Saturday, March 5, 2011

Prepping hay bales for the growing season

Over the past few years I have learned a great deal from Hay Bale Gardening and have had pretty good success. Many people I talk to are surprised you can use hay bales to grow in. The quickest way to get started is to buy a few hay bales. The other day I drove by my favorite garden store and there in the back laid several almost rotting bales of hay. They were waiting for another shipment to come in and treated as outcast. To a keen eyed urban farmer dweller man such as myself, those rotting hay bales were like gold. So I took them off of her hands and put them into my garden. The first thing you want to do when you grab your hay bales is place them in a spot that is going to get some sun. On average a hay bale takes approx 3 weeks  to get prepped. But if you can find some left over hay bales from last year rotting somewhere it will take half that time. The trick that I use for Hay bale garden is adding Ammonium Nitrate or any fertilizer in a pellet form that slow feeds into the ground. Take a cup full of the stuff and pour it on the hay bale and for a few weeks keep the Hay bale wet. The hay bale will get hot and this is the reason you don't want to plant right away. So getting started now to prep your hay bales for this spring is very doable. This year I am using the hay bales to grow squash and melons. You can also grow Tomatoes and cucumbers but keep in mind that they need to be staked. For all that it is worth hay bale gardening is a blast. It is definitely for the lazy man gardener who just likes to stand over his hay bales and with hose in hand water his hay bales and in the other drinking a beer, it's great for people who don't have good soil and limited space that don't want to tear up their ground, and perfect for older people like myself who don't want to bend that far.


Sue said...

Well, I was TRYING to do that last year, but it took hubby ALL SUMMER to finally bring me some bales. So THIS year is the year. I think it would be great for growing pumpkins-especially if you have only one space you can spare the room and don't want to get diseases from growing there over and over.

ATW said...

Sue- LOL!! Im with your husband on this LOL!! The haybales are on the mind but just getting there is the issue and then you have to grab them and like my place I have to take one by one from my car all the way to the back. Ughhhh!! LMAO!! So trust me I know pain. But when they get there than it's worth it in the end. Any squash species should excel, they are big feeders and like to stretch thier roots out. Please let me know how you do this season and remember to get that bales slightly decomposing for the best results. Goodluck hay baling this season. You are going to flip when they take root and start growing into a little jungle;)

Frogdancer said...

Thanks for this. I've got 5 pumpkin seedlings that I started and now have nowhere to plant. I have a straw/hay bale in teh garage so I'll drag it out and get going on it.

Sean D said...

I am already late into the season. I need to cool the bales down, so I can plant. I have been watering the bales for 10 days with compost tea and they heated up right away and show no sign of cooling down.
Need suggestion how to cool these babies. Compost tea without molasses? or stop the compost tea and use water to keep the bales wet instead?
Ps. I am using hay bales not straw. Although you say either one will do, I disagree. Hay is nutrient rich and straw is not.

ATW said...

Sean... Thx for the post..Unfortunately wetting them is just going to continue the process of breaking them down.. You have done a great job already having them start the decompostion process.My reccomendation is to leave them alone as the moisture evaporates and releases from the bale it will cool off. And when it does you will reap the benefits. What you have going for you is... the warmth of the haybales will speed up the porcess for your plants. As long as the roots stay somewhat warm you should be able to extend your growing season by a little. Remember Plants are tolerant in cooler weather as long as it doesnt go near or below freezing or stay at the colder temps for several days on in. And even with that.. You can construct a round frame over your haybale using flexible PVC Pipe and drape a Thick Plastic sheet over it to create a mini green house for your haybales.

Good points of the Nutrition on Hay vs Straw.. I love a good debate:) I have to agree with you.. hay is more nutrient rich than straw... For Eating...However.. material decomposing into plant matter is exetremely useful for gardening as long as the material is not toxic. We prefer Hay over Straw in gardening because Hay doesn't have the host of other Seeds and Weeds that Accompany Straw. But at the end of the day All Plants care about is having that Soil that can hold Nutrients..Not neccesseraliy provide it. The reason Compostable materials are so great is because once broken down it provides the inital nutrients the plants need to grow. When those nutrients are used up it provides just the right consistency for the type of soil that is able to Hold Nutrients in the soil and continue to feed plants..