Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tomato Pie

Our tomatoes have really taken off! Friday night I made one of my favorite summer recipes with some Brandywines from our straw bale garden. I was able to get enough basil from my little container to use too.

Tomato Pie

1 deep dish pie crust
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Topping Mix:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Slice tomatoes and drain on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 375. Prick pie crust all over with a fork. Bake pie crust 10 minutes or until it just starts to brown.

Sprinkle mozzarella in the bottom of the crust. Layer tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Mix topping ingredients and add to top of pie. Bake until golden, about 20-30 minutes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tomatoes Doing Great!

I haven't updated in a while so I thought I'd post a picture of the tomatoes in our straw bale garden. The Brandywine & grape tomatoes are loaded down. I can't wait for them to get ripe!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Since I added the extra fertilizer and have been also using my Miracle Grow spray almost every day, my little straw bale garden has finally picked up the pace. I even picked my first squash last night. Hooray!

I'm not sure what's up with my has grown really big, and it flowers, but then the blooms just fall off. No zukes. What's up with that? Maybe that will change soon too.

My tomato plants have taken off. There are little grape tomatoes that are starting to change color, and the Brandywine is bloomed. My jubilee was very stunted; I thought it would die. It's still shorter than the other two plants, but it has really perked up lately. Hopefully that will bloom soon as well!

Also perking up are my Anaheim chiles. They've really grown, and now the one on the far left is about to bloom. Yay! Hopefully I can keep this up and keep everything that's left alive and producing. :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Neglected Blog

I have seriously neglected my gardening blog lately! I guess it's because I don't have much exciting stuff to report. My garden's actually kind of pitiful, although it's in better shape that in was.

I've been having a problem with all of my little yellow squashes that the plant puts out getting about 3" long and then the end turning black and rotting. Also, the leaves stayed yellow around the edges. A friend gave me a couple of different fertilizers (one of them was ironite), which I sprinkled around all my plants and watered in really well. The leaves have changed back to a deep green, and hopefully I won't lose anymore squash.

My tomatoes have really taken off since I used that fertilizer too. The grape tomato and brandywine tomato plants have finally gotten tall enough that I've had to stake them. The jubilee is still pretty short, but it's been growing a lot the last few days. The only one of them to actually make tomatoes yet is the grape, and they're still green. Hopefully that will change soon too!

My jalapenos all died, but the Anaheim chiles are hanging in there. No blooms yet, but maybe soon. The tomatillos are about the same story. I guess I really haven't taken care of my little straw bale garden as well as I should have. I need to do better!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Still Trying...

Well, I've let my blogging get behind, but honestly I haven't had much to say. My plants have still been pretty sad-looking. Some of them have yellowed leaves while others have leaves that have been munched on by bugs.

It's rained a lot here, and so I haven't had many opportunities to go out and do much of anything to help them lately. I did buy some fish fertilizer over the weekend, though, and finally got the chance to go out and use it yesterday. Unfortunately, when I went out I also found that the ants have come back in full force. They were literally swarming over the mounds of soil where I planted my cucumber seeds. After fertilizing the entire garden, I liberally sprinkled them with Borax. Hopefully they'll be gone this evening and my plants perked up.

One happy surprise I found yesterday was a small yellow squash. It's about 3" long. At least something is growing!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Unhappy Plants

When I got home yesterday I immediately went out to check on my new straw bale garden. Unfortunately, I didn't find happy, healthy plants like I wanted to. Most of my transplants looked pretty pitiful...wilted, droopy, and generally unhappy. :( I watered them really well before going back in. I hope they'll look better this afternoon. Maybe I should use the Miracle Grow again...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 21: Finally Planted!!!

There was a break in the rain today and I didn't see any ants in my straw bales, so I went for it and planted all of my stuff.  I hope I didn't overcrowd everything!  What do you think? (Click the picture for a better view!)

After I got everything planted, I watered it with my Miracle Grow liquid feeder that attaches to the water hose.  Hopefully everything will do OK!

Here is my little herb container garden that sits at the end of my straw bales.  My cilantro & basil are doing great.  I'm wondering if I need to thin the basil though.  What do you think?  My dill has come up in the large container. I thinned it a little bit, but I wonder if I need to thin it more.  I want as much as I can get, but I don't want to sacrifice the rest doing well if I don't thin it enough!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Trying Something Else...

Well, I'm trying one more thing on the ants before I finally get to transplant my plants: borax.  I saw here where borax mixed with sugar will get rid of ants in your house.  I guess the sugar is to attract them.  I decided to forego the sugar and just sprinkle the borax directly on the bales where I had seen the ants before.  

It's been raining for days, so when I went out just now I didn't actually see the ants...I suppose it's possible that they are already gone from all the Sevin I've been spraying on them.  I doubt it though and think it's more likely that they are down in the straw.  Anyway, I sprinkled the borax and am hoping when there's another break in the rain I can transplant all my stuff!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 15: Ants!

It's rained almost every day since my last post.  My bales have pretty much cooled down, and have sprouted some mushrooms.  I was really excited to start transplanting my little plants, but when I went out this afternoon, I found that my bales have been infested with ants.  It looks as if they have moved in. :(  I sprayed them down with Sevin (again), but I'm afraid it's not helping.  Suggestions???

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's ALIVE! (Straw Bale Gardening, Day 8)

Look what I found growing out of my straw bales when I went out to water them today - wheat!  Maybe this means I'm doing something right?  I did pry back some of the straw and feel inside, and it was pretty warm inside, so I think that's a good sign too!  As far as the wheat grass goes - I pulled most of it out.  Maybe I won't have to battle it too much.

In other gardening news, I planted half of a packet of dill in a large flower pot this afternoon.  I'm saving the other half to be planted in my straw bales when I'm able to...hopefully this weekend.  We'll see which seeds fare better. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Days 5-7

Not much to report other than that I've watered my bales every day.  I did spray around them with Sevin Saturday and seemed to have killed all the ants...or they at least moved.  

Anyway, I hope to get some manure to add to the tops of my bales in the next couple of days.  I'll keep watering every day and plan to transplant my plants next weekend.  Maybe the bales will be ready by then!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 4

Yesterday I got a phone call from my awesome friend Jeannie who told me that she was overwhelmed by seedlings all over her green house. She wanted to know if I could come take some off her hands, to which my reply was, "Be right there!"

What I brought home: yellow squash (1 plant), zucchini (1 plant), Anaheim chiles (3 plants), jalapeno chiles (3 plants), sweet watermelon (1 plant), grape tomato (1 plant), jubilee tomato (1 plant), and brandywine tomato (1 plant). Also, not shown in the picture are three tomatillos, a bunch of sweet basil, and a bunch of cilantro.

I decided to conserve space in my straw bales and use containers for my herbs, so I went ahead and transferred my basil & cilantro over to large pots. I'm really excited about these - especially the cilantro. I love that stuff! I hope it does well!

The only thing I did to my straw bales yesterday was water them. I do have a problem though: ants! There are ants all over the wall behind my bales and also in the straw. I called my aunt, who recommended buying some Sevin to put on the straw. I'm planning to do that tonight if no one has any better suggestions. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? (Sorry...couldn't resist...)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 3 (And Comments Fixed)

Yesterday, I watered all the bales down really well.  That's about it.  I can't wait for them to be ready to plant in!

By the way, someone mentioned that they had tried to comment on my blog and couldn't.  I'm not sure what the problem is with this layout, but it doesn't work with embedded comments.  I've changed the settings now though, so comment away! :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 2

Yesterday when I got ready to water my straw bales, my husband was filling the ditch from our recent plumbing project and kept finding earthworms. I read in one of the articles about straw bale gardening that they would help to break down your bales, so he added the little guys to my straw bales. Being new bales, I wasn't sure if they'd do anything with them or not, so I got the bright idea to add a little soil to the top and then water it down into the straw while I saturated the whole thing. Not sure if that was a good idea or not, but it's done now. Comments?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 1

Being very much a beginner when it comes to any form of gardening, I have decided that it is probably a good idea to keep a record of everything I do in my attempt to actually grow some vegetables this year. I want to know what works and what doesn't.

I'm keeping a physical journal, but I thought I'd also keep the same information in an online journal. This way, I have easy access to my notes from anywhere, and also I might get some tips from more experienced gardeners out there. So, if that is you, feel free to comment. I need all the help I can get!

So here begins my gardening journal...

Straw Bale Gardening, Day 1, 4/20/09:

I purchased 7 bales of wheat straw at $3/each at the local grain elevator. One of these came untied when loaded into the truck. That was OK, though, because only 6 bales fit into my little raised bed.

Before arranging the bales, I lined the bed with newspaper and wet that down. I don't know if this will serve any purpose, but it seemed like a good idea to do this to discourage weeds from coming up around the bales.

I placed 6 bales in the bed with the straw running perpendicular to the ground. I read that having the twine parallel to the ground will help prevent it from rotting. I have also read arguments for having it arranged the other way. I chose this way because it allowed me to fit all six bales into my garden.

I used some of the remaining loose straw to fill in any gaps between the bales. I also piled some up between the end of the last bale and our fence, careful not to let it lay against the fence in case it were to cause the fence to begin to rot. This may be unfounded, but I didn't want to take any chances. I'm not really sure what to do with this loose straw, but I wanted to prevent weeds, etc. from growing up in the leftover portion of the raised bed. Maybe this was a bad idea? I might place some potted plants on top of this straw. Suggestions?

Finally, I thoroughly saturated all of the straw. I know that keeping the straw really wet is important to start the process of it breaking down.

Questions I have at this point:
  • Will this straw, even though it's wet, encourage mice & snakes to take up residence in or around our house?
  • Should I remove the loose straw at the end of the bales, or what should I do there?
  • I'm thinking of adding some earthworms to each bale to encourage the breaking down process. Is this a dumb idea?
  • Instead of ammonium nitrate that I've read so much about, I'm thinking of putting layer of horse manure on top of all the straw and wet it down to help it sink into the straw. Would his help to start the "cooking" process?