Back in the day, I was known as the “goat blogger”…
…thanks in part to my Goat 101 series and our small herd of extremely hard-to-contain dairy goats.
But as I drifted away from the world of goatiness (hello big beautiful Brown Swiss milk cow!), I’ve found myself taking on a new identity:
“That mulch garden girl”
Yup. That’s me. And I’m happy to claim it.
I won’t go into the back story of how I got into the whole mulch thing because you can read all about it here, but needless to say, I’m going on my third year of heavy mulch, and don’t plan to go back to bare dirt gardening anytime soon.
In my garden, deep mulching has:
- Cut my weeding time down to almost nothing
- Reduced the amount of water my garden requires
- Reduced the frequency I have to water
- Improved my soil (there are worms everywhere now!)
- Helped me fall in love with gardening again
Even with all those benefits, inevitably when I start talking about spreading mountains of hay on my garden, I get a number of folks who think I’m slightly insane. Not that I blame them or anything– it does look rather bizarre at first. And then after the sideways glances fade, the questions come…. Through email, through Facebook, through blog comments, you name it. You wanna know the details, and that’s good, because that’s why I’m here.
If you want the FULL scoop on the plan, purpose, and process of deep mulch gardening, you definitely want to grab my free mulch ebook– it includes pictures and ALL the details.
But today I’m specifically going to answer some of the most common objections and questions I get regarding this unorthodox method. If you’ve been considering this method, hopefully you’ll find the As to some of your Qs below:
Deep Mulch Gardening FAQs
Q: Do I need to worry about using organic hay?
A: I wouldn’t necessarily worry about getting certified organic hay. However– you need to be 100%, absolutely, positively certain the hay you are using has NOT been sprayed with herbicides. Read my sad story about this here.
Q: You say to mulch with hay. Won’t this introduce hay seeds into my garden and result in a whole lot of unwanted grass?
A: As long as your mulch layer is thick enough (at LEAST 8 inches), you should NOT have problems with hay seeds. If you do end up with a thin spot and grass poking up, simple cover with more hay. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a deep enough layer, though.
Q: I’m still worried about hay seeds. Can I use straw instead?
A: Sure! I prefer hay since it is easier for me to obtain, but straw will work too. You can also use leaves or really any mulching-type material you have available.
Q: Have you heard of the Back to Eden method? Why don’t you use wood chips instead?
A: Yes, I am very familiar with the Back to Eden method and love the concept. There are a few reasons I chose to go with hay mulch rather than wood chips:
- Hay is much more readily available to me in our local area
- I have heard from a few people who tried the Back to Eden method with sketchy results. I suspect this may have something to do with the nitrogen content in various soils or how long the garden had to age and mature. I personally was nervous about hauling in loads of wood chips, dumping on the garden, and then having to remove them all if it didn’t work like I had hoped.
- This post written by a fellow homestead blogger sealed the decision for me.
Q: Doesn’t the deep mulch attract lots of mice or rodents?
A: I personally haven’t had mice issues in my garden, but maybe that’s because they are all in my house… In all seriousness though, I have yet to find evidence of mice tunnels or nests in my mulch, even though I have plenty of mice in the barn, chicken coop, and yes, house.
Q: Does the deep mulch attract lots of snakes?
A: We have a decent population of bull snakes and rattlesnakes in our area, but I have never had issues with them in the garden. I do suspect our free-ranging chickens help to deter them from around our yard/barn area, so maybe that plays a part.
Q: What about slugs and snails?
A: I get this question a lot, but unfortunately don’t have an answer since we don’t really have slugs or snails here in Wyoming. If you do deep mulch in an area with slugs, I’d love for you to let me know your experiences!
Q: And voles? Do you have vole problems?
A: I wish I had a clear answer for this, but voles are not prevalent where we live, so I have not had experience with them in a garden or otherwise. Sorry!
Q: What about moldy hay? Can I use that?
A: You bet. Rotten hay will work just fine. Just be cautious when handling or spreading moldy hay and be sure to wear a dust mask, as that stuff can really mess up your lungs.
Q: Do you have to remove the hay so you can till in the spring?
A: I’m going on my 3rd year of deep mulch and the rototiller is still sitting in the shed collecting dust. Last year and this year I have planted with zero tilling. I simply pulled back the mulch, “roughed up” the dirt in the row with a hoe or a stick, and planted as usual. The mulch kept the soil soft and wet– no tilling required.
Q: What about fertilizer?
A: The rotting/decomposing hay will provide some nutrition and organic matter for the soil. Beyond that, the Queen of the Deep Mulch method, Ruth Stout herself, used cottonseed or soybean meal to fertilize. I personally prefer not to use cottonseed or soybean meal, so I have been amending rows with finished compost as needed. So far, so good, but I plan to keep experimenting with this. Stay tuned…
Ready to jump on the deep mulch train and cut down your garden chores drastically?
Other Deep Mulch Posts:
- How to Start a Deep Mulch Garden
- Deep Mulch Garden: Wrap Up
- Deep Mulch: Year Two
- Deep Mulch Video Update