Hello all! I grow Spring and Summer vegetables in my suburban raised bed garden. In the past, during the rest of the year I'd cover the soil with pinestraw (I'm in Georgia.. LOTS of pinestraw}. Since joining Permies.com I've learned it is better to cover garden soil with something that will add nutrients.
I'm trying wheat hay. A few weeks after I laid it out, the hay started to sprout! (I'm blaming that on the unusually warm and wet weather we had in October). I pulled up some of the sprouting grain, but mostly uprooted and mixed it back into the hay. Recently, I turned the hay over again. Just to see if it was breaking down into the soil. YAY! It was! So I'm hoping that by Spring I will have a nutrient-rich garden bed that will require less store-bought soil.
Has anyone used wheat hay to replace soil nutrients? What do you use for covering bare soil in a small garden?
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I have some beds covered in manure topped with wheat straw. Others have cover crops that I will chop&drop a couple times. Last year I grew wheat and oats, chopped&dropped them until the changing weather killed them. I also do trench composting, as well as mulching with spent plants. I'm in North central Florida, so things decompose and disappear quickly. My garden is year-round, with various beds resting depending on the season.
Logs, woodchip, straw, sawdust, cardboard will increase the fertility of your land too. I sometimes prefer straw over hay because straw have no seed that will sprout and compete with my spring planting. Logs/woodchip and other TREE sources of carbon take longer to breakdown than dry grass (hay/straw). So hay will improve your soil faster.
There is quite a few way to increase the fertility of your land.
1) Add new mineral: artificial fertilizer, rockdust, sea90, rockdust, compost
2) Increase the air pockets in your soil, roots need air too
3) Increase how much water your soil hold and how long it holds it
4) Increase the carbon in your soil, holds water and like activated charcoal holds mineral
5) Increase the bio-availability of the minerals in your soil, with peeing-pooping worms and other critters and bacteria, fungi that will "dissolve" rocks to trade with plant roots, fix nitrogen from the air, change the localized PH
Personally I cover my fruit tree/shrub area with woodchip
And the garden area i just let the plant reamains stay right there in the garden with it looking super messy. Leaf litter works too, and straw if some presents itself at the frontdoor.
Wheat hay works pretty well and if you don't plan on turning it under in the spring you can presoak the hay to sprout any wheat seeds left and then let it all dry out so the sprouts die before you spread it over your garden space.
I buy timothy hay for our donkey and have used it for chicken bedding then used that to cover a garden bed too, both work pretty well.
Wheat hay works best when mixed with some type of manure that has already been composted in city type environments.
As S Bengi listed, you can also make additions through the hay covering and those will help deterioration of the hay as they leach through to the soil below.
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