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Newbie question about straw mulch  RSS feed

 
Posts: 5
Location: Alberta, Canada - Zone 2b ( 3 if I'm lucky)
forest garden urban
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I feel like this is a super green question, but I am going to ask it anyways!

We went out and got some organic straw to mulch both our food forest and annual raised bed (it's 3' x 24). We covered the food forest in straw, when I go to put more seeds or plants in the food forest - do I just move the straw out of the way? I want to put some poppy seeds in tomorrow - I assume they don't sit under the straw?

As for the annual bed, we're a bit early to plant much ( I'll likely put some kale seeds in tomorrow). We'll likely plant most thinks on the May long weekend. Should I cover the bed with straw now to help keep any moisture in? And when i do put seeds in, do I move the straw? I'm really confused how this whole things works - I appreciate any advise!
 
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sure you can move the straw to plant things, but i dont believe I would mulch the poppies.  I grew some about 2 decades ago for several years, and my best results were planting them in loose soil with a thin topcoat of sand. I believe they were planted in february, (south missouri)  and started making in June, but it has been a long time. -R edit: soil topcoated with sand before planting, and seeds planted on surface. and like turnips or radished it is very easy to get them too close together!

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Posts: 95
Location: Saskatchewan
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Small seeds cannot germinate through straw. Clear a 4 to 6 inch row to seed into. Once your plants are up you can go back and snug the mulch in around the base.  Potatoes can grow through mulch. Intermediate sized seeds can get through some mulch.

For what you have not mulched yet be aware that mulch will insulate the soil and make it take longer to warm up. If you mulch now it will hold more moisture. So when you go to plant be sure to test the soil temperature, if you plant too early some seeds will rot before they germinate.

At my place in Saskatchewan I expect the soil to be warm enough under mulch to plant by may long weekend. If you want to play it safe plant one week later than you usually do, the extra moisture held by the mulch will allow it to catch up quickly.

Also a note about straw as mulch, straw will use nitrogen as it breaks down. You will want to add a nitrogen source such as manure. I like to mulch with old hay as it has a better carbon to nitrogen ratio. The downside to hay is the seeds.
 
Posts: 82
Location: New Zealand
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I don't like straw for mulch too much as I find it is very light and moves around too much, in your case the straw might move in a breeze and end up killing your germinating seeds. Maybe if it was wet enough it might be ok. I have only used straw from the wheat I grew a few years back, maybe this would not apply to other species. I have a lot of millet straw at present so will be an interesting comparison, but I only use it on fruit trees so some wind movement is not an issue.  I prefer hay as it is denser and better feed value for microbes. Worms appear to prefer hay mulch over straw as well.
 
Callandra Caufield
Posts: 5
Location: Alberta, Canada - Zone 2b ( 3 if I'm lucky)
forest garden urban
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@leora - We haven't put any mulch on the annual bed - should I leave it unmulched until the May Long? We're going to use the square foot gardening method, do I basically make rows, and then put mulch in between the rows? The straw is so long and stiff I can't really see how to get it in there without it covering the rows. Maybe I'll just use grass clippings as mulch?

@ben - now that we've put the straw in, I am certainly seeing those challenges! Our 'food forest" has some fruit trees, but I'll also plant some smaller flowers and other plants this year . The straw just seems like it's everywhere, and I can't wrap my head around how to actually plant in the area! I've attached a photo. I'm thinking I might cut up some milk jugs to make rings to make a straw free space to plant some things.\\

I'm so appreciating the advice, feeling a bit lost here!
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Food Forest
 
Posts: 37
Location: Southeast Brazil
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When I sow small seeds on deep mulch I just move the mulch an inch deep making tiny trenches or pockets. Then I fill those trenches with a mix of sieved topsoil and compost.
The roots will find their way to the earth through the mulch.
 
Sergio Cunha
Posts: 37
Location: Southeast Brazil
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If you're going to use grass clippings make it light. Deep grass clippings mulch becomes something similar to a thatch. Water won't get easily through it.
If you want deep mulch on your beds, I suggest you make an underlayer of straw, may be some compost, and then an upper layer of grass clippings.
 
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