Straw Mulch

Straw Mulch

straw mulch I don’t know why it’s taken me five years of gardening in these beds to see the light as far as mulch goes, but I’m a convert. I mulched the tomatoes in the new beds first — it gets really hot against that fence, the remote thermometer routinely reads in the high 90s and 100s during a sunny afternoon, and tomatoes don’t like to have hot feet. So I mulched with a couple of inches of straw. I was shocked at how effective it’s been. Even with the recent hot weather I’m only having to water every couple of days (we’ve also been getting some evening thunderstorms which help — non-chlorinated water is so much better). I am growing what looks like a small crop of wheat from seeds in the straw, but wheat has shallow root systems, and I’ll turn it under as green mulch later.

Since the tomato beds are doing so well with straw mulch, I figured I could use it in the other beds as well. At first I just mulched around the established plants, and left those areas where I was waiting for seedlings bare, but yesterday I noticed that the basil I’d seeded in the tomato beds was coming up through the straw, and was also germinating better in those parts of the other beds where there was some mulch. It must be because the mulch holds in the water, and keeps the little seedlings from burning up. We went directly from being too frozen to work the soil to high 80s and 90s in the middle of the day, so it’s always a challenge around here. So yesterday’s experiment was to mulch everything — a thin cover where there are seedlings coming up, and thicker around established plants. Its so dry here that I don’t have to worry about mildew or mold, and I like the straw. It’s pretty. And easy to compost later. And cheap — even at full retail at the feed store, a bale of straw is only $3.50. So this year, it’s lots and lots of straw mulch …

4 thoughts on “Straw Mulch

  1. I had the same problem with sprouting wheat when I mistakenly picked up a bale of hay rather than a bale of straw. Hay is for feed (so the seeds make it nutritious) and straw is for bedding and mulch. Anyway, just a thought.

  2. Oh it’s straw — I grew up in horse barns so I know the difference — it’s just wheat straw and there’s a residual amount of wheat kernels in it. When I was a kid the oat straw in the midwest used to do the same thing in the barn aisles — we’d pick the juicy oat shoots and suck on their sweet ends. There’s a guy in Southern California who’s been in the news a lot lately for building a self-sufficient island on a city lot who swears by alfalfa hay mulch — he says the high protein content builds fertility into his soil. I can’t quite make that leap — in my head, alfalfa is animal feed, and considering the price constraints everyone I know who raises livestock is under this year …

  3. I’ve got the same problem with little wheat shoots coming up all over. I LOVE the idea of less watering (drought area), but does it work to just turn the wheat seedlings over? My problem is that we mulched before our vegetables sprouted so we’ve got wheat shoots and no veggie seedlings yet. What to you suggest we do? My husband is determined to kill the wheat with chemicals but I’d rather not do that if we don’t have to. I really don’t want to have to pick them all out by hand.

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