Hay Bale gardening: no weeds, no fertilizers and less watering!! What a simple but amazing concept!!

To me (who isn’t much of a gardener), I thought this was a very simple yet successful way to garden – even in our drought!

And, I know exactly where to get hay bales.

Basically, you treat the bales with nitrogen and water over 12 days in preparation for planting.  Then, you plant on top, on the sides – anywhere in the bale – and everything grows!  The nutrients from the decomposing grasses feed the plants during their cycle.  Afterwards, everything can be put into a compost pile to use in your garden next year!

Brilliant!  Raised beds that you don’t have to build!

The original article is here.


Click image to go to the original article.

Click image to go to the original article.

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 1.45.59 PM

Click image to go to the original article.

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Click to watch the video!

Click to watch the video!


I found a FB page about straw bale gardening (same concept as hay bale gardening).

CLICK the image to go to the page

CLICK the image to go to the page


Another great idea for pallets!


This idea was also on the Straw Bale Gardening FB page!


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70 comments have been posted...

  1. Christine

    I decided to hay bale garden this year. In spite of the fluctuating temperatures, I was very successful. BUT I will add, if you want an organic garden, use chicken manure to condition your bales. Mine was mixed with shavings in spite of info out there that said ‘DO NOT USE’…I had no issues and conditioning was perfect. Another note: DO use compost, I used cow manure. I pulled out plugs of hay for the potted plants at a depth of 4-6 inches, put in manure and the plants, then added more around each plant. For direct seed germination, I cut out about 2 inches of hay off the top of the bales, leaving a 1 inch border around the edge( this prevents the manure and seeds from running off the sides when watering.) Hay bales can be reused for another 1-2 seasons without the need to recondition the following year/s dependant on their shape the following spring. This is a fantastic way to garden, I will NEVER inground garden again. Those sites out there that say ‘ONLY USE STRAW BALES AS YOU WILL ONLY GROW HAY IN HAY BALES!’ are full of manure themselves!!! Weed seeds blow around no matter what kind of garden you have, EVERY garden will get weeds but I will add that gardening this way is much easier to weed, and easier on the back and legs. Oh, and very low post invasions!!! Do not worry about mice either, they dont like having their homes drenched in water.
    I used 40 bales of hay that I had used during the winter to surround and insulate my fifth wheel, we are fulltime RVrs. What better way to use up bales?! Any of my bales that collapse, I will use for no dig potatoes next year. HAPPY SUCCESSFUL GARDENING EVERYONE!!!

  2. Gretchen Muller

    Well I decided to try gardeing with hay bales in the Spring of 2017. I only bought 4 bales because I did not know if I would like the process or how it would work. I planted cantaloupe, zucchini, patty pan squash and lemon cucumbers in the bales. Great plants and crop. I had huge cantaloupe, one was 8 pounds.

    This year, Spring of 2018, I bought 10 bales of hay, planted 2 watermelon, 2 cantaloupe, zucchini, patty pan squash, yellow crookneck squash, lemon cucumber, regular green cucumber and one bell pepper. I have never seen such healthy plants. I have a drip system set up and only water my garden for 30 minutes every evening.

    I used my hay from 2017 as mulch, planted my tomatoes between the bales of hay and had the best tomato plants I have ever had. Been sharing my garden with my neighbors, mail person, hair dresser, massage therapist, physical therapist and gym members. I pick the garden every other day.

    This type of gardeing is not for everyone but I really like it. You might get weeds but you can control them.

  3. Celeste

    I have trialed the hay bale method, although I layered it with news paper or cardboard, then hay and a sprinkle of lime, then dried horse manure… then lawn clippings when dried… then hay and nitraphoska… then dried goat, sheep and rabbit manure, and more hay and lime… left it for 2 weeks… added some soil to put my plants in, watered in and What a crop Yes I will use that method again and again… sold on it. cheers

  4. Felicitas

    So I was thrilled with this new to me concept and was willing to give it a go. I think the nay -sayers made more sense to me than the yay- sayers. It makes sense that you would have to water the bale more than a reg. garden, as the water would run straight through. Guess I will stick with my old gardening habits. Why fix it if it isn’t broke, lol

  5. Carol Evans Gill

    Very interested in starting this right now. Please send information to p o box 429 Amelia Courthouse VA 232

  6. gav

    this does not work in Australia as i have tried many methods of this concept. They need way more water and collapse in the middle leaving no structure for the roots. In a wet climate yes but here definitely no. dont waste your time.

  7. Ian Currie

    many people are getting hung up on what corn is.
    In the US corn is Maize, elsewhere corn is the local grain crop and can be Oats, Wheat, Barley etc i.e. straw is the stalks left after the grain is removed from them.

  8. Jennifer Johnson

    Neat idea. However, hay bales are not just grasses. Hay is a combination of many different plants, perennials, all growing together, the mixtures carefully chosen to be the perfect blend of feed for different animals. They are generally much higher in nutrition and protein than straw bales. Straw bales, are the stalks, or non-feed portion, of almost any grain, not just corn, and by definition, absolutely NOT restricted to GMO crops. Straw is generally used as bedding for livestock, and is an absolute necessity in agriculture. They’re also useful in straw-bale houses, and have many other purposes.

  9. rixrox

    What about the ammonia in the urine? It’s flavor will taint the taste of your produce. Look at the experience of those who went through this fad in the fifties. There is a reason why the Navy does not make fresh potable drinking water in coastal waters. Ammonia! People will stop visiting your garden. The smell is ungodly. Don’t ask me how I know. It’s embarrassing.

  10. Gail Charles

    My Dad is 91 and this is the first year in about 85 he hasn’t worked in a garden. I bought straw (wheat) today from the Menonits and he is so excited that he can sit in his wheel chair and garden. I can’t tell you how excited he is !!!!:))))) whether it works for us or not just to see him so excited will be worth the effort. He is sitting outside watering away !!! Did I say he is beyond EXCITED !! So thankful I found this site.

  11. B...

    I thought the highest nitrogen fertilizer available was 36. No one here has ever heard of 40.

  12. Robynne Catheron

    I’m looking forward to attempting it this year! I have these videos and articles saved, and since I’m not much of a gardener, I’m sure I’ll be referring to them frequently.

    Thank you, Dawn, I appreciate this very much! I don’t know why people have to post ugly and unkind comments. You have a lot more tact and diplomacy than I do; I wouldn’t have been able to restrain my snide responses to some of them.

  13. Jim Stoppleworth

    Most straw bales I’m aware of are made from the stalks of cereal grains like, wheat, oats, and barley. I’m not aware of corn straw. One issue with straw or hay is seeds of weeds and the plant the straw is made from. These seeds will germinate and need to be weeded like any other weeds. This is still a good way to garden especially for limited space gardens.



    DR Kumar Chatterjea

  15. Bill

    FYI, Straw bales are most likely made from wheat straw and in some cases oat straw. Corn straw is rate and is usually put up in big round bales due to the thick stalks and ground up with other feeds to be fed as part of a TMR (totally mixed ration) to cattle…..

  16. James Cooper

    Straw might be from genetically modified corn? Oh dear, oh deary me! And why, eactly, would that be a problem? I think you are making things up without consulting any science. I do worry about the trace nutrients in the soil not being contained in hay bales, though.

  17. Charles Swartz

    Very creative person. Maybe it will work or not. Give the person a lot of credit for coming up with this idea. I might try it on a different scale. It is worth a shot to try something new. I have 2 gardens every year for a lot of years. So experiment and will see if I can come up with something to make it work. Then I will post and say how it went if it doesn’t work I will be honest. Great idea and kudos to the person that came up with these ideas.

  18. Greg

    There are many flaws in using straw bails rodents love to nest in them! Another is bailing wire can rust out in one growing season and at around $5 a bail a fair sized garden could cost you a handsome sum of money!

  19. sarah

    Hmmm…. plants take nutrients from the soil so I don’t know about this.

  20. Polly

    There is no easy way to get a garden. They might sound good but never work. You want a garden til the ground work it up fertilize plant water and watch for your growth….

  21. Kathleen Ek

    I really appreciated
    ( Jennifer 14/02/2016 at 11:43) comments and has made me decide to give straw bales a try. Jennifer if you ever read this..thank you! You did not put down the author or criticize anyone else’s comments, you simple explain what you had used and how to use it. Then the part about “having the best crop ever” made me decide. Seeing this woman’s remarks on her results is what made me want to try this. If I am as successful I will come back and post what made it so. And to those who chose to pick out faults in the article instead of posting constructive criticism, shame on you! “Let those without sin, cast the first stone” For those you are going to give it a try..come back and let’s compare gardening tips..posted Feb 22, 2017 11:30 PM Central

  22. Zconie

    The writer of this article is wrong about the contents of hay vs straw, Really you should get your facts straight before making an Idiot of yourself….. I was born and raised on a farm, and corn or soy beans as a straw.? Are you nuts? Straw in from wheat barley oats etc. We used to bale soy straw for the beaf cattle but never used it for bedding. Hay is much more than just dried grass. It is from alfalfa, timothy, lesbydeasa among others.

  23. Lynda

    Straw is from wheat, oats rye NOT corn. Corn stacks are used for bedding of livestock.

    Jim in the above post is correct dated 7/2/2016.

  24. doug brooks

    tried last year, aged hay stored long enough for grass and weed seeds to die, treated with nitrogen fertilizer, worst garden ever!

  25. Chad

    Straw usually comes from wheat, oats, barley, rice, and rye. I have never seen straw from corn.

  26. Jane Anderson

    Having had horses and seeing how bales of hay mold inside when rain gets on them, I would question this. Not so sure I would want food that is grown on mold.

  27. C Passione

    i like the idea of mounting pallets on saw horses. you then lay out the entire bag of potting soil on top of the pallets. Be sure to poke holes in the bottom of the bags for drainage. You can easily grow rows of lettuce, spinach, and radishes…. If you plant early enough, like right now you will be able to harvest and replant in a by mid to late June…

  28. Richard Roach

    My comment is a question, I’m at the end of 2 weeks of 1/2 cup 43-0-0 every other day and have not seen any temps over 130 and we have had cloudy rainy skies for three days and today I went out to find mold on top and sides and inside of my bales and mushrooms growing. What did I do wrong?? I did use hay bales and think it was bermuda.

  29. Shelli

    Can some one tell me what to do when I get my straw bales I’m so confused on what steps to take. I’ve read all the comments but have not figured out what comes after buying your straw bales… I got that someone said to save up pee??? Lol you just pour it all on each bale or what?? Would chicken or horse or cow poop be good to put on the bales?? I have plenty of that stuff. If you want you can send me response to my email shell68ok@yahoo.com. Thanks for any help. I have a really bad back and I think this type of garden would be easier for me.

  30. Brian

    Use pea straw. 1) it contains more nitrogen already and 2) if there is any regrowth it will be blue peas which are at least edible and have bee attracting flowers.

  31. Jackie

    Pallets contain some heavy duty chemicals. Not only repellents for bugs, also treated for moisture. Wouldn’t want that seeping into your crops.

  32. Dan

    Any straw bale I have ever left out for some time has always started to regrow weat from the bale.This would seem to be as bad as weeds to me.Just sayin..

  33. Mary Stebbins Taitt

    You have to be careful where you obtain hay or straw bales, as ones used for seating and decoration are treated with something poisonous that kills plants.

  34. Jannine

    You are incorrect about straw bales being made from corn or soy. Straw is made from barley, oats, rice or wheat crops and not GMO crops. So that is not really an argument for using hay instead of straw. You could just say one could use both and that YOU prefer hay. You can read more here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw if you want to learn more info on what straw is made from but you are passing on incorrect info. You really ought to correct this.
    Having said that, I do really like your photos of growing in the bales and the other ones like pallet gardening. Good article except for that one point.

  35. Joseph Houseman

    I’d be more impressed if the author knew the difference between straw and corn stalks.

  36. Barefoot Gardener

    Let’s teach people a bs way to grow instead of actually teaching them how to grow organically.. All you need to do is add nitrogen! Lol you know there are 17 nutrients that plants need right? Decomposed hay or straw will leave you with very little nutrients. Most of it is food for microbial life. If you want to truly grow organically then I’d highly recommend reading everything you can about soil biology.

  37. Carolyn

    I tried both straw bale gardening and pallet gardening last summer. I planted my tomato plants in straw bales and had the the biggest crop of tomatoes I ever had. I will definitely be doing this again. I planted green beans in pallets last year. It was a total failure. I will not be doing that again. This year everything will be going in straw bales

  38. Julie

    Can you use bales that have previously gotten wet and started to mold?

  39. Kathi

    What plants do you suggest planting on the sides? I would love to try this type of planting this year.

  40. Sheila

    Be sure the field was not treated with grazon or the seeds will not germinate.

  41. Adele Sands

    unless it’s organic hay or straw I wouldn’t suggest it. really nasty stuff is put on hay crops. clopyralid was used on my horses hay, it came through their bodies, and the compost I made with their manure ruined my garden soil.

  42. Christie

    Choosing straw or hay has nothing to do with whether or not it’s organic. Either can be organic OR saturated with pesticides. Hay is dried grass–with seeds, and straw is the stem, and is hollow inside. Incidentally, people make straw bale houses (not hay bale houses) because there is air in the straw to make for better insulating.

  43. Paul

    I’ve been composting for 40 years. Yes, grass bales and organic anything has weed seeds. No problem, just spend enough time to compost the entire lot and all seeds rot if managed well in turning the heap. True enough that the remaining straw from commercial crops treated with pesticides have less weed seeds, but the residual chemicals are a concern with the raw material. No problem, by the time your raw material is completely composted, what chems that have not leached out are rendered inert. The only organic food available to healthy root systems is thoroughly decomposed plant waste, humus. Only one thing better than the best and most nutrient laden compost, are you ready…….send it through the gut of a worm. Yes, worm castings improve raw compost not to mention the urea nitrogen produced by the one hundred plus pairs of kidneys in each earthworm. Take the average Allolobophora caliginosa earthworm with aprox. 126 segments that make up the body with a pair of kidneys for each segment. The slime, or urine secretions lubricate the worms movements in the soil thus providing one of the best types of nitrogen in the world. Urea nitrogen from worms can be used as a foliar feed directly to the leaves of plants without burning. I could go on for hours but I fear many have gotten bored long before getting this far. Happy horticulture to all and to all a goodnight!

  44. Amy

    The hay bale thing idk usually the plant gets its nutrients from the soil

  45. Jennifer

    I grew in straw bales this year and the results were fantastic for most vegies.
    I used 3 types of straw; wheat, barley and pea.
    Wheat straw took the longest to break down and pea straw was the fastest.
    I found the barley and pea straw were the easiest to cure and could be planted at around 2 weeks, wheat was more stubborn.
    Carrots, parsnip, beetroot, radish, tansy, parsley, nastursiums loved the environment, the carrots grew perfectly straight having no obstacles to contend with. By far the biggest successes were tomatoes, zuchini, cucumber, squash and pumpkins (they went absolutely crazy!). I did not have success with peas and beans this year… but it may not have been the fault of the bales i will try them again.
    8 thoroughly recommend straw bale gardening.
    No digging!!! Less bending!! Watering in first few weeks is intense but after that they are less needy than traditional garden beds.
    The plants will grow HUGE so allow room between rows. I made a labyrinth out of mine and it was fun until the tomatos and pumpkins realised they were growing in paradise and went berserk and made it difficult to access parts of the garden.
    I am a convert and will continue to straw bale garden but will plan the design much better next time .
    When you first start curing the bales a coupke of things happen that make you wonder if your bales are faulty! You get grass…. just pull it out and throw back on top (more nitrogen) and you will get lots of inky top mushrooms. Neither are bad in fact it is a good sign your bales are curing well.
    Straw bale gardening is fun, you can grow a garden on a cement slab!!! There are several types of straw bale and some types seem better for some plants.. the pea straw breaks down very fast so i would not recommend it for carrots but would rather plant them in the wheat or barley. Wheat is probably the most common bale you would find. My preference is barley and pea straw but wheat is perdectly fine.
    Dont use hay its going to waste all that composting goodness growing weeds.
    You need to cure your bales before they are ready.
    They must be thoroughly soaked for the first couple days.
    Next you need to get them composting i used blood and bone (blood meal is better but hard to find), also added some urea and seaweed solution.
    There are guides out there just ask Mr Google.
    After 2 weeks the bales get hot inside and start to decompose. Once the temperature has gone from hot to warm you are ready to plant.
    Its fun gardening and after the bales are in place there is not much work to do until harvest then you will be busy reaping the rewards of lazy gardening.
    Give every family member a bale or 2 and see who can grow the best veggies…. dont forget to plant the sides of the bales as well as the tops!

  46. tim

    Don’t you love it when someone writes an article and the people reading it know more about the subject than the writer does? Straw is from cereal grains wheat, rice, oats, there is no GMO wheat, or oats, if you get rice find out if it’s gmo, if that kind of thing matters to you.

  47. Kathy

    Does anyone know if the large round bales of grass haylage works with this? Not sore if there is anything sprayed before baling and fermented.

  48. Cindi Kunz

    Something is sure wrong with your date and time system. I posted my comment on 2/10/2016 at 3:00pm

  49. Cindi Kunz

    I am so glad to see the comments about the straw bales because it is the dried stem left after the oats, wheat, rye, barley and other feed has been combined and left to dry in the field. Not corn or soybeans! I am going to try this with straw bales which hold water better then hay bales. The author of this article did not do his/her research very well. Organic straw will have more weeds then regular straw. Research why yourself.

  50. Marilyn

    Straw is from WHEAT not corn. Silage is from corn, and can be baled.

  51. Cynthia

    I have tried using straw bales but they too are full of seeds and WILL sprout :( I have seen it suggested to use “seedless” straw but it doesn’t exist where I live and I’m not sure it exists anywhere ! I love the idea of this but in reality I grew so many weeds/grass I could barely see the vegetables.

  52. Shelly

    Do not use hay bales… From grass hay. You will never get rid of the weeds and grass, plus ask your farming they use milestone or any othother nherbicide if they did your garden will not grow.. Get either barley or oat straw organically grown!!

  53. jim

    Straw bales are NOT bales of corn. They are bales of straw: the remains after harvesting some type of grass (wheat, rye, barley, etc.). Hay bales are bales of grass, clover, alfalfa, etc. Straw works better; grass is second best. Do NOT use bales of corn, sorghum, or a member of that family. Don’t use soy beans, either. Straw is best.

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