Growing vegetables in a bale of hay is done using wheat or oat hay instead of soil. It is also known as hay or straw bale gardening. This is generally a soil-less method of growing vegetables and that is why many people consider it to be a type of hydroponic gardening.
The reason why vegetable gardeners opt for growing vegetables in a bale of hay is the soil. Invariably the soil is poor and not conducive to growing of vegetables. The biggest advantage of hay bale gardening is that the gardener does not have to till the soil to facilitate drainage. In addition, the bales are few feet above the ground and this makes it easy for disabled and senior gardeners, or any one suffering from chronic backache.
Hay bale vegetable gardening does not get too many weeds and many proponents of this form of gardening profess that even pests are few.
In order to grow vegetables in a bale of hay, you first have to choose the hay. Experts recommend wheat straw but you can get the same results from oat straw mixed with alfalfa bale. You should never use pine straw for this type of gardening. Make sure you bind the bale with synthetic twine as this will prevent rotting and collapsing of the hay bale bed.
Once you have selected the bales, place them where you want to grow your vegetables and only then start the curing process. Curing requires the bales to be wet and this means that they will get heavy and you will find them difficult to move.
The curing of hay bales takes approximately 10 days. The first stage of curing involves soaking the bales in water and then keeping them wet for the next three days. On the fourth day, you have sprinkle ammonium nitrate (5 ounces) and then continue the soaking process. On the seventh day, sprinkle another 2.5 ounces of ammonium nitrate and continue the soaking process. Finally on the tenth day, take one cup of 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer
You can also cure the hay without chemicals and this requires the bales to be soaked for three to four weeks. This curing process turns the hay warm and you should not plant anything until the hay cools down.
Once the bales are cured, add around 2 to 3 inches of compost or potting soil on top for the bale. Or else, you can make quart-sized holes using a keyhole saw and then filling the holes with a mixture of compost and soil. Once this is done, you plant the vegetable seeds into the holes or the compost soil mix that you have added on top.
You should not grow root vegetables in hay bale gardening as they will be difficult to harvest. So, also avoid tall vegetables like corn and pole beans as the bale will topple over as it has no support. Instead opt for small vegetable plants like peppers, greens, cucumbers, tomatoes or squash. Each bale should be able to hold two types of vegetables.
Remember that you are growing vegetables without any soil and that is why throughout the growing season, you would need to fertilize the bales. You can use compost for this purpose. In addition, the bales should be kept moist too.
If you are using wheat bales, you should be able to reuse them for an entire year. Thereafter, you can use the bales in your compost or leave them where they are place new bales over them. This will encourage worms to come and make home and also increase the nutrients in the soil below.
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