As with all living things, our offspring and progeny  begin flexing their muscles, testing the waters and moving out on their own… even the Hay Garden has not been spared.

Through the past three seasons, I’ve poked and prodded the limits of the bales, trying to coax out the best possible production from this unorthodox medium… with mixed results.

  • Courgettes, tomatoes, and cucumbers – all perform beautifully producing ample stock for the summer growing season.
  • The okra, while it never ceases to amaze me how well it does, But with 8′ plants it really strains the ability of the hay bales. By mid summer I’m already augmenting the medium with additional garden soil just to keep the root system cool and moist.
  • Greens and Root vegetables… not so much. I’ve been awash in lackluster, affected plants with little to no production
So things must change.
Tomato Bales:
Judging by my past season notes, I’m sticking with Pink Brandywine, Parks Whopper, and Better Bush. I know, only one of those is an heirloom. 
Here’s the thing – Trying to grow in a challenged medium is tough at best. Having to deal with white flies and assorted tomato pests when I’m trying not to use copious amounts of chemicals is even worse. Heirlooms haven’t been inbred with critter deterrents – hybrids have. So, to insure that I get a satisfactory production from the plantings, I’m sticking with the only heirloom that successfully fended off the predators – and two other strong producing varieties.
I’m augmenting the bales with three patio tomato plants set into last year’s hay mulch for salads, saute’s. and the like.
The Tomato Ground Lease:
Since the bales just suck for growing greens, I’ve planted the conditioned earth in front of the bales with Savoy Spinach (the dark, curly leafed stuff I grew up on… not that pale crap they sell in the market), Red Leaf Romaine and Curly Leaf Lettuces, and Chard

 Vertical Potato Hills:

Something new this year are the vertical hills. Each cylinder contains 18 potato slips.

One tower contains Kennebec Potatoes, the other is standard Russet

The “hills” are 2′ diameter wire cages, lined with hay.
Inside are layers of composted leaves, 10″ garden soil, and 6″ top soil – with a layer of 6 potato slips before
the process is completed. to recoup my costs, I’ll need to harvest double the number of potatoes to consider this a viable venture

Okra:
Truthfully, I fully intended to plant the okra in the bales this year. It’s worked perfectly fine regardless of their height and constant watering.
But early this spring I bought cabbages for a bed on the back side of the house…

… aren’t they pretty?  They are Farao and Purple Cabbages – an early quick maturing variety.
Checking on them last weekend, I find this:

In case you don’t know what you’re looking at – this is a bolting cabbage. “Bolting” means the cabbage is going to seed. Intense cold, or extended cold temperatures at just the wrong time will trick the cabbage into thinking it’s dying and for it to seed.

Bolting cabbages will never make a head.
Bolting cabbages just take up space.
Bolting cabbage flowers aren’t pretty.

So I dug them up and planted Dwarf Long Pod Okra in the bed… and down the walkway to the bed… and in the azalea beds on the other side of the walk. If my trip to Crazytown proves fruitful, I’ll have something over 85 okra plants…. I’m thinking of becoming “that guy” selling okra on the side of the road.

Onions:
Around each potato hill are 30 onion slips.
30 Spanish
30 Late Season White
The front real estate for the courgette beds has been planted with 30 Shallot and Garlic bulbs

Courgettes:
Picking my favorites from past seasons, I’m sticking with Patty Pan (a white, scalloped squash), Grey Zucchini (the only variety with flavor), and Butternut (a late season, oblong hard squash)

Peppers, Peppers, Peppers and Aubergine
I went a little overboard this year on peppers and chilies. The day long – beat down on your head – sun in the garden treats them well, so I’m taking advantage of it this year.These are all planted in 3 yards of garden soil mixed with 5 yards of last year’s hay mulch and another 2 yards of old hay on top for weed control.

This year’s crop is:
Cowhorn, Big Jim, Basque Fryer, Tabasco, Habanero, Pasilla, a mild variety of Jalapeno,and Thai Chili.

In with the peppers are Greta White and Lavender Jewel Eggplant.

The Last Bale:
Last year’s okra spot is being sublet to 1/2 Runner Pole Beans or Cranberry Beans (I haven’t decided yet). It’s the best non- direct spot in the garden and they should do very well.
That bale’s front space is planted with Detroit Red Beets.

Herbage:
This year, herbs have flown the coop. There is oregano and sage growing in amongst the rocks and stepping stones, Thyme, Lemon Verbena, Lavender and Rosemary are filling in between the shrubs in the conifer garden; peppery Nasturtium plants dot the front and side flower gardens; and the Greek Oregano and Mint have taken over the  retaining banks.

I’m looking forward to a stellar year.

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