Well-known Albuquerque restaurant using new technique to grow vegetables

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A popular Albuquerque restaurant is taking a risk and trying something new. They’re growing their own produce in straw bales, and so far, it’s working.

“We always like to try new and innovative ideas,” Jim Thomas said.

Gardeners at El Pinto restaurant are using straw bales to plant their produce

“This makes it simple,” Master Gardener, Randy Chavez, said.

“You turn a straw bale into a cube of high-quality compost,” Farm Manager, Matt Fien Gretton, said.

It’s a newer technique and it gives gardeners so many more options.

“You can plant a garden on asphalt, you can plant a garden on concrete,” Chavez said. “You don’t have to have a rototiller or all kinds of expensive equipment.”

“You’re not going into the soil, where you can have a lot of different pathogens and other different issues,” Thomas said.

Chavez said they started the project just two months ago. Two months later than he originally planned.

“It was June 15 before my boss told me, ‘Just do it,'” he said.

So they conditioned the bales of straw by pushing organic fertilizer into the center of the bales using water.

“Temperatures will get up to 125, 130 degrees,” Chavez said. “When the temperatures start going back down into the 85 degrees, that’s when you plant.”

Right now, they’re growing cucumbers, melons, peppers, tomatoes and squash, and they say their customers are loving it.

“They get the vegetables for their salads they’ll be eating as soon as they walk into the restaurant,” Thomas said.

The project has been so successful, the restaurant is planning to grow all of its vegetables in straw bales.

“Absolutely,” Chavez said. “There are gardens in the United States that utilize 100 bales, so, yes, we could do a lot back there.”

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