Garden Experimenting: Mulching With Hay

I have a problem garden.  Weeds.  For years now I have been battling several different kinds of weeds in my vegetable garden.  They grow as tall as me if I let them (and I have) and they have little berries and flowers on them if they are left to go to seed (which I also have).  I am a busy mother of three lively young children.  Every year I plant a garden I vow I will keep up with the weeds.  But somehow the weeds keep up to me (quite literally at times) and I lose control of them.  By mid-August I usually give up entirely on them and worry about collecting the produce instead.  This year, our first spring with goats, I noticed that we had a large amount of hay left over.  Goats are notoriously wasteful with hay, and so I had a large amount to get rid of.  I thought about composting it, but also wondered if I could use it as mulch on my garden.
I began to research hay as mulch.  Some people say to stay away from hay and use straw instead because of the seeds that can be accidentally planted in hay, but I came across an actual way of gardening using hay as a permanent mulch.  You keep the hay down all year round, and only make little holes where you want to plant.  This sounded do-able and since I have an abundance of hay, thanks to my goats, I am giving it a try this year. 
Muscle-In-The-Arm (AKA my husband) did a fantastic job of rototilling.  Because it was so late in the season (June!  Eep!) I was right behind him planting seeds as he tilled.  The peas are poking out today, and so I dug into my hay.  The goat hay was already rotting and smelled like, well, rotten goat hay, so I used fresh bales instead.  I’ll let the rotted stuff decompose in my compost and put that on the garden another time.  I layered the hay on thick and loose, on my paths, around my tomato plants, on areas where the squash and cucumbers will spread, and around the up-coming peas.  As soon as the other seedlings come up I will put hay around them.  And then I will put my greenhouse seedlings neatly into little holes inside the hay. 
Some good reasons to mulch:
  • Mulching means less weeding.  That speaks for itself.
  • Mulch will keep soil cooler preventing plants from going to seed too soon.
  • Mulch will keep soil wetter so hot summer days won’t wilt the plants, and less watering will be required.
  • Mulch might protect against tomato blight which is prevalent in my rainy, coastal climate, by preventing rain from splashing mud on the tomatoes.
  • Mulching is a great way of adding compost to the garden.  It decomposes nicely, providing food for the soil.
I planted my potatoes on a bed of hay, and then under a thick layer of hay.  I cut the potatoes up into small pieces with an eye in each piece, planted them close together, and have left them to do their business.  Supposedly they will come up through the hay, and I will add more hay while they grow.  You harvest once the flowers are done, or (and this is the great part of growing potatoes in hay) you can lift up some hay and have a peak, and carefully remove baby potatoes for supper without disturbing the mother plant!  When you harvest your potatoes you don’t even have to wash them, they are so clean from the hay. 
The only worry I have is that hay is full of seeds, and I could end up with a hayfield instead of a garden.  Apparently, though, if you keep the hay thick, and add more as it decomposes, it will prevent weed growth.  This is my goal. 
To be honest, a hay-covered garden isn’t as beautiful as black, weeded dirt.  But it’s a whole lot more beautiful than a garden filled with weeds, and with all that’s going on this summer at our free range family farm, that’s about what black dirt would end up as.  I have great expectations!  I’ll let you know how it turns out. 
Did you like this? Share it:

Fatal error: Uncaught Exception: 12: REST API is deprecated for versions v2.1 and higher (12) thrown in /home/myheal97/public_html/blog/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/seo-facebook-comments/facebook/base_facebook.php on line 1273