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How to fertilize a hay field with out using industrial petroleum fertilizer

Jay Hatfield

Joined: Nov 09, 2011
Posts: 11
Hello Permies,

I am looking to fertilize a field I use for cutting hay for my animals. It has been used as a hay field for sometime now(before I bought it) and was fertilized every year with standard ag fertilizer. I want to continue to get hay off the field but I want to make the soil better as well as not put bad things in the soil. I have heard Paul talk about this before on a podcast I think but I could not find it after searching on and off for a couple of days. What do y'all think I should do and what would Paul do?

One of the real Hatfield's on here, and a direct descendant of Devil Ance Hatfield.
John Alabarr

Joined: Sep 25, 2012
Posts: 68
Was it alfalfa hay? If so, the soil probably already has plenty of nitrogen. If not, fertilize it by planting a legume for a couple of years.
Alder Burns

Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 1197
Location: northern California
If you are going to continue removing significant amounts of hay on a regular basis, you will need to plan to replenish the nutrients withdrawn by the hay and thus exported from the system. Adding nitrogen-fixing legumes to the mix only helps with one nutrient (nitrogen, albeit one of the most vital) among many. Since the hay probably feeds animals, adding animal manures back to the field might be a logical proposal, especially if such manures are available locally and affordably....

Alder Burns (adiantum)
Candace Cea

Joined: Apr 12, 2013
Posts: 3
We grow organic coastal in the US SW. Replacing the nitrogen is not so difficult, though your soil is probably in a very bad way as the result of the use of chemical fertilizers. The major problem organic growers have is with weeds and that has discouraged many who want to switch. We have a spraying program worked out for our coastal bermuda which includes relatively heavy applications of corn gluten in the Winter and Spring and then hitting it with the fish based concoctions during the growing season (Summer and early Fall). Then in Fall there is the seaweed and light application of corn gluten. You can use poultry manures but we sell hay sometimes and have to use well composted litter for health safety. The # 1 best thing for our grass is compost but that's expensive for us with our acreage. I am using what I make and working my way out. Experimentation is key. I just discovered that in our rather warm Winters and Spring I can cover the coastal with fresh horse manure (no herbicides in it since we had enough for ourselves this year) and the coastal thrived and it deterred the weeds. Can't wait till next January!
Jennifer Smith

Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 709
Location: Zone 5
How about spraying with teas? Compost tea, manure tea, weedy tea?
Miles Flansburg

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 3284
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
Well, I have listened to most of the podcasts, watched many videos and read articles. I think Paul, and others here , would say not to waste time and energy putting up the hay. Use rotational grazing in paddocks. Follow the cattle with birds and or pigs for pest control , fertilization and plowing. Let the grass regenerate and build it's own fertility. Graze the cattle year round. Save money!
Candace Cea

Joined: Apr 12, 2013
Posts: 3
Yeah, compost tea would be good. Amazingly we have never gotten around to making any!!! We have gotten the best hay using biodynamic preparations and the biodynamic pepper sprays do work for weeds (like homeopathics for the earth).
R Scott

Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 3047
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
Paddocks are the way to go, both for regeneration and winter feeding. But they are not always practical and they can definitely be difficult to start up.

If you can't, you need to find a cheap local source of organic fertilizer. You need to watch out for chemicals in composted yard waste or manure--manure from most cattle or horse operations is actually highly gicked.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Candace Cea

Joined: Apr 12, 2013
Posts: 3
My experiments showed horse manure from regular commercial hay with its herbicides deterred plant growth for about 2 years. You can compost it for that long and then use it. If you layer it, hay and manure, to make dirt it may sprout weeds sooner than that for some reason. However, I use fresh organic horse manure for an herbicide for some weeds (leafy spurge - pile FRESH manure around base and spray with agricultural vinegar). This is my # 1 area of investigation right now in the fields. You may be able to use commercial produced manure alone
for weed control.
subject: How to fertilize a hay field with out using industrial petroleum fertilizer