Friday, April 17, 2009

Hay Bale Gardening

Over the past few weeks I have been doing extensive research on different ways to grow veggies in the least space possible. The obvious results were of course, square foot gardening, and vertical gardening. But one day I came across an article talking about Hay bale Gardening or straw bale gardening. This intrigued me because, first it was thinking outside of the box at it's best. I have learned that the bales provide the greatest atmosphere to provide vegetables the healthiest chance to produce a harvest. And Second, for people who have back problems and who have trouble bending down and tilling the ground. The bale gardening technique can provide an alternative for those who want to garden but have trouble with the physical aspect of gardening.

How to hay bale Garden:
I purchased 4 wheat bales, according to the chatter on bale gardening, Some are against using hay because there are alot of weeds that get caught up in the bales and some of these people are partial to straw. Others state that it doesn't matter purchase what you can get. I personally was only able to purchase the wheat bales at $3.00 a bale.

Find a location for the bales. The bales can be put together or formed to create an interesting focal point in the garden. But where ever they are layed make sure that's the spot they are to be, because once you get them started you don' want them to be moved. On average 1 bale can be used for two years.
Water the bales every day for 4- 5 days. Watering the bales will promote the healthy bacteria in the bales to start to feed on itself. During this period you can not plant anything in the bales because it will be to hot. Some sites recommend ammonium nitrate to be placed on the bales for several days to promote the fastest breakdown. I will do it by watering for several days or maybe I will just experiment on each bale I don't know yet.
After the bales have started to cool off breaking down. It is recommended to add a highly organic top soil or compost to the top of each bale and water. This will provide the much needed nutrients into the bale to promote healthy plants.
Transplants can be placed directly into the bale. But first it must be prepped by opening up a hole for the transplant into the bale and placing compost into the hole before adding the transplant.
Everything can be grown in the bales except top heavy vegetables like corn and okra. From the research I have gathered Cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, and squash work best. I will try the bales this growing season. This is going to be purely experimental, as is most of this growing season. At the end of the year I will talk about all the pros and cons to certain types of gardening techniques.


ChristyACB said...

Most interesting! I can't wait to see how that turns out. Certainly is a lot cheaper than buying yet even more giant containers and the soil fill them for areas where I can't build beds.

Keep up the photos of the progress for us out here. :)

Sue said...

I'll be following this experiment closely! Good luck, and don't forget the pictures!!

ATW said...

Christy, Sue-- I will definately keep the blog posted, my wife is going to be taking over pretty soon, so there will just be picture updates with small captions and I will add memos. I have some training to do this summer so I will be out the loop. Im trying to get things set up for her so that she can maintain them easily. I pretty much did all of the hard work. So we shall see what comes from it.

Kenneth Moore said...

Whoa, that sounds like a wicked idea! You use less soil; provide a complex matrix that allows aeration, easy root growth, and water retention; and the hay will break down continuously, providing nutrients to the plants like slow-release fertilizer.

Jo (on the previous post) mentioned that it might stink or break down too quickly, but it seems worth the try.

I, however... I think I'll wait a few years before I give it a go. Gotta get a yard first. :-P

Joe said...

I had a lot of success with this this year. After reading about it for the first time on your blog I decided to give it a try and the tomatoes went wild in it. I also harvested a few decent sized watermelon , which is not easy to do in New England in zone 5.
Dont underestimate the value the increased warmth has on the roots.
Great Blog!

ATW said...

Joe- Sorry for getting back to your post late. I was going through some of my old post and I came across your comment. I think it's fantastic that you gave Haybale Gardening a try. I have heard alot of negative things about doing it but as Kenneth explained "the indoor gardener" there is just a multitude of benefits that come from it. For someone with limited space or for someone with bad soil this is probably one of the best things you can do. My melons were outrageous and next year I will plant tomatoes. Thanks for the confirmation of how well your plants did. It makes me feel good to know that others have found success. Thanks for your comments.

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