So now the bales are all in place, ready to go. But wait! They're not ready to plant in yet. They need to be 'conditioned' which means that they are encouraged to start composting inside.
Conditioning the bales is the next important step to starting your hay bale garden - they won't grow anything without this.
This conditioning needs to take place at least two to three weeks before you plan to get planting.
Watering and adding some high nitrogen fertilizer will get it started.
The more time and effort you spend on this the better your garden will be, and the more plants it will support.
The inside of the bale will get quite warm, just the right conditions for seeds to germinate, or little transplants to get established.
The moisture that a bale will hold is amazing - this is what you want, for a reserve of water for the plants as they grow. With regular irrigation as well, such as with a soaker hose or drip irrigation this will provide the plants with all they need.
I use captured rain water using my favorite watering cans, but if you have other water and use the slow drip type hoses that's fine too, as long as it's not too full of minerals.
Soaker hoses and drip emitters can clog with particles of calcium or sediment.
Use either compost tea or diluted urine to give a good start to the composting process.
Sprinkling mature compost or chicken manure on the top of the bales and then watering it in is fine too.
If you're planning on growing tomatoes on your bales, put a few cup fulls of Dolomite lime in the places you'll be planting them. This helps prevent blossom end rot when they fruit.