Monday, March 21, 2011

Hay Bale Garden - Phase 1

I recently learned of a new way to have a garden when you have limited space or don't want to go to the trouble of a full garden (this is us!).  Straw bale gardening.  Who knew?  You can grow your veggies in a bale of straw.  This is what they use in the Midwest.  Now, I am from the south.  We don't have access to straw bales, but we do have lots of hay bales here in East Texas.  I wondered if hay would produce the same results.  I did my research and found out that it would!  So we decided to give it a try, on a small scale, this year and see what happened.  I will document, success or fail, our results as we go along.  *Disclaimer*  Please, please, please do not take this as instruction on how to do this.  I am not an expert by any means.  I have done tons of research prior to even thinking about taking this on.  If you choose to follow along, please do your research first and do what is best for you.  There are many methods to doing this.  I simply chose what worked best for us.

Phase 1 - Preparing your bales

We decided to start small this year and only purchase 2 hay bales, just in case it flopped.  We can always add more next season.  I placed them with the twine (since it was plastic and wouldn't rot) on the ground as it allowed more surface room to plant.  You can do it either way. The bales need 4 - 8 hours of sun per day so we placed them in our yard where they would not get that harsh afternoon sun this Summer but would get plenty of morning sun.  (We have very little shade at our house!)  The bales need to be decomposing or "cooked" before you plant in them.  There are a couple of ways to do this.  The first would be to leave them sitting out during the winter months in the elements.  The second, is to wet them down, and keep them wet, for a couple of weeks before you plant.  We chose the latter.   I will have to water them down a couple of times a day and make sure they are really soaked.  I will do this for next 3 days.  The bales will begin "cooking" inside. 

After 3 days of watering, we will begin adding organic blood meal to the bales.  (I am really wanting this to be as organic as possible so this is the route we chose.)  Beginning on day 4 we will add 1/2 c. blood meal to the top of each bale and water it in really well.  This will be repeated for 3 days.  On days 7-9, the blood meal will decrease to 1/4 c.   On day 10, we will apply 1 c. of organic fertilizer per bale and water in.  After day 12, the bales should be cool enough inside to begin planting.   I am so excited to see how this goes.  We are planning to plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini and beans and maybe some herbs in between.  This is a learning experience for all of us and I am excited to see what it brings!


  1. We tried this the first year we moved back to the States ('08) and it does in fact work even here in East Texas. :) We by no means were as well read on the subject as you are. We just heard of people doing it and thought it would be a fun experiment. Our planning consisted of us going "sounds like something we black-thumbed gardeners could do", getting a couple of bales and some plants, and sprinkling potting soil and lime over the top. Like I said, no forethought whatsoever. :) We planted peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers and they were wonderful. In fact, we planted a few different plants in the same spot the next year since the hay bales had not fully composted down by then. It will be interesting to watch your progress. Good luck!

  2. Thank you for the encouragement! That makes me feel much better about giving it a whirl! Gardeners we are not! :)

  3. OH, I'm very excited to have come across your blog! I want to start a garden, have plenty of land, but would need a giant load of soil where we want to put it. Now, to find hay bales, which shouldn't be too difficult in SE Texas ;D