How to Begin "Hay Bale" Gardening or How to Start a Straw Bale Garden

you might have been using some of these

excuses for not having a garden say you

live in an urban environment and there's

just not room or there's just not time

or you don't like weeding or you only

have a gravel driveway to work with or

the climate is just terrible where you

are well I want you to throw all of

those excuses out the window today and

listen to just a few of the reasons and

the easiness that it is for you to try

hay bale gardening stay with us we all

need to have a garden I think we should

have one that we can see that we can get

our hands on it's up close but also one

that's covert that's incognito a little

bit and we'll talk more on that in

another future episode but today I want

to talk to you about the the perfect

kind of garden if you happen to be in an

urban environment where you just don't

have land to work with or perhaps you

have terrible land to work with even

though you have plenty of it well the

answer to that is going to be a hay bale

garden and I'll say right now on the

front end that we call it a hay bale

garden but it's really not hay at all

it's straw and it's just gotten the name

hay bale gardening I guess because we

all know that word and call it that most

commonly but it's actually straw bales

so let's just jump right in first of all

I have got a terrible spot for a garden

even though you see a beautiful yard

behind me the part that is in the

sunlight which is most important it used

to be all graveled so no matter what I

have done to it over the years and I do

every year put a garden in anyway the

dirt the soil is just still not

high-quality and there are so many rocks

everywhere so this year just for fun I'm

putting in a hay bale garden let me tell

you just a couple of the benefits of

that first of all it's a raised garden

who doesn't love a raised garden so if I

happen to be in a wheelchair I could

access it if I don't like getting down


my hands and knees because I have

arthritis this is the perfect solution

for someone like that who suffers from

not being able to get down cleared to

the ground to work the soil this is

automatically erased garden it also can

be for terrible soil in fact if you just

have a gravel driveway with a little bit

of space you can actually just put the

hay bales or the straw bales right on

the gravel driveway and have just as

good a garden as the lady next door also

it requires very little effort once we

get it going so we're going to talk

through the effort we're putting on the

front end that's why you don't see any

plans here today we're going to talk

through the way to prepare this for

success and then in future weeks you'll

see as we get the garden going and have

some more episodes that cover some of

the wonderful things that you can do

with it once you've got it established

so these are a couple of things to keep

in mind find yourself a flat enough spot

that you can have a garden and then kind

of measure it out if you've got a good

measuring tape or can borrow one find

out how much space you have to deal with

then go ahead and find some good graph

paper and start mapping it out just like

a little blueprint this is so much fun

figure out exactly how much space you

have to work with and then find out the

bales that you're going to get now the

standard is about what you see here that

I've got and these are 36 inches long by

2 feet wide and about 18 inches in their

other dimension so I can measure it out

carefully on graph paper and then plan

how I'm going to do it I'll know exactly

how many I need to pick up and I would

recommend that you get just one or two

extras extras because when you do you

might need some for the ground that's in

between the hay bales and you might have

one that's poorly packed and you need to

replace it with one that's nice and

sturdy and and can take the weight of

those plants that you're going to have

in the garden now I want to show you

just a quick picture of what it's going

to look like a year from now so by next

spring these are going to have broke

down beautifully though it looks

probably ugly to you but beautifully

these will break down and make a

wonderful kind of compost for your

garden area in the future so you may be

able to have soil there that you can use

in the future but for this year you will

plant right in the top of each of these

hay bales it's it's fantastic now let me

explain that about the hay and straw

thing you can use either one so whatever

you have available use that just keep in

mind if you use hay bale it's actually

gonna have a lot of seeds in it from a

lot of different alfalfa and whatever

else was in that field and so you're

probably going to have kind of like a

chia pet growing here in just a few days

once you get this started getting water

to it now it's going to happen with a

straw bale as well but the straw bales

are generally the better option these

that I have here are wheat straw so from

a wheat field of a local farmer the

wheat has been harvested and then this

is actually the the chaff this is what's

left over that they can't use other ways

it's often used for bedding in a stable

or a barn but it's also perfect for

gardening because it doesn't have quite

so many seeds and it's going to be less

treated with herbicides and pesticides

and all of that and it was grown locally

so I'm thankful for what I've got and

that's kind of what you want to get your

hands on is some sort of wheat straw

bales is kind of what you're going to

ask for or the kind that would be used

for bedding in a barn ok once you've got

your bales and you get them here you're

going to want to prepare the place where

they're going to go so that flat area if

by chance it's your yard I would

recommend while it's still kind of

winter and everything's kind of dark and

hasn't come to life yet go ahead and

burn it off so this whole area that you

see here I went ahead and burned and it

took me a couple of days a couple of

tries because already spring was coming

and there was grass coming through but I

burned the whole area off just to get it

clear down to the dirt then if you have

something to put under the bales that's

going to help you

it could be as simple as newspaper so if

you just lay out newspaper under each

Bale that's perfect

some people like cardboard boxes some

people even use plastic and I don't

really like plastic it'll keep the weeds

out of the way but it's gonna be in your

way it's gonna come out it's just a big

ol hassle and you're gonna regret it I

would recommend something biodegradable

if you've got it

that just inhibits the weeds a little

bit below the hay bales or straw bales

however if you don't have anything at

all that's just fine to you do what you

can but lay them out as they need to be

and lay them as tight together as you

can and also as you've noticed you

always want the twine of them to run

along the sides you don't want it to be

length faced up or with the side up I

suppose where the twine is facing the

sky you don't want that you want the

skinny slender side facing up and

preferably you want to be able to look

down into the straw you want the straw

to be facing up so that you can dig your

fingers into it easily so you can plant

in it easily it soaks the water all the

way down to the bottom of the Bale and

is the right orientation now

incidentally these straw bales that I

have here were rebelled because the

farmer had made great big round bales

out of them then he took those apart and

rebuild them into little squares so I

have got no good orientation on these

bales at all they're a hodgepodge there

is no up down right or left at all but

that's just fine I will treat them and

prepare them and they're gonna be just

fine I just want you to know that in the

event that you can't get the perfect

scenario do it anyway and you're still

gonna get good results okay also you

want to look at what plants you choose

so of course my favorite is from Baker

Baker Creek heirloom seed catalog they

are fantastic I think they're out of

Missouri in the United States go ahead

and go through that catalog pick out

your favorite ones that you're gonna

plant this year get them ordered and he

and if you can start them in your

windowsill before you even get this

going cuz it's gonna take us about two

weeks to get all of these hay bales

ready to be planted so if you start all

your seeds in the windowsill they will

be in the perfect shape and ready for

you to plant little seedlings into the

dirt into the tops of these bales in

about two weeks from now okay let me

also just say this there are some plants

that grow great in hay bales and others

that they go okay but they're not

phenomenal like corn don't plant corn in

hay bales is just going to be too tall

and the wind is going to take it down so

you want corn to be planted sturdy in

the soil if you're going to plant tall

corn also I have heard that it's

recommended if you're going to plant

tomato plants definitely have a cage for

them if you're going to plant them in

the hay bales and if you can get the

door fryi tea that's going to be a

smaller compact tomato plant that's

going to hold up a lot easier to the

winds that might blow through instead of

a real tall spindly one that's just

going to easily get out of hand and

maybe fall over in the process but I

would also just say this root vegetables

some of them do great but you need to

make sure that you've prepared it well

so that they can kind of grow straight

down if carrots are inhibited you know

they don't grouse long and straight they

kind of get all gnarly looking and

potatoes and things like that they'll

grow just fine so long as you prepared

the straw bales very well ahead of time

and the other plant I would just say

that it would be important for you to

note on the front end any kind of vining

plant anything that's gonna crawl all

over the place and spread its arms

everywhere like cucumbers squash any

kind of melons pumpkins all of those

like lots of room to breathe so you can

plant them and they'll do just great in

a hay bale garden but if you do you're

going to want to come up with a plan to


extra space to spread out all over the

sides and down into the area where you

might need to walk or create a trellis

such that can handle the weight of those

and go ahead and train them from their

earliest days to climb up onto that

trellis a lot of people like to put nice

T fence posts at the ends of their rows

of straw bales and then you can run wire

in between them to create a kind of a

wall style trellis all the way up that's

a good way to do it

another way that I really would love to

and I've started the process behind me I

don't know if you can see that I've got

actually three old real estate signs

that are too rested to use in front of

houses anymore but I've taken the sign

part out and just use the nice metal

frames but also you could use fence

posts for that as well I just wanted to

use what I had because it can get very

cost prohibitive to have to buy

everything new each year so I've started

those at the side and what I'll do is

buy three cattle panels and I'll show

you those in a future episode but train

that cattle panel to be in a in a

rounded arch over my head and then be

secured next to these hay bales in the

middle with some fence posts and that's

why you always want to have plenty of

zip ties on hand because that's how

you'll secure it zip ties are an

absolute essential when you're going to

have any kind of garden where you need

trellises or - it's like the gardener's

duct-tape these are just absolutely

imperative to have on hand okay so I'll

take and take those cattle panels and

I'll show you that in a future episode

but create a nice trellis you can do it

with smaller things smaller types of

fencing but often it can't hold the

weight of those melons and cucumbers and

things when they start pulling down on


the very heavy ones you're going to need

to find a creative way to create like a

little hammock for a melon to grow into

or some people use nylons that have

gotten ripped and don't need to be used

anymore you could use those but you get

creative and find ways to help it hold

up the weight and you'll see us do that

in the future so that's what you'll want

if you have heavy plants that like to

vine it'll sure be a space saver for you

if you're wanting to utilize all of the

hay bales for your planting well so

you're gonna want to have one of these

handy dandy little thermometers this is

just a kitchen thermometer but it's an

instant one some people use the ones

with a bigger face on them that's called

a meat thermometer I think this is just

a universal instant thermometer for your

kitchen and it has this metal end on it

that you can jam right down into the hay

and the the straw bale it reaches down

in there far enough that it's going to

tell us the temperature because over the

next 14 days I'll talk you through what

we're going to do to prepare these for

planting in 14 days but in the process

as we prepare them the temperature is

gonna get higher and higher and higher

inside that core temperature is going to

exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit that's

pretty hot it can get up to 130 degrees

even but then it'll start coming back

down and that's part of the process of

preparing these keep in mind you would

never want to just plant your plants in

them and at the front end of things and

then see how it goes because as they

heat up they're gonna kill all those

baby reutlitz that are trying to grow

into the the straw bales you want to

have it all ready back into a nice

temperature zone so here's what we're

gonna do let's talk through the next 14

days mm-hmm

I'm gonna start with this I need to make

sure I have some nitrogen fertilizer on

hand now if we went organic that would

be generally with some sort of plant

matter that

except that nitrogen that's gonna help

us fertilize the top of each of these

the thing is is that there's none that's

very very strong so it's gonna take a

whole lot longer so just hypothetically

if you would like to you could save your

own urine in bottles for a couple of

months and then treat the top of each

straw bale for about a month to lead up

to the time that you're going to plant

in it or for 14 days which is less than

half of that time we can treat it with

inorganic fertilizer that is high in

nitrogen so that's the route we're

taking for this particular garden I've

gone ahead and gotten 3400 are the

numbers that are going to be on this

fertilizer that just means it's super

high in nitrogen and very little else

and we would never want the plants to

come in contact with that because it

would just burn them it wouldn't it

wouldn't do well at all but it's going

to quickly help break down these straw

bales into just the right consistency to

be like almost like virgin soil that's

just ready and and pure perfect for the

seeds that are going to be planted here

so for the first six days each day I'm

going to spread one half of a cup of

this nitrogen across the top of each of

these straw bales half of cup carefully

all especially in the center but all

along the tops of each of them then I'm

going to water them so thoroughly that I

see the water coming out the bottom this

is going to be the longest preparation

that you that the longest time you have

to spend in preparing these bales but it

will be worth every bit of your effort

on the front end so that you don't have

to hardly acknowledge them at all the

rest of the summer just keep in mind

you're you're buying your freedom and

your vegetables for later so half a cup

the first day of nitrogen and then the

second day just let it rest but also

water it water it water it until it

comes out the bottom of the each

straw-bale day three go ahead and put

nitrogen on the top again half a cup on


and water it thoroughly till it comes

out the bottom day for just let it rest

from the nitrogen but water it

thoroughly again till it comes out the

bottom day five

guess what more nitrogen we're gonna put

that across the tops and then we will

water really well and day six we all

just water them again now day seven and

eight you're going to cut that amount of

nitrogen in half so now we're just gonna

spread 1/4 of a cup of nitrogen across

the top of each of these 1/4 cup water

it well 1/4 cup water it well and then

the last days we're going to go ahead

and set your nitrogen aside it's already

been as shocked as it can on the tops of

these now we're going to just put on a

nice very well-rounded fertilizer all

across the tops of these so we're going

to spread usually 10-10-10 fertilizer or

12/12/12 some people I've heard all

different versions of it you do whatever

works for you but I've got 12 12 12 that

we're gonna use on this garden we'll

just spread that around the tops of each

of these and let it soak in for a couple

of days and by day 14 we'll finally be

ready to plant all of those little

seedlings now I can't show you all of

that today obviously so in a future

video we will show you the process of

how those have gotten started and where

we're going with this garden but I

wanted to just get you started with me

on the front end so that you can have

the same experience and grow with me

your own straw bale garden once you've

got drawn out on the blueprint graph

paper exactly what your dream garden

looks like and how big you want it and

how many bales you need to have then you

want to do a little bit of a budget

because it's important depending on

where you live this could be very cost

prohibitive or very inexpensive so keep

that in mind and don't overdo it because

between the seeds that you're going to

get between the different items that are

needed to make this

success I want you to have the first

year be wonderful so mark down each of

the costs and I'll say this the straw

bales that you're going to get are going

to range from anywhere between $1 to $6

that's a pretty big range mine that I

got this time worth $3.75 from a local

farmer and I would recommend you find a

local farmer who doesn't spray a lot of

pesticides on his crops so that you

don't have a lot of chemicals that

you're trying to work against with the

hay that you get or the straw that you

get if I were to go to a big box store

like say Lowe's or Home Depot they would

have what I need but often they can

charge five and six dollars for just one

bale of straw and that's a lot

especially this garden right here that

you're looking at required exactly 20

bales so that would have been a lot of

money spent right on the front end for

that to water thoroughly it's going to

take you quite a while and attention on

each bale to make sure that that water

comes out the bottom this is imperative

and you cannot skip this process but

you've got two options you can either

get a nice wand with kind of a

showerhead and just go back and forth

slowly slowly slowly on each of the

bales and I would recommend you do that

the very first time so that you can

visually see it coming out the bottom

but then after that if it's easier for

you you can get something like this flat

soaker hose that I've purchased and

string it all around the tops of each of

these bales and let it just run for a

couple of hours if you've got that kind

of rainwater to work with wherever you

live go ahead and if you've got water to

use just let it soak for a couple of

hours and by the end of about two or

three hours you're going to see the

water coming out the bottom of the of

the bales and you won't have had to sit

out and babysit it for the whole entire

time so this can be a big time saver but

I think this one cost me somewhere

around fifteen bucks or maybe it was

even close to twenty but it is another

expense that you don't have to make if

you don't have that kind of money

now there's no way we can cover all of

the adventures you're gonna have when

you do your very first straw bale garden

but I want to encourage you to go out

and get some and try anyway in fact

you're going to have a lot of different

phases that you go through in that 14

days there will be an ugly awkward

in-between phase where your bales look

horrible don't worry that's normal

also you might actually see kind of Chia

growing on the top of everything that's

just fine it's those seeds that are

starting to come to life that we're

already in the hay bale itself and if

you don't want them there the easy way

to get rid of them is with just a

dilution of some vinegar and water

spritz - not deep on the hay bale itself

or straw bale but right on the little

green grass slits that are growing and

that'll take care of them and they'll

just go away quickly also when you near

the end of that 14 days you're gonna see

probably a few little toadstools pop up

and some little mushrooms that's great

that means that the soil is almost

perfect for new seeds to go into it and

there are other things you're going to

encounter and I can't wait to hear about

them so between now and next week I hope

you'll go out and get yourself a good

pair of work gloves I hope you round up

your grandmother's straw hat because

you're gonna need some shade from the

Sun and if she had a green thumb maybe

it will help you at least

psychologically in the process I also

hope you'll subscribe if you haven't and

share this video with someone that you


get yourself a straw bale or two to just

experiment with and have fun with and

learn from and let's meet back here next

week until I see you again god bless you

and go out and intentionally be a

blessing to someone today


hey there before you go I want to share

with you just a couple of verses of

Scripture this is in the book of first

Corinthians Paul wrote it and this is in

chapter 2 verses 18 through 20 it says

this let no one deceive himself if

anyone among you thinks he is wise in

this age let him become a fool so that

he may become wise for the wisdom of

this world is falling with God for it is

written he catches the wise in there

quick in their craftiness and again the

Lord knows the thoughts of the wise that

they are futile so let no one boast in

men now go spread the word