Hanno and his son, Jens, drove over to the farm country west of here yesterday to buy enough hay to do both our families all year. Jens and Cathy live close by and when we told them we saw cheap hay being sold on the road we took to collect our chickens, we all decided it would be a wise move to buy as much as we could fit in Jens' pickup and our trailer. The real sweetener was that the bales cost only $2 each. During the recent drought mulch bales were selling anywhere between $6.95 and $10. The rains have brought prices down, but even so, $2 was too good to pass up. We ended up with 30 bales which were divided equally between our two families.
We use hay or straw on our vegetable garden, in the worm farm and in the chicken coop. These 15 bales will see us through the year. It's being stored in our shed.
- It provides a cover for the bare soil that will help keep the moisture in, and therefore reduce the amount of water needed for the garden.
- It helps reduce weeds. Weeds need sunlight and bare soil to grow. Covering the soil with mulch cuts outs out both those requirements.
- It insulates the soil surface against extreme heat or cold.
- It helps maintain an even soil temperature.
- It eventually breaks down to add organic matter to the soil, therefore increasing soil fertility.
When you apply mulch to your vegetable garden make sure you don't let it sit too close to the plants, as you'll rot the stems of some vegetables. However, this rule doesn't apply with tomatoes. It is helpful to go the other way with tomatoes. Push the mulch right up to touch the tomato stem as high as it will stand, and keep it moist. This will enable the tomato to send out more roots into the mulch. You'll get a stronger plant and more tomatoes doing this.
We always weed and water before we apply mulch. You'll find if you do that, you're giving the soil the best chance of producing bumper crops for you. The water you apply will stay in the soil longer, the temperature will remain fairly constant and you'll create the best conditions for growing healthy vegetables.
I'll be out in the garden today tending the chooks and worms, no doubt I'll also help Hanno mulch the garden. There is always something to do outside at this time of year. I have tomatoes to tie, the seedlings planted last week need some comfrey fertiliser and I have new seedlings to plant out. Hopefully the potatoes will be planted today.
I phoned Margaret, our chook lady, last night. It's bad news I'm afraid. None of the eggs has hatched. In fact Margaret said a few of them exploded under the broody! She's not sure why but thinks the fertile eggs exploded, the infertile eggs, which she candled, didn't. I feel sorry for the little bantam brood hen who was hoping to have a family of chicks to raise. After all that sitting and clucking, nothing. It's tough dealing with the disappointments of backyard farming. The joys of it are truly wonderful, but as is the nature of all things, the good is balanced out and you have to also deal with some harsh realities. This is real life being lived here - it's not meat and eggs on polystyrene trays with little thought to where they originate from. Real life is sometimes sad and doesn't always go as planned.
We are still hoping to increase our flock to around 20 hens. There are 12 there now so I might phone the woman we bought the other chooks from and take another trip out to pick up another half dozen.
Another week almost gone. I hope you have a great weekend and spend time doing something you love. Thank you for dropping by and for the comments left this week.
ADDITION: I found a very interesting blog that I want to recommend to you. Sadge is a reader here and I found her blog when I was visiting some of the new people who left comments. I really enjoyed reading about her life, her home, her memories and her natural environment; I hope you do too.