If you just found us, our previous blog post Hay Bale Veggie Garden, Here’s How I Did It. shows the initial steps for setting-up and treating your bales. Here’s what’s next:
Your hay bales should have heated up and cooled down in about 10 days. Once they’ve cooled they are ready to plant.
Water your bales so they heat up and cool down.
For my hay bales, I topped dressed them with some potting soil. You don’t have to. I wanted to seed lettuce, chard and spinach into the tops of my bales right away, so I added the 2 inch layer of organic potting soil to give those seeds a good start.
You can see in the picture below, that I added a nice tomato (Sungold, probably). It was easy to separate the hay and “plant” or tuck in the 4-inch potted tomato plant. I had five bales total and I planted two tomatoes plants, two different cucumber plants, zucchini, spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, and basil.
Top dress hay bales with potting soil for direct sowing seeds.
The plants were supper robust from the bales being fed a heavy dose of ammonium nitrate. The tomatoes and cucumbers were some of the healthiest plants I’ve ever grown.
The downer was the amount of snails and slugs that found my hay bales. The nighttime feeding was so intense that I bought a cheap pair of hand pruners just to snip the slugs in-half (the goo ruins pruners, so don’t use your Felcos). It was hard at first, I started with cutting the little ones, but one night and a big slug that could wipe out most of my lettuce crop turned me into a highly efficient slug hunter. The big ones have a little give when you cut em. Ick! But I like fresh grown baby lettuce, so I kept cutting down the slimy heard. A headlight from the camping store and you’ll be set for night hunting.
The alfalfa bales also sprouted like crazy. It wasn’t really that bad, you would have to weed your garden beds anyway. The alfalfa sprouts plucked out easy peasy and at knee height.
Side note: I wish I could show you more pictures, but the camera with all of the pictures got stolen. Wah.
I did keep the bales in-place and grow in them again next season, but the bales were falling apart and the plants were not nearly as lush and productive as they were with year one. That fall, the bales along with the fallen leaves and grass clippings, made a beautiful compost ready for spring.
I would definitely grow veggies in hay bales again. I would do it exactly the same, but I don’t think I would use the same bales a second year. I hope you try it and tell us how you grew your veggies using hay bales in the comments below.