Re: Re: [tomato] Hay Mulch (
Wed, 3 Nov 1999 11:49:28 EST

I've been watching the strong tides of opinion concerning mulches wash back 
and forth across my screen, and I find it fascinating.  I can imagine a 
dinner party where mulch fanatical guests come to blows over the consumme.  
"Now, remember, dear, no discussion of politics, religion, or mulches at 
dinner tonight!"
(I exaggerate, of course: things have been quite civil here compared to some 
of the sieges on the AOL Tomatoes board....)

I have several nonpartisan questions--at least I think they are!

This year (my first year of serious gardening) I learned of mulching with 
grass clippings.  About 2/3 of my garden was heavily mulched with them, and 
this portion of the garden did far better than the rest in weed suppression, 
water retention, and general plant lustiness and health.  I also have a very 
successful composter that I built out of hay bales.  Oh, and I'm in Zone 6, 
in the Hudson River valley. This is the background to my questions:

1) I was wondering what to do with the composter hay bales (which have  
somewhat decomposed in the course of the summer) over the winter.  Would 
there be any advantage to breaking them down into leaves (books) and covering 
the beds with them?  Wouldn't they break down further over the winter, and 
thus enrich the soil? Then I could till them in before planting next spring.

2) Are there any advantages to hay composting over grass clipping composting? 
The weed issue doesn't particularly concern me, as any good, thick mulch 
would prevent the growth of weeds, wouldn't it?  I lean towards grass 
clippings because they're abundant, free, and are proven to work in my 
garden, but I'm open to new information!

3) If the hay bales were going to introduce weed seeds, wouldn't they have 
done so in my composter?  My ever healthy bindweed nemesis certainly liked to 
take root there, but I didn't see other weeds in the compost, and I regularly 
pulled hay from the top down into the compost as one of my browns.

4) This is just a general query.  Doesn't anyone have any aesthetic 
objections to bright colored plastic mulches?  Unless one's gardening is 
heavily scientific, or totally production oriented, isn't the sight of 
glaring orange underpinnings to the plants displeasing to anyone else but me? 
 A friend gave me some of the orange plastic, I put it around some tomato 
plants, and within a week pulled it off.

Thanks for any and all thoughts about these questions--