Going for second year, any experience?

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

I've been working up in the garden on days that are warm enough (not many yet). Many of last years' bales are still looking much like bales. I've been sort of squishing them around, and seperating the big clumps, and they look like they could be planted. They've lost about five inches in height (I'll try for pictures) as compared to the "new" bales next to them. I got a bit creative (okay, lazy) when I saw what good shape the old bales are in, and put the new bales next to the old ones, on the other side of the support fencing. Most bales are used for tomatoes, so I figured I could plant short, early stuff in the old ones, and they'd be okay until the 'Maters grew up. Part of one old (the "front") row will be squashes and peppers, in addition to the ones which will go into new bales.
I'm wondering if anyone has had much success with this? I sort of half-***ed it before, just throwing some seeds at the old hay piles, but didn't really follow through.
This time I've worked at it, more than I'd planned :). They are all nice and uniform, no big clumps of rotted hay, but kinda fluffy. I am planning to top them with potting soil, as I do with new bales, for the seeds to get a start in.
Any thoughts, hints or experienced (or "un") advice?


Wake Forest, NC

Margo: sounds like you're doing just fine.

As the bales decompose and you add seeds or transplants to them, and as you add other organic matter to them, including some new straw, it kind of gets into the "Ruth Stout" method of gardening.

Keep up the good work and post some pics.


Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)


I love working with the "old" bales - they are so nicely rich and composted, full of worms. Half my bales are old and half new for 2011. They are all in rows with every other bale and old one. I have planted in the old ones with great success - sometimes better results than the new ones because of all the nutrients left over. As Kent said, it it like the Ruth Stout method: i.e deep mulch with no work! You don't even need to top them off with potting soil unless you want to. I just plant directly into that great "fluffy" stuff!


Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

Hi Jessica,

Thanks! That's about how I felt. I went out soon after I wrote this, and the old bales were all broken apart, and looked as if something had been digging in them. Couldn't figure out what would do that and throw stuff as far as this went.

Later I saw it happening.

Must have been lots of chicken tasty buggies....:)

So, I put them back together, and they've been okay since. I will fence them after I plant.

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