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Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Bales of Hay

Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Bales of Hay

In a recent post I wrote about growing potatoes using bales of Lucerne hay as an enclosure. Unfortunately we had a tremendous amount of rain in just a few days and the potatoes were waterlogged and ruined. As it was too late in the season to plant more potatoes I filled the enclosure with compost and planted silverbeet I had grown from seed. As you can see the plants are growing beautifully and are now ready to take over from other plants I have growing in the kitchen garden.

Not one to waste any space I decided to plant lettuce seedlings in the tops of the Lucerne hay bales surrounding the silverbeet.  I left some room to plant more lettuce seedlings in a couple of weeks and as each lettuce is harvested I will plant another to take its place. By doing this we should have a continuous supply for quite awhile. The lettuce seedlings have self-sown from plants I had growing in the kitchen garden; some of these plants I let  ‘go to seed’ so I could save the seeds to sow later. As with any self-sown plants they are very healthy but had to be moved because the local rabbits were nibbling their leaves.

I always let my plants ‘go to seed’ so I can save them for planting at a later date and to my delight it’s quite usual to see seedlings pop up from seeds that have simply fallen in to the garden. The parsley and rocket in the kitchen garden have dropped seeds and now there are little plants popping up everywhere.

Medicinal and culinary herbs can also be grown easily in Lucerne hay bales; I prefer Lucerne hay because it’s high in wonderful nutrients that plants love. Apart from providing a high nutrient content for plants, the bales also provide good drainage and the hay surrounding the plants suppresses weeds. After the initial preparation there is little work to do apart from watering the plants and fertilzing them if necessary. The bales are also an ideal height for tending to the plants rather than bending or kneeling.

How to grow vegetables and herbs in hay bales:

To begin, purchase about four bales and place them side-by-side or in a row, whatever your space dictates.

Dig out holes in the bales spacing them the required distance apart  for the plants you’re growing. For example, I have placed the lettuce seedlings about 30cm or 1 foot apart to give them ample room to grow and for good ventilation.

Fill the holes with good quality potting mix containing fertilizer, or rich compost. Press down and keep filling until the potting mix or compost is above the hay to allow for sinking. Water in well and plant the seedlings or directly sow seeds; carrots can be grown like this too.

Herbs that sprawl such as chamomile, yarrow, marjoram and oregano look lovely growing in the bales.

4 comments to Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Bales of Hay

  • What a great idea. This would probably be better than most raised beds that are susceptible to the heat. The straw I would image acts as a great insulator from both hot and cold. How long does it last?

  • Hi Jason, Thanks for your comment. The hay bales are very good insulators against heat and cold and last quite a long time; those in the photo are over a year old. They do eventually rot down to make lovely compost.

  • diana nelson

    I have seen this done. My neighbor told me she found it on pinterest and lo and behold here it is.I am so anxious to try it. I live in SC, so could I do it with cabbage over the cooler months?

  • Hi Diana, Sorry I’m late with this, we’ve have had some tech glitches. I’m in Australia so I don’t know where SC is, but we grow cabbages in the winter where I live so they should be fine to grow in the cooler months in your area. Just grow them in the bales of hay at the same time you would grow them in the ground. So glad you found the post :)