Using Hay and Straw in the Garden – Farm Fresh Tuesday (#38)

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This week in our Farm Fresh Tuesday Blog Hop, I am featuring an article on different ways to use hay or straw in the garden!

Using Hay or Straw for Mulch

I have been using straw for mulch in the garden for years and I love it. It insulates over the winter, it suppresses weeds and decomposes quickly, feeding the soil. Yes, sometimes I do have a few weed seeds germinate from the straw, but when this happens, they are super easy to pull out, unlike the clover or buttercup or crab grass that would probably be growing there in its place!

close up of straw mulch in the garden

Now hay may have more weed seeds in it, so be careful. But if you get it at the right price, it may still be worth it. See our featured article down below for more info on the differences between hay and straw.

Remember, any place that you have bare earth, other wise known as dirt, exposed; it is an invitation for weeds to grow there. Whether that dirt is bare in a garden bed or a path, cover it up and you will have less weeds!

asparagus coming up in spring through straw mulch
I use straw mulch in my asparagus beds to help keep down the weeds.


Back to Eden No Till Gardening with Straw

kale plants mulched with straw
I mulch everywhere there is bare soil in my garden to help prevent weeds and retain moisture. These are some of my kale plants last year mulched with straw.

I use a no till method of gardening called Back to Eden gardening, or Lasagna Gardening, for all of my gardening, vegetable, flower and fruit gardens. I use the arborist wood chips when I can get them, and hope to transition to this method everywhere eventually. But in the mean time, I use straw when I am short on the wood chips. For more information on Back to Eden gardening, no till gardening and/or lasagna gardening, see my other article on The Secret to Easy Gardening, Use Mulch for No Weeding.

Sourcing Straw or Hay for Use in the Garden

Straw and spent hay are both inexpensive and available most everywhere, so they are an easy option for using in abundance to mulch with. Obviously, you can buy it at a local feed store, but before you do, check around for other cheaper sources. See if any of your local farmers have spent or soiled hay or straw they need to get rid of.

Usually spent or soiled straw or hay has gone moldy, or it may have been used as animal bedding. Both are great options for using in the garden as mulch. Try and join a local Facebook group for homesteaders or farmers and network that way to find a local source.

strawberry bed mulched with straw
My strawberry bed, mulched with straw.

Combating Slugs in Straw or Hay Mulch

Cons to mulching with straw or hay are slugs and snails. Especially here in the Pacific Northwest where it is mild and damp all winter long. They love to live under the mulch and hang out there all winter long.

I use Sluggo in late winter or early spring during our first dry spell. I will usually use it several times throughout the growing season.  I will also go out at dusk and hunt down the slugs and have been known to pick up bucket loads of them.

Please be very cautious of using any type of slug and/or snail bait around your pets or livestock.

Planting In a Bed Mulched with Straw or Hay

To plant in the bed, I just move the straw away, clearing away right down to the dirt. You will notice that the soil is loose and lovely, thanks to all the little worms and microbes doing their thing beneath the mulch.

healthy soil that has been mulched
This row was mulched with straw. Simply remove the straw before planting, and you can see how healthy the soil is!

I plant seeds, and as soon as I see them germinating, move the straw back up to the plants. Or, plant a veggie seedling in, and then move the straw back up to it. I do use Sluggo again here until the plants are more established.

You can keep reusing the mulch until it breaks down completely. As it gets smaller and more broken down, just add some fresh straw on top.

Garden Areas to use Straw or Hay Mulch:

  • Three Sisters Garden
  • Pumpkin Patch
  • Asparagus Bed
  • Raspberry Bed
  • Blueberry Bed
  • Around and over Potatoes planted in Pots or a Potato Bed
  • flower beds
  • paths in the garden
  • really, anywhere dirt is exposed!
garden beds covered in thick straw mulch for winter
Some of my garden beds mulched with a thick layer of straw for the winter.

Using Straw Bales as a Cold Frame

a simple straw bale cold frame with windows on top

I also use straw bales to build a very simple cold frame. See my tutorial on How to Build a Simple DIY Straw Bale Cold Frame. Using a cold frame like this allows you to plant earlier in spring or later into fall, extending your growing season. You can even use it to grow greens all winter if you live in a milder climate like I do in the Seattle area garden zone 8b.

What is the Difference Between Hay and Straw?

Our featured article this week goes over this in great detail! Click the link below to read Lisa’s fantastic article and get her perspective on using hay and straw in the garden!

Our Featured Post this Week:

How to Use Hay or Straw in the Garden for Best Results

close up of nasturtiums in the garden that have been mulched with straw with text overlay How to Use Hay or Straw in the Garden for Best Results

How to Use Hay or Straw in the Garden For Best Results from Lisa at The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

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I hope you will remember and try these great ideas on using hay and straw in the garden!

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broccoli plants mulched with straw with text overlay tips for using hay or straw in the garden









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