straw or hay bale gardening

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by TLWR, Jan 16, 2016.

  1. TLWR

    TLWR Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Has anybody ever done straw or hay bale gardening?

    We are converting my raised bed garden to the new duck/chicken pen (we have crazy grass here and while I was gone for work, it took over the garden beds and the paths, so going to start over).
    I've seen a bit about straw bale gardens and think we'll try that. But hay bales are 38923 times easier to find around here. Wondering if that would work as well.
     
  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    It would work the same, but you will have a lot of weeding to do. Hay still has all the seeds in it, which makes it great for feed, but terrible for straw bale gardening. You will end up constantly weeding.
     
  3. TLWR

    TLWR Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That's what I was thinking, thanks for confirming
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    I beg to differ. If you do it right, you'll not have much problem with weed seeds. I've done it with both hay and straw. There are those out there, myself included who think that hay bales have a higher availability of nutrient b/c of the diversity of plant material in a bale of hay compared to straw. When you start out, you season the bale by wetting it and giving it a heavy load of nitrogen. this starts the nitrobacter cycle going in the bale, and the temp will quickly rise to 135* or more. You need to keep wetting the bale, and adding nitrogen (I forget how much or how long you keep adding the nitrogen, but you can google this). The bale will be ready to plant when the internal temp drops. It should take at least 2 weeks to complete the process. This process kills a lot of the seeds in the middle. You will still have seeds, but when you cover the top of the bale with your potting soil, and then plant, the seeds at the top should be deep enough that they won't be much of an issue. Your crops should be growing quick enough that they will shade out any seeds that do manage to sprout.

    For years, I've used hay as a mulch in my garden. Yes, it does have weed seeds. But, if you mulch properly, it's not an issue at all. (If you keep it thick, the weeds won't sprout, even after years of mulching with hay.) Mulch gets thin, and weeds will sprout. I don't consider this to be a problem at all. Just let the chickens into the weedy area, or toss more hay on top of it. Weeds are a green manure crop as far as I'm concerned. You might want to check out any of the excellent materials written by Ruth Stout on gardening under hay mulch. Most recently, I'm converting my garden to Back To Eden approach to give it even more benefit from permanent mulch.
     
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  5. Stacykins

    Stacykins Overrun With Chickens

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    This is excellent to hear. I was planning on giving hay bale gardening a whirl, despite the potential weediness. I still have hay from 2014. It'll be time to get rid of it by spring. I was going to start the process of making it able to be planted in at least three weeks before the final frost date, so it'll be ready to plant in once it is warm enough. Plus, I'll mostly be planting squashes and melons in the bales, and once those take off, weeds are definitely not an issue.
     
  6. hillbillyreefer

    hillbillyreefer Out Of The Brooder

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    It works well with hay. That's all I've ever used. I put the bales down, water them for a couple days put a small amount of soil on top sprinkle the seeds on, put another thin layer of soil on and gently water until germination.

    For started plants I just pull them out of the tray, push them down into the bale and water them. Easy peasy.

    Some of the best results have been with tomatoes and peppers. Potatoes have worked out alright, but the darn mice chew on them.

    Good luck!
     
  7. Tumbling K

    Tumbling K Overrun With Chickens

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    have any of ya'll tried cucumbers, or squash?

    I'd imagine green beans would do well.
     
  8. hillbillyreefer

    hillbillyreefer Out Of The Brooder

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    I've had beans work well, green long beans, kidney beans and I think I tried broad beans.

    Never tried squash, cucumbers I haven't had much luck with. Mostly because I've tried transplanting seedlings I think. I never have had that work and have gone back to using seeds into a dirt bed, I haven't tried cucumber seeds into a bale.
     
  9. Tumbling K

    Tumbling K Overrun With Chickens

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    figured green beans would do well, since they put N2 back into the soil.

    so can you plant the next season in the bale, or is it one and done?
     
  10. hillbillyreefer

    hillbillyreefer Out Of The Brooder

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    I've used them for three years. By the third they are kind of just a big hump of hay in the garden. I only use sisal twine on my small squares, when I run out of that I'll switch to plastic and see if they last longer. As they decompose and become more dense they seem to use less water.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2016

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