gardens · Homesteading

Hay Bales… And Gardens..

I started yet another project.

I don’t know why, I just did.

Well, I do know why. Its because I have wanted to do this for years. It looks interesting to me and why not try something that looks interesting and creative and different. ‘

2 years ago, I got extra bales of straw from a farmer friend so that I could try it in our community garden. We left that church and my bales got left behind for them to throw out and not even use in the gardens for good mulch.


My Daughter had some old bales that had gotten wet in the loft she keeps her hay in, so last weekend we pulled some of them down so that I could give it a try. They are hay bales not straw but they should work as well or better than the straw.

Hay is naturally high in Nitrogen which is what you want to get the composting process started. That and soaking down the bales daily. Anyone who has done haying in the summer knows that a wet bale gets hot and can literally set a barn on fire. That is the process you want to work with so that the bale begins to break down nicely.

For best results, TRUST THE PROCESS…… (generally good advice for living by the way.)

It takes about 10-14 days for the process and after that, once the bale cools down enough, you can plant right in the bale. Whatever it is that you want to plant in your garden, you can pretty much plant in the bales. Just don’t do something that is a perennial like rhubarb or asparagus because the bales will break down in about 2 years and a perennial plant needs several years to get properly established.

First thing to do is to lay out the bales in the pattern you would like them to stay for the season. I am not a rows person, so mine are in a squarish pattern and then I have 3 sets of 2 bales, I think for the potatoes, and another squarish pattern. Be sure to put the strings on the sides and the cut side up. If you need to, you can add a post to help stabilize your bales and later on, for trellising your plants. We just decided to live dangerously and leave them for now.

It helps that the ground is still frozen and none of my big, strong guys wanted to attempt to pound a t-post into that.

Here is the process:

Day 1- add composted, high Nitrogen, manure or a high Nitrogen fertilizer. I used, of course, composted manure. About 3 cups or so per bales. Then I soaked the bales well.

Day 2- Soak the bales.

Day 3- Add 3 cups of the high Nitrogen fertilizer of your choice. This time, I had picked up some organic blood meal so I used that. Then soak the bales.

Day 4- soak the bales

Day 5- Add 3 cups of the same fertilizer and soak the bales.

Day 6- soak the bales.

Days 7-9 Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the Nitrogen fertilizer on your bales and soak them daily.

Day 10- Add 3 cups of Phosphorus and Potassium. (Bone meal and Ash mix is an example.). Soak the bale. Now, on day 10, stick your finger into the bale, you should feel the warmth and the bale inside should begin to look black and even soil-like. That is the material breaking down which is good. You might even see mushrooms- if it is warmer where you are. If your bale is still HOT, continue to just water the bale until it cools down enough to plant in.

It is kind of a process, but you should be able to get your garden planted sooner. Some people have been able to get amazing crops out of their bale gardens! I heard of one lady who got 17 cantaloupe off of ONE plant!! That is shocking in our region where it can be difficult to get 2 cantaloupes off one plant normally.

I have never been able to get one cantaloupe out of my garden. I might be a little bitter about that…… This may be the year!!

Currently, I am on day 4. It is kind of a pain, since here, its been pretty cold yet so the hose is still coming out of the house. Thank goodness we have a faucet near the hot tub!! Then, because it has been so cold yet, I am wearing my snow pants and Carhartt jacket and gloves. The pictures of the straw bales gardens I have on Pinterest all have people in t-shirts and jeans or shorts.

That can’t be real…. They must have just posed that way……… notice the snow patches on the ground in my pictures. Yesterday we woke up to an inch or so of fresh snow on the ground. This is almost the middle of April. Seriously, I think we are actually in the 227th day of January!!

I just keep thinking of the produce. (I just might actually be able to pick CANTALOUPE from this garden!!!) This is gonna be a great garden. This is gonna be a great garden. This is gonna be a great garden…..

I’m warmer already…




Affiliate links today include Urea. You could get your boys to pee on the bales. Or your dogs. Neither of mine would do it enough, so this should do the job nicely!! 46% Nitrogen in this stuff- perfect for a straw bale.
Then here is a link for a high Phosphorus fertilizer. Sorry, nothing quite as entertaining for phosphorus like there is for Urea.

If you click on the links and choose to purchase through these links, I get a little back which can help me. Thanks so much for clicking them!!


3 thoughts on “Hay Bales… And Gardens..

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