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.

strawbales

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.

In My Garden

Suddenly the days are longer, the skies are brighter, and it’s a joy to be in the garden. This week I sowed Cascadia Snap Pea seeds in a straw bale. Legume inoculant will provide all the nitrogen they need. Gardeners in the Pacific Northwest once had to plant peas in January to get a crop because aphids transmit Pea Enation Mosaic virus. Enation diseased plants begin drying out and stop producing as soon as we have a trace of hot weather in early summer. Gardeners would rush to plant in January, no matter how cold and wet the conditions. My mother always referred to early pea planting as “mudding in”.

Plant breeders at Oregon State University began selecting for resistance to this disease over forty years ago. Today, we can plant OSU Sugar Pod II, Oregon Giant Sugar Pod, Cascadia Snap Pea, and Oregon Trail shelling pea, all released from the OSU department of horticulture and bred by Dr. James Baggett. OSU sugar Pod II is now the most widely grown edible pod variety in the world. It has good flavor, is tender crisp, and easy to grow and harvest.

I have grown peas and beans on wheat straw bales for several years with good results. When you sprinkle the seeds with legume inoculant the bacteria enables plants to form nitrogen rich root nodules from atmospheric nitrogen and you will not need to fertilize. You can read more about straw bale gardening on our Nichols Garden Nursery website:www.nicholsgardennursery.com