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straw vs hay to cover swales??

 
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STRAW VS HAY to cover swales?? I am not sure if its okay to use hay, which I believe usually has whatever is growing in someones field, to cover the swales. Is straw better since its usually not weeds and the left over stalks from wheat and other grain crops? Should I be worried about weed seeds in hay? I have to cover these swales soon.

 
garden master
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I do believe hay is going to contain weed seeds, to some degree. Wheat straw will contain a small percentage of wheat seeds. Even if you found 100% seed free hay or straw, airborne seeds will arrive. If it were up to me, I would choose whichever costs less.
 
Ray Cecil
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James Freyr wrote:I do believe hay is going to contain weed seeds, to some degree. Wheat straw will contain a small percentage of wheat seeds. Even if you found 100% seed free hay or straw, airborne seeds will arrive. If it were up to me, I would choose whichever costs less.



Thanks James, I have mostly hay available around me. I'd sort of like the straw just to help keep out the weeds while I condition the swales' soil with the pioneers I am planting. I did see an add for pure Alfalfa hay...maybe that would be the better option? I don't mind a few alfalfa plants here and there. Good for pulling up and dropping as green manure right?
 
James Freyr
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I guess you could use alfalfa hay. A little off topic, but I believe may be valid, is organics. I'm passionate about growing organic and not using synthetic chemicals. I understand this is a swale and you may not be growing food crops in it, but a lot of poisons are used to grow wheat and alfalfa, unless grown organically. You may or may not be concerned with any residues on the mulch and in the swale and where the water runoff goes. Not many people are spraying grasses to harvest for hay. I'm not suggesting finding "certified" organic straw to use, (I've never seen it, maybe it exists) but I have found straw from a farmer who does not have a certified organic farm, but told me he doesn't use poisons. That was good enough for me for my application. If it's organic alfalfa, give that to chickens and livestock. I think that has too much value to put on the ground as a mulch.

If you mostly have hay around you, perhaps that is the way to go to achieve your goal.

Just a thought. I know everybody has different views when it comes to agricultural methods and inputs, and I certainly never want to imply that I'm telling anyone what to do and how to do it. I just want to give advice and help others if I can.
 
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James Freyr wrote:Not many people are spraying grasses to harvest for hay.



Sadly, some are.  http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/f09Herbicide
 
Ray Cecil
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James Freyr wrote:I guess you could use alfalfa hay. A little off topic, but I believe may be valid, is organics. I'm passionate about growing organic and not using synthetic chemicals. I understand this is a swale and you may not be growing food crops in it, but a lot of poisons are used to grow wheat and alfalfa, unless grown organically. You may or may not be concerned with any residues on the mulch and in the swale and where the water runoff goes. Not many people are spraying grasses to harvest for hay. I'm not suggesting finding "certified" organic straw to use, (I've never seen it, maybe it exists) but I have found straw from a farmer who does not have a certified organic farm, but told me he doesn't use poisons. That was good enough for me for my application. If it's organic alfalfa, give that to chickens and livestock. I think that has too much value to put on the ground as a mulch.

If you mostly have hay around you, perhaps that is the way to go to achieve your goal.

Just a thought. I know everybody has different views when it comes to agricultural methods and inputs, and I certainly never want to imply that I'm telling anyone what to do and how to do it. I just want to give advice and help others if I can.



James, your advice is WARMLY welcomed, and the very reason I posted my question. You raise a good point I have not thought about. Herbacides/pesticides in hay/straw bales. Hmmmmm...

I do have 10 lbs of red clover seed, and 10 lbs of wildflower mix. Sowing dates are just a couple or three weeks off. I am wondering if I should grow the Clover and Wildflowers to use as a green cover directly onto the swales? The problem is, the top soil is heavy clay, and the swales have a lot of clay clumps. I shaved as much sod as I could and turned it over on top of the clay as much as possible to get as much top soil as I could. I don't think the top soil or clay is all that bad. What I am concerned about is seed not germinating, being sown onto the swales and it falls into cracks or spaces between the hard soil clumps. Should I maybe do seed balls with the clover seed to rapidly establish a growing cover on the swales? I can cut the clover with a scythe and let it lay right there while mother nature conditions the soil. I have planted a dozen comfrey roots and they should start growing in a few weeks. There is one Profusion Sorrel in there I hope to propagate too.

Ive been playing with the idea of growing Paulownia for its quick shade and huge leaves for mulch.

My wife was hoping to get a large crop of garden veggies this year, but I think its in our best interest to get the fruit trees in, and condition the soil on the swales first. Maybe we can do some fall / cold weather crops a little later in the season if it goes well.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Ray Cecil wrote: What I am concerned about is seed not germinating, being sown onto the swales and it falls into cracks or spaces between the hard soil clumps.



I've had better germination when seed falls into cracks and between clods because it is protected there and there might be a little more moisture.

Re: Vegetables.  You might try broadcasting a bunch of different types of vegetable seeds in the swales.  One of my gardens is just a small plot with broadcast mixed seed of cover crops and vegetables.  I'm excited to see how it might do.

 
James Freyr
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I'm happy to hear my advice is warmly welcomed Now those clover and wildflower seeds are a good idea in my opinion. I'm about to broadcast 5lbs of wildflower seeds my self in an area adjacent to my garden. I also have heavy clay (I grow my crops in raised beds) but for my wildflowers I'm going to scratch at the surface with a tiller and spread seeds and let it go. I would love to do more to prepare the soil, but in reality, I have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else, and my time is currently occupied with things more important to me, like my cold crops, spring garden, berry bushes, fruit trees, maintaining a house, etc. I've learned nature is extremely resilient, and while I could do more to prepare my native pollinator and insect habitat (what I'm calling my wildflower area), I'm just gonna wing it this year and see how the wildflowers go.

Your seeds will germinate, maybe not as high a germination rate as a prepared seedbed, but quite a bit of them will. Cracks and spaces between clumps, the sprouts will find their way out. You by all means can cut clover and leave it where it lay, and it will help, but in reality decay above ground will lend little benefit as most of the carbon and other nutrients will go to the atmosphere. Ideally it gets incorporated into the top couple inches of soil for maximum gain, or carried to the compost pile where it composts then gets returned. I do also agree with you to get your fruit trees in. They need years to get established.
 
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