Transforming Your Asphalt Paving: Tips For Planting A Straw Bale Garden

One of the biggest disruptions to the visual flow of landscaping is a patch of asphalt in the middle of a design. If you've got a second driveway, additional parking area or just an extra paved space on your property, you may feel like your options for landscaping are limited. Removing the asphalt can be costly. If that's not in the budget, consider covering it up with a straw bale garden. Here is a look at what you need to know to create a thriving garden.

Building a Bale Garden

Planting a garden atop asphalt is the ultimate urban transformation. It produces more green space and helps you to improve air quality. In addition, it can even provide you with fresh produce if you opt to plant vegetables. Straw bales are an efficient and effective way to create a garden space over your driveway.

Create a Moisture Barrier

Start by covering the asphalt with black plastic or a root barrier sheet. This helps to prevent the transfer of moisture from the garden. If the asphalt beneath your straw bale garden absorbs too much water, it can swell and cause it to crack. The barrier also protects your garden from contamination by the chemicals in the asphalt. Without the root barrier, those chemicals can seep into the roots of your plants, potentially contaminating flowers and vegetables.

Spread and Prepare the Straw Bales

The total number of bales you'll need will depend on how much space you plan to cover. Measure the dimensions of the asphalt carefully before you invest in the hay bales to be sure that you have enough. It's better to buy an extra bale or two than to find yourself short.

Once the root barrier is applied, place the straw bales over the surface. Place them on their sides, creating a solid layer of straw that completely covers the plastic. Water the bales so that all of the hay is saturated, then apply about a pound of limestone over the surface of each bale, ensuring even coverage.

Fertilizing and Planting the Seeds  

You'll need an ammonium nitrate fertilizer to encourage the start of composting. Apply about six ounces of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to each bale of hay, and then water them all again. Over the next week, you'll need to keep the bales moist to encourage the compost process to start.

Check for compost progress three days after you apply the fertilizer. The center of the bale should have a temperature reading of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If it does not, you'll need to add more fertilizer to each bale. A week after the first fertilizer application, you'll need to apply three more ounces of fertilizer to each of the bales.

Let the hay compost for another week. Once you are two weeks into the process, your hay will be ready for planting. The internal temperature of the hay should have reduced over the second week, creating an ideal planting space. Insert your seeds directly into the hay bales.

Maintenance and Care  

Once you finish planting, keep the bales watered as you would a traditional garden. This ensures that the seeds have the moisture and growing environment they need to thrive. Most hay bale gardens will survive the spring and fall growing seasons, but will need to be composted after the fall harvest. Start the process again for the next growing season.

Tips for Success

Avoid planting anything that will grow top-heavy, such as corn. It won't get the support that it needs in this type of garden. Instead, opt for perennials and vegetables that are shorter, such as squash, cucumber, peppers or a variety of flowers.

With the flexibility of straw bale gardens and the ability to plant something new each year, you can create a whole new look every growing season. Use the tips, as well as tips from, to bring new life to that old asphalt space.