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Using old silage bales as a base for Hugelkultur beds

 
Matt Swarbrick
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Hi All,

We have around 40 left over big round silage bales, Id like to use them as a base for a large windbreak and hugelkulture bed around our veg growing areas, we would strip off the plastic, line them all up and then add a bit of topsoil over the top.. We would mainly be planting a edible hedge in there, possibly with some edible ground cover as well, but the windward side is also the sun facing side.

I've never posted on here before, and I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this.

Warmest and best,

Matt
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Hau Matt, welcome to permies.

Sounds like a good idea to me. Those bales, if not spread out before putting the cover on, will hold a lot of water for at least five years of use.

I have some straw bales that get planted in, we use them for a period of two years then plop new bales on top of the decomposed bales.
The best I've seen for lasting time was three years, then the bales were so decomposed they became the base for new bales.

When you are starting new bales, you need to get them started decomposing (unlike a wood filled growing mound, these have to be encouraged to be decomposing before you plant anything in them).

We set our bales out and then sprinkle used coffee grounds on the tops, water it in and repeat this process every day for two weeks. This gets nitrogen into the straw and heats up the interior, starting the decomposition of the bales.
Next we sprinkle dirt on the tops and water that in, we repeat this process every few days for two weeks.
After all that, we are ready to plant in the first year bales. You stab a hole in the top of the bale and plant the seeds in the stab holes, fill them with soil and water.

Anything except for root crops (carrots, potatoes etc. can be grown in bales treated this way.
Potatoes do great if you start the bales as above but before you plant your potatoes you have to cut the strings that hold the bales together and remove at least half of the bale (which you then use to cover the growing potato vine to make the "Hill".

With the round bales being used as the logs, you really wouldn't need to water in any nitrogen or soil before you cover them.
I would however wet them down until water leaks out all the way around each bale before I put the dirt cover on.

If you aren't fully covering the bales with dirt, you are making bales as I described above, not a mound.

By the way, strawberries love to grow in the sides of straw bales that have been given the treatment I described above.
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