How Long for my bales to cool?

Grove City, OH

I am new to this and just found this site and joined yesterday.

I started trying to condition 6 hay bales about 10 days ago. I don't know what kind of hay, they are just hay to me.

I saturated them for the 4 days and then watered in some "natural urea" over the next couple of days. I took the internal temp yesterday and they all were between 130 and 137 deg, they are really cooking. I took the temp again this afternoon and they are the same.

Here is the big question. Now that they are cooking do I continue to water them heavily daily or lightly daily or not at all?

How many days will these things cook and how long until I can expect to be able to plant, any ideas?

I have done enough reading here to know that I need them back down to around 85 deg to safely plant

I really appreciate your help, not only am I new to hay bale gardening, I'm new to gardening.

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

Well first of all, welcome to DG and the SB Gardening forum! You will find a huge amount of information on every aspect of gardening, so you won't be "new" for long. Keep watering your bales every day, the heat just tells you they are still decomposing. Probably 4-5 more days and they should start to cool down and be ready to plant in by early/mid next week. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.


Grove City, OH

Everything was going along well. Then two of the six bales heated back up and cooked the plants in them. I am trying to get those two to cool down again and I will have to replace the plants.

I should have known by the mushrooms. The 4 cool bales had mushrooms growing on them everywhere. Zero mushrooms on two bales. The mushrooms were trying to tell me about the problem but I didn't get it until it was too late.

Oh well, learn as you go.

This message was edited May 23, 2012 9:02 AM

Grove City, OH

Some pictures

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Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Bales seem to have a habit of doing that for me as well if I start them in the spring. They seem cool after maybe 12 days but if we get a really hot, sunny days they may heat up again. That's why I give them a good two weeks total in the spring before planting anymore. Better for me is putting them out in the fall and letting them do their thing all winter. That seems to eliminate the problem of overheating or re-heating! Good luck. You are not the first to have to replant "stewed tomatoes" or whatever you cooked! LOL

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

I put my bales out in January, figuring they'd be ready when I was, say end of March. I watered and bloodmealed them occasionally (I had plenty of time. right?) but mostly just walked around them, anticipating.

They're just now getting to where I want them. Mushrooms only very recently. Some of the earlier planted tomatoes probably got very warm feet, much to my dismay, but have survived. I actually had to plant the very first ones in containers, cuz when (with _great_ difficulty) I put a hand in the bales to add soil and plants, it was hot. So I had delayed planting, and they're just beginning to look happy.

Live and learn :)

Grove City, OH

I will definitely start my bales for next year this fall.

I don't know if it is a hay versus straw thing but these just keep getting hot and I've been working on them for a while now. Just when I think I am OK they all start heating again.

Today it was 83 deg outside and the inside (5" from top) of 5 of the bales were between 98 -102 degs. The plants don't look happy. The sixth bale was 78 deg inside.

I check them morning and evening and have been trying to cool them with my cold water from my well.

I am only a few weeks into my first attempt at growing in hay bales, and most of my plants are very sad, and I already have a list of things I will do differently next year.

I am really hoping things settle down this year and I can experience at least a little success.:)

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

I do think hay heats up more than straw. I only started using alfalfa hay last summer and that was my experience with it. Hang in there. Hopefully the plants will survive until the bales settle down! Good luck!

Grove City, OH

Why are bottom leaves on my plants turning yellow and then dying.

Too much water? Not enough water? Bale internal temp? Need fertilizer?

Any ideas?

Very frustrating. My plants in the ground in the garden look very good, my hay bale plants look very sad.


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Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

I thought you were suppose to use straw bales for this. Doesn't the hay bales put of seed?


Squaw Valley, CA

You can use hay bales as well, they have a little more nutritional value to the plants but yes, they have more seeds so more grows. If it's all you can get they'll work fine.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Water is usually the yellowing leaves. If they are only on the bottom so far you'll be ok. However. Hay- coastal bermuda, alfalfa, hay grazer sorghums, peanut hay, has USUALLY been treated with weed inhibitors which can hurt your plants. Try to find a source for oat or wheat or barley(thats an expensive straw) that was baled for gardening and is known to be free ofthe weed sprays. Pull the dying leaves and watch for more. Tomatkes and peppers may wilt when the weather gets to 101*, just block the sun to see if ithelps any.

Glenville, PA(Zone 6a)

I read that if the bottom older leaves are turning yellow, you need to add nitrogen. Maybe someone with more experience can answer this better.

Yachats, OR(Zone 8b)

I've also always read it's a bad idea to use hay bales all around, and to use only straw.
For years now I've been considering trying this method. What are the benefits?
I'm considering it because I'm so tired of importing such an immense amount of soil
for where I live. There's absolutely no good soil to work with so it costs a fortune for
even a small garden. I figure maybe straw bales could help save space.. Any one
ever have any real success with it?

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

Lily - That's my problem at our new home in hi country desert AZ. No good soil, hard, rocky and very alkaline. Local nursery suggested even using gypsum on the bales due to alkaline water.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Last fall, the next door neighbor came over and saw the corn in the bale, took hold of the base of it and was astounded that it was so healthy, big, and sturdy. He'd never seen things growing in a bale of hay before. Unfortunately, despite my wrapping it up every night, it finally succumbed to the temperatures. That was my first time growing in bales, so I'm convinced it's a worthwhile I just need a lot more bales for this year. I won't probably plant outside until June 15, so there's time to cook 'em. The soil here is alkaline also, and the farmers here use gypsum. I just use Epsom salts and compost, but not on the bales. By the way, that corn had no fertilizer. Just water. Amazing.

Cleveland, GA(Zone 7a)

I'm new here and to straw bale gardening. I got a late start but put out 8 bales on 4/15, so now has been 13 days. I had a few problems with the curing. I used fish emulsion and put some cow manure compost on the top. Temps dropped and we had low 40's a few nights and also twice had hard, driving, cold rain for hours. Then there were a couple days I didn't get them watered down but once a day, and they may have gotten too dry. I never felt any heat coming off the bales. I don't have a thermometer (really need to get one when I can get back to town). Wasn't worried about no thermometer, figured I could just put my hand down in the bale and get a good enough idea of what was what. But these bales are so tight, no way to get my hand in there.

The bales are now covered on top with a tiny mushroom everywhere and a lot of green hair! Awful seedy for wheat straw! I gather the mushrooms are a good sign, but not sure exactly what they mean as far as readiness of the bales? The bales haven't softened at all that I can tell and still can't get a hand in them. Can someone give me a clue if I am at least headed in the right direction and what I should do now (other than get a thermometer)? We have just had two more days of hard rain, likely a good 4" or more all together, but the temps have been warmer. Should stop tomorrow and I can check on the bales, but I wonder if all the hard rain leaches the nitro out of the bales that I add for curing?

Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

You are growing a new crop of wheat! Chuckl. It likes cooler weather... I dont grow in straw, but these queries may go unnoticed by our pros...SO. when you are on the forum, scroll to the bottom of the queries and you will notice a place to post your very own pix and comment/ask questions. We love pictures! Be patient these guys are keeping up with their own gardens too!

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

I have a similar problem in getting green grass looking stuff but not warm to touch. We have not had cool or rainy weather and now it's 80's

Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Its just a sign that plants will live in the straw when the wheat or oats sprout from the bales. I dont know if they use the bale like an earthbox- but its my bet it doesnt take very much to just hollow out a spot just big enuff to hold a sprout...

Glenville, PA(Zone 6a)

I'm new to straw bale gardening but have been reading this forum like a banshee! From what I've read, when you get the mushrooms and/or the green sprouts, your bales are conditioned and ready for planting.

I put some kale and chard plants in about a week ago, right after I got the mushrooms. They are growing like gang busters. I also put in some pea seeds and they are just starting to show. For seeds, I put a layer of store bought garden soil on top of the bales and planted the seeds in that.

Pat in PA

Cleveland, GA(Zone 7a)

Well, checked my bales this morning and I could feel some heat coming off them. By evening they had cooled down. They have softened some and I got my hand in there a way and didn't feel any real heat, so hopefully they are ready. I'm going to start planting in them tomorrow. Kittriana said she wanted pictures, so here you go ;) I'm a bit embarassed because everyone's pictures look so nice. Yards are so neat. Mine is still a jungle but I am making some slow progress.

The first picture is some of my "hairy" bales. The next is the tiny mushrooms that are sprouting all over the tops of the bales. The next shows where the bales are, they do get sun for about 7 hours a day. I don't have much sun. The cleared area you see, I cut stem by stem at ground level to clear that area of a lot of brush and weeds. Wild blackberry and grape, Japanese honeysuckle, thousands of oak seedlings and saplings. That allowed me to "rescue" all the wild ginger, trillium, Solomon's seal and other good stuff that was mixed in. The last two pictures are of what I have yet to clear. There are a lot of good plants under all that mess!

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Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Those look great! And you have my sympathy on the clearing issues! We also cut a hole in the middle of a creek bottom for a house and yard. Used a 4wheeler with a chain and old tire to pull up the yaupons and sweetgum and well as shovels and pickaxes and at the very first- a trackhoe to clear enough room to get the home set up and septic dug. It has been a 12yr project so far. Your pictures are awesome!

Cleveland, GA(Zone 7a)

Yikes Kittriana, I can imagine. The jungle is already trying to reclaim the areas I have cleared! At least I don't have any sweetgum here and since the previous owner took out all but one huge pine, don't have to worry about pines coming down on me (that's a big issue here in GA). I lucked out with this place in a lot of ways. The house was sound, "good bones" as they say. Foundation good, new metal roof, new heat pump, hot water heater and so on. Has a magnificent fireplace, hardwood floors. Otherwise it is pretty rough. Needs new windows all the way around and had an unfinished addition that was just studs. Lots of work to renovate, but mostly cosmetic. Property was a mess also. The thing is, I was able to get it for less than what most folks pay for a new car now days! Paid cash, low taxes. Good for retired person like me.

So far, I love it. Likely won't live long enough to get it all where I would like it to be but am having a ball working on everything. Everyday now I'm being delighted by finding some new little treasure popping up from the ground, or buried in the center of a lot of the garbage plants. Everyone thought I was crazy to hand clear rather than just have it all bush hogged or skimmed with a little dozer, but my instincts said there would be a lot I would want to save, and I was right! I have found five small elderberries, hundreds of trilliums, and the discoveries keep coming. For a nature and plant geek like me, I have a little patch of paradise!

Here is a picture of my front yard. There is no grass, all white clover. You can just see the pink of the one little azalea that was buried in weeds and nearly dead when I found it. The neighbors tell me the previous owner never mowed in the 5 years he was here!

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Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Thats beautiful. You are doing so well with that!!

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Sure is beautiful! My grandfather was from the Dalton Georgia area, and I would love, some day, to visit the state. Here, it is dry high desert climate, though I'm just a few miles from ponderosa pine and aspen forests. It, I think, takes a lot more effort to get things to grow here, as a result, whereas back east and south, there's more rainfall and seems like to me that things grow easily there. Some say too easily, lol.

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