Organic in the Garden Grass Hay
Grass hay is an excellent organic ingredient for the backyard gardener. It has in the past been avoided due to the possibility of transferring weed seeds into the vegetable garden but quality composting methods have slowly made it a more popular ingredient.
Some years ago when I was first trialing grass hay in the compost, I placed an ad in the wanted to buy section of the local paper. The ad simply read “Wanted – Grass Hay – The older and wetter the better – Suitable for Garden mulch and composting” It was a simple ad so I was surprised by the number of phone calls I got.
When the hay is wet and old keeping it in a bale is no easy task but I managed to get several bales home. I kept a couple of bales for adding to compost between layers of lawn clippings and I used the rest of the bales on my pre existing vegetable garden The Hay was quiet old and half rotten so it didn’t take long to break down. The following season there was sufficient rotten hay to plant several rows of tomatoes in without breaking the soil surface. These tomatoes grew almost to my own height of over 5ft 6inches.
I often use grass hay now for building up soils and adding to garden beds over winter to prevent weed growth. Hay breaks away easily into bricks and packs tightly stopping weeds from growing through.
Some tips for using rotten grass hay in and around the garden.
- I grow potatoes directly under grass hay and plant lettuces in the same spot the following season. The hay has all but completely broken down by the time the lettuces are planted. The following season Turn the soil deeply and plant carrots. The previous 2 years have softened the soil making it easy to dig and giving the carrots a soft soil to develop in.
- I always add pre or partly rotten hay into the compost heap in between layers of fresh green lawn clippings. The lawn clippings build up the heat and the bacteria has already started working in the hay. It doesn’t take long before the compost is ready to use.
- Hay that has previously rotted on a vegetable garden can be raked off if required and used as mulch around roses or in annual flowerbeds.
- Seeds in grass hay are rarely a major issue as they usually germinate on top of the ground or in the hay itself as it decays. Any green can be easily pulled off or left to grow and dug in before they flower. Any twitch or rhizome grass species should be easily identified and removed by hand. Before it gets out of control.