The garden Siri built: straw bales lift vegie production to new heights

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Kate Aley

Those who love summer veggies know that raised gardens are easier to tend and that heavy mulching with straw helps to keep weeds down and hold precious moisture in the soil… but what happens when you build your raised beds with straw? This year Siri Ingebrigsten, of Avant-Garde Equestrian Farm in Luskville, found out. Pontiac 2020.ca asked her about her horticultural adventure.

Pontiac2020.ca: (P2020.ca): Where did you first see the idea for a straw bale garden?

Siri Ingebrigsten (SI): I saw it for the first time maybe four years ago when it popped up on my Facebook feed. I’m not sure what group was talking about it but it looked like such a brilliant idea, especially the fact that there was little weeding and bending involved with taking care of it. 

P2020.ca: Describe how the garden was put together.

SI: I have twelve bales placed in three rows of four. Each row is supported by T-posts on both ends and I ran hay-bale twine between the T-posts along the rows to support the plants. The centres of the bales are ‘conditioned’ using a natural fertilizer made of high nitrogen content solution made with plenty of water.

P2020.ca:  Is rotting down the center of the bales difficult?

SI: No, I don't believe it is. The original conditioning of the bales takes some time and, despite wanting to try this every summer, this was the first year I actually got around to it. The exact way and time frame will depend on weather and reaction within the bale. Basically, you start decomposition by adding the nitrogen and water. This causes high temperatures in the straw and you can only plant once the internal temperature has lowered to the temperature in the air. The directions said it should take two weeks, but it took me closer to four due to the cold, dry spring. 

P2020.ca: Were you impressed at how many plants you could get in such a small space?

SI: I was impressed and I have kept adding things on the sides of the bales. It’s really neat how many things you can squish in there. I planted root veggies between above-ground fruits and veggies. It's a learning experience, as some heavier and taller plants tend to 'slide', so the garden has required extra bracing.  

P2020.ca: Have there been drawbacks to gardening like this?

SI: The time and energy it took to get it going surprised me, plus it is pretty water intensive especially as the summer has been so dry and hot. But it has been lovely with the last days of rain…The bales keep the moisture quite well so, once they are soaked, they stay humid longer than the ground garden. Apparently you can also use hay bales and they are supposed to provide even more nutrients to the plants, but there is also more growth from the hay seeds so I’m not sure if it's worth the extra effort. I might try both types next year. 

P2020.ca: What happens to the bales at the end of the season?

SI: The bales go right on our compost pile and will be a super addition to the pile. They can also be left in a heap and allowed to break down further during the fall/winter and then used in the spring to nourish the ground garden or the next straw garden. I did end up adding some soil to the bales on top of them to create a better base for the seeds.  

 P2020.ca: Would you recommend trying a straw bale garden?

SI: For sure. It's relatively easy and would be great for any age group. Kids would love it and elderly would have an easier time maintaining this kind of garden. I will become braver with different types of plants as I gain experience. This year I have potatoes, carrots, sweet corn, three varieties of tomatoes, ornamental eggplant, green and purple basil, edible flowers, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, leeks, different types of lettuce and peas. I'm sure there are more things but can't remember off-hand!

Nos autres nouvelles / Our other News

Fun for all: new play equipment at Onslow Elementary

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Kate Aley

If you hear a higher pitch of childhood enjoyment coming from the Onslow Elementary School playground at break time, it's probably due to the exciting new playground equipment installed there last week. Pontiac2020.ca asked Home and School committee representative Stacy Johnston for some details.

Pontiac Community Gym hopes to open by end of year

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Kate Aley

Despite some setbacks and delays, work continues on the building on Clarendon Street that will house the Pontiac Community Gym. Coordinator Rachelle Dinelle gave Pontiac2020.ca an update.

Dedicated volunteer recognized with Governor General's medal

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by: 

Kate Aley

Luskville's Hélène Belisle (above) has been an extraordinary force for good in the Pontiac for decades. She has served as councilor for the Municipality of Pontiac, as a school board commissioner for the Commission scolaire des portages-de-l'Outaouais (CSPO), instigated and still facilitates the breakfast club at Notre Dame-de-la-Joie in Luskville, all while operating her own small business, Salon Chez Hélène. On September 11, Belisle was awarded the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers, which recognizes exceptional volunteer achievements of Canadians through the office of the Governor General of Canada.

Lacing up for the 2018 Terry Fox Run

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Kate Aley

September brings many things, among them cooler weather, fall fairs and the Terry Fox Run.

Regional coordinater John Petty is once again chasing the elusive goal of having 200 participants at this years run on Sunday, September 16.

Petty, along with his late wife Betty and legendary friend Rick Valin, has been facilitating the run practically since there was one.

The story of a story teller: the Joan Finnigan musical

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by: 

Kate Aley

Joan Finnigan, daughter of Shawville's Frank Finnigan, poet and author of 28 books, died in 2007. Now her legendary stories of life in the Ottawa Valley are brought to life in I Come From the Valley, a new musical by Stone Fence Theatre.

The cast of I Come From the Valley: standing from left, Phil Goden, Luna Nordholdt, Nigel Epps and Jocelyn Smith. Fran Pinkerton, seated, plays Joan Finnigan. Photo courtesy Stone Fence Theatre.

Exhibit featuring close-up paintings of Gatineau Park

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In collaboration with painter Ruby Ewen, we have organised an exhibit featuring close-up paintings of Gatineau Park!

Visiting the exhibit is free and, if you buy a painting, 50% of the proceeds will go to our Cameron-Purenne fund for research with which we fund scientific research in or about the Park!

Come and see these beautiful paintings inspired by our Park!

Where? At the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre.
When? During the Visitor Centre opening hours.

Exposition de peintures présentant le parc de la Gatineau en gros plans

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En collaboration avec l'artiste Ruby Ewen, nous avons mis sur pied une exposition de peintures présentant le parc de la Gatineau en gros plans!

Visiter l'exposition est gratuit et si vous achetez une peinture, 50% des revenues iront à notre fonds Cameron-Purenne avec lequel nous finançons des projets de recherche scientifique dans le Parc ou à propos du Parc!

Venez voir ces belles peintures inspirées par notre parc!

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