Straw Bale Gardening: Enjoy Your Tomatoes, No Matter What


Before September came along, summer had been very dry and hot and a challenge for both flower and vegetable gardens. I am surprised how well some have fared. Despite the weather, the tomatoes in my straw bale garden have flourished, ripening beautifully and prolifically. Unfortunately, I was not the only one admiring my Straw Bale tomatoes. A few rabbits also had their eyes set on the ripening tomatoes and left many a tomato less than whole on the vine.

Someone once told me that “when the going gets tough, the tough get creative.” Willing to accept the fact that I am certainly not going to outwit Mother Nature, I decided to try and share the “wealth” with my furry friends.  I left the lowest red, juicy tomato on every tomato plant as a decoy.  That worked for a few days, but it quickly became obvious that all red, juicy tomatoes were under “rabbit surveillance.”

(I had already consigned myself to losing all the onions to some little animals during our July vacation.)

We have finally reached a working compromise, although it has nothing to do with discussing this with the rabbits.  We now pick any tomatoes that are three-quarters ripe (only, if we locate them first) and allow them to ripen in a sunny kitchen window. I believe they are one of the most delicious treats of the season, next to blueberries. (If you can still find any fresh blueberries and want to enjoy them in midwinter, flash-freeze unwashed blueberries on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, package them up in an air tight container, and enjoy your blueberry pancakes, muffins, or pies in the midst of winter!)

By the end of September, I will be air-drying tomatoes and peppers before freezing them.  Air-dried vegetables require re-hydration but add the “taste of summer” to winter soups, sauces, or stir-frying.

I will describe my process in the next blog.

As for the ongoing adventure of the “Straw Bale Neighborhood,” I have given up any illusions of control. The squashes are now growing up and over the cucumber vines. The cucumbers are so numerous, I wish I knew how to preserve sweet pickles, the way my grandmother did.  My Plan B is to keep offering more than I can enjoy to friends who do not have the joy of a home garden.

Another way to enjoy an abundance of fresh cucumbers is with the following recipe:

RECIPE: Cucumber Salad (from

  • 2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon organic sugar or dash of stevia
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Chopped fresh dill
  1. Mix all except cucumbers and dill in small bowl.
  2. Cover cucumbers with above mixture. Refrigerate in a closed container for 3 hours.
  3. Drain cucumbers and sprinkle with dill. Keep covered and refrigerated until serving.
  4. Enjoy!

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