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shredded paper mulch

I mulched the garden heavily with shredded office paper last year and am wondering if I did the wrong thing. The beans, peppers, and tomatoes are a light yellowish green and not doing much growing. I tilled in the paper, added a lot of horse manure ( that was not totally composted ) when I set the plants out, but then we got two weeks of rain and cool temps. Nothing has died and the tomatoes are just starting to green up a little on the tops. Did I damage the soil with all the paper, printing ink, and possible manufacturing chemicals leaching from the paper or is it a combination of the manure / nitrogen and water logged loam ? I loosened up the soil with a pitch fork to help aerate recently. The earthworm population looks diminished somewhat also. Any comments or help would be appreciated.

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I mulch all the time with paper I don't think it is your culprit sorry I can't help more than that.

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I've heard that glossy paper isn't good for the soil, so other than that I mulch with paper too.


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I doubt it is the paper, itself. It may be that aged manure, the paper, and whatever else you have added are all doing their jobs - but they are each also carbon heavy and not sources of Nitrogen, which really "greens" up your plants. [Horse manure is particuarly weaker in Nitrogen content compared to the various manures. I think it's carbon/nitrogen ratio is about 50:1, higher depending on diet.] You may want to add some fertilizer of some sort that is moderately rich in nutrients, particularly Nitrogen. Seaweed/kelp. Chicken manure.[but not too much, strong stuff, chickens.] Pond algea/fish gunk. Or something commercial, but hopefully not too harshly chemical.

The only other common cause of yellowing and stunting plants that comes to mind is watering irregularities, but I assume the watering has been fine thus far .?.

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I had what I thought was tied up nitrogen issues in my garden (I think due to new raised bed on cardboarded lawn in one area, and new bed made of turned over sod, just enough compost to plant seeds and then mulched heavily with straw.)

In both areas, plants were starting to get yellow green. I side-dressed with coffee grounds from Starbucks, and when that helped but not enough, I got out the heavy guns and mist-sprayed with fish-emulsion (eww stinky -- I think it works better to do this in the evening after sun no longer touches the plants. It also keeps from attracting flies. The morning dew helps to dissipate the concentration on the plants and it's not so "strong" by next day) as well as kelp solution, and finally with compost tea. The fish emulsion and compost tea were also used in watering can to water the roots. (Not all on the same day -- this was a week-long regimen) All the plants looked MUCH better by 3rd day. I've since side-dressed the raised bed veggies with compost mixed with alfalfa pellets, although I still have to do that for the other bed, and I plant to go get some more coffee grounds.

Now, I was RE-READING your post, and noticed you said you mulched heavily with the paper *LAST YEAR* and *TILLED IN THE PAPER* with horse manure *WHEN YOU PLANTED* Does that mean that the shredded office paper was still INTACT this spring? This begs the question -- what kind of papers? and what kind of ink were the papers printed with? If water-soluble ink-jet on regular white copy/printer paper they should have broken down shouldn't they? However, many ink-jets use non water-soluble ink - can't have legal documents washing away with a little rain.... If they are being printed with laser printers that use fine plastic powder or thermal transfer printer that use micro-thin plastic film melted onto the paper, and the papers were heavily printed, then you essentially have coated paper and that would explain them not decomposing.... There IS also the dioxin issue with bleached white paper.

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Just a thought: is your horse manure fertilizer free? See this thread for ideas:


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Chances are the paper alone didn't cause the yellowing of your vegetable plants. Any yellow tinge is usually a sign of iron deficiency. Two things to try: coffee grounds and nitrogen. The first is easy. Most Starbucks can give you a bag of spent grounds to provide a little nitrogen to your garden. The second can be delivered with help from a good mineral supplement. Anytime my tomato plants, gardenias, or other plants look a little yellow, I found that Ironite helps quite a bit. Though most people use it when their lawns look a little yellow, it also works great in a lot of plants. At first, I would sprinkle about two tablespoons of the granules around the perimeter of the stalk. Now, I actually create a "tea" by pouring half a styrofoam cup into a large coffee can and filling it with water. Let it stand a few minutes, stir it up and pour it directly underneath the leaves of your yellowing plants. I often 2 or 3 batches from the same original sprinkling and then pour any remaining Ironite. It's a little expensive, but a bag lasts quite a while. Do this every couple of weeks or so to maintain the greening. I put an application on almost everything in my yard before I left on a week-long business trip and all my plants, bushes, and dwarf trees look like they have rich-green spinach leaves growing off them. Give it a try. I think you'll be pleased.

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