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Sheetmulch straw top cover has seeds, what to do????

Jojax14u Hatfield


Joined: Jul 21, 2011
Posts: 6
Aloha all,

I threw together a sheet mulch garden with some extras I had lying around.

I used cardboard on the very bottom to kill suffocate any weed growth, then I threw about 4-6 inches of straws that had seed.

Next layer, I threw 4 inches of heavy duty compost that is really nutritious and was baking for over a year.

Lastly I threw mulch on top but the wood chunks were so big I was scared they would never decompose down so I scraped them off and threw more straw as the top cover.

Well, not even a week later I see tons of what looked like grass and was in awe that my compost would have weed seeds in it. Then I started pulling them up and they were seeds from the straw on the top layer. The straw has tons of seeds in them.

I'm in Hawaii and I have no idea about straw and what it actually is but I got tons of it popping up now from my sheetmulch- no dig- laborless garden. I know now to never use anything with seeds but what can I do about all the future straw?

Do I pull out each seedling as they pop up? Or can I wait till they all get 6-8 inches tall and cut them down to provide more top cover and carbon for the garden? If I cut them without pulling up the seed will the cut blade grow up again? Is there only one generation of seeds or will I forever have straw(cereal grain I think) growing?

I feel horrible because my sister saw mine and I had leftover materials so I made her a raised bed sheet mulch bed exactly the same.

Fellow Permies, what would you do? Thanks.
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2057
Location: FL
    
  43
The compost baked for a year, you say.  Chances are the outer regions of the compost were not cool enough to destroy weed seeds, and some could have blown in while the pile cured.  Compost makes a fine soil amendment, but as a mulch it can promote weed growth.

Straw usually comes from grains.  If you are in Hawaii, I doubt this was imported due to cost, meaning its most likely local.  It could be a local grass.  Sure would be interesting to see what comes up.  What about a small patch intentionally planted with the seeds from this straw? 

Another option is to pull up the grass, mulch again.  While it can offer carbon when you cut and drop, the growth will also rob nitrogen

As far as the wood chips not decomposing, this can be a useful feature-long lasting mulch can save you the labor of remulching.


Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
http://farmwhisperer.com
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3468
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  63
I regularly use hay as mulch: often considered a no-no because of all the seeds.
All I care about is getting my hands on mulch and I'm more than willing to deal with any germination!
How thick's the mulch? I try and have a pretty decent layer, around 10-15cm. so that seeds touching the soil struggle to get through and those that germinate in the mulch layer are easy to deal with.
I imagine thick mulch would be especially important  in a tropical climate, with the insane speed of decomposition.
Anyway, I just lift the very top layer, uprooting the (usually grass) and lay it back down. I don't want to bring lower layers up, or I'll set off another round of germination.
I try to do it on a hot day when it's not about to rain, as I want the seedlings to fry and not re-establish themselves.
The hay I use is mostly rye and timothy, which don't have creeping stolons. I'd be less relaxed if I thought I was introducing something pernicious.
I'd follow Ken's advice and check out your local species.
Jojax14u Hatfield


Joined: Jul 21, 2011
Posts: 6
The top layer of straw is about 4" thick.

The seedlings are definitely not weeds from the compost but are from the seeds in the straw. I can see the seeds cracked and roots coming out and digging into the compost while the seeds are still on straw.

I called the feed store I originally got the straw from and they told me it was imported. This is all interesting as I've been told grains don't do well in Hawaii.

I think I may take off the top layer and put the wood chip mulch back on, then for the very bottom straw under the compost I'll just cut when I see them pop up.

Thanks for the responses guys. I'm still all ears if anyone else has any input?
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 3953
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
130
See if you find out if it's straw which is the stem, along with a few seeds, of ONE type of grain, or if it's hay, which could be a whole mixture of different grasses along with a nice collection of seeds. 

Straw is usually not much of a problem as all the stuff that grows from it is generally just one type and so long as you cut it or pull it before it seeds the problem goes away.  We regularly have a nice lush growth of wheat from areas we have mulched.  Usually it's pretty easy to pull out as the roots are mostly in the mulch so we just pull it and either throw it on top of the mulch or feed it to one or other of the critters.

Hay is a bit more tricky as you could have a whole load of different weed seeds to contend with.  Maybe try turning the whole top layer of mulch, complete with weeds, upside-down so that the roots dry up.  But do it before any of it goes to seed!


What is a Mother Tree ?
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
check through near the straw and see if you can find a few seed heads to help identify the grass, possibly even a few ungerminated seeds. around here the straw is either wheat or oats. i always have volunteer grains come up from the mulch and leave them. silly to pull out whats going to grow into food. even if the wheat starts in mid summer, one plant will give me 100 wheat berries easily.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Philip Freddolino


Joined: Jun 02, 2010
Posts: 53
I had this same issue this year. I built some hugle beds, seeded them with vetch, yellow clover , and radish, and then put a thin layer of oat straw over them. I couldn't believe the lush lawn that sprouted up. When the oats got 18" high, I took the string trimmer and cut them down half way so the vetch and clover could get some light. Now, after a month, I'll do it again. Good thing the yellow clover is a biennial. As long as the oats don't get a chance to go to seed, I'll be fine. Next year I'll be inspecting any straw I buy much closer.   
Jojax14u Hatfield


Joined: Jul 21, 2011
Posts: 6
It's all straw of one type. I've attached pics if anyone can recognize what it is. 


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Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2057
Location: FL
    
  43
You have wheat, barley or rye on your hands. 
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
hopefully it is an annual type of grass that will dye off and leave a green manure behind, my problem here is I can get things like quackgrass seed in any "brought in" mulches, esp straw or hay or animal manures..and then I'm in a pickle as they ruin my garden..so careful is the word when bringing in anything onto your garden


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Jojax14u Hatfield


Joined: Jul 21, 2011
Posts: 6
Aloha guys and thanks for all the replies. I posted before and after pics so everyone can see my little project. I ended up raking off the top layer of straw and just throwing the mulch back on. It seemed easier than worrying about all the germination of the grain.

I hope the bottom layer of straw seeds will not be able to grow because it's too far down under 6+ inches of compost and mulch and it won't be able to set roots in the cardboard anytime soon. If they pop up I'll deal with them when it happens.

As you can see the side of my house has only a small sliver of land. I've got exactly the same depth of land all the way around my home so I have to be really space efficient. Luckily I have State owned land behind my house that no one babysits and I'm planning on planting breadfruit, mountain apple, tangerine, banana; I already planted avocado, orange, & papayas. Dreams of one day having acres but for now I just learn and experiment on what I've got.

Thanks for all the replies guys- I continue to learn so much from all of you.


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Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
curious as to why you didn't like the grains growing. it is food after all.
Jojax14u Hatfield


Joined: Jul 21, 2011
Posts: 6
Why I didn't grow the grains..... I did want them growing. I thought it would be a nice supplement to my campaign for self sufficiency but found more reasons not to grow it:

All the resources on Grain growth in Hawaii conclude that it brings nasty fungus problems and they don't do well. Many commercial farms and small gardeners have tried growing for food or feed for cattle & poultry, and none have had a successful harvest.

Felt grain to be a labor intensive food. While it offers carbs you burn more growing it and bringing it to the table. My philosophy is if you can't directly pick it and eat, it's processed and I don't want to mill seeds down and deal with recipes for breadmaking. Breadfruit grows on trees and offers great starch.

Didn't want to share my nutrients/sun and take away from my other vegetables or get in the way.

I did plant a small 2'x2' experiment section of the grain seeds on the other side of my house. Hawaii has 11 of the world's 13 climate zones so I wanted to conduct my own research in my climate zone because I'm not sure if the research was done in the wet or dry, high or low. Some Hawaii climates have great Asian pears and plums, some have great citrus, mountain apple only grows up in the mountains, some soil has so much coral nothing grows. I just am interested to see if I can do it.

Thanks everyone for the comments and questions.


Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
fair enough, but just so you know. you don't have to grow wheat just to make bread or flour like everyone thinks. there are tons of recipes that just cook the wheat like rice would or its added to soups and such whole like barley. meaning you can get a good amount of nutrition from a small patch of grains. sprouted wheat berries are also very nutritious.
Jojax14u Hatfield


Joined: Jul 21, 2011
Posts: 6
Thanks Hubert, I honestly was one of those who thought wheat was only good for bread. I am now more hopeful to see my experiment patch develop so I can cook it like rice.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
well you don't cook it just like rice. search for wheat berry recipes on google. youll get thousands of hits. and also sprouted wheat berries too.
ellen kardl


Joined: May 11, 2011
Posts: 50
I think this is pretty common, at least in my experience. The way plants grow (inconsistent height), and the way straw is harvested it's always going to have some shorter stalks in it with seed heads. It's annoying though. I just pull them up which is very easy as the root system isn't down in the dirt. The issue for me is that I never have deep enough straw down to shade out weeds (can't afford a nice 8" thick layer, alas).

Now, a few years ago I left half a dozen bales out during the winter. The seeds sprouted, grew, died, and I used the straw the following year. I'm pretty happy with that, though there was a bit of mold inside the bales.
 
 
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