Straw is an easy product to find, especially in the fall. Many individuals buy straw as a fall decoration but after the pumpkins have been processed and the scarecrow has been put up, the straw bale can have new life in the garden. But before moving on, we must first understand the difference between hay and straw.
Hay essentially is cut grass, which includes not only the grass material but also weeds. Straw, on the other hand, is process from grain after the seed head has been removed. While straw can have a few weed seeds, it is mostly hollow stalks. This structure makes straw a great mulch without packing down or causing an outcrop of weeds. But what can you use straw for in the garden? Below are two common uses with one unique that you may have never heard of.
One, straw makes great mulch in the garden space. As stated before, the structure of straw creates an organic mat that does not pack down. It also allows water to run through it and into the soil, unlike grass clipping. In doing so, once the water hits the soil, it remains there longer since evaporation is slowed down due to the straw blanket compared to the bare soil.
On the other hand, straw mulch also provides a nice cushiony surface for fruits and vegetables. While the comfort of your produce may not matter to you, the fact that straw does not hold water in its stems creates a barrier between the soil and the vegetable. This will create a moisture reduced surface by which fruits and vegetables can ripen without fear of rotting.
Another use of straw is a growing medium for potatoes. To use this technique, one will need to plant potatoes as usual in soil. Once potatoes break ground, add a layer of soil that covers all the plant except the top two leaves. Continue with this process until the end of the season. Using this technique will increase ones yield of potatoes and making harvesting easier.
The last use is using a straw bale as a planter. The just of this technique requires one to plant into the straw bale itself. When using this approach, make sure that the bale is stable.
While there are a number of positive reasons to use straw bales in the garden, there are a few problems involved in this technique. One issue is while straw is made up of stems, there still is a chance of developing a weed problem from improperly prepared straw. Also, as much as your plants like the insulating factor of straw so do many pests. These include mice and rabbits along with many different insect. If you see pest damage early in the season, consider raking up the straw. This will remove the cover that many of these pests have been hiding under, which will encourage them to scurry away from your garden.