Composting moldy hay - a no-no?

bethoJuly 8, 2007

So I was cautioned not to use moldy hay for composting because the mold can be damaging to plants.

So here's my specific situation, I live about 1 1/2 hours away from my land that has no water source and lots of deer so I'm not actually planning on GARDENING there for at least 2 or 3 years still. But, I decided earlier this summer that whenever I went up there to camp (about once a month this summer) that I'd try and find a truckload of some sort of mulch/manure (lots of farms and whatnot with extra manure to spare on the way up there) to spread out (like long-term sheet composting) in my future garden area so that when I am up there after my home is built I will have been amending the soil for several years.

Phew. So with all that explained, I am wondering if it's going to cause a problem to get a truckload of moldy hay and spread it out on my garden area? Since I don't plan on being able to actually garden the place until, oh, probably 2010.. I'll probably do some scattered sowings of the native lupines that grow in the area as a "cover crop" but I'm mostly just interested in adding organic material since I can't do a whole lot else right now.

So, basically, if I use moldy hay and spread it around the garden area, will it still cause a problem 2-3 years from now?

Forgive me if it's a dumb question :) The only composting I do so far is my 2 precious, precious wormbins that I love dearly so I'm sort of ignorant of the regular kind of composting :)

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Moldy hay is a great material to compost. Whomever told you otherwise is not familiar with the microbes in the soil. Molds are everywhere and they need to be.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 7:55PM
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My prediction is that if you lay down the moldy hay now, in 2010 you won't even be able to tell you put the stuff there. It will have composted in place and there will be no evidence of it other than some nice 'rich dark looking humousy to drool over ready to plant in patch'.

I gather hay in the fall from folks who have it after Halloween. Right now it's rotting quite well and the bales are starting to fall apart. At one point this summer, I'll pull the nylon cord out and spread it around just a bit and next year the area will be ready for a new garden bed. I will also use some for lasagna gardening and for the compost. Moldy or not, it's all good!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 8:54PM
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Betho, we had 2 big round bales of hay, around 1000 lbs. each, left from last season's crop that we didn't need for our livestock. When our neighbor put our portion of the new hay, again round bales, from our land into the barn, I asked him to set the old ones outside to make room for the new crop. I couldn't get much for it if I offered it for sale but after sitting out in the weather all winter, it will be worth its weight in gold as mulch (actually sheet composting). I plan to pull off the plastic netting that holds the bale intact and went it down from a hose. Then I plan to pour compost tea over the top to help get the rotting process started. I deep mulch in the fashion of Ruth Stout more than the current lasagna gardening so this hay will be a boon to me.

I agree that whoever told you moldy hay was damaging to plans didn't know what they were talking about. I prefer it to dry hay because it stays put and holds any existing vegetation down more completely. Just be sure to wear a dust mask when you spread it.

Good luck on your new farm.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 9:43PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Wonderful stuff!! Already well on the way to compost. Go for it. ;)


    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 11:02PM
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OK awesome :) That's exactly what I thought too, just wanted to check over here first. I don't post a whole lot but I lurk a ton and I know there are a lot of people on this forum that know their stuff! Thanks!

With that said, I am really excited to at least get the composting started :) :) :) Gotta probably make some phone calls here soon cuz I'll be out there again in a few weeks. And the soil there is already pretty dark and rich so it's going to be so fabulous by the time I actually move up there... drool... :)

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 12:26AM
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Moldy hay, spoiled hay, develops pathogens, toxins, that can make the animals that feed on it very ill if not kill them. But these pathogens do not affect plants, although the dusts these spores produce as you handle them are not good for you to breath. The most bestest thing to do with moldy, or spoiled, hay is to compost it, although some people do use it for mulch.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 7:03AM
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what a great situation you have! it'll be such a help to hit the ground running with your garden when you move in. we had months of arduous tree-root pulling (lots of dying ash trees were on my current garden site), not to mention a seemingly endless amount of rocks and gritty, unappealing soil to contend with before we could actually plant anything. you'll have lovely, healthy soil right away!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 11:54AM
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Just as the mold can make animals sick, the same mold can make us human animals sick, too. Lung infections are quite possible. Please use a dust mask at the minimum when handling dry moldy hay, or wet it down before spreading it.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 2:58PM
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