Planting corn the Ruth Stout methodgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
I just had this wacky idea.
I'm moving onto some property that is timber and hay in eastern washington (zone 5). We'll be arriving a few weeks after the last frost, so we don't have a lot of time to get our field corn into the ground if we're going to get a harvest. Another problem is that the soil looks like gravel. I'm thinking I need to improve the soil, while simultaneously growing corn. And I don't have any compost made yet.
I'm guessing that there may be a lot of folks with leftover hay that will be willing to sell it cheap. I could stake out a portion of the hay field where I want to grow my corn and "tile" it with 2 inch thick haybale flakes. Wherever I want to put in a corn seed, I could peel away some tile and make a six inch wide hole and plant the seed.
The hay should control the existing grass, and as it breaks down, feed the soil and the corn.
I'm thinking that this is a crazy enough idea that I should check here first to see if there is anything I have overlooked.
-- Paul Wheaton (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 07, 2001
Paul, your basic idea is sound, but just 2 inches of hay won't last long, I think more like 12 inches deep make a pocket for about a pint or more of soil and a pre-sprouted corn seed or two, or even whole square bales, add a few worms and whole bales won't last long either.
-- Thumper (email@example.com), May 07, 2001.
My current goal is to control weeds (the hay grass that is growing there now) and give a little bit of nutrients to get started.
I'm already thinking that about a month down the road I'll supplement with compost or maybe more hay.
Putting too much hay down now would make the soil too cold, wouldn't it?
-- Paul Wheaton (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 07, 2001.
Yes, the hay will hold the cold in longer, but pre-sprouted corn will grow in colder temps than it takes for the seed to sprout, of course frost would have to be out of the ground, and in thick much the upper 6 inches or so becomes the growing zone, I have pre heated some areas with clear plastic and/or water jugs. If I can find my soil temp charts, I'll post the temps for corn, someone else may have the info. handy to post it sooner, I know the square foot book has some. I would be tempted to try green peas or other plants that like cold feet, at first and add the corn in a bit later. And the corn will grow in the hay bales, I've done it for fun and gotten big pants that didn't fall over as easy as just in the ground, by puching a hole down into the bale with my fist(gloved) adding some dirt, the bale was already starting to rot real good. When I tryed it with other kinds of plants the roots didn't have the sturdiness to do as well for me. Do you know what kind of grass hay it is growing there now?
-- Thumper (email@example.com), May 07, 2001.
Be very careful using hay. What kind is it??? Timothy (I think...) and alfalfa (definately) are both perennials. It is often baled with the seed, and could take over your garden!!!! Chopped straw would be better. I know that here and in OR, you can get straw for $84 per ton, so the price wouldn't be all that bad.
Most 'hay' doesn't break down as straw would, either. If this is alfalfa, it will not only crowd out your corn, but will continue to grow until it seeds or is cut. Most alfalfa fields are cut as often as three times per year, more in Southern climates. Get a copy of the Sunset "New Western Garden Book".... The weather here in central ID seems like it would be zone 4 or 5, and several seed catalogs state it as such. We (in Idaho City) are actually in zone 1...
-- Sue Diederich (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 07, 2001.
Hi Paul..I too am a fan of Ruth Stout,,and used her method for gardening and softening the soil. I injoyed it,,but,,,,I put my straw (not hay) down in the fall after a freeze,(so the slugs and whatever, wouldn't come to my garden to live under the straw. I left it to work all winter,,by spring the soil was so workable I just had to move the straw and punch or dig holes for my plants. Any weeds that grew (very few) were so easy just to pull out.
****suggestion...be sure and move the straw (or hay) before it warms up because slugs (if you have them in your area) will come to live in your garden otherwise...disaster!! and a battle!! Than put the straw back on for planting,,unless your plott is too big,,maybe you have a solution for that. I also had potatoes grow (volunteers)up through leaves...and did great. My compost pile has produced lots of veggies that came up from seeds after wintering over. Amazing to me, but of course I was pleased. :-) I didn't do anything special just kept throwing all veggie left-overs,etc on the pile. ***happy gardening! Patsy
-- Patsy, MT (email@example.com), May 08, 2001.
You might try finding 'The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening' by Gene Logsdon published in 1997(?). He talks about mulch gardening in several chapters including how he does corn. He farms/homesteads in Hamilton Co. Ohio about 60 miles South of Cleveland. The same methods should work for you, too.
Regarding using hay and the possibility of self-sowing alfalfa: seed viability will depend on which stage the hay was at when cut. If it's an early cut the chances of viable seed are slim. Have You planned ahead for the field where You'll try this? If You're using a rotation through the fields, having the hay self-seed could be an advantage. Hay and small grains are often seeded into a stand of corn as Fall pasture, a Spring crop, or as green manure. A legume such as alfalfa will also help fix nitrogen in Your soil.
Then if You don't have the time or equipment to harvest hay or grain, You can either fence or use animal 'tractors' to harvest... *grin*
E-mail if You need more help. Good Luck!
-- Randle Gay (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2001.
I would recommend a book called "Chicken Tractor". In it they explained that by using a "chicken tractor" (a small portable pen) made to fit the dimensions of your garden bed you could throw your hay into the chicken tractor, the chickens would break it up, eat the seeds (and bugs from soil below, etc) and leave you a nice bed in which to plant. Seems like a good idea.
Another I have read is "Lasagna Garden" in which they describe laying out bales of hay the size of your garden (or future garden area). You lay them out complete - don't break them up. Then place some compost and top soil on top of it and plant on/in it. Doing so will supposedly break the hay down all the faster for rich soil.
Both ideas sound great. I may have to try some of them, because just using the hay doesn't seem to be doing real good for me. I'm very frustrated at my "crummy" garden this year. I planted 50 strawberries in hay mulch - only 2 lived. Have now removed the mulch and the 6 new strawberry plants (from a friend) are doing fine (as are the 2 I put in a pot.
-- Shiloh's Child (email@example.com), June 17, 2001.