Grow Your Green Thumb with Hay Bale Gardening

Hurray for hay bales!

By Jessica Wing


Not everyone is blessed with a green thumb. Myself, I can only manage to keep the toughest plants alive! So this spring, my family and I decided to try a different method called hay bale gardening that’s supposed to be low-maintenance and easier on the plants. Hay bale gardening requires almost no effort or watering. It may be my new favorite way to garden!


Hurray for Hay Bales!

Hay bales are excellent for planting because they require little to no fertilizer. You plant whatever you’re planning on growing directly into the hay bale. This will save your back from hours of digging and hoeing in the sun. As it rains and time passes, the hay bale will break down and become fertilizer, nourishing the plants from inside the bale. This will save you the time that you would have spent fertilizing, and also save you money. Cheap and easy is the best way to garden if you ask me!




Hay bales also serve as raised planters. The benefit of raised planters is they help keep pests out of your garden. You don’t want to spend time getting your garden growing just to have it dug up overnight by rabbits and raccoons. Raising your garden will also make harvesting your fruit easier on your back. You won’t have to spend hours on your hands and knees digging in the dirt. Planting in hay bales will also cut down on the time you have to spend weeding.


The Last Word on Straw

As with most aspects of gardening, it’s important to do your research before you dive in. Gardening can be a rewarding hobby, but it can also be discouraging if you don’t take the time to do it right. If you’re planning on using the bale method, you should always try to go with hay bales, not straw bales. Straw bales are just stalks of plants (usually corn), while hay bales are made using a variety of grasses. Straw is often made with genetically-modified plants, and doesn’t break down as easily as hay does. Because of this, you may wind up having to use fertilizer if you go with straw. Straw also doesn’t hold water as well as hay bales, so if you go with straw, you’ll also have to spend extra time watering it.




Things to Keep in Mind

Keep in mind that just because hay bale planting is easy doesn’t mean it’s effortless. Before you plant in your bales, you’ll need to prepare them by introducing about a half-cup of nitrogen to them every other day over about ten days. The nitrogen acts as fertilizer and also kills off bacteria. When you add the nitrogen, you should also soak the bales in water. Water should be added every day, but only add the nitrogen every other day. During this process, the temperature of the bales will rise significantly. Adding water every day is important to reduce the risk of fire.


After about ten days, your bales are ready for plants. All you need to do is insert the seeds. If you'vealready germinated your seeds, you can just plant them right into the bales. You’ll still need to water the bales every day, but soon enough, you’ll have a full garden.


At the end of the season, you can just add the hay bales to your compost heap or spread them around the area where you’re planning on putting your garden next year. The hay will continue to break down and fertilize the surrounding area. You’ll be able to start preparing the ground for your next garden right away.





Images used with permission, courtesy of and

Next: The Art of Growing Mushrooms