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!!

chicken keeping · gardens · Homesteading

This is a Poopy Post

It really is..

But what I really want to tell you about is compost. And how we turn poop into compost.

They system we have now I have to credit to Horse Daughter/Daughter #2. She found and built the setup and, I have to say, it is the best thing I have used in quite some time! The dirt we get at the end is beautiful and black is chock full of worms.

Which by the way, I just learned in my Master Gardener class, are NOT native to our area! I was shocked by that. I guess they are an invasive species. There is another species of worms that are invading now called “Jumping” worms. I don’t really want to find those.

Back to compost…

What we have is 2 large wooden bins that are 6ft deep by 8ft wide. They have a few inches of space in between each slat on which are on 3 sides of the bin. We have fence posts at each of 6 corners. The front then is open, though we put boards across the front to keep some nosy horses out.

As you can see, the chickens love it!! And Storm was quite interested in what I was doing in his pen.

One one side we put the fresh manure. I will go in a turn it or “stir” it up with the bucket of my tractor periodically. No, I do not go in once a week, which is recommended. My schedule is more like, when I think of it. Or as in todays case, the coldest, windiest day I could possible pick out of this generally not this cold and windy month..

I love getting manure/dirt blown in my face……

I took a shower as soon as I came back in again. Ick….

I will take the more composted stuff and put it into the second bin and let it finish out there. I stir that one periodically as well. Today I took some of the finished dirt out into a garden bed I am trying to improve so that I can grow corn and pumpkins this summer. I will continue to do that now until I plant it. I need to let it sit a bit now since I added some of the not quite finished manure to this side.

This has helped also with keeping the flies down. In the past, before this system was in place, we had a lot of flies. Like A LOT.. It was crazy. But now, we can clean up after the horses and put that into our compost bins and it seems to help keep the fly populations down. We put the bedding from the coop in there and sometimes the rabbit manure. Though that generally goes right into the garden. Rabbit manure is so good for the gardens and does not need time to break down.

The compost pile is also the chickens’ favorite spot to dig and scratch because they find so many good and yummy treats to eat. This digging and scratching is actually helping to break down the compost so I am happy to let them find what they like.

If you would like to build your own, its a simple design that you could easily adapt to your situation. If you want 5×5, go for it! I am shocked at how well it works to break down the manure and yard wastes. We do not put in any meats, dog or cat manure, or any of the larger branches and such. There are lots of composting ideas out there when you do a google search with many tips and tricks. This is one that we found there as well and adapted for our use.

Do you compost your yard waste or manures? What works well for you??