Building a No dig garden - Lucerne hay

by Helen Rushton
(Chch NZ)

I am keen to start a no dig garden and could you please tell me why lucerne hay is used at the bottom. My husband wonders why when it probably has been sprayed.

Comments for Building a No dig garden - Lucerne hay

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Sep 26, 2009
by: Lynn in Colorado

Oh dear...What would hay be sprayed with if it's meant to feed horses?? We got brown hay that had been rained on and so only fit to feed cows (poor cows!), but perfect for the garden.

Oct 11, 2009
Lucern hay in no dig garden
by: ~ Megan ~

Lucerne hay or any sort of straw or rough material is good at the bottom because it rots quickly and conditions the soil.
Whether you have clay or sand, then adding straw, hay, leaves, fine twigs etc will benefit the soil structure.
The compost and fertiliser on top will provide nutrients for plants to grow, but the soil also needs good drainage and aeration.

You don't strictly need lucerne hay or straw, you can put down your barrier to stop weeds such as paper, then just compost or even kitchen scraps, leaves, grass clippings.
It really depends on a lot of things, such as the quality of the existing soil; what you have available, how aged your materials are and how lazy you feel! It will all rot down eventually.

Regarding spray, yes lucerne hay is grown as a feed for horses, so it can't be too bad. If sold through a garden centre, it would be safe for plants. You could always make sure and ask for an organic supply.
If buying from a farmer, ask them if they sprayed, perhaps for weeds before or during the planting or growing of their hay or straw, or if they applied chemical fertilisers.
It's a difficult area, but constantly checking is the only way to be sure.

Oct 25, 2010
by: Helen

Lucerne is preferred because - as well as providing organic matter to condition / aerate the soil - when gfrowing it sends down deep roots that bring buried nutrients and minerals to the surface trapped in the foliage. When it rots down in your garden, those nutrients are released to feed your vegies.

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