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Haddonfield Community Gardens

Confessions of a Hay Snatcher

Yes, I wanted a garden that gifted me with a bumper crop. But, yes, I wanted a bumper crop with no weeds.

I had helpers in my quest. Garden president, Kathi Stokes, suggested a model of weeding in an orderly way, one quadrant at a time. Alas, orderly is not in my genes, and I don’t like weeding, so while I debated Where do I start? Pig weed and portulaca-like purslane weeds declared war on my tomatoes and my squash.

Mary and her hayWhen Bryan Duncan swore that pine needles are the best answer to discouraging weeds and to mulching a happy crop, I scouted pine trees with decaying needles that blanketed their roots. I took the American way: Get in the car; drive. So the Honda and I headed to our friend Valerie’s house in rural Gloucester County – nearly 40 miles round trip -- where a giant pine tree by her front door gave me its bounty. Then, with guilt about blanketing the earth with greenhouse gasses pricking my conscience, I spied a bountiful pine tree along the Speedline tracks. How righteous I felt: Free mulch just a stone’s throw down the track from my garden! Alas, my back and my psyche told me that raking and bagging and lugging pine needles were even more work than weeding.

I Could Have It All!

Then, Happy! Happy! Ruth Stout promised that I could have it all – bless my soul! A bountiful garden with no weeds. My garden neighbor, Shirley Raynor, loaned me Ruth Stout’s book, How To Have A Green Thumb Without An Aching Back. Then, bless him! Garden Manager, Arthur Leon, gave me my very own copy. I was hooked. Hay, Ruth Stout wrote, rotting hay, new hay, deep layers of hay will mulch away weeds, make earth worms rejoice, and discourage bugs.

Free Hay!

Off I went looking for hay. To my delight, I discovered that after Halloween and Thanksgiving, Haddonfield sidewalks sprout free bales of hay on trash days. I spied them on my morning walks and snatched them, rescued them before the monster trash trucks came. I’m smarter now. I phone my neighbors who decorate their porches with bales of hay and ask if they’ll give me a call when they’re ready to throw them out.

This winter, if you see a plot with bales of hay stacked high – it’s probably mine. It’s the plot with dancing earth-worms.

Mary T. Previte, Plot #21 (Photo by Alice Previte)