 green Jalapeno peppers, deseeded and chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
salt and pepper to taste
Method: rinse beans and place in pan with nine cups of water, . Soak overnight. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce hit to a simmer. Cover and cook for two hours or until beans are fork tender. Drain excess water from pinquitos, leaving one to two inches above beans. Place bacon into a large heated skillet and sauté until lightly browned. Remove bacon pieces and set aside. Drain all but one tablespoon fat from skillet and return pan to heat. Add garlic, onions and peppers to skillet and sauté, stirring steadily until onion is translucent. Add vegetables and bacon to pinquitos and simmer for an additional thirty minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Pinquitos with Sausage & Apples
San Fernando Valley Pinquitos: by Mrs. C.L. Brown of Santa Maria, CA.
1 lb. Pinquitos, rinsed and soaked overnight
½ lb. bulk sausage
2 cups peeled & sliced apples
¼ cup brown sugar
4 small sliced onions
1 ½ cups tomato juice
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon chili powder (or more)
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Method: After beans have soaked, bring them to a boil. Cover, simmer 1 to 2 hours, or until tender. Drain. Prepare a combination of all remaining ingredients, being sure to mix sausage well with apples etc. Do not cook sausage first. Bring to a boil and mix wIth drained beans. Simmer for at least 2 hours. Serve with toasted garlic bread.

I prefer lightly cooking the sausage and draining any visible fat. Do this slowly to avoid excessive browning.