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Strawbale Mulch - why not to use or how to test  RSS feed

 
Margie Nieuwkerk
Posts: 51
Location: Bulgaria, Zone 7/8
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The Grow Network has a good article about why NOT to use straw as mulch.   http://thegrownetwork.com/hidden-dangers-straw-bale-gardening/

I read the article and initially thought that this was a bit alarmist.

Then I reviewed the success (or lack thereof) of the areas where I'd used straw in the past two years.

I ordered a bunch of bales this fall, in my barn now, just for the purpose of mulching.

Long story short, I decided to test bean germination.  One plate of beans with water, one plate with straw tea (straw soaked in water for a few days)

Here are the enlightening results:

the plain water beans - 28 germinated out of 39 beans
the wheat tea beans germinated 4 out of 34

The 4 wheat tea bean sprouts are very small and stunted one of them 1/2 cm, the others less than 1/4 cm, the plain water ones look normal, most about 1/4 cm to a cm

I am going to recommend others do the same if they plan to use straw as mulch.  This also means that the straw from my chicken coop and rabbit pen can't be used as I had initially planned. 

 
Jazzy Paulson
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Location: So Cal, zone 9b, 8500 sq ft urban lot
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Margie, I think you are so correct! I was using straw as mulch and I had a lot of problems germinating seeds.  I was also using straw and hay in sheet mulching.  Then I read this: http://tendingmygarden.com/garden-mulch-straw-does-it-have-to-be-organic-to-be-safe/

Get this, I called the feed store where I bought the straw and hay, and they said it may have pesticides in it.  They said the hay is eaten by animals and no one has ever complained.  Then I called another local feed store, and they said, yep, the straw probably does have pesticides.

I'm going to rip it all out.
 
mark carter
Posts: 15
Location: mid-michigan
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I get my straw from a farmer who produces it. 75 cents a bale, i let it sit outside for a year before use, this lets all the seeds and mushrooms sprout, so its partially decomposed before use.
  Use it for mulch in the spring and plant thru it, green manure crops like beans and also vine crops as well. Never had any issues. Good luck.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Good eye Mark, what you are doing is called myco remediation, when those mushrooms fruit, you know your straw has fully developed hyphae of the fungus and that will help remove or at least render any residues inert to your plants.
Most straws will have pesticides sprayed on them, the only exception is Organic straw, a product not yet easy to find anywhere in the USA. The type of straw is also a must know, most wheat straw is now from roundup ready seed stock, most rice straw is also roundup ready.
What this means to the folks that want to use straw for anything other than animal bedding is that seed sprouting will be severely hampered at the best.

Composting or weathering in straw bales is a necessity in this day and age, if you can inoculate the bales with fungi and molds you are going a long way to remediating the product for garden use.
Spent coffee grounds will inoculate straw bales with various bacteria, fungi and slime molds, none of which (once bloomed out and died back) will hurt your plants but they will reduce if not eliminate any seed sprout suppressant qualities that straw might contain.

Redhawk
 
Viola Schultz
Posts: 39
Location: Zone 6 Hudson Valley
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Margie, the innocent days of ruth stout's gardening are long gone -- persistent herbicides and insecticides in pretty much everything that comes from the big agricultural operation is a common knowledge today. I do not use the straw or animal manure unless I grow it myself. This year half of my garden will grow green manure crops only, for the whole year.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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We have found that our donkey is great at letting us know if any straw should be suspect for "cides".
I gave her a bale of "store bought" and a bale of "from our regular farmer", she eats the straw from our farmer supplier but passes on the store bought.
Upon testing for several pesticides and for glyphosate I found nothing in the farmer supplied samples but found glyphosate and the pesticides mancozeb, methyl-parathion and carbaryl in the bale of store bought straw.
It is amazing what your animals can tell you about their feeds if you just listen to them with all your senses.
(By the way, she will eat the "store bought" if it has been myco-remediated).
We don't buy hay or straw from the feed store any longer for any reason, we stick with our organic farmer's hay and straw for now.
Being an all natural, pesticide and herbicide free farm is getting tougher and tougher but we have room to grow everything we need including hay and straw so that may end up what we do.
 
mark carter
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Location: mid-michigan
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Never had to innoculate my straw bales, just watered them, i think they had plenty of spore on them, always had a nice flush of mushroom every few days, mycelium running rampent thruout. I dont stack them so they make contact with the ground. I prefer logs for growing mushrooms, and only if i cut them.
  I have never heard of feeding straw to animals, didn't think there was any food value in it?

 
Bryant RedHawk
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The only animal I know of that can eat straw is the Donkey, it has a metabolism set for foods in the Less than 12% protein range, it browses trees, bushes, etc.
The donkey originated in arid areas and so it is very different than a horse, more like a goat but without the ruminant virtues.

I did a lot of research on the donkey when we had one show up on our land, the jenny had been abused and turned out free by her owner so he could avoid going to jail for animal cruelty charges (found that out from neighbors).
Other folks in our area have and do throw things at her to chase her off. We have taken the jenny in and are getting her gentled enough that we can build her a pasture to call home.
I am building her a stable area so she has a place to get out of the rain and eat as well as sleep. 

Redhawk 
 
Laurie Dyer
Posts: 62
Location: Suburbs Salt Lake City, Utah 6a 24 in rain 58 in snow
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:

I did a lot of research on the donkey when we had one show up on our land, the jenny had been abused and turned out free by her owner so he could avoid going to jail for animal cruelty charges (found that out from neighbors).
Other folks in our area have and do throw things at her to chase her off. We have taken the jenny in and are getting her gentled enough that we can build her a pasture to call home.
I am building her a stable area so she has a place to get out of the rain and eat as well as sleep. 

Redhawk 


Oh, so glad to hear you are helping this poor creature!  I'm always baffled about people mistreating animals.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Laurie Dyer wrote:
Oh, so glad to hear you are helping this poor creature!  I'm always baffled about people mistreating animals.


It is required by the creator, that we, the care takers of this world and all living things, can not let innocents suffer.
This means that if we find any living being in need, we must do what we can to help them.

My position in the Nakota Nation requires many things of me, this is just one of those things.

Redhawk
 
m c nestor
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On a previous property (over 12 years ago) I mulched my rhubarb and my strawberries with straw that I had purchased for that purpose. It killed them all. I later heard that an organic farm had devastated a large percentage of their crop doing the same thing. What I didn't know was that the wheat had been treated with Monsanto herbicide. I learned my lesson.
I have great success with spoiled hay from local horse owners and I am attempting to grow my own barley mostly for the straw.
 
Laurie Dyer
Posts: 62
Location: Suburbs Salt Lake City, Utah 6a 24 in rain 58 in snow
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:

It is required by the creator, that we, the care takers of this world and all living things, can not let innocents suffer.
This means that if we find any living being in need, we must do what we can to help them.

My position in the Nakota Nation requires many things of me, this is just one of those things.

Redhawk


This is beautiful.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Mary Christine Nestor wrote:On a previous property (over 12 years ago) I mulched my rhubarb and my strawberries with straw that I had purchased for that purpose. It killed them all. I later heard that an organic farm had devastated a large percentage of their crop doing the same thing. What I didn't know was that the wheat had been treated with Monsanto herbicide. I learned my lesson.
I have great success with spoiled hay from local horse owners and I am attempting to grow my own barley mostly for the straw.


hau Mary, if you need straw and don't absolutely know that it is pesticide and herbicide free, just compost it for a few months, that will usually allow bacteria and fungi to do the work of breaking down the chemicals.
We have one heap that gets straw we are given by others, it also is where we incorporate donkey droppings and pig droppings. We usually let this decompose for three to four months, turning every 2-3 weeks.
When we go to use it for garden mulch, there is still some straw present but it is ready for use and it really helps the soil get richer in microbes.

I wish you luck with your barley growing, the straw is really good stuff.

Redhawk
 
Joylynn Hardesty
Posts: 219
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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sooo... Would my barely used archery backstop be ready to cover my garden? It's been standing there since Septemberish.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Joylynn,  Stacked bales of straw usually take more water to get all of them thoroughly soaked.

The easy check is to poke a stick into them and if it comes out wet and the straw is looking brownish, then you are ready to go.
If not, just unstack the backstop and water each bale till it will hold no more water.

You can temper bales by thoroughly watering them every two days for two weeks, if you add some manure or spent coffee grounds on the top and water that in, it speeds up the process too.

Redhawk
 
Joylynn Hardesty
Posts: 219
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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Umm... How about if they are sprouting wheat? Maybe germinating seeds would work just fine?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau  Joylynn,

Most of our bales will sprout the left behind seeds while they are tempering, there usually is a mushroom bloom or two as well.

Once you see those things happening, then most likely the bales are holding water through the start of decomposition, which is how they work for our purposes.

To have even better success, just dig a larger hole than the plant needs and fill with some good compost around your plant. That is what we have found works best for us.

Redhawk
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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Redhawk,
Okay... I didn't mean planting IN the bales. Maybe you didn't either. To better describe my fractured thoughts...
I have some plants in the ground. I have some seeds in depressions in the ground. I have many grass seedlings taunting me as my straw bales beckon-use me now! My plan was to  mulch this year with the straw.
Sooo... I want to spread the straw, with my depressions (and seeds) bare until my desired plants have sprouted, then nudge the straw up to the base of the plants.
Did I make sense to you? I'm frazzled. I communicate poorly when frazzled. My comprehension takes a nose dive too.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Ah, so you want to use it as a mulch not grow in it. (I do both)

That should work out fine, as long as the straw has started to decompose (there will be a noticeable color change when that happens).

If you are planting thin leaf plants like grasses, they will come up through a thin layer of straw as mulch.

For most garden plants it works best when the mulch is laid down then planted in spaces that have the mulch layer pulled back, once they have sprouted and the first secondary leaves are opening, you can put the mulch back around the plant stem.
I usually wait till the second set of true leaves are opening, that give the plant a thicker stem, I also try to leave a pinky finger width of open soil next to the stem for a couple of extra weeks so there is a buffer of sorts against bugs.

Redhawk
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
For most garden plants it works best when the mulch is laid down then planted in spaces that have the mulch layer pulled back, once they have sprouted and the first secondary leaves are opening, you can put the mulch back around the plant stem.
I usually wait till the second set of true leaves are opening, that give the plant a thicker stem, I also try to leave a pinky finger width of open soil next to the stem for a couple of extra weeks so there is a buffer of sorts against bugs.

Redhawk


That concept, in fact, had been my plan. Then appeared this very thread into my sight, and spreading the hay was postponed. but I needed the seeds in the ground. Now! Now! Now!
I have observed the change of color on the hay. We hoe and spread it tomorrow. Yippee!

As always, Redhawk, I value your help.
Joy
 
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