How to calculate how much hay is needed for garden mulch?

by Peg
(Jupiter, FL)

Is there a formula for calculating how much hay is needed to mulch a garden, ala' Ruth Stout method? i.e. X number of bales of hay to mulch 100 sq. ft. of garden to a depth of 12 inches. Or X number of lbs. of hay per 100 sq. ft. Or something like that.

I seem to recall something about this, but can't remember where or what the formula was.



Megan says...
How much hay is needed to mulch a garden?

That free spirit, Ruth Stout back in the 1950s onwards, used to say roughly ½ ton of loose hay or 25 x 50lb bales will cover 50ft x 50ft of garden. This mulch covers the garden to a depth of 8 inches.

Back in Ruth Stout's day, mulch materials were easier to come by due to a more rural community. Most backyard gardeners nowadays don't need, or would pay a small fortune for 25 bales of hay, straw, lucerne or pea straw or other mulch material.

So a more realistic easy formula is 1 bale of hay, broken apart into pads, will easily cover a garden bed 1m x 2m.

Ruth Stout used to just toss just about anything organic onto her garden wherever she found a bare patch or a few weeds growing. She used kitchen rubbish/garbage underneath, then seaweed, any and all leaves, pine needles, sawdust, old weeds, stalks and twiggy bits, and of course straw and hay. Anything that rotted was fodder for her garden mulch.

Read here for more information about organic-no-dig-materials

Comments for How to calculate how much hay is needed for garden mulch?

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Nov 18, 2010
How big a bale?
by: Susan

How much does your bale weigh that you use to cover a 1x2m garden with?

Nov 21, 2010
Size of a straw bale
by: Megan

The oblong straw bale here is roughly 1m long x 500mm wide and 350mm high. There are larger bales and also round bales, but the smaller ones I'm referring to, when dry, are able to be lifted by me - they're not quite 20kg I understand.

Next time I see a new straw bale for sale, I will get the size and weight correct, otherwise somebody else will correct me if I'm wrong with the above figures I hope :)

Apr 16, 2015
Basics for beginners? NEW
by: Anonymous

Stout's "25 x 50lb bales will cover 50ft x 50ft of garden" formula, when worked out, seems to end up being a ratio of 1 lb. lucerne hay to 2 sq. ft. of garden: 1,250 lb. of lucerne for 2,500 sq.ft... I may be wrong. And you seem to be saying to use 20kg (approx. 44 lbs.) of lucerne to a 1m x 2m plot (2 sq. m, or approx. 21 sq. ft.) which is a similar ratio but in reverse: two times as much lucerne as there is square feet, or meters, of garden? Very confusing, this. I'm having a heck of a time starting my permaculture garden because there are thousands of articles telling you what to use, how to layer, what to plant, and on and on, but no specific measures or ratios in simple terms for a beginner. Lots of talk of how "easy" it is, apparently only from people who've been doing it for years and I guess have forgotten what it is to be a beginner. Anyone out there who can say simply how much of each material goes on each sq. foot/meter of garden? Or is Stout's ratio sufficient?

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