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Mulch question

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Mulch question

Post  momvet on 9/6/2015, 5:42 pm

I ended up using a straw mulch in my beds and while I do think it helped with moisture retention, etc., I have spent months pulling out green grass sprouts! Now that my beds are almost empty, I have a question. Do I try to remove as much of the straw as possible, then add my scoop of compost (I am going to have to use bagged Mel's Mix as my efforts at compost making have been a bust), plant and add more mulch? I am going to have to stick with the straw as I have a big bale and $ is an issue. I have never done a fall/winter garden before and am almost as lost as I was when starting my first SFG this spring.
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Re: Mulch question

Post  Kelejan on 9/6/2015, 7:15 pm

It looks as though your straw had seed in it.  I thought it was hay that had seeds and not straw.  Can anyone enlighten momvet and me, please? Perhaps save her some work next year?
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Re: Mulch question

Post  donnainzone5 on 9/6/2015, 7:40 pm

Momvet,

Other than for moisture retention, you probably don't need mulch in Southern California (unless a Little Ice Age is in the offing).

Straw should have few to no seeds, as I understand things.  Why not try leaf mulch, bark chips, or other materials?  

As to the composting issue, what problems have you had in making your own?  There are many here who can help.
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Re: Mulch question

Post  camprn on 9/6/2015, 10:15 pm

Do not add more Mel's mix, commercially made or home made. Just add compost.  I would probably just turn the straw and the seedlings under. They will rot and add nutrients ts to the bed.

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Re: Mulch question

Post  sanderson on 9/7/2015, 2:02 am

Kathy,  Camprn is correct - do NOT add more Mel's Mix.  The beds need compost, the peat moss and vermiculite are still there and no more of these are needed.  Whole Foods had big bags of compost outside mid August.  See if they still have them for sale.  I think the ingredients were veggies and leaves, or maybe it was manure and leaves.  Anyway, no wood chips involved.  I would have bought a bag and still may.  Home Depot and Lowes carry chicken and steer manure.  Just screen them for wood, rocks and bottle caps.  I use a 1/4 screen.  Home Depot also carries Ecoscraps Compost, another veggie-based compost.  If they only have the Ecoscraps Soil, that's okay.  It just has a little less veggie.

Regarding the straw with seed heads.  Next year, try to pick out the heads as you are chopping.  I thought I did a good job but still had a few sprouts, nothing major.  I will be removing all the straw mulch in October and storing it.  I only need it for 4-5 months.  Clean leaves are another option.  They can be turned under for nice mold in the Mix.

Winter gardens are nice so you definitely have to try it.  Kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, lettuce, cabbage family.  I'm going to try some carrots now that I have cleared out some beds of ugly summer veggie plants.  I don't know about lettuce, but the other greens will be vulnerable to the white butterfly for a while, maybe until December or first frost, so cover them with bridal tulle, about 2' tall, leaving enough side material as the plants spread out over the edges of the beds.  Online coupon for JoAnns.

Now that your winter garden/mulch problems have been solved, we can starting working on your compost! Very Happy

PS: And winter garlic.

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Re: Mulch question

Post  mollyhespra on 9/7/2015, 9:45 am

You can also "pre-sprout" your straw or hay bales.  Straw is simply the by-product of the plant with it's seed-head (theoretically, you may still find some) removed, hay has the plant + seed heads.

I bought some nice-looking straw bales early last Spring.  I found a few seed-heads (looked like some kind of grain) in them but I thought it wouldn't be a problem.

HA!

Those buggers sprouted and were TOUGH!  Even though there weren't many, the ones that came up, came up fast and sent down a sturdy, rugged root that made hand-pulling qualify for an Olympic sport.

So I decided to forego using the bales as mulch that year--thankfully I'd only done some 8 squares or so--and fought fire with fire. 

If the grains wanted to sprout, then I would help them sprout. Twisted Evil 

I lugged both bales over to an unused area, put them on top of some barrier fabric where they would get ample sunshine and proceeded to water them well.  Within a few weeks, the bales were sprouting all over the place, even though they were supposed to be "straw" and not "hay".

Since my own growing season is so short, I just left them out for the rest of the summer and by the Fall, I brought them under cover to make sure they would dry out well. 

This year I used the mulch extensively and had maybe one sprout that looked like the original ones come up.  I still have quite a bit of straw left over for use next year, but probably not past that, so next Spring I'll be pre-sprouting a new straw bale again!
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Re: Mulch question

Post  Scorpio Rising on 9/7/2015, 10:25 am

Molly, love it! Yes, most straw is wheat, some is oat, but you will have the occasional wheat or oat grass seed in there. And they are genetically engineered to be fast and furious...
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Re: Mulch question

Post  mollyhespra on 9/7/2015, 10:39 am

Oh, thanks for reminding me, SR! 

I forgot to mention about the potential risks of using hay or straw, period, being as most of those crops which are used to make the straw & hay bales are genetically modified "roundup ready" as it is.  You could be introducing unwanted stuff into your nice organic soil without knowing it. 

I bought my bales from an organic nursery, but you never know. 

That was another good thing about pre-sprouting.  I've read where sunlight helps to break down residual pesticides in tainted compost.  (Read more about that subject here: http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t7181p32-aminopyralid-in-manure#226628.) So I figured that the pre-sprouting might also work to break down any residual stuff in the straw as well.
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Re: Mulch question

Post  Scorpio Rising on 9/7/2015, 11:02 am

I agree, Molly. The Round Up probably breaks down pretty quickly, just the nature of glyphosate so in general. It is the genetic mods that stick with ya!
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Re: Mulch question

Post  Marc Iverson on 9/7/2015, 4:08 pm

@sanderson wrote:  Home Depot and Lowes carry chicken and steer manure.  Just screen them for wood, rocks and bottle caps.

This is very high nitrogen stuff. I would hesitate to feed it in high concentrations and/or without further aging. It's more an ingredient than a final product, in my mind.

Considering the poor quality of many composts, the manures might make a nice boost to them. Most of the composts in my area are primarily wood and peat, and some do very little when added to the garden by themselves, or even when used as the only growth medium, a situation in which one might ordinarily expect nutrition wouldn't be a problem.
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Re: Mulch question

Post  yolos on 9/7/2015, 5:23 pm

Home Depot and Lowe's also carries Black Kow cow manure.  This year Lowe's is carrying a product by Evergreen called Compost and Manure.  I love the texture of this compost.  Unfortunately there are no ingredients listed so we don't really know what is in the bag.


I make my own vegetative compost but usually add about 25-50% bagged compost of some sort to get the extra nitrogen.  Usually a blend of purchased compost.  Whatever I can find.  This fall I used Earthworm Castings, Black Kow, Evergreen Compost and Manure along with 50-75% of my own compost.
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Re: Mulch question

Post  momvet on 9/10/2015, 4:11 pm

@sanderson wrote:
Regarding the straw with seed heads.  Next year, try to pick out the heads as you are chopping.  I thought I did a good job but still had a few sprouts, nothing major.  I will be removing all the straw mulch in October and storing it.  I only need it for 4-5 months.  Clean leaves are another option.  They can be turned under for nice mold in the Mix.

Thanks Sanderson but the straw was baled and chopped and I didn't see anything that would sprout. Nice to know that I can just clean out and not worry about mulch until next year.
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