Inside this post you will find content that takes Bale Gardening to a whole new level. Would you like to become a master gardener? This will get you on your way!
Hay Bale Gardening is what I believe to be one of the easiest of cheapest ways to start a vegetable and herb garden.
The cost to get started is very low.
Cost breakdown, average cost out of a bag or container.
- Bale $5 to $8
- fertilizer $0.50
- compost $2.50
- container mix $2.00
- liquid fertilizer $.0.20
3ft * 1.5ft (1m – 0.5ft) plus vertical space.
- Cheap start up,
- Turns into recyclable compost in a season,
- Larger growing space than a garden bed, due to vertical area,
- Attracts worms,
- builds up fungi and good bacteria,
- increased microbial activity.
- Messy in the car,,make sure you cover well,
- Mice like to nest in it if it’s undercover. Keep the bales exposed and moist in the initial stages to avoid issues.
- Grass likes to grow around it and up the sides. Place cardboard underneath to avoid this issue, or create a barrier.
- Hard to move once it’s wet, as it becomes extremely heavy. Position well and if you need to move, do it before you start adding compost layers.
Getting Started & What is Needed?
Depending on the size of the family and how much fresh food you consume.
One bale per family member will provide quite a lot of food over time. However, in a small space situation you would start one bale a fortnight, so you get maximum return for your effort and space.
- Straw Bales
- Fertilizer of your choice
- Potting mix
- Seeds & seedlings – seedling are option only, as it’s very easy to germinate on top of the Bales
Step 1. Condition the bale for as long as possible before planting to help start some of the breakdown process. Preferably 2 weeks to a month.
Succession planting – Plant your first bale in two weeks. Second bale 2 weeks later, Third Bale 2 weeks later again. Remembering that they have all been purchased at the same time and exposed to the elements.
Step 2: Sprinkle in the fertilizer of your choice and push down deep into the bale. This speeds up the breakdown and curing process.
Step 3: Place on 1.5 to 2 inches of quality compost. ( 30mm deep)
Step 4: Place on a layer of Potting mix 1.5 to 2 inches ( 30mm deep)
Step 5: Water the compost and potting mix for 2 days and keep moist.
Step 6: Sprinkle in Legume seeds such as Peas. These will then fix nitrogen into the Bales with their nodes. Once the Peas have finished fruiting do not pull the roots from the bale, but leave them in to rot. This way the more mature plants with larger root systems will be able to feed of the nodes as they break down.
Step 7: Sprinkle seeds on that have shallow roots such as Lettuce and slow growing herbs.
Step 8: Add some stakes for the Peas to climb and place them strategically for other plants such as Tomatoes. I like to place one at each end of the Bale. For larger Stake you can also run twine to each Bale and allow creepers to climb,,or tie up the Tomatoes.
Step 9: One month after planting the weather should be starting to warm up. Lettuce seeds will be starting to bolt, and the Peas will be finished also. Plant larger rooting plants of your choice.
Step 10: As you see the compost disappearing into Bale add more layers and fertilizer
Varieties that perform well in Bales.
- Microgreens – Germinate and grow when your sprouting your Lettuce
- Strawberries – Grow on tops and on the vertical walls.
- Cucumber family grow extremely well in Bale gardens. Here is a list of family names
- Egg plant
- Peppers, Chili’s
- Broccoli Family
Larger growing plants such as corn are not really suitable unless you grow small dwarf species.
My all time favourite plant to grow is the Yellow Button Squash. The Squash family vines across the bales. The large leaves protect the top of the compost with shade allowing an understory of small herbs to grow in the hotter weather.
TIP: You can also use a mulch on top of the Bales to protect the potting mix and compost from drying out. I have found using Rice husks or composted wood chips perfect for this once the plants are established.
If you can access Rice husks it can be burned and turned into a fertilizer as well.
Bale Growing Tomato Tips
Grow indeterminate varieties first. These are the more shorter stockier plants that set fruit in a quicker space of time and are usually grown in containers. The root systems are not as large and are perfect for when the bale is at a younger stage.
Determinate Tomatoes: These grow long, tall and more like a vine. They can produce right through the whole grow season.
They do require staking and have a much larger root system. Plant mature seedlings once you see small fruits from the indeterminate varieties starting to appear.
The Bales will be well and truly on their way in the curing process and the roots from these varieties will be able to dig down deep into Bale. This will allow the larger Tomato plants to perform and fruit right through the year.
FACT: The name Strawberry is the English name, because Strawberries grow extremely well in bales. The rough texture stops them from being attacked by slugs and snails. These slimy creatures do not like rough texture, so they avoid the Straw, therefore keeping the fruits protected.
This is how the name Strawberry came to be
MORE CONTENT ON THE WAY IN PART 2
As my bales progress through the spring season I will be documenting all the growth here inside the MartysGarden Patreon members area. Over this coming season you will be on your way to becoming a master gardener.
Stay tuned as there is more educational content on the way!