You may have heard that mulching with straw is a beneficial addition to your vegetable garden. With plenty of perks, such as being light and easy to work with, as well as inexpensive and accessible, straw mulch is a good option for many gardeners. But, there’s more to it than that! Straw mulch boasts many benefits, from providing extra moisture to aiding in the fight against weeds.
Interested in taking an affordable step to care for your garden? Stay tuned. This guide will share the deets and all the perks of straw mulch, as well as the materials you’ll need and how to apply it to your garden.
Materials You Will Need for Mulching With Straw
- Straw bale
- Trowel or shovel
- Organic material or soil
- Gardening gloves
Benefits of Mulching With Straw
Straw mulch effectively disperses water for an even and long-lasting watering. Essentially, it acts as a form of drainage, which means your plants won’t be easily overwatered.
The straw also acts as a barrier between the ground and the hot sun, meaning it slows the process of evaporation. It means you won’t have to water your garden as regularly since the soil will stay moist for longer.
Reduces the Need for Weeds
Since straw mulch does a great job keeping water in, it only makes sense that it does the same for weeds. Because it acts as a protective layer for the soil (more on that below), it also blocks the light from reaching the soil directly. It means that weeds won’t be able to break past the barrier or get the light they need to germinate and grow.
Builds Healthy Soil
Because straw mulching acts as a protective layer, it also regulates soil temperature. In turn, this protects the state of the roots during cooler and warmer periods, extending the lifespan and growth period of the plant. It also allows microorganisms and beneficial bugs to thrive, further adding to the plant’s health.
The straw mulch will also break down over time, adding organic material to the soil. It will build the soil mass and simultaneously release nutrients, meaning that it acts as a natural fertilizer and will save you time and money.
How to: Mulching With Straw
Step 1: Determine When to Lay the Mulch
Before laying the straw mulch, it’s important to determine if your plot is ready. Since straw mulch acts as a barrier, effectively blocking weeds, you want to avoid laying it over fresh seedlings. Wait a few weeks, allowing them to break through the surface and develop a sturdy stem a few inches tall before you lay the mulch.
Step 2: Apply the Mulch
Once your plants are ready, it’s time to add the straw mulch. But since the mulch is low in nitrogen, it’s important to opt for nitrogen-rich soil. Consider layering an inch of organic material or soil before adding the straw mulch to ensure the soil is packed with beneficial nutrients.
Use a trowel or shovel to break the straw mulch into pieces, laying it between the plants but keeping it about an inch away from the stems of each plant. This will allow for proper airflow and prevent potential diseases. Each layer of straw should be about 3 inches thick all summer long.
Once the winter approaches, you can also layer straw over the stems of your plants to protect them during the cold months.
Step 3: Recycle or Reuse the Mulch
Once the spring and summer return and you want to start your crops back up, it will be time to remove layers of straw. You can opt to toss it in the compost–potentially later using the organic material to layer over your soil–or simply set it to the side and reuse it once the plants are ready!
Tips to Remember
Before we wrap up, it only makes sense to include a few tips to keep in mind when you choose to mulch with straw. Check out the top tips below.
- Opt for a straw that is weed-free, as well as free of pesticides and herbicides
- Apply organic material before the straw mulch
- Ensure you’ve found straw and not hay
- Weed your garden before you apply the mulch
- Continue to reapply the straw to ensure it’s over 3 inches deep
Mulching With Straw
Straw mulch is an accessible and affordable way to improve the state and production of your vegetable garden. It’s a great method for improving the health of your soil, but it will also take some of the grunt work out of caring for your plots. From maintaining proper moisture levels to enriching the soil to blocking weeds, straw mulch acts as a one-man show.
So, will you try out mulching with straw this summer? Let us know below!