Hay Mulch Sprouted - Knowledgebase Question

Cincinnati, OH
Avatar for robroxanne
Question by robroxanne
September 25, 1998
I have a new (one year old) house. There is one large area of "construction soil" that I have not yet attempted to plant, because I don't know what I want to do with it yet. I know I don't want grass, and I can't plant trees, because it's over my leach field. Last fall, after seeding my lawn areas, I had a lot of extra straw bales. I spread this over this area, figuring it would be a way of sheet composting the straw. To my surprise, this year I have a strong crop of hay. This has been good, because it covered the area, and provided good erosion control. In the interest of best improving the soil, should I cut down the hay and let it decay in place, or should I leave it alone and let it die on it's own as the winter comes? Can I expect a new crop next year?

Answer from NGA
September 25, 1998
If there were seed heads in the bales of hay/straw, then as they broke open they seeded the area. Whether the grass will come back next year depends on what type of grass is in the hay. Most likely it's a perennial grass (hay usually is), so it looks like you've reseeded that area to grass! If the bales were indeed straw, rather than hay, then there should have been few if any seed heads. Straw is made up of the stems of grasses after the grain has been harvested, while hay is made from freshly-mown grassy fields and contains seed heads.

If the growing grass has already formed seed heads, then it has already gone ahead and reseeded itself. I would probably cut it down and let it compost in place. However, before you make any plans for the area, I would check with the contractor that installed the leach field. The general practice is to grow only lawns over leach fields--not flower beds, shrubs, or deep-rooted perennials. Check to get their OK before investing in any plants for the area.

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