Hay mulch question

Hay, a few questions for those who use hay as a mulch in their gardens.
I found some free hay bales today that was to be throw out so I grabbed it to use as mulch when the growing season comes around. The bales are standard pasture hay, grasses and whatever else was growing at the time of cutting. I have no idea how old they are, no one could tell me. A couple of the bales are actually growing grass on the top and all the bales are starting to go mouldy inside. It is late late autumn here, the cold rainey season is upon us..
A few questions for those in the know. What is the best method of storing hay in this condition? I though either in the (cool dry) garage or outside under a tarpaulin. Do I need to worry about the mould inside the hay? I have heard the odd story of hay self combusting when it rots, any chance here you think. I thought to kill the grass simply by placing it face down and letting the lack of light deal to it. Anything else I should be aware of?
Thanks Rob
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sensible people use straw, not hay.

don't breathe the mold when you break it open. and you do know that hay is just chock full of grass & weed seeds waiting to grow, right? so you aren't planning to mulch a garden with it... unless you *really* love weeding. there's a reason those bales are sprouting grass... i've never heard of a dry (cured) bale catching fire, but just baled green grass bales do heat up & spontaineously combust sometimes. seriously, since it's autumn there, the best thing to do with half-rotted hay is to just compost the bales. don't use it for mulch lee
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cheap buggers, like me, are attracted to using free stuff. I will obviously need to do some more research on what was in the hay, on the pasture, and weigh up the risks. It is recommended as a, excellent mulch by the domestic gardeners bible, the Yates Garden Guide first published 1895.
When you say compost it, are you meaning in with the rest of the mix or do you have in mind some special process that will 1/2 rot the hay down but keep it intact as a substance in its own right?
rob
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COmpost it until none of the original hay is recognizable as hay, it will still be chock full of pasture weeds so use the compost in deep shade where they can't gat a start.
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You'll find many erroneously use 'straw' and 'hay' as interchangeable words when talking about mulch.......not true, they are VERY different. If you mulch with the hay you have you'll be weeding for years to come with what will be growing in your garden from that field. If you leave it baled and it's already wet and starting to mold and you put it in your garage or tarp it you better check your home owner's insurance policy on how they pay out fire damage. There's a good reason why farmers don't store hay unless it's bone dry. The other poster mentioned spontaneous combustion.......I suggest you look that up and read carefully. More than one barn has gone up in flames because of a wet bale.
If you turn it over, as you mentioned, the grass will just grow out of the "new top". You could break open the bales and spread them out and then cover the large thin layer with a clear heavy plastic and weigh it down and let the heat of the sun cook it to kill all the weeds.......that's if you have room and since you're going into winter it will most likely be a greenhouse instead of an oven so probably not really feasible, unless you can leave it like that on into the coming summer to cook the bejeezuz out of it.
If you insist on using this stuff in compost you'll want to break up the bales, spread it out and then mix it well with your compost pile and let it rot down.....(wear a mask since you have no idea what kind of mold spores you're dealing with).........and check the temp in your pile to make sure it heats up to kill all the seeds you have in there, then keep turning and heating until you get it down to the black loamy stuff compost is supposed to be. You'll probably still get weeds you've never had before when you use the compost but it won't be so bad........just weed, weed, weed and weed some more before all that stuff you've imported goes to seed in your garden.
Val
Val
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