Interesting, simple and cheap ways to make raised garden beds, using hay bales or straw bales.
Plants can be grown directly in the hay bale or you can form a square with four hay bales filled with topsoil, and plant in the middle. If bending is difficult, plant the hay bale to leave a space between the plants, to sit and work from. Otherwise, space the plants as you would in a garden.
Raised beds made from hay or straw bales can be constructed to any height to avoid bending over if you have a bad back or a disability.
Who might benefit from using a bed made from hay or straw.
Everyone especially people who,
Can't do heavy lifting, digging or constant weeding.
Can't bend over. Easier access to the higher surface of a straw bale with space left to sit, eliminates the need for bending over.
Have poor soil or limited space, will love hay bale gardening for its fertility, once it's properly conditioned. It's cheap and, fits onto even the smallest patio.
Like trying something new in the garden. If you are looking for a fun new method of gardening, you will love hay bales.
keep it simple, keep it cheap
grow organically in hay and straw bales
Getting a hay or straw bale ready for planting is called conditioning.
To get your hay bales or straw bales ready for planting, first move them into place, bales are a lot heavier when soaked and will be too heavy to lift, then water your straw or hay bales every day for about two weeks.
If you set them out in winter you won't need to water manually and the bales will be ready for spring planting. You can speed the conditioning process up by watering for three to four days and then adding a layer of soil or compost to the top of the bales.
Planting plants in a conditioned bale of hay or straw.
Make a slit in the top of the hay with a spade and simply plant the plants you have selected. If you are sowing seeds into the hay or straw bale, it is a good idea to sprinkle some compost or topsoil into the surface or slits you have made with the spade, as this will stop the finer seeds falling to deep into the bale.
How growing in a bale works.
All this works because hay and straw bales contains microorganisms which eat away at bacteria inside the hay and straw producing compost inside the bale creating a perfect environment for growing plants. Keep the moisture inside the hay bale maintained and nature will do the rest.
Will heavy rain effect my outdoor bale garden?
Hay bales drain very well, so you won't have to worry about them getting wet in heavy rain. The drainage properties of hay bales mean root rot and many other damp related plant diseases are not a problem.
Can I position bales in a soggy part of my garden ?
If you have a boggy or poorly drained area in your garden you can position the hay bale over the area, and water it less, or maybe not at all if its really waterlogged, as the hay or straw bales will soak the water up into the bale.
How long will a hay bale or straw bale last?
Hay bales will last for up to two years, straw bales will last up to three years, you can then add the broken down remains of rotting hay or straw to your compost heap or spread it over your garden. Ask for tightly bound bales as they stay in shape longer.
Where's the best place to position a hay bale garden?
Bales of straw or bales of hay can be sited almost anywhere in your garden, providing it gets a fair share of sunshine and water, even on rocky soil, hard heavy clay soil, or concrete and patio slabs.
Hay bale or straw bail fruit and vegetable beds are perfect for small paved garden, where planting and, growing space is limited.
Benefits of planting in Hay bales or Straw bales.
The plants in straw bales are reachable from a wheelchair and a straw bale garden is relatively weed-free, quite handy if bending is difficult.
Also the very good compost that's left as the straw decomposes can be spread over poor soil to improve it. If you keep placing the new bales on top of the old ones you will eventually end up with some very good soil full of earthworms. If you keep this up, you could be on your way to the "no digging method of gardening" described on my website, gardening without digging
Plants that can be grown in straw bales and hay bales.
Almost anything you can grow in an English country garden will grow well in your hay bale garden, from cabbages, dwarf beans and many more vegetables and fruits from strawberries to tomatoes.
Taller plants will need support by pushing long stakes all the way through the straw bale to make them secure.
Deep growing root crops like potatoes do well in a hay bale garden, but bear in mind you will have to break up the hay bale to harvest the potato crop. Might be better to grow them in the final year of the bale garden, when you will be breaking it up anyway and replacing it with new bales.
The pleasure you will get from doing something a bit different in your garden combined with the benefits of not having to bend over to plant and harvest your straw bale garden and the added benefit of not having to dig, make hay bale gardening really worthwhile.
What is the best bale to grow plants in Hay bales or straw bales?
Straw consists of only the stems of the plant, and will have few seeds, hay is cheaper to buy but, will contain seeds, I have never found this a great problem. Choose tight bales securely bound with twine or wire, if possible, purchase the bales the autumn before you plant.
Maintaining planted straw bales and hay bales.
Maintenance of garden beds made from straw and hay is easy, keep the bale garden watered during hot dry weather, a little bit of weeding and nature will do the rest. Enjoy your organic harvest and please share your straw bale gardening experiences and hay bale gardening tips with the rest of us by contacting flowerpotman.