Cirtique this plan, please.

My smaller secondary garden (maybe 30' x 50')has abysmal soil. I've been planting winter rye in it for the past three years, but the improvement has been minimal.
I recently received about 75 bales of rotten grass hay from a local farmer. A portion of this has already been spread on the garden and will be disced in this week. However, this farmer has other rotten hay to get rid of, and he proposed an idea to me.
He suggested we line up 5-6 round bales (the BIG ones) of grass hay and basically unroll them onto the garden. The idea would be to plant veggies in between these strips, using the hay as a kind of 2-3 year mulch layer.
I've thought this through and can't identify any obvious drawbacks, outside of the fact that I won't be able to plow or disc this area for a couple of years--at least until the heavy strips really begin to rot.
Am I overlooking any obvious drawbacks? The hay is relatively free of weeds.
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On 13 Sep 2003 09:00:06 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@muohio.edu (William Orth) wrote:

I'd do it. I can't see any obvious drawbacks.
Pat
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It sounds good to me....I'm envious of access to all that spoiled hay. There is a good argument to be made *against* plowing and tilling.
Try your local library for books by Ruth Stout, written around the middle of the last century. She kept a permanent mulch of spoiled hay on her garden, with great results, and writes about it in a witty and charming style.
The only drawback I can think of is a possible increase in your slug population (if you have one where you are). I have great success using "Sluggo", a non-toxic slug bait, around susceptible plants.
Cheers, Sue
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I'm a huge fan of Ruth Stout's method. I use alfalfa bales because I have no source of rotten hay. Look her up on google and you'll get the gist of her philosophy, which was a bit radical in her day. She had her detractors too. -Tracy

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I don't think anyone in our neighborhood had a successful first hay cutting this year. Our spring was very wet!
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snipped-for-privacy@muohio.edu (William Orth) wrote:

That's awful for the hay farmers, but a boon for the gardeners.
I can find no fault with your idea to unroll round bales on your garden. We use spoiled hay on our garden all the time, and despite our cool climate and short summers, it really adds to the soil fertility. (I'm in Alaska.)
If you can get some fresh manure (cow, horse, whatever) and compost some of that hay, you'll be a rich man : ) (I sell composted cow shit and hay for $100/pickup load and I'm probably not charging enough. My own garden looks like it's on steroids, just from top-dressing composted cow shit on it. I started new beds this summer. The neighbors are all embarassed that their gardens aren't doing as well, so I told them to go get some pickup loads of the compost [for free]. Free publicity. My girlfriends are all ratchet-mouths.)
Anyway, yeah, unroll the rounds onto your poor garden area. Everywhere we leave a square bale sit for awhile, then pick it up, there are earthworms up the wazoo underneath the bale.
If that farmer is giving you those bales and delivering them, make sure you do something nice for him. Fresh baked bread, cookies, the occasional jug of good wine or bourbon, etc. (Republicans drink Scotch; Democrats drink whiskey, as a rule. It's a weird rule, but it seems to hold true.)
Best wishes,
Jan
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On Sun, 14 Sep 2003 00:17:22 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@xyz.net (Jan Flora) wrote:

Not always! :)
Pat (occasional Scotch drinker, but NEVER whiskey)
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Gawd, I just can't drink Scotch. IMO, it's awful. But a difference of opinion is what makes the world go round, and makes horse races so much fun : )
Hey, how much frost can glads stand? Mine are within days of blooming and we're starting to have hard frost at night. We covered the glads last night with a visqueen tent, which the wind ripped off. The plants are a little wilty today (not bad), but I'm wondering if they'll make it to bloom. My SO (a homegrown Alaskan) has never seen a gladiola in bloom. (He also thinks apples come from the grocery store, so I planted a couple of trees.)
Jan
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On Sun, 14 Sep 2003 10:26:47 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@xyz.net (Jan Flora) wrote:

Can't help: never grew them.

Good luck with the apples! (And the glads, but the apples are more important, I think.)
Pat
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Boy are they pretty, when they bloom!

Even if I have to build tiny shelters over the apple trees to get them to set blooms, I'll do it. I'm a transplanted Californian, living in Alaska. I also want roses. *sigh* OTOH, I'm amazed at what will grow up here that won't grow down in the small states.
There's a woman across the bay from me who grew up in Oregon. She's got about 20 semi-dwarf apple trees inside a *giant* quonset hut greenhouse, because she wants apple trees. She told me that she put 42 apple pies down in the freezer last year : )
Jan
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There are people who grow apples in Alaska without shelters of any kind. You need to select the variety carefully of course. You need a hardy AND early ripening variety. Even then, it depends on what part of Alaska you are in. Alaska is a big state.... but you have probably noticed that. ;-)
Steve, in the Adirondacks, where we also have to choose carefully.
Jan Flora wrote:

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My apple rootstocks are from Canada and the scionwood is from Russia and Finland. (Well, the varieties are anyway.)
There was a big feature article in yesterday's Anchorage Daily News about an old guy in Anchorage who has ~150 apple trees. He sets up a roadside stand and sells apples this time of year. I've got to get up there to meet him one of these days!
Jan
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snipped-for-privacy@muohio.edu (William Orth) wrote in message

This plan is a lot better than winter rye and rototill. If the soil has, say, very low P or K winter rye does nothing for it. I even suggest that you cover all the ground with the hay, and plant through the hay. You won't be able to direct seed for a couple of years (you will have to plant seedlings), but then the soil will be fixed. I am guessing that one ton of spoiled hay has 6 pounds of P and twice as much in K. The worms will do your rototilling, with that kind of cover your dirt will be turned over completely about once a year.
If you have success with it (and you probably will) you should have some long term fertility in there. I continue to add some organic matter every year, but I stagger it around the garden so I can direct seed where I want. I still plant the tomatoes, zucchini, chard, cabbage, garlic etc., right through the mulch.
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MAN! i cannot believe my luck! for 9months i've been trying to figure out a way to get my hands on exactly what you've got!!
You have a gold mine.!! When the farmer drops it off...make it look like your doing him a favor so he won't catch on. well o.k. maybe i'm getting a little greedy here. ( Thank him profusely & send them pies once a month)
Try to get the book by "Ruth Stout" title: No Work Garden Book (Amazon.com product link shortened)63671283/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-0235349-9797664?v=glance&s=books it was on Amazon.com for $3.00 but you could also get it thru interlibrary loan. RuthStout will tell you how to do this, and you will have TTTHHHEEE best garden in the state!!!!!!! Man i can't believe how lucky you are! I'd kill to have it.
p.s. just to be really , really, nice to the soil; go to this web site: www.dirtdoctor.com under "information" then maybe "basic program"? and add the amendments he recommends. keep in contact with me i'd love to hear how it works out in time. also, take pictures of before & then after.
wow!, oh, and also send me some radishes! warmest, jfrost

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lot of hay! might want to investigate the posibility of spontanious combustion.
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