Straw Bale Gardening update

We experiment with straw bale gardening. I continue to love their convenience and the fact that it’s possible to grow a crop while you improve your soil. Here is some of what I’ve recently learned, some is good some not good.

My peas and bean crops continue to be sensational as long as I use Legume inoculant. The bales don’t have this natural bacteria that fixes nitrogen and keeps the foliage green and plants productive.

Tomatoes and Peppers need steady fertilizing and a planting hole within the bale filled with compost or potting soil to grow a strong productive plant.

Garden greens of all types seem to thrive. I think it takes cabbage family transplants about a week longer to establish than when they are planted in the ground. These plants are often said to prefer a “tight soil” and I think we see an example of that in this case.

Cucumbers have produced moderate results and, again a deeper larger planting hole seems the key to success.

However, beware of finding a possible snake in this Garden of Eden. This is an herbicide sometimes used on wheat, barley, oat and other crops. The substance is Clopyralid, it does not readily break down and passes through an animals gut pretty much intact. The resulting manure will act as an herbicide. Some of the Clopyralid product names are Stinger, Reclaim, and Transline. When purchasing bales ask, if any of these products were used on the field. I think asking questions is your first defense. I live in a farming area and it is possible for me to directly inquire.
The problems with Clopyralid became known when grass clippings and other contaminated plant material went into community composting projects and what was supposed to benefit gardens had a residual herbicide effect. Besides asking about the history I’d suggest sowing some inexpensive sunflower or lettuce seed on the prepared bale before planting. If they germinate, start growing and then show damage it may residual herbicide. Since I recently became aware of these problems I’ve tried to learn as much as possible so I could write and speak about this when discussing straw bale gardening.
If you do find or suspect your bales are contaminated do not add this to your compost. Take photos and plant samples to your local extension office and ask them for a recommendation.
This summer we used our collapsing three year old bales to grow potatoes. We enjoyed a beautiful disease free, clean crop.

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Nichols – Gardener’s Pantry Update

I’m back at the blog with a stockpile of recipes and gardening tips for the coming months. It was a wonderful summer. We’re looking out at several rows of cabbage trials. Some of those fat juicy heads have a future as sauerkraut and kimchee. I’ll be sharing the results with you.

Queensland Squash Scones

Queensland Squash Scones

This recipe originates from Queensland Australia. Sir Joh and Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen were a tireless and colorful part of this regions history. He served as premier of Queensland for many years. Her constant support advanced his career. She was known for baking and serving these tasty and most economical scones that are based on Queensland Squash. It’s not hard to imagine scores of locals downing scones and cups of tea and thinking fondly of the premier and his hospitable wife.

Queensland squash is traditional for this recipe but any winter squash will do. If you use another type and it is fairly dry add one to three tablespoons water or milk so dough holds together and has a pliable consistency.

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 cup baked squash, mashed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Grease a baking sheet. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and squash and beat well. Sift flour with baking powder and salt and add to squash mixture, stirring until just combined. Remove from bowl and pat out until 1/2″ inch thick onto a floured cutting board. Cut into 1″ squares and place close together on a baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, until a light golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and serve hot. A little butter, jam and a cup of tea alongside the scones is a small feast.

Blogging Again

It seems I forgot to do something this summer. Caught up in gardening, harvesting, guests, travel and cooking my blog has been sadly neglected. We still are bringing in trays of produce and pleased to have discovered some new varieties for our 2008 catalog. Our current favorite summer squash is a tossup between the delicious, prolific Salman F1 Zucchini

Salman F1 Zuchini

and the Italian heirloom Tromboncino.

Tromboncino Summer Squash

I’ve been slipping zucchini into everything I can manage, omelets, soups and even some seemingly rich chocolate cupcakes. I’ll try to post that recipe later as I didn’t do a great job measuring the ingredients. If you find you have too much zucchini to deal with right now shred it and measure out two cups into a zippered plastic bag and freeze. They will retain a fresh flavor for at least three months.

Our fall garden is already producing, kale, lettuces, arugula and spinach. Just a step outside and I have wholesome fresh greens for our household. The beauty of this is we can keep planting for a few weeks more.

It’s not too late to sow Misato Rose radish.

Misato Rose Radish

It is so beautiful with a bright rosy interior. To serve peel, slice, and add a simple dressing of lightly sweetened and salted rice wine vinegar then watch the color bloom. At their best during cool weather, I usually harvest these when between two and four inches. They are also known as watermelon radishes. In Northern China they are often served as street food. The entire radish is peeled, placed on a stick and swiftly sliced into a multi-petaled rose.

Mesclun mixes and salad blends can still be planted. Collect your seed packets from spring and sow out remaining lettuce seeds or order new seeds. Lettuce will slowly and steadily grow through winter in most areas. I like to clip plants after the second set of true leaves appear and harvest just what I need for the table. Next time I clip back another area. You can expect at least three pickings from this Cut & Cut Again technique. Lettuces clipped back seem more resistant to winter cold and frost. A plastic tunnel or covering of polyspun fabric will hold in warmth and boost yields. Lightly fertilize every few weeks, liquid seaweed is my usual favorite.

It’s sunny outside and the garden beckons.