Anyone tried Ruth Stout hay gardening in AZ

nutcr0ckerJune 10, 2010

I recently came across Ruth Stout's method of gardening---basically just cover the garden floor with 6"-8" layer of hay and plant in there. Sounds good. However, the heat(100+) and very dry weather might prevent the hay from breaking down(just my thought) sort of mummified/dried hay. Anyone tried the Ruth Stout's method in AZ?

My second question was about buying hay on craigs list, especially the alfa-alfa bales. are those mulched hay bales? or can i get it mulched? I have a 25'x12' backyard garden how many bales would I require for a 8" layer of hay?

I have a few vegetables going eggplant okras etc, can I use the hay mulch with them or will it be a problem?

BTW Bokashi works great in az heat even meat goes in with no issues


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You don't want the hay breaking down quickly.

The problem with hay is that it is loaded with weed seeds. Clean oat straw would work better.

To use bales hay, break off "flakes" from the bale and lay them down like tiles. it takes a LOT of hay, so ask for "spoiled" hay or the old stuff.

I use a 2-3 inch layer of shredded branches over my veggies and it works great. The drip lines are under the mulch.

8" is a bit deep for mulch, until the veggies get taller.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 10:34PM
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Thanks for the reply any tips where to get oat straw in az?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 11:14PM
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Be careful getting the alfalfa too wet in this heat. When it starts breaking down it will get very hot! Like 200 degrees! I just found out the hard way with alfalfa pellets, probably killed my peppers.
I'd use straw in the summer as it's cool and go with alfalfa hay or cubes in the winter for the nutrients and warmth.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 4:39PM
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You can get oat straw at most feed stores. Are you near Cave Creek, Buckeye, Casa Grande or Gilbert? They all have feed stores with straw.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 4:47PM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

I have used straw for mulch for years In California and in Washington. We moved to Lake Havasu last July.

In March I picked up several bales of straw for mulch and one of alfalfa hay to add to my compost bin. While straw is a very effective and cheap mulch, and it does break down into great compost....I have had a horrendous fly problem with it this year. I emptied the bin early and burried it in a raised bed, then covered it with straw. I've put up fly traps, introduced fly parsites, covered the beds with with a plastic mulch, and sprayed a couple of areas to no avail.

While I could put up with this for a season and chalk it off to a lesson learned, my neighbor is not pleased, and I can't really blame him. sumarize...I like straw....but it can attract and breed flies. Especially in the heat.

Good luck........Dave

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 8:34PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

I have always been organic, ever since I was a kid and my grandma and grandpa showed me how to plant a few seeds way back in the early 60's. I ran across Ruth's book in 1978 and it revolutionized my gardening. No more turning the soil! I was already toying with "no till" methods but her simple solution is the ticket, and I've done it basically that way ever since. Hay is not the only thing that works, any sort of mulch will do. You can check with local tree services that have chipper trucks and they will often times drop a whole load (or part of one) off for you at no charge (saves them a fee at the dump). Get your wheel barrow and pitch fork ready and mulch like crazy.
The main way I differ is instead of putting the mulch everywhere, I make beds that are mulched and run 2 drip lines over the top, down the length of the bed. (I use T-tape, and use the heaviest gauge) Each time I add mulch, I top dress then use an old hoe handle with just the hook (blade broke off) to lift the line back over the mulch. Beds should only be as wide as you can reach from both sides WITHOUT having to stretch to reach the middle.
I lay my drip line over the mulch so that water runs down through it and gets more of the mulch wet. It works with it under though, as enough water still keeps the bottom of the mulch moist. I just like the mulch to break down a little faster so it's feeding the soil.
I love Ruth's book, and have recommended it to many a fellow garden keeper. There are also several threads on this site about "lasagna" gardening which is basically the same thing by a more recent author. The term lasagna was one I came up with years ago, but I used the word to describe the way I make a compost pile, with layers, and then "cook" the pile. The author of Lasagna Gardening heard me use the phrase and asked if she could use it and I said sure, so Lasagna gardening was born.
Another good book is by Max Alth, How to Farm Your Back Yard the Mulch Organic Way.
BTW, I don't do that much compost piling, although it seems I always have a huge pile going somewhere on my 5 acres. Its to much work to move the material twice, plus turning. It's easier to just put it in place as mulch one time and be done with it.
Let us know how your garden grows.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 1:45AM
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Thanks for the tips, softmentor and others. I am exploring various solutions. I already do bokashi compost( a handful of that in [plants gives really good growth plus helps slightly against the landfills) started with worm bin(also makes a very good seed incubator in AZ). I have been throwing away my lawn grass mulch but would now try putting in my vegetable garden bed. I might start up a compost pile but only have a semi sunny patch for it well see.
Another thing about the bokashi liquid is that it is very acidic and makes very good additive for the alkaline az soil(mine was 9.5).

getting back to topic a dried oat straw and dried lawn grass mulch, will it generate too much heat for my veggie garden as some have pointed?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 1:59PM
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DrynDusty(z8 AZ)

I read Ruth Stout's book years ago, while living in Michigan, to great success. When we settled on the Navajo Reservation, in Chinle, we had similar success.
Here, below Payson, at 3000 feet, heavy mulch has allowed us to garden with minimal irrigation. When we can afford it we prefer alfalfa hay to straw, as it rots faster with less nitrogen starvation than with straw or wood chips.
We recently found a copy of Ruth Stout's book, so my wife discovered her wisdom and humor, and I enjoyed rereading it.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 5:43PM
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Looking at all the pearls of wisdom here I think ill do 50-50
bottom layer oat straw amd top layer alfa alfa. just one last question. Do I need to let the straw dry out initially ? or just use the dry straw?


    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 12:58AM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

lawn grass clipping can be good but do NOT use bermuda grass clippings as they will take root and become a HUGE weed problem. If you have bermuda, you can compost that first but even still, beware of the smallest start and root it out right away. Yes, the stolons can even survive the compost bin.
Also, as Ruth points out, most weed seed will be blocked by the mulch, but bermuda will grow right through it. Most other weed seed though is not a problem. If you get a little weed somewhere, just plop a little more mulch on it and poof, the weed becomes mulch too

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 2:27AM
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