Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


My goal was to create an inexpensive garden play space for children where I could also try hay-bale gardening. Actually straw bales meant for animal bedding are better than hay; straw is all stem and with no grain seed, at least in theory, and straw bales are cheaper.
What I got was an architecture competition. Using 20 bales, my son, son-in-law, daughter, step-grandson-in-law and I vied for designing the best space. The three little girls didn’t care about the form, they climbed, scrambled, chased and hid no matter what the features, but they were particularly intrigued by the designs that included windows.When the party
disbanded for
the day, I re-
formed bales
into my own
favorite, then
planted the
top with low-
growing sedums
and semper-
vivums. First I
added about an inch of good garden soil to the tops of the bales, inserted the roots in the soil and watered them in. The plants were left to their own devices from then on, making it through the cold New Hampshire winter in Zone 4.This spring the plants are still growing strong and the girls now older and wiser will be coming back to play. The idea is that as the hay disintegrates, it turns into compost that will feed the plants. When the whole thing falls apart, the bales will be used for mulch between the rows of Jen’s fabulous veggie/cutting garden.

Note: If you’re
the kind who
worries that
the child might
fall off, don’t
try this at
home and
don’t try it
with toddlers
who might not
be able to
withstand the
slippage of a hay-bale. Above, the house last winter.

On the right, the house this spring: sedums and semps still viable.

1 comment:

Layanee said...

Loving that hay house. I know how kids like to crawl into small spaces. Why not adults? Hmmmm....I think the brain changes. Anyway, that reminded me of am article I read a while ago on growing cucumbers in hay bales. Dried blood was sprinkled on the tops of the bales and then let 'marinate' for a month or two so decomposition started. Soil was then added and then the plants. Same principle. Must try this again.

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