March 8, 2006

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Planning the Garden: Hay Bale Planting

Have we talked yet about hay bale planting? It's an unusual and practical method of growing some flowers and certain vegetables in a small space, especially as the bales can be used to define an area, be placed casually around a patio, or be set out to get a new ground ready for the following year. Let's take a look at what's involved...

Of course you start with a bale of hay, and it does need to be hay, not straw. It can be at any stage from freshly baled to partially decomposed. Taking a trowel, hollow out holes in the top and even the sides if you want. I usually do anywhere from seven to ten holes in the top, each hole trowel-wide and trowel-deep. Fill with rich compost, plant either seeds or seedlings, keep well watered and stand back!

As the roots develop they spread out throughout the bale, decomposing the hay in the process and that of course generates heat for those roots. The plants grow to a self-mulching size very quickly, but I do water them with a grow solution once a week.

I've grown the tiny pumpkins, terrific peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant and several other veggies this way, always with good results. Wave petunias or mound nasturiums make a positive mountain of color! Geraniums interspersed with dusy miller, coleus, and/or low ageratums will do well. And, you can also use this method in shady areas, filling the bales with begonias, impatiens and again, coleus. The possibilities are just endless and experimentation is half the fun!

Of course I've assumed here that you know where to come by bales of hay for trying this!