So I started a garden: Q&A
So at Chris’s suggestion (which I finally took:), I started a garden. But I don’t see a good place to ask garden-related questions. So I figured I’d start a Garden Q&A topic and see how this goes.
My question is this: Is it safe to use moldy straw as mulch on potato plants? Or can it cause harm to the potato plants and potatoes?
I had great plans to mulch my potato plants, which are now coming up beautifully, with straw. I was looking forward to not having to weed as much, and for the protection it would provide by holding moisture in the soil better. I was just waiting for the plants to pop out of the ground and get a few inches tall before adding the straw mulch, as one of the references I read suggested. But I stored the straw bales outside by the garden, and it got rained on. When I broke the bale open today, to spread the straw around the potato plants, it was moldy inside.
I searched on line, and I found a few posts saying no problem, its fine; just mother nature’s way of breaking the straw down. (They do suggest wearing a mask to protect the person putting the moldy straw down, though, which seems like a good idea.)
However, I am still concerned that the moldy straw could be harmful to my potato plants. I would really like to hear from folks here who have experience planting potatoes, especially using (moldy) straw mulch. Can it harm the plants or potatoes, causing them to get sick or moldy?
I really don’t want to take the chance of ruining my potato bed now, after all the time and work I’ve already put into it, and when the plants currently look so healthy!
Thanks in advance!
We have just had a nightmare with hay….not due to mold.
We have horses and buy about 500-600 square bales every year. We always ask our supplier if the hay has been sprayed or treated with anything. He always assures us that it is clean. We have bought from the same guy for 10 years and never had a problem. This year all my tomatoes and eggplants and peppers had this weird curling on the new leaves. We called our county agent and sent pictures. He asked if any farmers near us might be spraying Herbicides and could we possibly have wind drift from their fields. We told him that we were 1 mile away from the nearest field …
Then we saw an article about how certain herbicide sprayed hay that is fed to horses…supposedly with no impact on the horses……can pass through the horse and then pass through a heated compost pile for 4 to 6 months and then still damage your garden after the compost is worked into the beds.
Our hay supplier fessed up to having spot treated some of his fields with Chaparral or Grazon but said he thought we didn’t get that hay….but then he admitted that it was probably his mistake. He is coming next week to haul off 300 bales and replace them with supposedly clean hay.
This has been a real setback for us…..and my advice is to know where your hay is sourced and realize that many hay producers use chemicals. We always were told that our hay was “clean” and still got burned.
Wow, Oliveoilguy, that stinks! I’ll have to check with local farm store where I got the straw to see if it was sprayed or not. Thanks for the heads-up on that.
In a kind of similar vein, I had been reading about using cottonseed meal as a soil amendment, based on seed meal being recommended as part of a “Complete Organic Fertilizer” in the book “Gardening When It Counts” (2008). But when I did some research online about cottonseed meal -really just looking for somewhere to buy it- I read that cotton is heavily sprayed with pesticides, and so you need to take care to verify that the cottonseed meal you’re buying is pesticide free.
Good luck with your replacement bales of hay!
I have baled 10’s of thousands of bales of hay. “straw”,very different from hay isn’t likely to have been sprayed with a preservative/dessicant. Straw is usually baled from small Grain stubble which uses glyphosate as a herbicide for uniform killdown and easy combining.
OOG? When baling world class orchard grass, Timothy, rye grass, alfalfa, I used rice hulls as a dessicant on a dribbler into the square baler. No mold.
my quick total over my life approaches .2 million bales? Trying to be conservative, but dammit I started in 1973.
Both grazon and chapparel, as you know by now, have residual effect.
for chuckles here is a tale. When the tobacco allotment died a few local(and you have been here) farmers got contracts with Phillip Morris to grow tobacco exclusively for “bigMO” . Well they used grazon to kill pasture land and covert it to tobacco. They all lost their country club memberships as there wasn’t a broadleaf from Hell(tobacco is a broadleaf from hell) that would grow for at least a couple years huge amounts of capital pissed away over convenience.
find Wendell Berry’s lecture, “It All Turns On Affection”. Ain’t no short cuts,
I use the Ruth Stout method for growing potatoes with good results. Here is a link that talks about it.
Re cottonseed meal – if it has had the oil extracted, I understand there are some pretty nasty chemicals used in that process….