The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture Message Board › My mulch is sprouting

My mulch is sprouting

A former member
Post #: 4
It was supposed to be straw. I thought that meant no seeds. You would think I had deliberately planted hay and it's promising to be a bumper crop. I really wanted to plant herbs and vegetables.

What to do about the 400 sq. ft. of beds covered with this stuff? Should I just pull it off or weed the sprouts as they come up? Cover it with something else? I had hoped to avoid most of the weeding this year with the mulch.

I don't really want to remove it as the worms have moved in. Any suggestions?

Charlotte
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 419
Hi Charlotte, in some cases you might accidentally (as I did) get "first cut" straw which includes the seed heads. Great for animal feed, not so great for mulch. Because I had never gotten first cut straw before I didn't think to specify...

Anyway, you will have some oat sprouts on top of your mulch which you can just pick out. For me that's on top of the paper layer so it's no big deal. I may let some of the sprouts go to seed and make medicine with the green oats.

In future I will make sure to indicate that want 'second cut' straw...
A former member
Post #: 135
I remember that Elaine had this same problem last year so perhaps she will let us know what she did about it.

Lisa I didn't know that there was such a thing as second cut straw. I thought that straw was the stalks of oats, wheat, etc.

Years ago when I grew all of our food I used the Ruth Stout method which is basically the same thing as permaculture and I used spoiled hay for mulch. I've noted that the people on this forum advise against it because of weed seeds, but I never did have that problem. This year I'm using the hay I bought last fall to bank the house so I'll let everyone know if I have problems. I do remember that Ruth said it must be a very think mulch, and that's what I've always done. My garden is very small this year and yet I'll be using almost all of the 50 bales I've got.
David S.
stereoview
Washington, ME
Post #: 181
Ruth Stout would say "throw hay on it".
A former member
Post #: 5
Lisa, Thanks for sharing your experience. The "straw" came from local ag. coop that doesn't grow it themselves, so they don't know when or where it was cut. It was supposed to be animal bedding material rather than fodder hay. I yanked the sprouts in one bed yesterday and it didn't take much time. I guess the grass-like growth freaked me out because I've spent hours/ days pulling out witch grass. There is a double layer of cardboard underneath that should keep out the undesirables.

I've already planted a few small patches of oats for medicinal uses, but I think I will let some of the volunteer sprouts grow. Oat straw has it's uses, but don't forget the young seeds. Milky oats are good too.

Mary, I thought the same thing- that straw was seed free stalks of hay. Never considered it might be oats or wheat. The seeds are big and look like oats! We'll see. It will be interesting to learn the results of your experiment with the hay bales.

Thanks to both of you,

Charlotte
A former member
Post #: 6
Ruth Stout would say "throw hay on it".

Ruth Stout must be added to my library now! But, are all hays equal?

I was tickled to find the local organic farm offering mulch hay at half the price of straw from the coop. They cut it late to allow nesting birds to do what birds will do. The fellow who helped me stow the stuff in my mighty compact told me the cows won't eat it and the seeds mostly fall off because it's so dry. I'm using it on potatoes and shrubs.
David S.
stereoview
Washington, ME
Post #: 182
I have had good luck with my local hay. I grew potatoes in hay last year and they came out mostly nice and clean. For some reason my peppers did not do well in hay. Slugs.

I followed Ruth's suggestions on asparagus just laying the roots on top and putting just a light soil covering then a lot of hay. They grew fine last year and came up well this year too. For some reason I don't have a lot of weeds.
Elaine
user 3022592
Portland, ME
Post #: 179
Charlotte, and yes, you were correct Mary, I was "freaked out" in the beginning also when I saw all the weed seedlings popping up.

I'm behind in checking messages so this may be too late for you Charlotte, but this is what I did: In some cases I just pulled up the seedlings, no big deal.

But some of them had gotten into the newspaper so I removed that straw, put it on a tarp and let the seedlings die. Then I used it for the compost bins. Time consuming!

In yet another way I picked up a handful of straw with sprouts and turned it upside down for the weed sprouts to die in the sun.

All in all this experience showed me how well the sheetmulching method works to attract worms. The prized little buggers were there en mass already into the damp newspaper.

Elaine
A former member
Post #: 136
Mary, I thought the same thing- that straw was seed free stalks of hay. Never considered it might be oats or wheat. The seeds are big and look like oats! We'll see. It will be interesting to learn the results of your experiment with the hay bales.

Actually hay is not the same as straw. It is grass, clover, or alfalfa, or a mix of them. Generally it comes in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cuttings.

I can say that I used hay for many years and never had a problem. The secret is to use it very thickly. The only difference that I can see is that the hay that I used to use sat out in a field for many months and may have heated up and killed the seeds.

Thinking about hay reminds me of a trip we took through Canada many years ago before the big round bales. I was impressed with the way they hayed all the grass planted in the wide spaces between the freeway highways. I also enjoyed noting the many stacking strategies used to keep the bales dry in the fields. If you've never seen this, it is hard to explain... Basically it is stacking about 6 bales in a way that the rain will roll off each bale rather than penetrate the bale.
Susannah
user 3832381
Portland, ME
Post #: 39
Charlotte, since you are in Ipswich, you may have great luck finding "Salt Hay"...it is the grass you see growing in marshes and is prized because it can only germinate in salt water, specifically marsh salt water (it has to have wet feet every six hours.) It is difficult to find and rather pricey because retrieving it requires special equipment that can handle the marsh muck. Could be worth a try.
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