Hay Bale Gardening

I love my Aquaponics System. I Really Really love it.  There are a million reasons why.  Unfortunately, even with as big of a system as we have already built, its just not big enough.  I have 5 children and we eat a lot of food around here!  To that end, we are working on making a greenhouse over our Aquaponics System to allow us to keep using it straight through the winter, and we are exploring other ways to garden in our back yard.

Our soil here is really compacted and quite poor.  Its very dry here and things struggle to grow in all but Monsoon season.  We decided to start some hay bale gardens for several reasons:

  1. Its quite inexpensive at 5$ per bale of hay.
  2. As it composts, it gives my growing plants most of the nutrition that it needs.
  3. After composting down (generally one or two growing seasons), I can spread it around my yard and let it further compost, healing the soil in my yard!

I’m so lucky that we have an extended fall and spring growing season. haybales2 For most of the hardy vegetables, I can even grow
them through the winter, taking care to cover them at night against frost.  We purchased 20 bales of hay and we will be able to plant cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, peas, leeks, onions, kale, and several different types of lettuce.  My greenhouse/Aquaponics System will hold all my tomatoes, peppers, warmer varieties of lettuce and a few other random vegetables.

haybales1You can tell the difference in the picture between the hay bales that have to begin composting and the few that haven’t yet.  They have to compost before we can use them so we specifically bought 15 of our bales already moldy.  Then we left them out in the weather for a few weeks, allowing the monsoon rains to soak them.  Within a few weeks we will pile some compost on top of the bales and plant our seeds directly into the dirt.  And we will watch and pray that our hay bale garden and our Aquaponics System will do us proud and provide us a lot of yummy foods this fall/winter!

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