Island Updates

Planting the Straw Bale Garden

After three very wet and unseasonably cold days on Hurricane I finally was given a sunny day to plant the straw bale garden! Visitors to Hurricane will see that the bales are arranged in a similar pattern and shape as last year. Placing the bales in rows oriented East and West maximizes the sun’s southern exposure and allows for good walking paths.

Last year we planted vegetables that flower and grow above ground in the straw bales, and we are doing the same this year. We planted two long rows of tomatoes, two rows of vining cucumbers, squashes, and zucchinis, one row of broccoli, and another of peppers. The herbs are still growing in the window of the mess hall but I plan to try growing some basil and cilantro in the bales this year too.

Last year the deer broke my heart by eating the entire straw bale garden within two days. We got a few good zucchinis and cucumbers before they feasted, but we didn’t enjoy one tomato. I refuse to go through the same heartache this year, or at least I’ll try like crazy to prevent it. Oakley worked hard with volunteers in May to put up an indestructible garden fence around the meadow garden, and he continued to put his skills to use with the straw bale garden. I’m crossing my fingers that this will be enough to prevent the deer from literally enjoying the fruits of our hard labor.

I mentioned in the garden blog post a few weeks ago that the bales we got this year are different than last. When we bought them they had already started to decompose and break apart easily. A few weeks of conditioning the bales and letting them sit outside in the May rain has helped expedite this process even more, and has made planting the bales very easy. To plant the bales I first took handfuls of potting soil and spread it across the top of the bales. Next I took a small garden trowel and carved away a spot to put the plant and its roots, just like I do in the gardens that grow in the ground. After placing the plant in its spot I cover it with more potting soil and water it in!

One change this year is that I added more flowers to the straw bale garden. I planted nasturtiums (a popular edible flower for kids) and am using the deer fence as a trellis of sorts for climbing Black Eyed Susans. Once more of the flower seedlings are ready to go outside I’ll also plant Sunflowers and Zinnias.

Gardening is a very cathartic activity that helps me clear my mind. After three cold and rainy days of emails and to do lists this day of gardening felt like a breath of fresh air, literally!  

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