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Looking for sheet mulch nitrogen source

 
            
Posts: 32
Location: Louisville, KY
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Hi All,
Is there anyone in the Seattle area with an extra source of nitrogen-rich material to add to a sheet-mulching project to be held this weekend? 

We have cardboard for the bottom and wood chips for the top, but nothing for in between.  Originally, we were going to use timothy hay (with a little extra nitrogen added), but our ability to pick up the hay is limited. 

The area is 240 square feet, which I think comes to about 3 cubic yards to cover the space in material to about three-to-four inches.

Thanks,
--Will
 
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
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I'm late on this, but dairy or boarding stable straw/manure comes to mind.

Those large plastic tubs with the rope handles are pretty handy for transporting materials, as are those Rubbermaid-type storage containers.

Sue
 
            
Posts: 32
Location: Louisville, KY
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Hi Sue--

You're not so late...we ended up not finding anything suitable, so have just put down the cardboard for starters.  Part of the difficuties in finding materials was that we didn't have a pickup truck (but did have a van) or extra money to spend.  It seemed that every "van-friendly" source of nitrogen such as timothy or alfalfa hay was so far from where I live in Seattle that the price for the material doubled once we factored in the cost of gas. 

In the end, I think we will just grab the first person wen find with a pickup truck and go to a commercial nursery for the cheap compost that comes from the city

 
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Posts: 28622
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Is this a garden?

I would avoid commercial compost

There is a place in ballard that sometimes has organic hay or straw.  I can't remember the name of it.  It's really close to the bridge.

If you get alfalfa hay, in a bale, you won't need the cardboard (I wouldn't use the cardboard either) and you can get by with something much thinner because the packed hay will act as an impermeable layer - like the cardboard, only better.  Because the hay will allow water and air to pass through - and will fertilize the soil with the rain.

 
            
Posts: 32
Location: Louisville, KY
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Hi Paul--

Thanks for this advice.  I never thought about putting timothy hay straight down on the cut grass in lieu of cardboard.  Have you tried this method yourself? 

It is for a garden, but just a model for this year. 
 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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If you don't use a paper or cardboard barrier to eliminate the light, you would have to make sure to put the hay down very heavily.  I've used 4" thick 'flakes' of straw (from bales) butted up to each other, and I've put a 4" thick layer of loose 'fluffed' straw on top of paper or cardboard, with good results.

What doesn't work is a thin (like 4") layer of loose straw or hay.  If it isn't thick and dense, it doesn't cut out the light, and the weed seeds still germinate in a cozy nest.  It also doesn't kill the grass (field grass, anyway) -- more delicate varieties of domesticated lawn grass may be more sensitive.

Sue
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Will P wrote:
Hi Paul--

Thanks for this advice.  I never thought about putting timothy hay straight down on the cut grass in lieu of cardboard.  Have you tried this method yourself? 

It is for a garden, but just a model for this year. 



Not only have I tried it, but it is a popular technique called "The Ruth Stout Method":  http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2004-02-01/Ruth-Stouts-System.aspx

 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Susan Monroe wrote:
If you don't use a paper or cardboard barrier to eliminate the light, you would have to make sure to put the hay down very heavily.  I've used 4" thick 'flakes' of straw (from bales) butted up to each other, and I've put a 4" thick layer of loose 'fluffed' straw on top of paper or cardboard, with good results.

What doesn't work is a thin (like 4") layer of loose straw or hay.  If it isn't thick and dense, it doesn't cut out the light, and the weed seeds still germinate in a cozy nest.  It also doesn't kill the grass (field grass, anyway) -- more delicate varieties of domesticated lawn grass may be more sensitive.

Sue



If the hay is a packed "leaf" from a bale, I would say you could go thinner.  But the loose stuff would need you to go thicker.


 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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But if you have the cardboard to get rid of anyway and will be able to keep the area nice a moist, worms do seem to love corrugated cardboard.
 
            
Posts: 32
Location: Louisville, KY
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Well...

Things didn't work out the way I had planned, but seemed to have worked out nonetheless.

We ended up buying in Cedar Ridge compost to put over the cardboard and left it at that.  I wasn't happy about the weird look and feel of the compost and I shudder to think what's in there (which is the 'in denial' emoticon?), but it makes the neighbors  and roommates happy. 

The main function of the garden was as a demonstration to show people that you can rip up your lawn and have a garden in little time and with little laborious effort, and we accomplished this well.  Second function is for food, and we've had a fairly continuous supply of radishes since I last wrote in.  More stuff looks like its coming up just fine.  (Third function is for me to learn to get my materials gathered before planning the work party.)

My own little 10x10' herb garden from last year was sheet mulched with cardboard, grass clippings and straw the fall/winter of 07 and has become a strawberrry patch this year.  I've noticed a significant improvement with the structure of the soil (continuously adding mulch through this time), as well as many more worms, springjacks, little beetles, and small spiders.  I hope that i can report a similar improvement in this larger plot next year.
 
Posts: 715
Location: Zone 5
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Hey Will,

Great project and lesson, thank you.  I am starting something similar just now at my new home.  I would love to hear an update from you.
 
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