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Toxic Straw bales on Hugelkultur Rookie mistake

 
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We put in some hugelkultur beds this year and added straw bales on top and all around them. We made sure to get weed free, but didn’t realize they still had seeds and sprouted like crazy.  We have removed as much as we can but while researching we realized the Standlee straw bales we used do use a herbicide called Sencor and sometimes a pesticide Lorsban or Mustang Max.  We are trying to grow our vegetables organically and cannot believe the mistake we made from lack of research.  I am wondering if there’s anything we can do besides removing the straw we are able to out of there?  Thanks in advance for any advice.  
 
pollinator
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Welcome to Permies, Em.

You'll never get it all if it's been there for any time. I suggest either get comfortable with a less-than-perfect state of organic in that bed until it works itself out, or dedicate the bed to something that will be of benefit in the space that isn't edible.

If you're at all like me, and happen to have limited optimal garden space, you've just toxified your single best option with regards to sun or water or some other damn thing. If you can't deal with any contaminants at all, you essentially need to remove all the hay, and probably most of the soil it touched, and any that had water pass through the straw and into it. Only extensive testing will reveal if you've gotten it all, but a quick-and-dirty way of assessing toxicity is to deliberately plant some of those things that the indicated treatments are supposed to guard against. If they don't sprout, or if they come up wierdly stunted and die, the soil is still toxic to them.

I'm sorry that this happened, but there are a limited number of options in this case. I would strongly suggest brewing aerated compost teas and applying them regularly, along with regular applications of oyster mushroom slurry. Boosting the populations of soil organisms and giving them everything they need to thrive is usually the best way to break down toxic gick that can be broken down. Beyond that, if the contaminants are sequestered by a specific plant, then plant that plant, harvest regularly, and have a plan for disposal that removes the contaminated material from your soil food web.

But honestly? I think we would all be well-served in taking the above advice to heart on all our garden beds, lawns, and lands. Living soil has a capacity to sequester and break down toxicity, and in some cases break it down into food. We are exposed to so much toxicity that everything we do, anything we can do will go a long way towards ameliorating our living environments.

Bad stroke of luck there, but don't let it discourage you. Keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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Oh, and I just happened upon this pertinent thread, where pesticides in hay are being discussed.

-CK
 
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I'm so sorry to hear about that.  Don't beat yourself up too bad, I talk to many gardeners who have no idea about these persistent herbicides.  Or that they can still be active after passing through a horse/cow and being composted.

I don't have any additional advice for you but I feel your pain.
 
Em Zoe
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Thanks so much everyone!  Thankful to have found this forum.
 
pollinator
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Sometimes you just have to work with what you have to the best of your ability...

If time is on your side, then maybe look at inoculating the straw with some sort of mycelium like oyster mushrooms. They tend to be very good at soaking up toxins and then you can pick the mushrooms and discard them somewhere else.

I personally don't have a sensitivity to these chemicals, and try to avoid them as much as possible (my chronic expose is low) so for me I would just chalk this up to experience and carry on. It sucks but what is done is done...
 
pollinator
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Yeah I did that by accident too. I don't garden in that spot anymore, not because of the straw but because of ground animal infestation. It's got some really great grass growing there now.
 
pollinator
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Here's information about Sencor including persistence:  http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/metiram-propoxur/metribuzin-ext.html

Lorsban:  http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/carbaryl-dicrotophos/chlorpyrifos-ext.html

I encourage you to add materials to increase the bacterial and fungal activity of the hugelkulturs, which will help break down these toxins into inert substances.  Personally I would not remove the straw, because that just spreads to problem to some other area, without actually removing it from the hugels.  Better, in my opinion, to deal with the problem in place.  
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