Hay Bale Garden Update

I know I am kind of late on this one. And I am not sure I even have pics of the process because I wanted it done before it rained, yet again…

As you may recall, if you have been following my blog this year, I experimented with hay bale gardens. I have been interested in straw bale gardens for some time now and wanted to play around with it a little bit. We had some old hay bales that needed using up, and I had read that you could use them instead. There was some discussion about weeds and pesticides and such, but I decided to try them anyways.

I had them, so why not?

The beginning of the season.

In the end, some things did well. Others, not so much….. You can read my updates through the summer here and here.

I had read that straw bales can often be used for 2 seasons. Maybe not in such a rainy season as we have had, but the hay, definitely not. They broke down so much that they ended up being half the size they had been. I would not have gotten a second season out of them.

The bales really broke down over the course of the season.

There was concern about weed seeds. I did not have many weeds pop up in my hay bales. The ones that did, I just pulled right out. It ended up being no real problem.

Some things grew amazingly well in the hay bales. Some things grew amazingly well in my garden. It was hard to tell to be honest. Except in my tomatoes.

The tomatoes look beautiful.
The plants look amazing!
The chickens really liked the bales!! This was mid way through the season.

I received several tomato plants late in the season from a Master Gardener event. I planted 3 in pots, but in my garden. I used potting soil and composted manure. I planted 3 in the hay bales. And in another spot, in hay bales, I planted 2 more.

The ones in my garden were noticeably a duller green. The group of 3 in my first section of hay bales, were a bright, healthy looking green- I thought. The other group, was again the duller green. The big difference was when I started getting tomatoes.

The ones in the bales, the group of 3, had blossom end rot. This is from a lack of calcium which comes from a lack of watering thoroughly. The rest of the tomatoes grew and produced tomatoes. The 2 on the other hay bales, never ripened well. The garden tomatoes ended up producing the best with the least amount of problems.

I also planted zucchini, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, lettuces, spinach, peas, cantaloupe and carrots. And some other random things at different times. Part of the problem was that the chickens ate off the sprouts. Of course, they can’t eat off the weeds!!!

Of those things, the Chinese cabbage, cucumbers and zucchini did the best. I had a nice harvest of each of them, with lots of zucchini in the freezer for winter. I had been so excited to see some nice cantaloupe on the bales! Sadly the ones I picked were too green. I left the others out to grow but they just rotted.

Will I do hay bale gardens again? No.

I didn’t feel like it was worth the extra time and watering. LOTS of watering!

I will instead use the time in my main garden using the hay as mulch in there. I think I need to focus my attention in that garden.

Yea…. back to FOCUS again. I guess I need to keep my focus on one area before I go off into several as I tend to do.

As the season ended and I pulled up the remains of the hay bales, I just threw them into the garden to use as mulch. They are heavy enough with moisture from all the rain to cause the weeds to smother. There probably isn’t much fertilization left to them at this point, but there will be enough as they compost down and get mixed with the birds manure. I have been letting them in the garden to work on cleaning it up and fertilize for me.

What did you experiment this year in your gardens? How did it turn out for you?? Would love to hear your stories!




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