Straw Garden Madness

Since 2012, I have been mad for Straw Bale gardens.  It gets rid of many of the past issues I’ve had growing a veggie garden which are
A Guaranteed Successful Harvest
Water Control
Pest Control
Weed Control
Composting
In the past, before the straw bale gardens, my harvest would be irregular – poor tomatoes, little or no beans and we can forget the cucumbers and peas.  Now it is a verdant delight and sometimes out of control.  And it works even if all you have is a cement slab. So I’d like to share with you my system.

1. Step one: Find the area to put in the garden Buy landscaping cloth, gopher wire and garden staples.  If you don’t have a rodent problem, skip the gopher wire and if you are putting this on concrete – you don’t have to worry about any of this.

Make sure if you are cutting the gopher wire and the landscape cloth that you have scissors and wire cutters nearby – You’ll need them.

Step 2:  Have a nice strong person bring the straw bales to the planting area (don’t wreck your own back) and put them in your placing arrangement.  Then make holes in the straw bales and start putting lots of regular lawn fertilizer (nitrogen) on the bales.  Organic fertilizer is great but you’ll need tons of it.  Then put some compost on top and for the next 2 – 3 weeks water and re-fertilize every 3 days.  I use a soaker drip system that works really well, but initially I just water with a hose.

Step 3:  Start planting.  You’ll feel the heat coming up from the bales, so you can plant once the frost freeze is over.  I also put in fence stakes (the green ones) so that the vines and the tomatoes grow upright.  For fun, I found a garden umbrella which I trained my bean vines to climb.  It looked beautiful and was easy for the picking.  I run wire between the fence stakes and start putting in my plants.  This method is so successful that you can easily turn the area in to a garden jungle by planting TOO MUCH.  So my rule of thumb is 1 tomato plant per bale.

Step 4:  Set up the watering timer and enjoy.  In several months you will have an amazing veggie garden with no weeding or work, just enjoying the fruits of the easy picking labor.  The bales will last you for 2 years, and at the end, you’ll have amazing compost to put in the other gardens on your property.
For more info about Straw Bale gardening, go to http://strawbalegardens.com/
Don’t forget that when you garden, put some Elixer Arnica cream to avoid joint and muscle stiffness and soreness.

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They stare at me in the veggie store, waving their little green stems. Like a woman possessed I rush to the bin with my bag.  I give one a quick snap.  Crisp, most and verdant, I pop the two pieces into my mouth.  They are nearly perfect.  Quickly I stuff 2 pounds worth into a bag and rush to the baby Roma tomatoes.  They are just as tasty as the cherry tomato mix but at one third the price.  I put a dozen in my bag: four for our meal, four for the salad and four to end up in my mouth.

Easy and elegant, I love sauté green beans Provençal.  It can be a meal in itself (just add some tofu to the mixture), the perfect accompaniment to a leg of lamb, or in my case, a fine trout.  All is needed is a fine dry Riesling and a mesclun salad with feta cheese crumbles and a shallot vinaigrette.

I know it is winter and I should only eat local, but I’m tired of broccoli and root vegetables.  Forget kale, an indigestible plant that can only be consumed with copious amount of oil, butter and potatoes, I’m breaking out to eat French-style green beans simmered in a tomato sauce.  After all, we hit a high of 50 degrees, which means its summer to me.  And I’m making a great meal at $2.50 per person since trout is fairly inexpensive.  If you can’t find fresh green beans, I’ve used in the past Trade Joe’s frozen French green beans which can be found in the freezer section.  They are almost as good as the real thing.  So celebrate summer in the winter and enjoy!

Sauté Green Beans Provençal Prep: 5 minutes, Cooking time: 30 – 45 minutes

1 -2 pounds of fresh or frozen green beans, with tips removed and washed

Olive Oil

1 large clove of garlic – crushed, pressed or finely chopped

1 large tomato or 4 baby romas quartered

¼ cup of water

1/4 tsp. Salt & 1/8 tsp. Pepper

Directions

With enough oil to cover the bottom of heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat (medium fire) and toss in garlic.  One minute later, toss in green beans, tomatoes, water, salt & pepper and cover tightly.  Wait until pot is steaming (about 10 minutes), then lower heat to a simmer.  Serve when ready. Add more salt & pepper to taste.