Blog, Farm

“Deconstructing Straw Bale Beds, and Preparing Our Garden For Spring.”

Straw bales, before and after tilling.

Finally, we picked out the last of the tomatoes (most were green) and ripped up the straw bale raised beds! Once they were up and the bale strings were taken off, we tilled our whole garden section up!

Hoping We Wouldn’t Hit Any Unwanted Nests In The Bales:

After taking down our lettuce bed early, due to a yellow jacket nest, I was skeptical we would get away without another, but fortunately, we didn’t have any other nests in the bales! We did however, find tunnels on the bottom of the bales, once we lifted them up. They looked pretty abandoned, and we never saw any animal. Probably because, our loyal mouser (Forest), kept everything clean of pesky rodents. Very grateful, for a cat who takes his job seriously!

After pulling them up.

Rabbits Put To Good Use!

Once we took them up, we just used a pitch fork and ripped them apart, so that the tiller had an easier job of mixing it into the ground. Now, this is the part I’ve been waiting for, to get good use out of my Rabbits! (other than breeding them). I was thankfully able to mix all their Rabbit poo (AKA garden fertilizer) into the garden so my husband could till it all up! This is great, because now after all the rains come and go, this will get the grounds all nice, fertilized, and ready for our garden beds, this Spring!

Notice the tunnels, in the dirt?

Our Upcoming Garden Bed Plans:

Our back yard is a bit sloped downwards. So another nice thing is, that when tilling all those bales (and fertilizer) into the ground, it really helped get us progressing, towards fixing that slope. We hope to get a coop built soon, and some chickens out there to continue mixing up our soil, but we have so many projects right now, that isn’t the main priority, quite yet. We are just glad we got that finished and ready for spring.

We have this book! Going to read it to see if there is anything else I can do to help our soil!

Recap Of How Straw Bales Worked:

If you haven’t read my last garden post, and are thinking of doing Straw bale raised beds, I will link that post here. We liked them a lot, for where we are located (gardening zone 8B), and how we could till it all for the next garden season! I will also post a picture of how they looked, way before we started taking them down.

The before picture, taken during Summer!

The beds we are doing next, will be concrete block raised beds, and I can’t wait to write a post on what we will do for that! Where we placed our straw bale beds, wasted some of our yard space, because we put them in a bad spot, space wise. So, this time around, we are hoping to utilize our space better so we can have more, useable room back there. Although the bales, were a very versatile option, the blocks are also versatile and we can’t wait to try those out. We’ve seen a few people use that method recently, and it turned out great, so we wanted to give it a shot!

After tilling everything! Dirt ready for Spring!
Blog, Farm

“First Year Garden Update: September 2021”

Our garden beds.

What We Planted:

  • Tomatoes plants 
  • Yellow Onions (bag of started, baby onions)
  • Pickling Cucumbers (planted from seed)
  • Garlic (cloves, not seeds)
  • Carrots (planted from seed and starts)
  • Lettuce (planted from starts, and seed)
  • Spinach (planted from seed)
  • Swiss Chard (planted from seed)
  • Strawberry plants
  • Bell Peppers plants
  • Cayenne Pepper plants
  • Jalapeno pepper plants

What Thrived vs What Didn’t:

Our lovely Tomatoes.

Our tomatoes did great! We have had a consistent small harvest every day which worked perfectly for our little family of three. I was even able to make a good amount of freezer pizza sauce! We planted the peppers next to the tomatoes and they had it rough with the weird heat waves, and I did not pinch them at first, at all, so we have got a few tiny bell peppers from it, but not really any useable ones, and the small rodents ate them before we could anyways. Unfortunately, the slugs took out the other pepper varieties earlier in the season as well, and they just never grew back, fully. So, sadly we didn’t get to use any spicy peppers.

our Peppers. Pinched all the newer buds off, hope it helps grow this little guy.

Our cucumbers never did too well either, we might have planted them at the wrong time. They had a very slow start, and produced very small fruits so I never got to do pickles this year, although it did grow a couple tiny ones. They also just looked yellow, and sickly. We planted the garlic pretty late in the summer, so we understand why that didn’t do too good. It was a quick decision, that we didn’t think too much about, we just had it lying around and planted it, as we had never done garlic before, but we should have done the research.

Our sad onions. They were deeper in dirt, but this was after I pulled and checked them.

We bought a bag of onions to put in a planting bin, they were the yellow onions and i’m not quite sure what type exactly, but they did not grow at all, sadly some just bolted asap, and others didn’t grow at all. We planted carrots from seed, and also planted “little finger” carrot starts, but none of them grew. I think it was because they did not have enough dirt to root down into and needed more room, potentially.

The Cucumbers. I didn’t even get to make a trellis, they never really grew. it only had just a couple tiny curled pickles.

The Strawberry plant, did great, at first! Then the heat wave came and slowed it down, with some burnt leaves. It then, grew a bunch of runners and I think that is why the fruit became so small and few, to none, as I did not clip the runners off. Our lettuce, we planted from seed— “black seeded” lettuce and we also got starts of “salad bowl” lettuce, those got eaten by slugs at first, but then after that, they grew back and did pretty okay. We were able to harvest some baby lettuce for a little bit! The spinach we planted grew, but it bolted asap, so we couldn’t use it. We also planted Swiss Chard, but once again, the slugs ate it. Unfortunately, we had to take out that whole bed due to a nest of Yellow jackets, so we don’t have pictures of the lettuce/spinach/chard and couldn’t replant any of them.

Our Strawberries. I pinched most of the runners, but should’ve sooner. We started with 2 plants.

Next Season’s Tactics:

For our Carrots, I will give them more dirt, to grow deep into, and try to thin them more properly, once they’re big enough. 

The Peppers, I will pinch them for the first 2-3 weeks so they grow and get a better root system going, before making any peppers, as well as try to watch how I water them.

For our Strawberries, I will pinch off the runners and focus on keeping it from trailing away so it does not use up it’s energy. 

The Cucumbers,  I will try to give them more fertilizer and maybe check them for bugs more frequently. They kept turning yellow and sickly, with curled little cucumbers, so I don’t know if it was bugs, or some kind of nitrogen or potassium deficiency. I will also pay attention to how much I water them.

For Our Garlic I will plant that at the correct time next season, early spring maybe this fall, and see how it goes.

We have this book, it has very helpful info!

The Lettuce did pretty good besides the slugs, and it needed a little bit more space, so I will prevent the slugs and give them more room next time! The Spinach I think just was effected by the extreme heat we had– it grew right before and bolted right after.

For our Onions I will start them by seed this year, and in the house at first, to see if that helps. Then I will plant them outside around our other plants as a sort of barrier, to see if they like that better. I’ve heard others say the bag of started onions, sometimes just bolt and stay small, which is what ours did.

Oh and I will also find a way to get rid of slugs, before it’s too late and my plants are gone. We will probably plant a few patches of French Marigolds here and there, to prevent our crops from being eaten and remove them from the general area. They are the worst during our rainy seasons, where we live!

What We Are Planting Next:

For reference, our garden zone is 8b. Click Here to see an informative planting calendar for this zone!

The List for our next Garden season (this coming spring):

  • Carrots (from seeds)
  • Onions (Green onions, and yellow onions; from seeds)
  • Lettuce (from seeds, and started plant)
  • Spinach (from seeds)
  • Swiss Chard (from seeds)
  • Zucchini  (from seeds)
  • Cucumbers (from seeds)
  • Corn (from seeds)
  • Strawberry plants (and seeds I saved from this year)
  • Garlic (from cloves)
  • Tomatoes plants (and seeds I saved from this year)
  • Bell Peppers plants (and Jalapeno peppers, just to try one more time without a green house).
On our book shelf. A great read also!

Herbs and Such:

  • Rosemary (from a start)
  • Basil (from a start)
  • Chives (from seeds)
  • Peppermint (from a start)
  • Comfrey (from a start)
  • Lemon Balm (from a start)
  • Lavender plants

All the herbs will be in pots or potting boxes, the cucumbers and corn will be along our fence, and the rest of the garden will be done in a Concrete block, raised bed type of garden.  I can’t wait to show that design, and what we plan to do! Currently, I am just planting in spring, and I stop around September, so I don’t deal with the fall/winter garden. Overall, for our first time we did pretty good, and i’m happy with the outcome! We still got to harvest things and use them in our meals, so it was great- even if half the garden didn’t do the best.

How was your Garden this year? Do you plant through the fall/winter?

Leave a comment! I’d love to hear how your garden is doing!