Hay bale gardening in the city

Some things you can learn from our experiments with hay bales instead of raised, framed garden beds:

  • it’s great for small spaces in the city (any space that gets at least 6 hours of sun/day)
  • it’s cheap ($11-$15 per bale)
  • it decomposes by the end of the summer, so you can add the compost to other gardens
  • conserves water because of hay’s retention of water
  • straw = cereal grains/ hay = grasses     (Straw is preferred according to Idiot’s Guide to Straw Bale Gardening


Steps to get one going (summarized from the Idiot’s Guide to Straw Bale Gardening):

  1. Buy the bale from a farm feed store (We bought ours at Milner Feeds)
  2. Place it in a sunny spot (6 hours of sun/day)
  3. Prepare the bales weeks in advance of planting with water and 10-10-10 N-P-K (Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) fertilizer to get the correct temperature for good bacteria/breakdown. Alternate fertilizing on one day with only watering during the next 8 days. Continue to water for the next 6 or 7 days. (Mushrooms will likely appear on day 8 – that’s a good thing).
  4. When the inside temperature of the bale is approximately 26.5 degrees celsius, it should be ready for planting!
  5. Add a layer of potting soil to help out the seeds or seedlings.

Last year we made a frame around it to hold up the pumpkin vines we planted. This year, we’re putting in peppers, tomatoes, and kale. We’ll see how things grow ….



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