Introduction: Hay Bale Gardening

Picture of Hay Bale Gardening

I read up on this a few years ago and decided to make my own and seeing as there are no instructables on it I had to make one!

I have a really big gopher issue and them eating my tree roots and any flowers or vegetables I plant. this set up doesn't "eliminate" the pests but it doesn't feed the. now either. Also it will be easier to maintain as there are little to no weeds to pull and sitting on your knees to plant, fertilize, and harvest is nice since everything is at chest level and you don't have to bend over. plus you can sit on them and work if you like too!

Step 1: Choosing a Bale Type and Amount

your will need to choose bales that are easy enough to move around and place into a permanent position as once they get wet they will be near impossible move. As well as bales that contain little to no weed or bale seeds. this will cut down on weeding. lastly how many bales you will need. depending on your space its safe to say you can get 2 large plants (squash,cucumber, etc) 4-5 medium plants (peppers,beans,etc) or 2 rows of plants (carrots, corn, radishes, etc) so you will need to have an idea of what you want to plant and how much of it you plan to plant then just like any in ground garden just space them out as you like.

good bale choices are:
1-straw...has no weeds in it , light weight, about $8-12

2- grass/pasture mix...dense, some grass weeds,about $2-8

3- oats....some oat seed in it but not bad, about $8-12

4-wheat...has some seeds but easily stopped early on. about $8-15

5- alfalfa...DO NOT USE!!! HIGH SEED COUNT OF BOTH WEED AND ALFALFA. NOT RECOMMENDED! about $10-16

Step 2: Prepping the Bales

the bales you have chosen will need to be placed and left to "rot" for a few months prior to planting. I got a grass/straw mixture bale and let them sit in the mid summer sun to early spring time. now some people will put organic fertilizer on top during this process to help the plants grow and some will use store bought stuff. that is all personal choice. me is did absolutely nothing but let them sit.

Step 3: Planting Tools

Picture of Planting Tools

I uses a few small tools to just open up the bale where I plan to plant seeds and put in my soil and seeds. for rows like corn and carrots I used a large cutting knife from the $.99 store to cut across the bale grain and then dug out the "guts" of it to put my soil in and plant

Step 4: Making a Map of Plants

Picture of Making a Map of Plants

I drew a map/layout of my bales prior to planting so I could put on the layout what went where so I knew what was sprouting. simple easy reliable. I also made flash cards of what seeds I planted with the name, date planted, date sprouted, date harvested, est harvest date and days to maturity of each seed type I planted.

Step 5: Tracking Progress 3/2/14

Picture of Tracking Progress 3/2/14

I used my flash cards to show what was growing and how many days since planting so I can track the progress of it for my self and you guys. so I will be updating this inatructable often in the season of growing.

Step 6: Storing Second Season/round Seeds

Picture of Storing Second Season/round Seeds

I put each packet in its own snack size zip lock baggie so if the seeds fell out of the packet they wouldn't get scattered all over because I don't want to fold the packets to I can refer to them as needed if I want to compare dates and such. $.99 gets you 60 baggies

Step 7: Criticism Time

I am open to all feedback from questions to people who may have done this and have ideas or know of better ways to do something. so please leave question, comments, and suggestions below and I will add them to this ible when I can. thanks and happy gardening!

Step 8: Update Pics 3/5/14

Picture of Update Pics 3/5/14

my beans must be jacks magic beans! they came out a day ago just barely and today they are 1.75" tall! so far everything is growing great and hassle free. aside from some grass that is growing on the bales its working beautifully. the bales stay nice and luke warm inside and I have not used any chemicals or fertilizers other than the potting soil I started the seeds in.

Comments

MelindaB16 (author)2016-03-24

I've started a couple of bales by adding blood meal every other day. One bale has become infested with ants, the other doesn't have any. How do I safely eliminate them?

moonshine88 (author)MelindaB162016-03-24

thats a good question. if you want to stay organic then from what ive heard is that ants will avoid cinnamon. now does that work? I cant say ive never had to use it so maybe try that, if not Ive also heard that corn meal is bad for them and they will take it to thier hive and it will kill them so thats another option you can try. I used dried cow manure and I had no issues with ants and I had a great year with a great harvest. just fyi the corn will need a bamboo brace or something of the sort because mine fell over a lot and I gave up. the carrot and radish did not do well bimur everything else dod wonderful. good luck

whirldworks (author)moonshine882017-03-14

I know this is an old post/question, but I'm just now seeing it. I would not recommend trying to use corn meal on a garden. There is a chemical in corn meal that, when it breaks down, will kill emerging seedlings. (There is a more potent form of this used in agriculture as a weed killer). Here in Texas we always have problems with ants and so far I have found diatomaceous earth to be very helpful in combatting them.

DebraA27 (author)2016-05-22

Thank for the info on using hay bales for planting. I raise sheep and horses and always have some hay bales that get moldy from not being cured properly(I buy hay from a local hay farm).I been gardening for over 30 years and always looking for new ways to use leftover hay that we cannot use.Thanks!

jil.treichel (author)2015-02-24

Thank you for sharing this info! We want to try it. I have a couple questions: 1) How deep & wide did you cut into the bale & how much soil did you put in it for planting? 2) How did you water your bails? Drip system, sprinkler, hand spray? Does the bale hold the water well? 3) What do you do with the bales at the end of the growing season?

moonshine88 (author)jil.treichel2015-02-24

I cut into the bales about as big as my fist is then put the soil and 2-3 seeds in each spot and spacing went by the packaging of the seeds. the bales held the water wonderfully and kept it nice and warm. due to funding issues I had to hand water the bales which was fine cause it gave me a reason to see the process day to day. the bales I had only lasted 2 seasons and then the strings fell apart but all I did was spread the bales out as a ground cover and put new ones in. I got some fertilizer from a local dairy and spread it on my new bales and soaked and soaked and soaked them for a lt least a month prior to planting and it helps. but once you soak r he bales theyre in place because without a bobcat or he-man they arent moving. good luck

jil.treichel (author)moonshine882015-02-24

Excellent info! Thank you so much! Bales lasted 2 seasons, that's great! I too like to hand water my gardens and yard. It's keeps me in touch with the gardens and it's relaxing for me too. I love gardening and this sounds like a great idea plus saving me some bending over work, which every year gets tougher and tougher! :) Thanks again!

sharonnah59 (author)2015-02-19

I just learned about this idea through a Facebook post. It took me to a web-site where they wanted $20 for the how to book. So thank you for this!

moonshine88 (author)sharonnah592015-02-22

Absolutely! I'm glad it saved you $20! I kept meaning to update more photos but I was extremely busy so the kids handled most of the garden stuff. It did super well actually and we had massive zucchini along with what seemed to be a billion tomatoes. The carrots, radishes and peppers didn't seem to do well and the corn kept falling over but for my first try I'd say it was really really good and enjoyable. Good luck with the garden and healthy eating

moonshine88 (author)2014-03-04

perma, I would think wraps on anything in an environment such as yours would be needed. the fact you can even grow in temps like yours is amazing since when I lived in northern Montana trying to grow anything was a waste of time. but back to the wraps here in the sunny California valley we only need to wrap fragile plants during a few cold weeks in the year And gardens are unusually planted after the frost so I need not wrap them but it is a great idea for our cold climate folks on here. thanks for the info

Permahaven (author)2014-03-04

I use wrap for tomatoes whit great succes, I live in Denmark zone 6-7

moonshine88 (author)2014-03-02

rainbow farms /nucal off of hall road? ya I'm out there working on their trucks all the time. glad to see I'm not the only turlocker on here!

jmwells (author)2014-03-02

Checkout Rainbow Farms for some compost. They're east of town. A little goes a looooong way.

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Bio: Hey all! im moonshine88 (enjoy the science of making my own shine and 88 my birth year) i am a very inventive person and at ... More »
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