The Backyard

The Backyard

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No Ground Shall Be Left Uncovered

Straw around the Butternut Squash seeds
A friend of mine once commented, "what's with all the straw?" My immediate answer was weed control, but the good question deserves a more extended answer. Initially, I found the straw in the garden doing a dandy job at preventing weed growth - mainly purslane that will grab hold of any free ground in the sunshine and spread like wildfire. Over the years, through adding the decomposed straw back into the soil at the end of the season, the ground became more like good humus - a perfect growing medium. At planting time, I find the straw to serve double duty as weed protection between rows, but also the pathway and row markers.  And if you like the Ruth Stout method of gardening, you couldn't live without straw or hay.  This year, after mounding the potatoes, I laid a super-thick layer of straw next to the potato plants as a cover for the potatoes if the mounds weren't enough.  We'll see how that works.  In the summer heat, the straw helps keep moisture in the soil.   And lastly, produce that tends to lay on the ground finds the straw a lovely bed to prevent rotting and soil splashing. Watermelons, squash, and strawberries especially enjoy a bed of straw for their offspring.  I use straw year-round.  When not laying it in the garden, its mixed with the horse manure and grass clippings to make compost as a mulch for ALL the gardens, not just the vegetable patch.  I'm too cheap to buy bark mulch, so I make my own.  You wouldn't have to use straw as a ground cover either.  There's are dozens of other more readily available things you can use. Your local Lowes has a variety of bags of different types of mulches.   The local Amish are using newspapers and Mother Earth News did an excellent article on the use of newspaper as a mulch.  Full sheets are laid down to prevent weed growth and it decomposes very nicely and is mulched back into the ground.  Other folks use grass clippings (be careful with that though... I tried one time and had a lovely grass patch growing the following spring... it's best to compost the clippings first to kill any weed seeds), and of course compost.  So get covering... it's worth the extra effort.
Straw as weed protection and row markers/paths.

Fresh straw getting put down on the strawberry patch


Minya said...

You're a professional!!! It looks like you do gardening as a your full-time job.. Im actually impressedn! :)

Mrs. Green Toes said...

very nice and tidy :)