Boost Vegetable Garden Harvests by Mulching With Hay

Read how one green-thumber spread 60 bales of hay on his 600 square foot garden and got amazing results.

| July/August 1976

  • compost hay
    Neighbors laughed at first, but the Ettelt's had the last laugh when their vegetable harvest soared after mulching with hay.

  • compost hay

"They laughed last spring when I spread 60 bales of spoiled hay on my small (600 square feet) Connecticut garden," says Harold J. Ettelt, "but they're not laughing now!"

Our house was built on the site of an old rock and gavel quarry and, three years ago when we moved in, its backyard was a sloping and crabgrass-infested semi-desert. I leveled out the slope as best I could when I enlarged the building's basement but, needless to say, the cobbley fill that I spread on the yard didn't improve its fertility a great deal. (Or at all!)

"What this backyard needs," I told myself, "is anything organic that we can put our hands on." And—over the next two years, by using the town dump as a leaf, grass clipping, etc., supply depot and our Opel sedan for a pickup—we man aged to turn a few inches of the near-sterile dirt into a fairly good layer of topsoil. Good enough, at any rate, to grow a reasonably respectable garden.

Unfortunately for that garden, however, my wife soon talked me into building her some raised flowerbeds (beautiful, stone-lined beds made with all the rocks and boulders I'd dug out of the cellar and the backyard). And once those beds were finished, they had to be filled with something. And that "something" turned out to be my vegetable patch's precious topsoil . . . all of it, right down to the rocky clay underneath.

Well, I certainly didn't begrudge my better half that fertile dirt because I knew that her flowers needed good soil and that, once she'd planted her perennials, she wouldn't be able to dig them up every year to add humus. Besides, she likes flowers better than I like vegetables. Still, there was no denying that her passion for blossoms had moved my gardening right back to where I'd started. And I was in no mood to spend two more years regaining the ground (literally!) that I'd just lost.

I had almost given up hope of exercising my green thumb when a listing in the Pennysaver— a local advertising throwaway—saved the day. My postman, it seemed, had just what I needed: 60 bales of old hay that he wanted to sell at a reasonable price. I bought it all and he delivered the "spoiled hay" ("organic mulching material" to me) to my door.

R B _2
5/14/2010 7:49:29 PM

So much fun to read this story. This is a modified lasagna garden at it's best! I tried lasagna gardening for the first time this spring and my garden is beautiful as of 5/13. Everything I planted is producing tons of veggies. I have used lots of hay. In fact, for Mother's Day when my children asked what I wanted, I told them, bales of hay!!! I was so excited to see the garden growing that I took my small tractor and scooped all the horrible dirt from my flower beds and "lasagnaed" them! I splurged and bought me a David Austin climbing rose. It came with bare roots, excellent stock, healthy. Planted it and it has lots of small rose buds right now, I was very pleasantly surprised. Lasagna gardening works! Even in Texas (about 1 hr from Houston).

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