First off thanks for the add. I am starting my garden currently a patch of field grass 30x40 , I can get woodchips, forest floor leaves and old hay, which is best? What would you use or maybe a mix of all?
You are so lucky to have so many resources at your disposal. Since you have so much available, my personal suggestion is to mix and use it all. The greater the diversity the better.
Out of curiosity, is your plan to use this all as a mulch as the heading suggests or were you thinking of using some of these materials as soil amendments? Either plan can be a winner. You definitely want healthy soil and a great mulch is hard to beat.
Unless the source is your own farm, I've heard it's fairly common for hay or straw to be contaminated with GRAZON, an herbicide for broad-leaf plants. if contaminated, it could stunt or kill your plants.
I'd do leaf mold below, woodchips on top(to keep the leaves in place and "look" better for the neighbors).
Eric I'm not sure really lol, was thinking layer paper , then I've put compost , (this is from my chicken coop bedding which is pine shavings and has been sitting 9+ months) , then cover it with something .. just learning about it. One concern I have is starting so late will it be ready for planting by April? Thinking the cardboard wont be broke down yet, any thoughts?
If your goal is to create compost, I highly doubt it will be ready by April. But if you are wanting a mulch, then it will be ready immediately. I will say though of your apparently late start date, perhaps your desired mix will not be perfect, but starting now means that it will be decomposing and adding microbes by the time April comes around. I rarely get perfect compost, but I do get compost that is good enough and it works any way. And since I keep gardening season after season, that imperfect compost will eventually completely break down. Waiting till April will only deprive you of time for microbes to go to work.
Let us know how you proceed or questions you still have.
I would third avoiding hay of unknown provenance due to herbicide concerns; even if it's known 'safe' it will be laden with grass seeds.
I'd use it only if the other stuff will run badly short, and if so I'd use it thickly on as limited an area as possible, mulched over top with something else in hopes of keeping the seeds suppressed.
You should be able to plant many things through this layered mulch by making individual holes in it through to the soil below, rather than treating it as the planting medium. So, the question is, will it have suppressed the existing veg. by then?
Sometimes the only thing available to me IS straw, or maybe hay. If don't know of your straw is herbicide free, take a peek at this thread taking notice of Bryant Redhawk's posts. He describes how to weather the bales until they are inert, and usable as mulch.
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