Question about using mulch in the veggie garden...confudido!

Discussion in 'Fruit and Veg Gardening' started by Cayuga Morning, Apr 8, 2019.

  1. Cayuga Morning

    Cayuga Morning Hardy Maple Plants Contributor

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    Hi all,

    I put down a layer of hay on my community garden plot in the fall. Covered up all the bare ground, and put it around the crowns of the asparagus & rhubarb.

    This spring, I went out to check on the garden & lo & behold, the soil underneath the hay mulch was soft, friable, beautiful stuff. Not packed down at all. Looking at other plots in the community garden, I could see the difference my mulch made.

    So here is my question. Should I keep a light layer of mulch on the garden & just plant seeds & transplants underneath it? To keep the soil from getting compacted? (Soil has a lot of clay).

    Also, I expected the hay to be decomposed or at least partially decomposed. It is not at all. What will happen if I put a 4 " layer of compost on top of it? or a 6" layer? Will I just be providing great growing conditions for all those hay seeds? Should I put down a lay of cardboard first? I am trying to do no till gardening.
     
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  3. Odif

    Odif In Flower

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    I see no need to use cardboard if there are no weeds. If the ground is good enough, just rake the mulch aside and put a thick layer of compost on. Afterwards you can spread the mulch on top again.
     
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  4. Cayuga Morning

    Cayuga Morning Hardy Maple Plants Contributor

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    Thanks @Odif. I'll do what you suggest. But, here is the problem. On one of the beds, I have already spread about 3-4 inches of compost ON TOP of the hay. Keep in mind this is hay not straw. Should I try to remove the compost, take the hay up? Or pile more compost on top & hope for the best? I am trying to do no till gardening.
     
  5. carolyn

    carolyn Strong Ash

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    leave the hay. just pull back where you are planting and make sure the roots have good contact with the soil. hay is fabulous compost as it has nutrients in it whereas stray does not, to speak of. it is a great mulch and adds needed organic matter but not nutrients.
     
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  6. adam.ca

    adam.ca Seedling

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    if you add compost ontop of the hay, then the hay will decompose and rob the soil of nitrogen in the process. so you'll want to remove the hay then add your compost and then put the hay back ontop.
     
  7. mart

    mart Hardy Maple

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    It will deplete a small amount of nitrogen if it is worked into the soil ! That is because the bacteria need nitrogen for the composting/decomposition process ! Adding it on top is fine !! After decomposition it can be worked into the soil !
    I would not add a thick layer of compost since it needs air to decompose !
    We raise hay on part of our farm ! The thing is,, the outside of our rolls will decompose rather quickly but about 6 inches inward,, still good hay after a year or two !
    If you have access to animal manure,, you can add that on top of the hay and skip the compost ! Animal manure is will aid the decomposition ! Horse manure just needs to be good and dry ! Of course depending on what the horse eats you may have a few unexpected grasses show up ! I have grown tomatoes in horse manure only !
    If you want,, you can also add a beer/water combo with a small amount of sugar added ! Just mix in a sprayer and spray the hay ! Sugar feeds the yeast in the beer and yeast helps break down the hay ! 1 can beer to two gallons of water and 1/2 C sugar !
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2019
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  8. mart

    mart Hardy Maple

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    Rather than trying to remove the compost,, just take a garden fork and lift and shake the hay about once a week or so! That will allow some of the compost fall below the top and keep air circulating !
     
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  9. Cayuga Morning

    Cayuga Morning Hardy Maple Plants Contributor

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    I like your ideas @mart. I'll try the beer/water/sugar spray. Also the shifting the compost/hay bed with a pitch fork. BTW the compost there is composted goat manure. I had some delivered to the garden 1 year ago but it seemed to burn the plants so I let it decompose for a year. Now it is good black soil. Will that still aid the decomposition of the hay or is it too decomposed already?
     
  10. carolyn

    carolyn Strong Ash

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    C, how long has the hay been on the garden as mulch? if its from last fall you are good to go. no worries over it at all.
     
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  11. Cayuga Morning

    Cayuga Morning Hardy Maple Plants Contributor

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    @carolyn, the hay has been there since the fall. It still looks brand new. I just added the compost on top of the hay in one of the beds a few days ago .
     
  12. mart

    mart Hardy Maple

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    Then all is fine !! Just jump start the decomposition a bit with the beer mixture ! If it doesn`t help,, it sure will not hurt !! The yeast in the beer will speed things up and sugar feeds the yeast microbes !!
    Typically you would do this at the end of the growing season so to be prepared for next season !! But since you are beginning the no till method will be OK now !! Just remember that the no till method is not accomplished in one season !!
     
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  13. Cayuga Morning

    Cayuga Morning Hardy Maple Plants Contributor

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    Thanks Mart. I will keep all of the above in mind. Now to find some beer I won't mind pouring on to my bed rather than into my gullet!
     
  14. mart

    mart Hardy Maple

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    Now that would be my problem too ! Heading to the fridge ! :)
     
  15. adam.ca

    adam.ca Seedling

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    oh darn, this means you'll be planting into the soil which has fresh hay mixed in?

    if anything i think you'll want to avoid forcing this hay to decompose faster for the growing season, wait till the end of the season to add beer. and make sure to add nitrogen ( blood meal? ) to offset the nitrogen getting sucked out of the soil as the hay decomposes.

    keep us posted, i wonder what you end up doing and what effect it will have on the plants.
     
  16. Odif

    Odif In Flower

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    It is fine to cover the straw with a layer of compost. I weeded a strawberry bed today and mulched with a few inches of Compost.
     

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