Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Salt Hay Mulch

I hate weeding. I also hate weeds in the vegetable garden*. So, something's gotta give. The past couple of years, the weeds have won. Try as we might, we just can't keep up, and by July 4th I'm often rationalizing the state of our garden by saying that we're just camouflaging the vegetables from the herbivores. Nobody seems to buy it. So, this year, I decided to give mulching a try. I wasn't really sure what the best thing to do was - I wanted natural, but I also wanted effective, and I'm not convinced I could get both. Well, after very little research (which is unlike me), we ended up mulching with some salt marsh hay (actually, we went to our local nursery to get a sheet of black plastic, but they didn't have it and the guy suggested the salt hay. Since the salt hay is a lot more natural than plastic, his suggestion was pretty much all I needed)

First I did some preliminary weeding, hoping to set the little buggers back a bit. Then I laid some old newspaper down between the vegetable rows before placing a layer of the salt marsh hay down. The neighbors had a good laugh watching me try to get both the newspaper and the hay down while the wind gusted up every now and then. But in the end, I used up one of the two bales, pretty much covering the rows between our tomatoes and zucchini. Th onions and beans still seemed too small for me to be messing around them - if/when they get bigger, I'll add more hay - and I left the potatoes clear so I can "ridge" them.

I don't actually expect to beat the weeds. I'm just hoping to stave them off a little while. Hopefully, we don't end up with an abundance of weeds growing up through the hay.






* "weeds" in the lawn however are just fine - in fact, I'm pretty sure our neighborhood hates us since we're most certainly the source of 99.9% of the dandelions in our area. Our lawn is pretty much the exact opposite of uniform, green, and grassy. But it is alive with bees, snakes, frogs, and caterpillars - which is far more important.

7 comments:

Adrian Thysse said...

When I mulch perennial beds I also lay down newspaper first. I find it is helpful to dunk the paper in a 5 gal. bucket of water first before spreading to help prevent it blowing away. I use about an 8 page depth.

Jim Lemire said...

Adrian - I was placing sheets down and then using a watering can to soak them so they wouldn't blow away. It only worked moderately well. I like your bucket dunk idea much better. Thanks!

(and 8-pages deep!? I didn't use nearly that much)

Aubade said...

So, how is the salt hay working? Is it keeping down the weeds? I just read about it earlier today, since my veggie garden needs soem fertilizer/mulch. I found this post trying to find where to buy some in NJ. You are lucky your local nursery had it! I can't find it anywhere, even though I'm surrounded in (endangered) salt marshes...

Jim Lemire said...

Aubade - it seems to be working pretty well (knock-on-wood). I have the stray weed poking up through the mulch, but not many. As expected, the worse is right around the base of each plant and along the edges, but I'm not overly worried about that - the plants are big enough now that they should be able to out-compete the weeds. I think the real test though will be to see how it is in another month.

I read something about the harvesting of the salt marsh hay not being good for the salt marshes. I'll have to look a little more in depth to find out if this is a practice I'll feel comfortable continuing. For now though, ignorance is bliss...

Jean Demeter said...

Give a look towards Ruth Stout and her method of gardening. NO MORE WEEDS and a great healthy soil with
ease for the gardener.

Peace- Jean

madebymoe said...

I read about Ruth a few years back and since then have been using salt hay. It works GREAT! Weeds are much less and it adds nutrients to the soil. I think next year am going to add newspaper below the salt hay, only because the salt hay is $$$, it needs to be thick to do the job. By putting "wet" newspaper down first then a top dressing of salt hay , all will work plus look pretty.

Anonymous said...

I've been using salt marsh hay for 40 years as a mulch for all my beds--landscapes, perennial flower, fruit and vegetable gardens. It's cheaper than bark mulch because it doesn't need to be spread so thickly, it's organic if supplied from a reputable, licensed dealer, it doesn't rob plants of nutrients like bark mulch does, etc. However, it's difficult to find, especially in the summer. I've used a substitute called Mainley Mulch but it's not as good and is much more expensive.