Up here in the hills – unless you’re living on the eastern side of Dahlonega, or down in one of those picturesque, lush farming valleys heading out Hwy 52 towards Elijay – you don’t have a lot of options for gardening or growing anything…..  except rocks. A result of the clear cut logging in the Appalachians back in the 30’s has left most of the surrounding areas completely devoid of any really usable topsoil.

Our property isn’t any different.


99.999% of our land is scrub forest and DR (Decomposed Rock), dispersed with intermittent layers of that good ol’ sticky Georgia Red Clay.
…. needless to say, gardening is a challenge.

Last year, we attempted to container garden. It was lackluster at best. Even with drip lines and composted manure, the containers were just no match for the hot summer heat, and the diminutive bounty was the proof.

This year, we’ve decided to try something new – Hay Bales.
I saw somewhere on the ever-net where a guy in the mid-west was selling classes to teach you how to hay-bale garden – and, was apparently getting $35.00 a head for the class. (More power to him).
I, on the other hand, am just about as cheap as you can get, and I can’t see paying anyone to show me how to do something if I can figure it out myself.

So I did a little more research, and here is the recipe for a hay bale garden.

Hay Bale Garden
Feeds 1 Family


  • Wheat Straw Bales – Use the following as a guide on the number of bales you will need.
  1. Tomato Plants – 2 per bale
  2. Pepper Plants – 3 per bale
  3. Okra – 6 per bale
  4. Squash – 4 per bale
  5. Potatoes (Sweet or White) – 2 per bale
  6. Onions – 16 per bale
  7. Radishes – 16 per bale
  8. Carrots – 24 per bale
  9. Eggplant – 4 per bale
  10. 1 Bag Ammonium Nitrate (or 1 bag 32-0-0 fertilizer)
  11. 1 Bag 10-10-10 fertilizer
  • Tomato Cages (Tomatoes, peppers, okra will all need staking – The tomato cages work really well as you can jab them down through the bale and into the ground for added support.)
  • 1 Large Bag of Composted Cow Manure (or just really good composted medium)
  • Water

Set the bales out in your desired garden area where they get an ample amount of sunlight
Turn the bales so that the binding string wraps around the sides of the bale. (This will hold the bale together better as it rots.)

Days 1 – 3:
Saturate the bales twice a day allowing the water to soak deep into the bale
Days 4 – 6:
Apply 1/2 Cup of nitrate to the top of the bale and soak in into the straw with water
Days 7 – 9:
Reduce the amount of nitrate to 1/4 cup – continue to soak the fertilizer into the straw.
Day 10:
Discontinue with the nitrate, and add 1 Cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer to the bale and soak through
Day 11:
(For plants):
Transplant your plants into the bales. I used a spatula to make a crack in the bale for each plant. Place the plant down to its first leaf and close the crack back together as best you can.
(For seeds):
With the compost, add about a 2″ layer of medium into the top of the bale and press it down a bit.
Space your seeds according to the above guide. – or – sow them in evenly across the top (you will just have to thin them out as they sprout)