Used hay as mulch instead of straw! What to do!?

Lowell, AR

I put the hay down in my vegetable garden about 3 weeks ago thinking it was straw. About a week ago I noticed a lot of grass coming up. I pulled up the bulk of the hay, but now my fertile soil is covered in seeds. What should I do?!? Should I use Preen? I like to be as organic as possible in the vegetable gardens, but I also don't want to spend my entire summer pulling grass weeds. I would love your input!!

Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

When they sprout, just run your hoe across it. The sprouts will die.

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

It probably was straw, which is usually full of seeds. Hay is a lot cleaner as most often it is cut before seeding. Most straw is from wheat, sometime s rye or barley. In any event it is will be growing out of season and and is very easy to kill. Like behillman says just run a rake or a hoe over it. It is an annual and will not reseed in future years.

Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

As a matter of fact, those Hay sprouts make a great cover crop. Putting Nitrogen into your soil. You can rake them out as soon as they sprout.

Tiskilwa, IL

Both hay and straw have the potential to have seeds in them depending on when & how well they were cut. I've had bad experiences with hay containing grass seeds and with straw containing wheat or oat seeds. (It can be hard to tell wheat/oats/rye from grass since they are, in a sense, just different kinds of grasses.)

There's no really good solution. You can rake or hoe it but in my experience the mulch gets in the way and makes that task very tiresome. You can hand-weed it; the easiest way in my opinion, if the weather happens to get real dry for awhile (or very hot for a short time), is just pull all the grass till you feel its roots come out of the soil & then just leave it in place to die (but it'll only die in hot dry weather that way.) That goes much faster than actually pulling each plant out and laying it down.

Prevention methods:

- check your mulch by getting it wet for a week right after you buy it and seeing if anything sprouts.
- if you have square bales, wet them thoroughly and daily (a friend used to leave them under dripping eaves) till all the seeds in there sprout. When the bal is broken apart the sprouts will die.
- learn non-mulching garden methods such as undersowing. (Seriously. This is what I did because I can't get decent mulch without seeds in it and it costs too much. I'm liking the undersowing method a lot.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Hay sprouts only makes a good cover crop if it's alfalfa which is a type of legume. The others just make a weedy mess. I have Johnson Grass from hay mulch, I will NEVER do that again.
All the hay here is coastal hay. Great for livestock but a mess in the garden.

What's "undersowing"?

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

One way you can help reduce the seed sprouting is to "compost" your hay or straw mulch in the bale, before you break it open. Prepare the bale(s) just like you would for a straw bale garden and cook the bales to reduce the number of seeds that will sprout. Use a long cooking thermometer to verify that you are heating. Also, cooking the bale longer will help to further reduce the number of seed sprouts

Excerpt from one of the straw bale threads:

Preparing Your Bales

It takes 10 days to prepare your bales.

Days 1–3: Water the bales thoroughly and keep them wet.
Days 4–6: Sprinkle the bales with 1/2 cup of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) per bale per day, and water it well into the bales. I didn’t have any trouble finding ammonium nitrate from my local ag-supply store. They sold it in 50-pound bags. I have heard, however, that some people have had difficulty finding it in more urban settings. Ask around.
Days 7–9: Cut back to 1/4 cup of ammonium nitrate per bale per day and continue to water it in well.
Day 10: No more ammonium nitrate, but do add 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per bale and water it in well.

Tiskilwa, IL

1lisac: Undersowing, in a nutshell, is where you plant your crop, wait for it to become established (usually six weeks) and then plant a cover crop around it.

For example, I might plant a few rows of green beans, peppers and tomatoes, and I'd cultivate between the rows with a push cultivator (aka wheel hoe) to keep the weeds down, and then after about six weeks I'd take some clover seed and sow it between the rows. Not quite right up to the crop, but on the paths basically. The clover doesn't compete with the crops since it's so much younger, it's fine to walk on, you can mow it like a lawn (I use a weed-whip) to kill whatever other weeds want to come up through it (the clover bounces back quicker & ends up shading out everything else) and to make sure it doesn't drop seed everywhere.... and then you have a nice cover-crop in place for the winter & early spring which benefits your soil.

This makes it sound ideal but like anything else it is a little tricky to get right. But I'm liking it.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Thank you for explaining it. I've never heard that term before.

SW, AR(Zone 8a)


Add more and more mulch, hay. That’s the way Ruth did it.

Check out Ruth Stout’s "No-Work Garden Book". It was an interesting read for me.

With her method she had time to garden and write books—but she practiced in the NE.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I have read about her work and do lasagna gardening. Now my concern is about hay (straw) contaminated with systemic herbicide, that's something she never had to worry about.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

First FIND OUT what type of straw/hay you actually used...

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Still won't tell me if an herbicide systemic hercidide was used on it. I know people that have had to wait 3-5 years for the effects of contaminated compost and hay to leave their garden.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Actually it gives you a basis to start with, hay for animals - horsehay is finer and cleaner- cow is rougher and includes grass burs, HAS usually been pretreated in the south, oat n wheat straw mostly is pretreated unless grown SPECIFICALLY for gardening. We just have more growth to contend with...also, coastal /bermuda may be a permanent seed if you dont move fast. Milo, haygrazer, oat/wheat straw are easier to control if they do seed. Fescues across the south in Texas arent used for horsehay because the fescue pastures have a90% test rate for a fungus toxic to horses. Alfalfa older established pastures usually wont be treated and first cuttings are weedy, but following cuttings will be cleaner.Find out from your supplier abt where he got the hay

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

If you can sprout peas in it, it probably doesn't have much residual herbicide. Pea seedlings are extra-senstive.

I forget, is it too late to rake a lot of it off?

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Rick, that's what I use to do. I tried to grow a legume in it first as they are more sensitive to systemic herbicides.

I don't use hay/straw anymore. Even though I have livestock (cows, goats, donkeys, horses) I just don't trust it. I feed coastal hay, as does everybody else around here. Since the drought started here hay comes from everywhere and they will tell you anything to sell it.

I think it's a great idea, but after all the problems with contaminated hay, straw and compost I just want people to know it could be a possiblitliy.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> and they will tell you anything to sell it.

Sigh, I'm sure you're right.

In science fiction, two common themes are "what if we had telepathy?" and "what if we had reliable lie detectors?"

The smartest "lie detector" story I ever read made the point that as things are now, many or most marriages would self-destruct, most politicians would be recalled and/or go to prison. Courts, lawyers, salsemen, advertisers and lovers would have to change their behavior 180 degrees. Society and relationships as we know them would collapse!

Maybe they would be replaced with something better, in time.

I also liked the story about the flying saucer aliens who landed and asked why we had so much trouble making democracy and industrial bureaucracies work. "Oh, you never invented these A--h-le Detectors!"

They demonstrated walking up and down the isles of Congress and large busniess; Executive Row, pointing the A--h-le Detector at each person. If it beeped, they would write down his name and remind us that he could never be allowed to hold power and authorty over anything improtant, ever again.

THEN democracy and business worked well for everyone, not just sociopaths naturally attracted to positions of power.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

5% guys. This little piggy went to market, this lil piggy stayed home, describes realtime life. Shake head, It takes ALL of us to keep ALL of us dancing.

Some regions benefit from strawbale planting and others dont need it. Heard on the news as I drove thru Des Moines today- The Iowa Soybean -uh?- Commision -is gearing up to teach the farmers that weeds are becoming increasingly resistant herbicides. The herbicides just aren't working on weeds anymore...better late than never maybe?

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

This isn't stawbale planting. Ruth Stout's book and methods are something I dream of doing and I've read a lot about it. It's a proven method that I hope to be able to do one day. I just wanted other gardeners to be aware that there is a down side. But I think you could plant in any type of mulch and still be using her ideas. I know others that plant in bales, which I may try at some point, but that isnt the same as using it as mulch. There is another name for it too, but it escapes me ATM. All my paperwork is at home, but I'm in SoCal . I have grown potatoes like she did but it was by

Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

We have Rye Grass in Texas. Would this make a good cover crop?

SW, AR(Zone 8a)

Ruth Stout tells a highly entertaining tale on her way of gardening. She grew many nourishing and tasty veggies with her method, I am sure, and the love she had for gardening comes across clearly in her writing.

We gardeners in warmer climates don’t experience, obviously, the winters that Ruth’s tucked-in (I would like to see her hay bill.) plot of garden experienced. I picture Connecticut ground in winter freezing and staying frozen for a fatal, to many insects, depth and length of time. Early, on very cold—to us—mornings, our soil will only have a crunchy crust which thaws nearly always by midmorning. From the perspective of insects that are trying to over-winter, they will be snug as a bug in a . . . blanket of hay. At our latitude, using Ruth’s method over a period of years will exacerbate insect problems, I think. And I’m not a big user of insecticides; we have a dearth of pollinators already.

I do like the preservation of soil moisture which mulch offers and, also, the temperature stabilization of the soil on brutal July and August days which we so often experience.

If you think about it, a certain amount of hay contains a certain amount of energy. A certain percentage of that energy, through decomposition, is going to end up in your garden’s soil. Hence, the hay that stockmen desire the most, the most expensive hay, is going to put the most energy into your garden’s soil. So, to do the thing right, you need to mulch with the most expensive hay. A “square bale” of top quality hay at a feed store in this area is presently going for about seven to nine dollars. How deep into your pocket are you willing to dig to do it right? You’d need the proceeds from a best-seller.

Any vegetable gardener who expounds at length and doesn’t mention fire ants, termites, stink bugs, or squash bugs reminds me of the Jimmy Buffet line: Changes in latitude, changes in attitude . . .

But then comes to mind the old saw: There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Miss Ruth’s physical condition—an aging body—very possibly led her to develop her method. It’s easier to carry a handful of hay and drop it on an unwanted sprout than it is to run a tiller. Necessity is the mother of invention (more of a quote—Plato; but it continues to ring true). Yes, I like aphorisms; there must be strength in them or they wouldn’t last.

I also like to yack about growing food.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Rye would work, but it likes it cooler doesnt it? it also gets pretty tall and doesnt really add anything to the soil while it soaks up moisture...

SW, AR(Zone 8a)

We have what could be divided into more than one thread going here, it reads—mulch, under sowing, cover crop.

Yes, in my part of 8a, Rye Grass is early and it grows tall. It also makes a seed head . . . . and it attracts deer!

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I remember I had a lot of left over hay (mulch) in the garden in the winter 2009-2010, and spring 2010 was the worst insect infestation I'd ever had. Even then I thought the mulch had helped the bugs overwinter.

I still love the idea of no till gardening. But every time I moved some hay there were a ton of bugs under it.

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