Gardening is a fantastic way to save money through the summer as well as putting stuff up for the winter months, but want if you live in an area that has no place for planting or soil that is to hard to work with? Maybe you just want to put an attractive edge around your driveway? Here is a great idea that my friend Mr. B from One Mixed Bag sent me last night, he is a master gardener and knows how much I love to dig in the dirt and so he thought I might like this idea. Its a pretty simple an fun way to plant , its also great for folks that have a bad back or a hard time bending or sitting on the ground. The first thing you will need are square hay bales, you can typically find these at your local feed store or if you live in the country you can often find local farmers advertising that they have hay on the area stores cork boards and community news papers, some local garden center may even give away free bales.
The average dimension of a small square hay bale is 14" x 18" so you can measure out how many you need. The next step is to lay them out where you want them with the string side running around the bales, not touching the ground or it will rot and the bale will come undone in mid summer. Then add a nice layer of compost to the top and water it down. When you have this step completed the next thing to do is water your future garden for the next 10 days to "cook" the hay. OK so what the heck does that mean? Well in a nut shell you are starting the compost cycle, with the compost material on the top and the water it will start breaking down the bales and they will get warm, you will be able to tell when the process slows down because the bales will get cooler, usually around 10 days. There are a couple schools of though at this point, you can either add fertilizer when you start the cooking process or add it when you plant so each plant gets exactly what it needs to grow, the choice is yours.
After the 10 days you are ready to plant, make sure you grow plants that will work in your climate and keep in mind where you have planted, for example, while Zucchini would be a great plant for this application growing it along your driveway is not the best choice because it like to send out long runners. If you are looking at food planing think about root crops like Carrots, Beets or Parsnips in places where you don't want runners. If you want to plant flowers with your root crops consider fun edible ones like Violet, Marigold or Nasturtium. For areas where you have space you can plant any number of things, Pumpkins, Beans, Cucumbers, Corn, anything you can think of, the sky's the limit. Your hay bales are also great for herbs, especially the varieties that tend to over take a garden, such as all the Mints, Borage and Comfrey.
If you would like more information there is a wonderful web site dedicated just to hay bale gardening, they also have a book for sale called The Guide to Straw Bale Gardening which is available in PDF for $9.99 through Pay Pal, it's located at the bottom of their first page.
Have a great weekend everyone!