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Lasagna lawn winter nitrogen  RSS feed

 
Sean Corbett
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I'm planning to lasagna lawn/sheet mulch 1.5 acres of growing space for a permaculture demo site this fall. We plan to let it cook down over the winter for an early spring planting. Last fall we had an abundance of carbon sources, but really lacked in green material.

I just read somewhere that what dictates whether the matter is green or brown, is not its current state, but the state in which it was harvested/picked. Does this mean that if I was to buy several bales of cut hay, saved them up until winter, then I could use them as a green/nitrogen source during the winter?

It makes sense to me... farmers use them as a primary food source for animals during the winter. I would imagine, once wet, that it would be close pretty close to using fresh cut grass? Thoughts?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I take it you are talking more about nutritional nitrogen than composting nitrogen since the two are actually different in their action.

Farmers are most interested in protein content, they are after all trying to feed living organisms.

fresh greens will generate heat, this is because of the internal moisture content and the nitrogen beginning to break down into nitrates and nitrites (exothermic reactions),
this doesn't occur in dried hay materials since the breakdown isn't going to occur from moisture loss. What you get from dried materials getting wet is mold growth.

I have never gotten a compost heap to heat from using hay for a green and I've been composting since 1964.

Here is a little experiment for you to try for yourself. Fill a black garbage bag with nice, dry hay and seal it with a twist tie. Fill a black garbage bag with fresh cut, green grass and seal it with a twist tie.
Place both bags in the same area, wait two or three days and place your hand on the outside of each bag (you can insert a long probe thermometer through the bags if you want to record an actual temperature).
Write down your findings, make decision from your notes.

Items that should be considered browns will not heat of their own accord, items that should be considered greens will.

 
Sean Corbett
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That's a good suggestion Bryant. I'll try that.
 
Sean Corbett
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I'm obviously going to wet the hay prior to sealing it into the bag. I'll see what kind of Temps each bag will produce over a week. If the hay manages to heat up, I'll see if mold becomes an issue...

If my end game is a source of green manure to be used in the fall and winter, I guess sowing a winter cover crop would probably be a smart idea.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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yes, you want both to be near the same for moisture content at the outset, this will give best indications of viability for your purposes.

I grow two crops of scarlet clover every year, one spring planting and one fall planting, the fall planting gives me enough fresh green material for 2 large heaps. I plant about 250 square feet of the stuff for that purpose.

One of the reasons I like to plant the scarlet variety is that the deer love it in the fall. If I plant some areas in early October, they flower just about the end of November (it doesn't get cold here usually until around Christmas time).

Alfalfa is also good for a fall chop crop here. The seed costs is a little high for me to use it for that though.

Since we have hogs, I use a lot of manure filled bedding straw in the spring/ summer. For winter time this becomes timothy hay since the hogs seem to like strewing their hay so they can poop in it.
My usual method of composting is to build a heap in layers of straw or hay for the browns then grass clippings for hot greens. 
With our summer weather (95% humidity and + - 95 f heat (this year we have had a few days of 100 f already)) wetting hay for use as a green just doesn't work, all I get is moldy hay layers.
Fortunately, with our acreage, I have plenty of grass to cut for my green additions. Our hogs are American Guinea Hogs and they love their pasture grass, so I never get to cut hay from our own pastures.
The lawn around the house and the orchard are different stories fortunately.

Good luck and please let me know how your experiment turns out.

Redhawk
 
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