Paul A. Bathe, Certified Bale Garden Instructor & Speaker
Some of the spoils from our bale gardenView of 84 bale, bale garden pre-Spring setup and ready for conditioningLeft side view of 84 bale, bale garden early summerRight side view of 84 bale, bale garden early summer

Paul A. Bathe


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I have been seriously vegetable gardening for over 20 years on my 200 by 75 foot garden plot on my 6 acre yard as well as growing blackberries, blueberries, apples, plums, pears, peaches, oranges, lemons, limes, pecans, strawberries, muscadine grapes, kiwi, pineapples, bananas, asparagus, and artichokes as well as Hawaiian plumerias in our yard and garden.

I open ground gardened for a number of years and then transitioned to growing in raised rows with embedded drip tape and covered in plastic film. I used hay in between the rows as a weed barrier. Over six years ago I read an article in the Georgia edition of the gardening magazine “State By State Gardening” about growing in hay bales. I was intrigued by the idea and tried it with four bales in a square planter configuration in one corner of my big garden as the article displayed in the accompanying photo. I did not have much success with that first attempt because the article failed to mention the need for any conditioning or how to do it. The following year I tried again but I did some more research online, a combination of YouTube and articles with varying methods to prepare the bales for planting. This time I had a lot more success and really started to see the power of this method of gardening. I continued to search for more information on best practices for this method and my wife came home one day with Joel’s book.

I read Joel’s book all the way through several times and paid special attention to the conditioning process. I have since found Joel’s book to be the single most comprehensive and informative source on the subject. The information he shares in his book coupled with my hard won gardening experience and gardening knowledge including my understanding of the power of composting convinced me that this would be a far more productive and rewarding way to garden.

So, the third year I continued to grow in covered raised beds in the rest of my garden but I dedicated enough space to build three, four-bale square planters and two, nine-bale rows using Joel’s T-Post and 2×4 idea along with the cattle panel lean-to trellis I was used to using in the rest of my garden. I followed Joel’s conditioning method as described in his book. I was using Bahia grass hay bales because straw simply was not available in my area but everything worked perfectly and the results were spectacular. The veggies planted in the bale portion of my garden way out preformed anything in the rest of my in ground garden in every measurable way.

I have expanded my hay bale garden to 84 bales and left the rest of my garden fallow. I now have three times the production for a fraction of the effort and in a fraction of the space. My in ground garden was 200 by 75 feet and my 84 hay bale garden is 55 by 35 feet!
For many ears now I have been gardening exclusively in my 84 bale garden layout using the knowledge that Joel’s book provided along with experience gained in the processes.

I am now so sold out on this method that I try to convince everyone who talks to me about gardening to try it. I have introduced and converted many people that I in my local area and I don’t know how many via my FB page to the bale gardening method.

I am very excited for the opportunity to work with groups and individuals as an instructor to promote Joel’s method and and Bale gardening in general. I truly believe that I am helping people by doing so. I love helping people to find more success and joy in their gardening efforts. I also believe we need to convince more people to garden and I know that bale gardening is a positive and effective way to accomplish this. Bale gardening also makes gardening once again accessible for people who had given up due to physical limitations or lack of a “green thumb”.

I look forward to hearing back from anyone who is interested in learning how to use this fun and rewarding method of gardening. 🙂

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