Spring is in full swing, and along with allergies it brings us longer days, warmer temperatures, and the perfect time to plant for summer. The Lashley family has always been ambitious when it comes to gardening (notice I did not say successful). We plant at least 12 tomato plants every year, along with cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, herbs, cantaloupes, watermelons, and strawberries. We love the thought of growing our own food, and we are big on canning.
Unfortunately, last year was a huge disappointment. Our tomatoes were scraggly at best, producing just enough for our family to eat. The cucumbers were measly, and the peppers a disaster. We did not even attempt any fruit last year; we must have known.
I love to put up tomatoes in the summer; they make everything taste better all winter long. Thankfully, my dad took pity on me last year and gave me about 15 quarts of tomatoes to last me; I ran out in March. I also make the best pickles; they are crunchy, salty, garlicky heaven. I only had enough cucumbers to put up maybe six pints last summer, and we ate them before you could snap your fingers. It was a huge let down, and this year we decided to try something different.
Last summer, my papa decided to experiment with one single tomato plant in a straw bale. He had read an article in the newspaper about straw bale gardening and was intrigued. He followed the directions (you have to “treat” your straw for up to 12 days with a water and fertilizer routine), and planted. He was astounded at the outcome. One single tomato plant gave him almost 5 bushels of tomatoes. The tomato plant was as large as a small tree; I was amazed when I saw it. He made a copy of the newspaper article for me, and off we were to planning our garden for this year.
My wonderful husband was very excited about this new prospect. He researched, sketched plans, and – when the time came – went and purchased our straw bales. He laid them out just so, building the cutest garden I have ever seen. He put the bales in rows, and built a nice fence with a gate around it. He began the tedious task of the watering, fertilizing, watering, fertilizing, until finally, the straw bales were “hot.” You have to follow the water/fertilizer cycle to get the bales to start composting inside, you can feel the heat coming off of the bales, and it’s pretty amazing. We knew we were doing it right when mushrooms started popping up all over the bales; a lot of action was going on inside!
We were finally able to plant last week. We have tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cantaloupes, and strawberries. We also did some companion flowers. It’s so pretty, and it’s amazing to see how much everything has already grown in only a week. There are other perks to straw bale gardening besides (hopefully) a big yield. There is rarely any weeding, you can sit in a chair to plant (no strain on the back and knees), and it looks amazing! We are all crossing our fingers that we get high yields from this year’s garden, and that the straw bales live up to their hype! Happy gardening everyone!