Making hay in October

Jerry Apps
Hay cut in October can have multiple uses.

Making hay in October. Cutting it with a rotary mower. Raking it with an ancient side-delivery rake. Stacking it in bunches that line up across the little field to dry. With a pitchfork. Just like farmers did many years ago. Why do all that work?

It was probably 15 years ago that the septic system at the farm froze up. From one end to the other. Nothing worked. Not a pleasant situation as anyone with a septic system quickly understands.

Remembering what I learned as a kid when the winters seemed considerably more fierce at least in terms of below zero days, Pa would say, “If you wanna keep something from freezing, cover it with some straw or hay.” And that’s what I’ve been doing every year since that freeze up. My hay crop goes on my septic system. I have not had a problem since I began doing it.

When spring arrives, I remove the hay from the septic system and we use it to mulch the cabbages, broccoli, and tomatoes in our garden. The mulch helps keep down the weeds, and also helps to hold moisture.

In the fall, when we put the garden to bed for the winter, we disk in what’s left of the mulch to add e organic material in our sandy soil. (I also plant winter rye, which, when worked into the soil in spring, also helps improve the garden soil.)

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Hay cut in October can have multiple uses.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to