straw or hay bale gardens?

Deb35February 10, 2002

Has anyone heard of these? My mom saw something about it and couldn't remember the source. (I think it was straw bales and not hay.) It involved watering the bale to cause anything in it to sprout and die. Then poking holes in the bale and planting things in the bale. This would be great if it worked, but I haven't seen anything else about it.

Anybody? Any ideas?

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I have not heard of that, but spotted bales of hay available at one of our local nurseries here, and wondered at the time if it wouldn't make a good addition for mulch or a base for a raised bed. Is thenre anything harmful in straw or a mold that one must be wary of when using straw? Good question, and I'm glad you asked, even if I can't answer, because it made me think of my straw question. lol

    Bookmark   February 12, 2002 at 5:55AM
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ginger_nh(z4 NH)

Straw or hay bales can be used to form a 3-sided compost bin. When finished compost is removed, the somewhat decompsing bales can then be used to start the new pile, and fresh bales set up to form the sides. Bin only needs to be 2 courses high, stacked like bricks are laid.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2002 at 10:47PM
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I have seen potatos grown in straw-no mess gardening-the Ruth Stout method was the original creator of planting without work. No dirt to remove to harvest the potatos-just move the straw aside and wahlah!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2002 at 9:43PM
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Since tomatoes and squash frequently volunteer from compost piles, they might be good candidates to try.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2002 at 4:50PM
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stumpdigger(Zone 7)

You would have to water very frequently, at least until the plants are well established. The straw won't hold much water.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2002 at 3:27AM
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Rosa(4ish CO Rockie)

I've used them for the sides of a raised bed and it worked great. After a few years I just incorporated them into the soil and then used "fresh" ones for the sides.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2002 at 10:58AM
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I wonder- what about digging a hole in the ground and putting the bale of hay in it or in a container and planting potatoes in it? I have some old blaes of hay that sprouted and died back that I may try this way. I planted potatoes last year and they didnt do too well. I got a few itty bitty potatoes, and then they died off completely. May try this way too or putting them in a container or something. I think the ground just gets too hard and parched at my house. 3 stupid acres and all I have growing is tumble weeds.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2002 at 5:18PM
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I read in a greenhouse book that you water the straw bale down with water for 2 weeks, pour 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoe fertilizer over the bale, water in for another week. The bale of straw will heat up and after it cools down, you plant your tomatoes in planting pockets of dirt. I am trying this this year in my greenhouse. I am also using straw bales for raised beds for a squash garden, outside.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2002 at 12:10AM
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Kay_H(NE MI-Z5)

I use both straw and hay as mulch. Mostly hay becuase you can buy old hay so cheap. Sprouts are really not a bother. Anything that grows in the hay pulls out very easily and makes a nice green fertilizer for the garden.

Now, a raised bed or compost bin made out of bales. That is a great idea! I have a near limitless supply of hay bales for the taking and now I have more uses for it!



    Bookmark   April 22, 2002 at 8:13AM
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I have mulched my garden with straw. After two rainstorms there are dozens of green blades growing in it. How can I get rid of it? Can I cover with black plastic and smother them? Any other ideas? I plan to plant my tomatoes in here, and I don't want to have weeds to pull all summer long! I love the idea of making a compost bin out of straw bales. They are so inexpensive. Do they attract critters, like field mice, etc?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2003 at 7:50AM
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I have been using large round bales of straw/hay as aland reclaiming method although the bales can weigh over 500 lb/ea if you have flat land they roll out quite easy and provide a strong weed barrier .If you can find
this form of bale it can cut your mulch time greatly.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2003 at 8:16AM
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jimax1920(8 SC)

Straw is better than hay in using to grow anything in. It will break down quicker. I did this several years ago. I watered the straw and left in in the open to get all the rain. After several months it was fairly broken down.

We planted cucumbers in pots then transplanted them into the bale of straw. They did fairly well, but did better in the garden with plenty of compost.

The following year I dug large holes in the fall and planted half bales which was almost completly rotted in each hole. Cover the straw with about four inches of soil. Planted tomatoes on the top of each half bale. Had beautiful tomatoes that year. Too old to do it now.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2003 at 10:17AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

I had read where French market gardeners will wet down a bale of straw (not hay) that is sitting with the cut side UP, cut the top tie insert a tool that will spread the hay a bit, pour some compost into the hole, then they plant cucumbers in them. The theory is that the straw breaks down and feeds the developing plant, but I may have forgotten something, as I doubt that a bale of straw would provide much in the way of nutrients. Maybe they fertilize, or add a LOT of compost.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2003 at 4:49PM
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I have lived in Idaho and Maine. Idaho potatoes taste like the lava soil they are grown in. Maine potatoes taste like the soil they are grown in. Potatoes grown in damp molding hay taste like molding hay. Grow above ground crops in hay or straw so the fruits get air. One persons opinion! Hello, you all. I'm new to this forum. Nice to meet you.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2003 at 4:51PM
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There is a short article in Organic Gardening, May 1999, P.62. It works well but requires continuous watering if the bale is not enclosed-wrap the sides in plastic or put it in a wooden box. Applying compost regularly- keeping an inch or two on top- helps a lot.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2003 at 4:12PM
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I started using stray and hay as mulch a couple of years ago and have been very pleased with the results. I have found that the straw, just left in place and not tossed around creates a great layer of soil just beneath it. I just push the hay in areas where I want to transplant various plants, pack it back around the plant base, and it really helps keep the moisture consistent. It has cut down on weeding very significantly. My favorite for mulch is probably alfalfa hay, but in my experience, it tends to break down faster and requires more frequent replacement. It's too hot here to try planting in just hay or straw. I'm a fan of low water usage, and can't imagine having to continuously drip irrigate anything.
Mrs H

    Bookmark   March 29, 2003 at 9:52PM
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Gail_Hall(z5 OR)

I moved to Bend, Oregon last August. The winters here are quite cold, and although the summers are hot, there can be frosts everymonth of the year. I have built 4 4 foot by 8 foot beds and plastic pipe and plastic sheet covers that can be tipped up over each bed.

I also layed 4 bales of straw in a row longways. I cut sort of 1 gallon pot sized holes-3 per bale. I filled the holes with planter mix, planted a squash, 2 lemon cucumbers, a cabbage. 3 tomatoes, and a melon. All are doing well. I water it with fish food fertilizer and Miracle Gro. I keep it well drenched. I have squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers coming along toward ripening. Hurray. I plant to more than double this project next year, since we have very little soil and lots of rocks. I didn't do the soaking and let the oats (think) die. Seems to be OK, but maybe if I have the patience next year I will do that.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2003 at 7:49PM
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clynnta(z8 TX)

I use the dirty bedding hay from my goat pen to mulch my veggie garden. My weeding has been cut dramatically! I also have not fertilized at all. Goat Poo seems to add what I need. I am going to the feed store this morning and will purchase an extra bale of hay to try planting in. I'm thinking about cutting a hole and filling with compost and then starting some of my fall veggies. Wish me luck!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2003 at 8:16AM
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Tried using bales this year (needed a quick temporary fence). At first they were too fresh and too hot and burned many seedings. However it has been damp and boy do the tomatos look good. I would suggest putting the bales in place in the fall for next years planting.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2003 at 11:40AM
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take a look at the soil, mulch, compost forum- check out lasagna gardening. i used ratty old bales of hay, on top of newspaper and under compost and grass clippings, and got a beautiful moist and juicy flower bed- no added water, just rainfall.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2003 at 1:18AM
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OK, I'm loving this idea for making raised beds borders, and possibly filling with pockets of soil and planting. I get confused though, one of these, straw or hay, is supposed to throw lots of seeds and make a lot of weeds, can anyone tell me which is better to use? One of the reasons I love this idea is I'm thinking, I can move these by myself, I don't need to go to the lumberyard, buy wood, treat wood, worry about termites, etc. Also, I think it could be composted, right, after the end of summer? Another question, would the shadow the bales cast, if used as the border to a raised bed, make it too shady for flowers? I primarily want to use these to create a cutting garden in a sunny spot in my way too big, ugly gravel driveway area in front of a detached two car garage. And last, where does one buy this stuff, I live in suburban/urban NJ, not a lot of farms nearby, do I need to try to find a feed store or someting? Inquiring minds need help! Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2003 at 5:10PM
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vmperkins(z5 central IL)

I just scored 8 bales of straw for 8 dollars--they were left over from a Halloween display and the store wanted to clear them out.

Anyway, I use it for mulch (soil underneath is beautiful!) and in compost and lasagna gardening, and this fall, I am going to make a kind of cold frame for some plants I want to try harvesting in the winter. They are now in my greenhouse but it is not very airtight so it gets too cold.

To answer some questions: from what I understand, straw is what is left after cereal grains are harvested. Hay is made of mixed grasses (often with seedheads). Straw has less chance of sprouting anything since the seedheads are removed, but hay is full of seed. Hay breaks down sooner; straw is tougher.

Where can one get it? I don't know for your area; I never saw straw bales when I lived in NYC or Long Island, I think because there are not many cereal grains grown locally. I assume that is true of NJ also. I live in the midwest now and they are available everywhere--groceries, hardware stores, garden centers, produce stands...I would check farm stores, garden centers, and feed stores.

I love straw bales and can't get enough of them.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2003 at 9:48PM
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Thanks Vicki!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2003 at 4:52PM
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How long does it take for hay to break down. I'm using some currently on top of the bare earth that i have planted bulbs in to keep the soil from eroding. That was about a month ago. Now it has snow on top.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2003 at 2:33PM
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I saw an episode of the "good green earth"..The host showed
how he builds beds of hay bales..He 1st sprinkles lots of
blood meal ,(but he said any high nitrogen fertilizer would
do) on the bales.He does this a month b4 planting and it heats up the bales and starts them rotting.He wraps the sides with 6mm plastic sheets to retain moisture. He then pokes a hole in the top,adds the seedlings with just a little potting soil.He saids he grows great melons.Probably cause they're heat loving plants.He said the rotting hay is very rich in nutrients and the plants thrive. I'm gonna try
this year.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2004 at 10:48PM
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I have a small wall of bales which I am planning to plant with vines to crawl over this spring. Hope it works.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2004 at 8:33PM
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Old_West_Aussie(Perth foothills)

I use straw in no-dig gardening. Straw is better because there is less grain in it to sprout.
No dig gardening is good for people with disabilities, spread old newspaper over the ground about 6 to 10 pages thick and overlap edges, cover with straw about 30cm thick (1 foot) cover that with good compost and water well. Let stand for 2-3 days, water again and plant your seedlings. I planted 15 tomato seedlings (roma)and was picking up to 10kg a day.
The paper on the ground also prevents weeds from coming through.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2004 at 7:49AM
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fadoodle(z3 alaska)

Apparently there was an exhibit at the Seattle garden show with a straw bale garden -- a piece was in our Anchorage paper saying it was absolutely fantastic. There are instructions at I'm going to try this this summer! The warmth generated by the composting bales sounds like just the ticket for our short growing season here.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2004 at 3:26PM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

click below to see mine

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 13, 2004 at 5:28PM
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Old_West_Aussie(Perth foothills)

Hey Tony, I checked out your tomatoes in straw. Way to go, I will certainly give it a shot. Did you add any artificial fertilizer to it?


    Bookmark   March 14, 2004 at 5:55AM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

Morning Bazza,

I only add a little fert maybe every two weeks. I use orchid fert because it does NOT use urea as Nitro. From my hydro dabbling, urea requires some sort of soil element to help it break down to a plant usable form, so, no soil, no urea for me or bale. Plus I use this fert for everything. This fert can be bought most everywhere and has the right balance of npk.

IF I could only find bales for less than 5 bucks, Id consider way more.

Bale planting seems VERY rewarding.

Good luck


    Bookmark   March 14, 2004 at 7:04AM
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Old_West_Aussie(Perth foothills)

Back at ya Tony,
I done a bit of sniffing around and picked up 10 bales of hay for $25:00. They were old and the old bloke just wanted to get rid of them. I think I scored. I am in the foothills just out of Perth in West Australia in a semi rural area. If you read a couple of items above your posting you will see I use straw for other projects.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2004 at 7:22AM
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nifka(z6a buffalo ny)

ROSA, or anyone else who can answer,

im interested in making raised beds out of the straw bales since i will only be gardening at the current location for a year or two. would you be able to email me or post here the specifics? do you use the bales just like you would wood and fill in with soil? thanks in advance, nifka

    Bookmark   March 16, 2004 at 1:21PM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)


all i did was open two little holes in the bale and put my two seedlings in. Nothing more.

Fertilize about every 2 weeks or when I remember. They do very well. DO a search on growing plants in a hay bale. There will be several matches.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2004 at 8:02PM
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mstaley3000(z8 WA)

I will be doing a hay bale garden since I have a cheap ($1 per bale) supply of bedding hay nearby. I will attempt to faithfully report the ongoing results.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2004 at 12:22PM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)


what is your source for inexpensive bales of hay? Maybe we have a similar place here in town too... price here is 4.95 each ! I could use a bunch of it too, but not at that cost.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2004 at 5:35PM
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mstaley3000(z8 WA)

There have always been cheap sources of hay and straw around here in SW WA. This particular hay is cheap because it is rebaled hay from broken bales that can't be sold as feed hay.

I would say don't buy hay from sources that sell it for feed because you can probably find someone who has hay that is no longer good for feed because it is wet and moldy. You might also cut out the middleman and make a deal for buying straw or hale straight from the field.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2004 at 4:17PM
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mstaley3000(z8 WA)

I have lined up my hay bales in 2 rows, four bales by seven, with the strings on the sides. Each row measures approximately 4 1/2 feet by 21 feet. I have soaked each bale with about 2 1/2 gallons of water mixed with mostly organic nitrogen and have covered them with clear plastic to hold in the moisture and keep in the heat. In three days I plan to soak them again.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2004 at 2:27AM
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mstaley3000(z8 WA)

On Tuesday I removed the plastic from my bales and looked between some of the bales and was very pleased to see steam rising from them and felt the wonderful heat.

I then watered them again with another 2.5 gallons of water with nitrogen and covered them up.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2004 at 2:07AM
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Update, please??


    Bookmark   June 13, 2004 at 7:01PM
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Hey Tony, do you have to water the bales much more
often than if they were planted in soil, how well do the
bales retain moisture?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2004 at 9:38PM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

Hey swanzeyguy,

Nope, they didnt seem to require any more moisture at all.

Latest for me is that I tried to get by and not soak my most current bale. Both seedlings died. When I removed the remains I could see smoke coming from deep within the bale. It was/is still composting itself. I wonder if soaking it would help OR is it simply too fresh a bale. Its been sitting out there for some 3 months and it was not fresh when i got it soooo I guess I will soak it when I get a chance.

Always something.........

    Bookmark   July 8, 2004 at 9:01AM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

After preparing my hay bale for my fall planting the cord that holds the bale together broke as I was relocating the bale.

I have had real good luck with tomatoes in a 5 gal bucket and real good luck in a hay bale so I figured why not put them together and see what happens.

It just so happens I had the buckets available and ready to be filled. IF the bale hadnt come undone, I wouldnt have done this BUT now that it has happened, it seems like the way to truly get way more use out of one bale by doing it this way.

I am confident it will work out well. I included a link to a lil pic below.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 12, 2004 at 4:02PM
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Hey Tony, Keep us updated on that hay in bucket experiment..
That link doesn't seem to be working.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2004 at 9:42PM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

Latest pic of hay in a bucket growing tomatoes.

So far, so good.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2004 at 5:04PM
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Thanks Tony, fascinating stuff..We get hay pretty cheap
around this area and you've given me lots of ideas for
next year..They're definitely retain more moisture being
in containers.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2004 at 9:16PM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

Hey Swanz,

the only soil I have in there is from the cup where I started the seedling, maybe 6-8 oz of potting soil.

Before I set the plants in, weeks before, I would water daily and add simple water soluble ferts, a dash of epsom salts and a lil calcium. I have some of the hay in the buckets covered with cypress mulchto keep a lil more moisture in, but it really doesnt need any help retaining moisture though.

In a few buckets, I added a lil more soil around the plant base to assure it would get started when young.

All in all, it seems like it will work out. Instead of wasting one bale on only 2 plants, I can stuff the hay into maybe 10 buckets or so.

I am having fun, thats all that matters or is that matos... we shall see. Life will go on no matter the outcome.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2004 at 10:09PM
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hi thought I would bump this to go with the other post on bale planting although not sure if i,m going to go full tilt and plant a true bale garden Have a friend from another site that is and am trying to generate some interest.
although I am a heavy thinker and have all ready added a few extras to this idea I may try a few bales this yr just so i,m not left out . green thumb up to you. Rick in wichita

    Bookmark   March 23, 2006 at 12:44AM
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tkctwbd(nc mtn)

Yes, I AM trying to grow tomatoes in bales of straw! I understand that tomatoes, okra, peppers, squash and cukes can be grown this way. The big thing apparently is the prepping of the straw.

Anyway it goes like this: Days 1-3: Water the bales thoroughly and keep them wet. Days 4-6: Sprinkle the bales with 1/2 cup ammonium nitrate (32-0-0) per bale per day, and water it well into the bales. Days 7-9: Cut back to 1/4 cup ammonium nitrate per bale per day and continue to water it in well. Day 10: No more ammonium nitrate, but add 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per bale and water it well. Day 11: Transplant plants into the bales.

(Use a spatula to make a crack in the bale for each plant.) Place the plant down to its first leaf and close the crack back together as best you can. Apparently you can use two tomato plants per bale, 3 peppers, 2 squash, 2 sets of cucumbers. You would definitely need to stake the tomatoes, and possibly the peppers.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 9:05PM
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I live in NC and I decided to try straw bale gardening. It was unbelievably easy to prepare the bales and the plants are growing so fast.
I just watered the bales twice a day for 3 days, added fertilizer for the next 3 days, added the potting soil and planted my plants. I am not an experienced gardener, so if I can do it, anyone can.
I have fresh cukes and tomatoes already, the crooked-neck squash is starting to form now. I also have cantalope which is flowering and pumpkins which hopefully be ready for Halloween. I am sooooo excited that it has worked so well, next year I plan on using more bales for more plants and starting earlier.
This method is so good for people like me who cannot get down onto the ground(and back up again).

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 9:10PM
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I haven't grown in them yet but plan to try this spring. I grew two long rows of Roma Green Beans this last year and almost broke my back picking them. I hav no idea how beans will do, but the row I grew in the most leaf mold this last year went crazy and I picked untill frost....I do know that Thistle seed hulls when they get moldy grow tomatoes like gangbusters. I swept them up from under my feeders and kept them in black plastic bags untill spring and then planted my tomatoe plants right streight into the moldy seed that I had dumped in to some particularly terrible soil. They had tomatoes setting before any others and the plants were incredibly lush and dark green...needless to say I never waste my moldy birdseed or birdseed hulls any more...I think the fact that they're moldy actually helps the roots to absorb nutrients.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 3:59PM
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I know this is an old post, but anyone out there want to share some successes and suggestions with a first timer?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 7:07AM
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How does one go about finding bales of straw to purchase?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 10:04AM
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I was looking for seeds earlier this evening and found instuctions on this website.

Lots of interesting veggies also.

Here is a link that might be useful: Straw bale instructions

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 9:39PM
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I have not had a chance to read all the posts but personally I prefer straw over hay for several reasons:

---- used as mulch can provid better cover and keep the plant root cool and prevent weed growth.
---- has less posible seeds in it.
---- will last longer

But the thing is that it is not readily available where I am. So I use semi composted leaves and pine straw.

At the end of season they are crushed and partly composted.
So just I till it in to make my garden soil flufy and rich in organic matter.

With the pine straw, I use the aged one that has lost its wax so can be composted faster. Fresh pine straw is too woody and will not compost readily.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 11:30PM
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mom_heather(7 MD)

I know this is a really old post, but I'm hoping to revive it. I am trying my hand at straw bale gardening this year. I plan to have 3 'squares' (12 bales) and will plant things like tomato, eggplant, peas, squash, cukes in the bales and root veggies and lettuce in the centers. I know it's important to keep the bales wet, but I'd like to know if the watering frequency should be different in the early spring (now) when it's not very warm out - peas, lettuce, chard, spinach are planted now. Should I water every day or is a few times per week sufficient? Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 7:57AM
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I'm glad to find this as I am also trying straw bale gardening for the first time this year. I plan to transplant tomatoes, zucchini and cucumber after danger of frost. I want to plant sweet pototoes around the edge maining for eye appeal as I hope the vines will drape over the sides of the bales. How soon should I began the watering & what should I add in the way of ferilizer?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 7:31PM
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I copied this from an article in a small rural newspaper while travelling.

Not all new gardeners can count on cultivated soil for their plants. Some may be burdened by limited space or rocky ground. As a result, whether a new gardener or a veggie veteran, bale gardening may be the way to go.

Growing vegetables in bales really works because bales provide the two things seeds need to grow.

"For seeds to germinate, all you need is heat and moisture," said John Sims of the Farmer's Cooperative.

In 2005, The Post published an article on bale gardening, and it has been one of the most frequently read articles at The Post Online. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, green beans, melons and a host of other plants grow well in bales.

The Farmer's Cooperative, Southern States, and Danny's Builder Supply in Centre all carry wheat straw bales.

To plant a hay bale garden, first, around 10 days before planting seeds, place the bales in a sunny location. Soak them with water for three days. On the fourth day, apply 5 oz. of fertilizer, followed by a couple more days of watering. On the seventh day, apply 2.5 oz more fertilizer, followed by a couple more days of watering.

On the 10th day, apply a cup fertilizer and lightly water into the hay bale. On the 11th day, plant seeds by applying a three-inch layer of top soil or potting mix to serve as a bed.

Each bale can hold two tomato plants, four pepper plants, six to eight cucumbers, three yellow squash or 12-15 bean seeds.

Bales can typically be used for two or three seasons.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 2:00PM
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There is actually a booklet available for straw bale gardens by Joel Karsten. I used it last year and planted some mexican sunflowers. They did quite well but we also had a very wet season. I am planting tomatoes this year and have conditioned the bales as best I can but more rain would have been helpful. The biggest problem with the booklet is that he suggests using Ammonium Nitrate 34-0-0 which is impossible to find.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 4:19PM
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I grow all of my tomatoes and peppers in straw bales. I started doing this a couple of years ago as an experiment because our soil here just isn't great. I LOVE straw bale gardens. It is very easy to maintain. What I do is get my bales placed a couple of weeks before I want to plant and water them every day. You have to really soak them each day to get them to start to break down. After that I open up two holes in each bale and fill it with a good soil and compost made from the previous years bales. I mix in crushed up egg shells as well for my tomato plants.

The only drawbacks I've found is the large amount of water that bales soak up - of course it rains so darn much lately that hasn't been a problem here in Illinois ;). Otherwise I have no real complaints. Weeding is super easy and it's a very simple gardening technique. Bales can be a bit of a space hog if you have a small garden space - but definitely worth it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Awesome Tomatoes

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 7:09PM
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I have been raising tomatoes in bales of hay for several years. After experimenting, the best way I have found is to re-tie the bales with some type of wire. If not, strings will rot, bales will split, tearing and drying out the roots. Originally, I tried to dig out the straw and fill the pocket with dirt but this is extremely hard to do. Have tried electric knife, chain saw, axe and filleting knives with little success. I found that by building a 1 x 8 frame, a little smaller than the bale of hay, and filling the frame with top soil works very well. Watering the plant with Mircle Gro not only waters the soil but sends the fertilizer deep into the straw, this pulls the root system down into straw. DO NOT USE HAY!!!!!!!! I made this mistake... the plants kept wilting only to discover the root system was gone. The hay was so hot, it could burn your hand where straw does not heat up. Good Luck and get out of the way, these tomatoes will take over !!!!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 5:24PM
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i used hay and straw side by side to see the difference first hand between the two..
the key to either hay or straw bales is preparation before planting. i sat both types of bale on grass, poured half bag of organic tomato fertilizer over each bale, watered til fertilizer was drawn down enough into each bale to start composting it. after a week of daily soaking i let the bales rest for another week, didnt see any smoke or steam, it was composting fine though. hay holds more nitrogen as it is fresh, i got more yield with hay, nothing significant sprouted from within(grass, weeds, etc) that needed weeding. i cut a 4x4 hole in each half bale with a serrated bread slicing knife, hand-full of compost and planted seeds into it, covered each hole with straw and watered well. i planted tomatoes, squash, watermelon, corn, potatoes, honeydew - everything is doing great, tomatoes took a while to set flowers, they grew about 6 feet tall though before flowering, late tomatoes are better than none i think :> squash and honeydew did best of all, loads of fruit on each plant. will use the same bales next spring, then start new ones in summer for fall so each bale is good for 3 seasons and then serves as excellent compost afterwords.
organic lawn and garden care

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 6:59PM
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We did it 2 summers '08 & '09 using old bales + water to speed it up the heat/cool of them to avoid a problem for our tomato transplants, then cut/dug out holes, added compost, calcium carbonate, & organic fertilizer prior to planting. We placed the bales next to section of welded wire fencing I used as support for cukes & beans. The tomatoes were on the north side of the other vegs, so didn't shade them.

Staking of the tomatoes was more difficult due to the height. Might be more suited to determinate types.

Soil underneath the bales was amazing after that. Though I use soaker hoses for watering the bales did dry out more quickly than in ground plantings. I'm back to planting directly in the soil, but still use the straw for mulch either loose or overlapping layers of the flakes that I can pull off an old wet bale of straw.

To improve the soil in a previously uncultivated garden I would use the bales again & soaker hoses to prepare the soil for another year.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 11:16AM
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