General Discussion:

straw or hay

Messages posted to thread:

S,L ( dvddiva)20-Feb-05 12:37 PM EST 6b   
GardenGnome21-Feb-05 09:15 AM EST 6a   
Chris21-Feb-05 09:49 AM EST 5a   
Chris21-Feb-05 09:50 AM EST 5a   
21-Feb-05 04:00 PM EST 8b   
Alison22-Feb-05 05:52 AM EST 5b   
EC24-Feb-05 04:12 PM EST 3a   
Patricia27-Feb-05 05:28 AM EST 5   

Subject: straw or hay
From: S,L ( dvddiva) (
Zone: 6b
Date: 20-Feb-05 12:37 PM EST

Hi Everyone, Just to give you an idea of where I'm coming from; Three 1/2 years ago I bought a house (whose tenents had done nothing in the yard for 5 YEARS )that had flower beds surrounding the perimeter of the backyard.I, not knowing anything about plants,did not realize that the SIX FEET HIGH objects that filled these beds were WEEDS.I have slowly begun to win the battle but there is still a lot of deweeding to do.Since I cannot afford to plant all the beds at once,I was wondering if placing straw or hay on the beds would keep the weeds down until I can afford to plant something.How high should I place the straw or hay? Which is better to use,straw or hay and WHY? IS there something else I could do instead of the straw or hay?I tried placing that black material on the beds but the weeds came charging back.They even made it through the black material covered with cement slabs placed on top.( My patio area) Next week I am going to attempt to grow flower seeds. Wish me luck. Thank you for any help. P.S,After removing the 6 ft.weeds I found 6 day lillies,a bed of black eyed susans,a rose bush,a burning bush, a dogwood and a small tree still surviving!!! They are all flourishing now.

Subject: RE: straw or hay
From: GardenGnome
Zone: 6a
Date: 21-Feb-05 09:15 AM EST

Hi Diva.

You've certainly gone about learning about weeds in a spectacular fashion. I was in the same boat eight years ago when I moved to my current property. The weeds were very well established in certain areas of the yard, and I let them become established in other spots because I didn't know what I was doing. Many years of struggle later, I've learned what weeds carry the biggest red flags. But enough about me. After years of neglect, your beds will have a huge bank of weed seeds in the soil, just waiting for the right conditions to germinate, grow up, make baby weeds... ad infinitum!! They are there forever - get used to it. Some seeds will last for decades in the soil. Your job now is to interrupt the germination process. I would use neither straw nor hay, because they are both grasses that get big and make .... SEEDS!! You don't want to add to the problem by spreading beautiful, lovely, golden mulch that happens to be chock full of the very items that are causing your problem. For mulch, I'd suggest wood chips. You can get them at a reasonable price (or even for free!) from tree services, municipal yards, etc. I'd use at least a 4 inch layer. The idea is to choke out the weeds BEFORE they germinate i.e. don't give them the chance to sprout by making conditions for germination unsuitable. For your patio or other spots where you can't mulch, there have been many discussions about the merits of boiling water, glyphosate, Casaron, etc. I leave these suggestions here in plain sight hoping to stimulate discussion from the large number of knowledgeable people I know hang around this board. In closing, whatever you do, DON'T GIVE UP!! The weeds won't!

Cheers and good luck! GardenGnome

Subject: RE: straw or hay
From: Chris
Zone: 5a
Date: 21-Feb-05 09:49 AM EST

I have read several places that while hay contains lots of seeds, straw doesn't and is therefore suitable as a mulch. Wood chips are good, but as they decompose may take nitrogen from your soil - I guess you could compensate by sprinkling the occasional handful of high-N fertilizer.

Subject: RE: straw or hay
From: Chris
Zone: 5a
Date: 21-Feb-05 09:50 AM EST

I have read several places that while hay contains lots of seeds, straw doesn't and is therefore suitable as a mulch. Wood chips are good, but as they decompose may take nitrogen from your soil - I guess you could compensate by sprinkling the occasional handful of high-N fertilizer.

Subject: RE: straw or hay
Zone: 8b
Date: 21-Feb-05 04:00 PM EST

Hi, Diva, I can sympathize. Every spring was the battle of the weeds. Then I discovered "Preem" at the garden store. I assume there is nothing planted now so you are making plans. If you are going to plant shrubs or living plants, you can sprinkle the Preem over the ground before the weeds sprout. It prevents the seeds from germinating. After planting sprinkle again where the soil has been disturbed as new seeds could sprout. Don't try to grow anything from seed though as these won't sprout either. You may have to use this again too if it rains a lot, or if you disturb the soil again. Use it again in the fall to discourage the tough guys that seem to sprout in the fall. Straw or hay always seems to have seeds. Mulching with peat moss will keep weeds down some. Other mulches, depending on where you are, like rice hulls, bark dust, steer blend, etc, are usually very clean. By mulching you will need less water too. Good luck.

Subject: RE: straw or hay
From: Alison
Zone: 5b
Date: 22-Feb-05 05:52 AM EST

I am a firm believer in mulch. In my veggie garden I use hay a la Ruth Stout (deep mulch method) and have no complaints. For flower beds I would use a thickish layer of newspaper (6 sheets minimum) with bark mulch or wood chips on top (3 inches minimum). The news print should be soaked with water before the mulch goes on as well as a top dressing of compost or bagged manure before the newspaper goes down. The paper smothers this years weeds and will decompose. Corrugated cardboard works well for large areas as well. Both of these can be obtained for free from stores wanting to unload boxes and yesterdays newspapers. Also, weeds will sprout on mulch and give the impression that they are breaking through your barrier. They are persistant little buggers! Good luck!

Subject: RE: straw or hay
From: EC
Zone: 3a
Date: 24-Feb-05 04:12 PM EST

I use DEAD grass clippings (dried up under the sun for a week or two) collected from mowing around my veggies and shrubs planted in the south-west side of my garden. I only have to water them lightly twice a week and don't find much weeds germinating over mulched areas.

Subject: RE: straw or hay
From: Patricia (
Zone: 5
Date: 27-Feb-05 05:28 AM EST

We use straw to mulch in our veggie garden. Sometimes a few weeds pop up (I think maybe wheat?) but mostly not. Straw is stems only, hay is the whole plant, so hay contains seeds but straw less so. I agree that the absolute best weed barrier is thick layers of wet-down newspaper or cardboard boxes. Also keep your grass cut short, don't let it go to seed and don't let the mower blow clippings into your garden beds, either. When it comes to perennial weeds, then Roundup is the best. Roundup has a very short lifespan - it is not the "evil thing" that we sometimes believe. In cases where you want to use it only on certain plants and not others close by, do this: put on rubber gloves AND on top of those, cheap cotton gloves. Dip your fingers in the Roundup and apply the liquid ONLY to the plants you want to get rid of. I have used this method to reduce greatly a "runner" that was taking over one of my perennial beds.

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