Hay Bale Planters
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Every garden season, I try something new. Last year it was hay bales. I’m happy to report it worked well! So well, in fact, that it’s going to become part of my regular garden routine.
I’m a veteran mulcher: black plastic in spring to speed thawing, layers of straw around potatoes to encourage growth, fallen leaves covering beds in the fall to smother weeds. This hay is actually for growing, though. Last spring we bought a dozen leftover bales from a neighbor and placed them in empty spots around and between the raised beds. We tipped them on their sides to preserve the twine holding them together, and then tied them together in pairs. This gave me six approximately square hay bale planters.
The idea is that the hay bales, after being left outside in the weather, get wet and then heat inside. This is the beginning of the composting process. After about two weeks, the interior cools and they’re ready for planting. I dug a hole in each one and dumped in a couple shovelfuls of compost. Then in went the seedling.
For this trial, I planted tomatillos, kale, squashes and pumpkins: all big plants that don’t need trellising. To make it a true experiment, I also planted the same varieties in the traditional soil beds. I wanted to see how the plants (and harvest) compared at the end of the summer. But more importantly, if the hay bales failed, I wanted to make sure I still had pumpkins!
The result: the hay bale bale plants were indistinguishable from the others! I had more delicious produce than I’d have had without them, and the plants were every bit as vigorous and healthy. What an inexpensive way to gain some garden space!