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For a Few $$ Build This Easy - Garden, Compost Pile, Play House, Solar Cooker in One!

Looking outside my kitchen window, I know that very soon it will be time to turn over the soil and plant my garden. I'm so excited to get started, because I've been waiting for this opportunity for about 6 months now (yes, we do have 6 months of "chilly" weather here in Ny ;).

Even though I love the process of planting a seed and watching it grow and give fruit, sometimes the process itself can be overwhelming.

Here in my area, we are fortunate enough to have our village built on stone ;) Of course our foundation will always be sound and I can have pretty little stone walls, but when it comes to digging a garden, I always welcome tips for making the process easier!

I was thinking of my grandpa, and how he used to garden using the "old ways." I used to love it when he would show me his garden and teach me things that must have been passed down from his father.

After remembering how grandpa's garden seemed to come together much easier, I decided to try some of his "old ways" in my garden this year! Here's my plan for our kitchen garden.

Let me walk you through the process, so you can save time - energy - and your back this year! Find a good sunny location for your garden.

Make sure you will be able to see your new garden from your kitchen window - after all, that's where we seem to spend most of our time ;) You also want it to be close enough to gather herbs and vegetables for your recipes.

We are going to build the garden with bales of hay. You can purchase them from local farmers for about $1.50 each. Place the bales in a square shape with a hole in the center. Each bale will be about 3ft long, so you can use as many as you wish to make the size you want. I will probably use 2 bales per side for a total of 8 bales per garden.

The center opening of this square will now become your compost pile. In this open square you can throw all your grass clippings, leaves, kitchen scraps, shredded papers, and other items that can be returned to the soil.

We will actually plant our garden on top of the bales of hay! Simply scoop out the hay to make several holes in each bale. Add some soil to the hole and plant! Because the bales are about 2ft tall, you won't have to be down on your knees or bending over all the time! You can treat the garden as you would any other garden, but it will take much less time, energy, water, and money!

In most gardens people spend a fortune on soil amendments for a large garden plot. In our garden we will only have to worry about the little holes that each plant is planted in. This will also keep weeding down to a minimum.

At the end of each season, simply fork the hay into the center compost pile & turn it to make sure that it's mix well. Then, in the spring you can spread this wonderful "black gold" around your flowers, or use it as the soil to fill your new plant holes.

To start your garden each year, just add new bales!


If you have children or grandchildren, you might like to make a secret playhouse for the little ones. To make a playhouse, don't add compost to the center of the garden, instead leave it open - as it will become the inside of their new hideout. Make a door by removing one bale of hay where you'd like for your door to be. Stick tall branches all around the top outside rim of the bales. Be sure to push the branches deep enough so that they will not pop out during play. Tie the tops of the poles together with twine to form a tipi.

You can plant any type of vine at the base of each pole. Some options might be; beans, peas, or morning glories. As they grow up the poles, they will grow into the "roof" of the playhouse. How wonderful it would be to play under a roof of purple morning glories!

This technique could also be used to plant your veggetable plants, making it easier to gather your harvest.

Cold Frame

For those of us who live in colder climates, we need to start our seeds 4-6 weeks early so they will have enough time to mature. For us, this same hay bale square will now become our cold frame. All you need to do is put your seed trays or small plants in the center of your garden square & cover the opening with an old storm window or piece of plastic. Make sure to check the temperature throughout the day, because even if it's cold outside, a little sunshine can bring the temperature to 95 degrees or more inside of the cold frame.

Which brings us to another use for our "square bale garden" - a solar oven!

Solar Oven

You can purchase solar blankets for $1.99 at large department stores. These blankets are made of reflective material to help keep your body heat in. Line the inside of a smaller "square hay bale garden" with this (or any) type of reflective material, and place your food inside. Cover the opening with your old storm window and cook your meals free! To learn the basics of solar cooking, google the term online. 

There you have it! For a few dollars each year, you can have an easy - no digging - no weeding - back saving; garden, compost pile, play house, or solar cooker!