View On Healthy Lifestyle


My Love of Gardening

by Laurie Nelson-Barker


I want to be a gardening rock star. I dream of picking fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits from the greenhouse and garden year round, and living a blissful, plant-based existence without ever having to shop at Costco—it is not happening.

Small vegetable garden with risen beds in the fenced backyard

Last year, my friend, Jen and I decided that planting in straw bales would be a great idea. The videos seduced us into thinking that it was easy, cheap, and fun. The makers of the videos enticed us with footage of giant, flourishing plants growing from just a few bales. In theory, one bale can be planted with several different varieties and can produce an entire salad without much effort. All you do is add the dressing. You probably have to buy the ingredients for the dressing at Costco, though.

Armed with our newfound knowledge, Jen and I began our quest to find straw bales. Several videos, online searches, and phone calls later, we located some bales for a reasonable price. I was confident the bales would alleviate all my gardening woes, so I bought several to go along the fence line of our yard. Even though individual bales were not very expensive, twelve of them quickly added up. I reasoned that I would probably recoup the expense with baskets of amazing produce. I was wrong.

The bales were heavy, and neither of us had a flatbed trailer or a huge truck. Fortunately, our neighbor came to our rescue and picked up the bales for us. Once we managed to get the bales in place, we were ready to plant. Except, we weren’t. The bales needed to be conditioned for around two weeks before planting. That involved nitrates, and Jen and I are now probably on some terrorist watch list. We may be banned from international air travel as well.

The procedure for conditioning straw bales is to put fertilizer on them, apply water, and let them cook. I even bought a meat thermometer, which is a rather strange purchase for a vegan, to check the internal temperature of the bales.

My bales failed miserably. Green things started popping up, but died just as quickly. The bales were gopher-proof as promised, but not bug-proof, and the tomato worms were very happy to be provided with such a delectable smorgasbord of tempting tomato varieties. I did not, however, have the heart to chop those creepy looking worms in half as one video suggested. I went back to Costco.

I decided to try something different. I was not giving in to the allure of Costco again. When one of my clients offered me a nice divided bedframe, it seemed like the perfect option for a raised planter bed. I planted kale, spinach, mustard greens, and cabbage in each divided section. The gophers were stymied, but our large dog, Tess, was not. She decided that the raised bed made the perfect dog bed. After all, what could be more comfortable than a bed of dirt and spinach? She doesn’t even like spinach. And she managed to snuff the life out of what I had so carefully cultivated. I went to Costco to buy spinach.

My spouse planted fruit trees. The deer loved them. The bunnies adored the greens we planted, and the gophers fed their entire village with the tomato plants they pulled into their tunnel. It is simply amazing that a huge, leafy plant laden with big, red tomatoes can disappear through a hole in the ground overnight. I am happy that the gopher family is eating well and thriving, but wish they would thrive on something other than our tomato plants. Still, I acknowledge that they were here first, so I will continue to buy my tomatoes at Costco until I have the gardening dilemma solved. Which doesn’t appear to be anytime soon. Just saying.



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