Anyone with experience in Straw Bale gardening?

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Pakanohida, Mar 28, 2012.

  1. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Everything is looking nice and healthy!
    Love the fungi.
     
  2. NJNative

    NJNative Junior Member

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    I will be mulching, but I'm still deciding with what. Straw would make the most sense, but I do also have a bunch of leaves and wood chips on hand, not sure what is best for the veggie garden. I know veggies like to be mulched with green stuff more than brown stuff, and leaves and wood chips are considered brown, while straw is considered green, so perhaps it will be worth it to buy some more and give them what they like. I do live very close to the ocean, so perhaps some seaweed collection is in order. Anyone have any suggestions?
     
  3. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Lately I've been mulching my vegetable garden with wood chips and it's doing fabulously. So at least under my conditions veggies like wood chips just fine. But I mulch them with everything; hay, chicken bedding, sheep manure, leaves....
     
  4. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    I've found the best worm activity was under woodchips and then I made a grass clippings/woodchip mix in about 1:5 ratio and the worms have gone crazy for it.

    If I had more grass, I'd do that with my woodchip pile when I needed to mulch. Only thing is, that when the mulch breaks down, there may be a higher than average grass seedbank in the soil.

    Perhaps NJNative, and I've heard and read similar, you could keep composting with your straw and use that as a feed and mulch with woodchip as a pure 'insulatory' layer, then you get the best of both worlds. Bacteria-driven humus at feeder root level, woodchip slowly breaking down on top.
     
  5. Dzionik

    Dzionik Junior Member

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    Straw is brown too, C/N ratio 100/1. so use what you already have. Apply some liquid fertilizer (nettle or comfrey tea) when needed.
     
  6. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    I worry about the conclusions everyone makes because things seem to be doing "fine".

    If wood chips keep the soil from drying out, that's all they're doing. But they are also sucking up water that has the nutrients in it that you think are getting down to the root zone. I've had bark chips around my yard for years because of previous owners, and until they break down and become unrecognizable, plants are not using anything involved with bark chips. They are using what was in the soil before those nutrient sponges showed up. It takes nitrogen and years for wood chips to break down and contribute to the soil. If worms are under your chips, it's only because it's damp. Wood chips are not worm food . they are finding something from previous years :)

    And straw (which is the chaff left after the food source - hay- is taken away) is very stiff, it can hold up the real mulch that has real nutrients in it and dry it out, so that it slows the composting/soil breaking -down process. It not only needs to be super soaked with water, but it needs extra nitrogen and extra water to break down in at least 6 months under normal conditions. Straw has nothing to add to soil except straight carbon. Hay, on the other hand (a food source for animals) has minerals, and if it's green, like alfalfa, it has nitrogen that, if buried under the soil, will hold the nitrogen chemically to the carbon under the soil, and the plant roots can get to it. :)
     
  7. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    The wood chips I'm using as mulch are entire trees - branches, leaves, etc. So everything in the trees (several species) is in the mulch. Sort of like shredded chop and drop. So not sure how they would rob nutrients more than chop and drop would. But I admit I use other mulch materials as well (hay, leaves, wool, manure, etc).
     
  8. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    It's a worrying conclusion when bark mulch is lumped into the same group as woodchip/forest mulch/ramial chipped wood/loppers mulch/line trimmer mulch (whatever the name you choose). These are totally different products made out of totally different parts of a tree.

    Research has shown (on phone can't link) that branches and leaves under 3 inches in diameter are the most nutrient-dense so very much like a chop and drop or coppicing but on a larger scale. Bark is an exposed maintenance layer of a tree chosen because it lasts forever, not because it has any nutrient value.

    If worms don't eat the bacteria that eats leaves and rotting twigs, I'll eat my hat. Note: I even used wood mulch as bedding get for my worms.

    Exception to rule: a load from an arborist truck that was just one massive tree made up of primarily large logs from a dead tree will have less nutrients.
     
  9. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    For what it's worth, and so we can use our worms effectively, they don't "eat", they don't have teeth. All they can do is pass "paste" through one end and out the other. They are getting the stuff that is already broken down by soil bacteria. And if our piles of leaves and compost have, in the past, left broken-down compost underneath them, the worms are passing this through their systems.

    If we need our leaves and twigs to break down, we must have nitrogen and mold and bacteria to attack it first :)
     
  10. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Our wood chip piles heat up, steam, and are growing various fungi (including stunning bright yellow slime molds), so I reckon we've got nitrogen, mold and bacteria. :)
     
  11. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Thank heaven bacteria eat bark chips, otherwise they'd never break down :) I only jump up and down about this because California is the redwood bark chip capital of the world, and they fling it everywhere, and sell it to everyone, bark chips are real money makers, but as long as we consumers understand that bark chips will help us in the future...way, way in the future, then we can make an educated decision about where to spend our gardening dollars, or our gardening efforts :)

    Yes, and mushrooms and fungi grow out of the crotches of some trees, we can buy mushroom kits on logs, but the microscopic roots of vegetables that need nutrients NOW because they are summer annuals, won't get them any time soon from wood chips that aren't completely turned into unrecognizable pith. Those chips are holding nitrogen from the water they have absorbed, and that is what is breaking them down. But that nitrogen being held above ground isn't helping our annual vegetables
     
  12. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    You're referring to the bark chips here, not the whole shredded tree mulch?
     
  13. gardenlen

    gardenlen Group for banned users

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    bark chip very long time to break down hardwood chip not so, if not dug into the ground they hold moisture in and use no nitrogen from the soil, over here bark is pine = acid. i've used various mulches etc.,. never had nitrogen issues.

    len
     
  14. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Ludi, all wood products absorb water and whatever is dissolved in that water, bark, chips, branches, even really tough leaves. If you can recognize it, it's not ready to make it available to microscopic roots.

    Something I found out this year, I do hundreds of transplants from seeds, and I keep a few emergency bags of potting soil around. One was called Organic Potting Mix, notice that only one of those words is regulated. the first ingredient was Forest products, (i.e. wood) which they make a fortune off of and don't have any responsibility to the consumer for how that bagged stuff behaves around plants or seeds. The seeds in this mix tanked, took them at least 3 weeks longer to germinate, if they even did. And once up, they were much, much slower than the compost/native soil mix I make on my own. The bits of wood were maybe half the size of my finger, but the ratio of wood products to actual "soil" (that's not regulated either) is so high that this stuff needs to be working in a pile for a couple of years before it will even begin to work with seeds.

    compost is unrecognizable, and it has all the stuff that plant roots want. Would we ever put unfinished compost on plants? No, because we know it's "unfinished". Imagine how far from unfinished compost the wood products are :)
     
  15. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Ok, thanks for clarifying.

    I put unfinished compost on plants all the time. It's called "mulch." :)
     
  16. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    That's because potting mix is usually made out of partially composted pine BARK. No nutrients and the ph was probably off.

    Maybe Google 'Jean Pain' and check his work with composting brushwood or woodchip mulch. And considering I've built and dug my entire garden from woodchip mulch I hope I haven't done the wrong thing. Doesn't seem like it.
     
  17. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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  18. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Hi, Ludi, yeah, I'm a super mulcher, too, but, ya know, it's way up top, and those roots are way down there :)

    SOP, no, I'm not saying wood products don't eventually do the right thing, but it just takes a seriously long time. If you can push the bark chips aside and get the manure or compost underneath them, then water well, or rain well, it will get down to the roots. The whole point of hugelkultur is to have that wood in the ground holding the water and nutrients long term, and it usually takes a couple of years before it breakd down, the roots can infiltrate that rotted wood and it really kicks in :)
     
  19. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Darn, why didn't I film my whole natural gardening journey, everyone would be rolling on the floor laughing, and if laughter is the best medicine, I could have cure a few folks along the way!!!
     
  20. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Have to say this is one of the most interesting conversations I've seen here for a while (beats arguing about the taint potential of Pc ;-) ). I'm learning lots, from everyone, thanks. I think this thread might be an exemplar of what this forum is all about.
     

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