[permaculture] dealing with hard ground
rockyprairie at earthlink.net
Thu Sep 15 13:54:58 EDT 2005
Mulch is probably your easiest, cheapest bet with a few caveats.
Straw is great, but as mentioned you will have errant crop seed throughout
that will sprout no matter how thick you spread it. Ditto for grass hay AND
you can possibly have lots of different pernicious weed seeds to contend
with. I used to use both extensively with a layer of recycled cardboard
underneath (try nearby printers for a great source of large pieces of free
cardboard--the boxes their large sheets of paper come in are very heavy-duty
and break down a bit slower than standard cardboard boxes. Offering to clean
out the local feed store's barn before each new load of straw/hay/alfalfa is
also a good free source.
That was before the farmers and perfect lawn enthusiasts in our region
(Pacific Northwest) started using a new "miracle" herbicide--clopyralid.
It's a very effective broadleaf herbicide that requires much smaller doses
for effectiveness, hence it's attraction.
Unfortunately, it does not break down under normal composting temperatures
and persists for quite some time in the environment. Extremely minute
residual amounts can affect future crops, especially legumes and those in
the nightshade family. One of the most successful compost operations in
Puget Sound spent hundreds of thousands of dollars paying off organic
certified clients who had received this compost only to find their fields
contaminated and unsuitable for production. The compost facility did nothing
wrong other than be the unlucky recipients of grass clippings containing
trace amounts of clopyralid.
I'm not sure how widespread the use of this product is, but it has forced me
to use alfalfa exclusively for mulch/soil building. Expensive to be sure,
but at least it's safe...for now. I've heard rumors of a new clopyralid
formulated especially for alfalfa.
Hopefully not a problem in Virginia. Other thoughts might be leftovers from
regional food processing...peanut shells comes to mind as a possibility.
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