You’re probably wondering who would grow a garden for their goats. We are those odd people who do this, but it’s not just for the goats.
Over the past several years I’ve struggled with my gardens during the summer in SW Florida. The weeds, the insects and the humidity are so extreme by July and August that I can barely stand to go outside. I don’t want to pull weeds in the summer and I’ve had enough of the fire ants.
One summer I let the weeds take over and it was back-breaking work to reclaim my garden in the fall. Another year I spread black plastic over everything. I was hoping it would prevent all weed growth. The weeds still managed to survive somehow and the black plastic disintegrated quickly. It didn’t look good and I had to send a bunch of plastic to the landfill. I felt terrible about it. Last summer I put down weed mat fabric so the water could still get through but the weeds wouldn’t get the light they needed. This worked, but it still wasn’t my solution. The fabric shredded easily and had to be staked down everywhere to stay in place. I found it difficult to plant around it and I wasn’t happy. These methods might work great for many others, but they weren’t working for me.
This summer I tried something new and it is the answer I have been searching for. Our dairy goats love to waste hay. They are messy eaters and once the hay hits the ground they won’t touch it. I have been collecting all their wasted hay (it’s a lot) and putting it on my gardens. This has kept the moisture in the soil and provided awesome insulation against the heat. I planted sweet potato and tropical calabaza pumpkin vines which quickly covered the ground. The weeds are much more manageable now because there is only a small patch here and there. I also planted some heat-loving sunflowers and pigeon pea bushes. It looks like a jungle, but it’s a jungle of food instead of weeds. When I’m ready to mow it down to plant vegetables in the fall, I’ll let the goats finish it off. This has worked out so well that I’m hoping to do it every summer.
A friend told me she had trouble with this method because she ended up with some treated hay that prevented growth of any kind in her garden. I was afraid to use my hay for a long time because I didn’t want this to happen to me. Another reason I was told not to use hay was because it might come with weeds in it that would germinate. My garden has never been weed free, so I was willing to take the risk. Ideally, the hay should be composted first, but I’m just not going to do it. I’m happy to report that I’ve been using my hay as mulch for over a year now and it has done wonders for my gardens in every season.
I still need to pull weeds this summer in some of my garden beds that don’t have much planted in them. The past few weeks have been so hot and humid that I’ve resorted to throwing the hay on top of the weeds to smother them instead of pulling them out. There are probably lots of reasons not to do this, but it’s working out great for me. It’s keeping the beds looking tidy. I’ll deal with the weeds when the threat of heat stroke goes away.
We walk our goats to their garden several times a week to help them get some exercise. These dairy goats have been such a win-win for us. There’s no going back to life without them.
Come grow with us!