Straw / Hay Question

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by ozarkyehti, May 3, 2004.

  1. ozarkyehti

    ozarkyehti Well-Known Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    My family has just moved to a small farm in ozark country and we are learning many new things. ( We are ex- St. Louis City slickers ) and we have a question.

    We have a very large, great place for a garden, but it is now pretty weedy. I am thinking of covering the area with a very thick layer of straw to kill off the weeds. ( ala Ruth Stout ). I have seen places around our area that are selling the very large (huge) bales of hay. You know the ones that are 6' tall or better. They seem to be very reasonably priced, I have seen them for around $20, I'm sure that the ones that are priced as such are probably damaged by rain and probably molded but to use them as mulch, that wouldn't matter.

    My question is, would these monster bales have hay seed in them. I figure that if they did, I would just be banging my head against my barn wall because I may have eliminated the weeds in the garden that exist now but will have to deal with the new unwanted growth from any seed in the bales. My plan is to cover the area with cardboard and then a very thick layer of hay/ straw mulch.

    I am learning a great deal from all the diffrent posts and want to thank everyone for all your help and ideas.
  2. GeorgeK

    GeorgeK Well-Known Member

    Apr 14, 2004
    Hay has seed heads, that's one of the differences between hay and straw. If it is really old (over 2-3 years) They might not be able to germinate? Depends on the seed. Hay like that usually has very little feed value.


  3. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

    May 11, 2003
    Well, if you keep mulching, they won't get a real chance to sprout. Yes, hay has weed seeds. Straw is from things like oats or wheat, were the seed is harvested and the grass part isn't really edible for animals. Wouldn't straw be cheaper? I haven't ever bought it. We have a good bit of old hay left from when we had cows, and that is what I have used for the last couple of years.
  4. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2003
    If you decide to use straw, don't use a big bale. You will have quite a chore getting the thing unrolled.

    Around here small square bales of straw go for $2.00-2.50, large round bales are about the same price as what you have found.

    You will probably find seeds in either straw or hay.

  5. Gayle in LA

    Gayle in LA Well-Known Member

    Sep 6, 2002
    Straw is generally free of weed seeds, though you WILL have some grain seedlings crop up in the mulch. DO NOT use hay, however old, for mulch!!!!!!!! It is full of weed seeds and seeds of the hay crop and you will have a horrible mess. Put old hay in your compost pile if you can get it real cheap, and cook it good.
  6. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    The Ozarks
    LOL Ozarkyehti, welcome to the area, but take my advice and build raised beds. TALL raised beds! You'll never stand a chance against the invasive weeds and rocks the Ozarks produces so abundantly :)
  7. Jagger

    Jagger Well-Known Member

    Apr 25, 2004
    Ohio...but not for long
    I agree with CJ go with raised beds. I would alos reccomend double digging.(if its possible) go as deep as you can go. You could use plastic mulches. I have also used rotten sawdust with much success.(as a mulch) DO NOT use hay. As another poster said if you have hay or can get it real cheap COMPOST it first. You will save your self years of trouble. Most hay is like cut orchard grass, and mowed downed feilds. Unless it is alfafa, but then you won't be able to buy a round bale for $20 unless its not fit for feed.

    Did you ever consider a chicken tractor? You could do as i have done in many places i have lived. I start by cutting the sod up completely, and shaking most of the soil from the the sod. Take the sod to the compost heap, or you can use the sod to patch up bare spots in your lawn, or you can use it as fill dirt. If you use it as a patch or to put in a new section of lawn or something make sure you water it well and keep it moist for a couple weeks untill it has a good foothold. Now double dig and make free standing raised beds. I never use any kind of support or walls to contain my beds. You can make the beds around a foot high or little more without the soil spilling out. It looks real nice too. If you have a foot of soil on top of the ground in a mound(bed) and you dug down a foot below that you'll be in business. It's alot of work, i mean alot of work. But the results a truly a miracle. Pace yourself, Rome wasn't built in a day. Have fun. Enjoy your garden to be.

    To garden is to beleive in tommorrow..........
    Be good
  8. Jim S.

    Jim S. Well-Known Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    We have two large conventional gardens, and before we even knew who Ruth Stout was, we were conventionally tilling them, planting veggies, allowing them to sprout, and then covering everything except the plants with a thick layer of newspapers topped with 4-6 inches of straw.

    Around here, you can get square bales of straw right off the farm for $2 a bale, and 4 bales will do a big garden.

    The newspapers hold moisture in the soil, while the straw keeps them weighted down. The papers help keep the straw seed from sprouting. We work real hard for a weekend to do all this, then the only thing we do in the garden the rest of the year is HARVEST. No watering (even in droughts), no cultivating.

    We pull the plants up at year end, but leave the papers and straw where they are. Next year, we till all that into the soil. It builds MARVELOUS SOIL! Oh, and BTW, there are zero harmful chemicals in modern low-rub newspaper inks, so don't worry about that part.
  9. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2003
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    i use old wet hay bales as planters... pop a plant in a hole or 5 in a bale and let em grow. by fall the bale is rotted into a blob and has all the seeds either rotted away or sprouted/died.
  10. kosh

    kosh Well-Known Member

    Apr 6, 2004

    I agree with Jim S. the straw/hay and newspaper thing is great.. so much better than tilling. I have started many gardens this way. Put a layer of newspaper over the weeds or grass and then a think layer of straw/hay. the best time to do this is in the fall, because by the time you are ready to plant in the spring, the grass or weeds have died and decomposed, the newspaper has decomposed and much of the straw has as well, giving you a great soil to start planting on. The past 2 summers i have had little time to maintain the garden. Using this system kept the garden growing wonderfully with little maintenance.

    good luck!