Gardening is not just a great way to get some exercise—it’s also a great way to put fresh vegetables on the table for a very low cost. Now you may be thinking August is far too late in the growing season to get a garden growing, but there are ways to extend the fresh food you grow. And just think how wonderful it would be to have lettuce in December, plucked from your garden.
Now you don’t need to invest in an expensive greenhouse for this either. You want to be thinking about using straw as your helper.
The first option is to create something called a ‘cold frame’. This is simple since it uses straw bales and windows plucked from Habitat for Humanities Restore or even from that pile of window headed for the landfill. Arrange the straw bales in a square. Put the windows over it, and you have an instant cold frame that will allow you to grow carrots, lettuce and spinach, as well as other vegetables all winter.
The other way to keep growing even when it gets cold and snow starts to fall is to set up some containers to keep your plants warm.
A straw bale is a basic container; the bale releases heat as the straw decomposes, so that keep plants warmer. You just may need to cover plants with a tarp for any really cold nights.
To get a straw bale garden going, buy a few bales. You can set them up in a row, or an even better way is put them into a square and use the center to compost. Put some red wiggler worms into the compost pile and the worms will turn your kitchen scraps into great soil.
Condition your bales over two weeks with about 2 cups of blood meal per bale (or about 3 pounds total for each bale), and wash the blood meal into the bale so water comes out from the bottom of the bale. After 2 weeks, you can plant seeds or seedlings. Water on the days there is no rain.
Old metal drinkers that have holes in the bottom also make great containers Or use lick tubs, clean them out, and drill holes in the bottom.
If you’re using a container, add wood to the bottom, and newspaper soaked in bone meal. The wood will decompose over time, but it will also help retain water, so you will have to water less.
Now is the time to collect rain water, or simply put your containers under your roof line to have your garden watered with the monsoon rains. And then you can look forward to fresh greens this summer and fall.