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Replacing sod/dirt/compost/top soil with straw/hay  RSS feed

 
Ian Pringle
Posts: 24
Location: Central VA
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The only portion of our property without a designated purpose yet is the mess of woody weeds, unwanted trees, and invasives. This is also the part of the property with the largest amount of garbage. Lots of random junk, broken glass, metal bits, plastics, old toys, etc. I was thinking of building up the soil and creating a small food forest a la "Paradise Lot". Step one is to clear out the area. We don't burn wood for fuel and we don't have a need for this wood. My idea was to make hugels, but also don't want to bring in soil and I don't want to use the existing soil due to not knowing what might be laying under the ground.

I was looking at the ruth stout method of soil creation and gardening and it made me think of using the straw/hay as a substitute for the dirt in a hugelkultur. Is that a possible solution? Probably at least ten or twelve inches over the fallen trees. It would also aid in smothering out the morning glory, and other unwanteds.

Forgot to add-- straw and hay are free. We own a small stable and run a business training horses and teaching riding lessons. We have waste straw and waste hay in nearly endless quantities.
 
Daron Williams
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Posts: 198
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Sounds like you would also have a lot of horse manure. I would make sure you were adding a good mix of straw and manure instead of just the straw. I think it would also go better if you put this mix in the spaces between all the wood and then cover the whole thing first with a layer of straw and manure and then finish with just a layer of straw. You would want to avoid any open spaces in the bed as you are building it.

You would have to be careful what plants you planted at first since there would not be any soil. But you would essentially be creating a large compost bed with wood in it.

If you just pile up the wood and place the straw on top it is going to likely drain water really fast and dry out. This would slow the decomp a lot. Having a good straw and manure mix placed throughout and around the wood will speed up decomposition and should also retain water.

I would be very interested in hearing how it works out. Not needing any added soil would be great!
 
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