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Straw mulch over seeded bed-- scared I screwed up!  RSS feed

 
Ian Pringle
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Location: Central VA
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We moved into our first house this last Fall and so this is our first year with a real garden for growing vegetables. I made five garden beds, four 4'x35' beds and one 2'x35' bed. So far I've planted broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, radish, rhubarb, rutabaga, four five lettuces, spinach, collards, beans, and a few other things-- all from seed. I then covered the beds with straw, roughly one bale per bed, because someone told me not to let my dirt be exposed to the sun or I would ruin the compost I had brought in.

After doing all of this my wife came home from work and said, "how are the plants going to get through the straw?" and now I'm freaking out that I've ruined my garden before I gave it a chance. Should I go pull all the straw off my beds or am I ok?
 
Daniel Ray
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As long as your mulch (straw) isn't too deep they will find their way through. With one bale per 35' you are going to be okay. The mulch will help retain moisture and get those seeds germinating.
 
Ian Pringle
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Location: Central VA
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That's really good to hear! Our weather is in the mid 70s all week, with a few dips to the 60s, so I was hoping that the straw would help keep them warm-- which is why I had initially purchased it. And then the guy who brought me the compost said I needed to cover this stuff up with mulch or it would get dried out and would not be good.

Should I go check to make sure everything is going well in five or six days when they start to sprout? Like, should I be opening the mulch up around the sprouts or is that too much?
 
m c nestor
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I would think it would depend on how thickly you mulched. I've never heard of having to cover beds before the plants come up. You might want to take some of the straw back up if you feel it is on too heavy. If it's not too heavy it's probable (or at least possible) that the plants will come up through. There's a video on Youtube on the Back-to-Eden project in which he recommends putting wood chips on strawberry beds in the fall. In the spring, the healthier plants push right through and the older, unhealthy plants become compost. I tried it and it worked except that it also drew carpenter ants. Since our adult daughter was the one picking strawberries, she disapproved greatly. I've reconstructed my strawberry bed in another area and in the future will mulch only with pine needles.
 
James Freyr
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Location: Middle Tennessee
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I may be able to help. I grow in raised beds and mulch with straw just as you do. First, real quick, the sun will not ruin your compost. Mulching is good, one reason especially is it arrests falling raindrops. Raindrops hitting bare soil does two things. It sorts the soil particles (kinda like panning for gold) with tiny silt particles rising above the larger heavier particles. This is how a crust forms. The crust inhibits oxygen from moving into the soil and other gasses like CO2 from escaping. Roots need oxygen. The crust also causes the next rains to wash off the surface causing erosion. Little pathways and gulleys are evidence of this. The other thing that happens is a lot of diseases are soil borne, and raindrops will splash soil particles onto the leave of crops we grow, speeding infection if plants aren't healthy.

Your wife is exactly right. I push and pull my straw aside so emerging sprouts will be exposed to sunlight as soon as they're up. Then once they grow a little, I push the straw back up next to the plant. Don't panic, it may not be ruined and not all is lost. If the straw is rather thin, the emerging sprouts will find their way. That's what nature does. We've all seen a sprout emerge from a crack in a stone wall or something similar. If your straw is 3 or 4 inches thick, that's too much for an emerging seedling to work through. They will perish. There are a few exceptions, tho. Alliums like garlic will grow through thick mulch as mentioned. Garlics emerging growth is narrow and needle like and will find its way thru. It may behoove you to go pull mulch aside where the seeds are sown and then reapply it after the seeds are up. The crops you mentioned should have easy access to direct sunlight once they've emerged from the soil to grow successfully.

How many days ago did you sow the seeds? If it's just a few, they're likely not up yet (with the exception being the radish. I've had radishes sprout in 3 or 4 days). If you sowed the seeds 3 weeks ago, you may likely be resowing everything.

Edited for grammar.
 
Ian Pringle
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Location: Central VA
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James Freyr wrote:How many days ago did you sow the seeds? if it's just a few, they're likely not up yet (with the exception being the radish. I've had radishes sprout in 3 or 4 days). If you sowed the seeds 3 weeks ago, you may likely be resowing everything.


Everything was sown on Saturday, so not even a full 48 hours have gone by yet. I was thinking that maybe on Thursday/Friday afternoon I should take a look and see what's popping up and then make sure it can get some sun light.
 
wayne fajkus
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One other thing about compost. And it ruined a small corn crop for me. This may be what the seller was talking about.

Dried compost is like peat moss. With peat moss , you almost have to put it in a bucket of water to get it saturated. But once saturated it holds and absorbs water well.

I was lightly watering on a regular basis.  The Corn Started To die. When I pulled one up, it was bone dry a 1/4" down. The top couple inche's was all compost. It looked moist, but it was only the top.
 
Judith Browning
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I think if there is more than a sprinkling of straw over most small seeds they won't survive.  We usually try to mulch very lightly after planting  until seeds have germinated and then, as others here have said, start mulching more heavily around individual plants.  If the plants are intended as a cover crop we just add the light mulch and let the plants do the work of shading the soil.

It sounds like you could still remove some mulch...I didn't hear how deep it is now?

Good luck!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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