Stop using straw mulch –
why and what to look out for
watch my straw mulch video
When it comes to growing your own food at home and living a more sustainable lifestyle there are not many things I will tell you to not do. I am a firm believer in trying things for yourself, however, when it comes to something I that I have found to be damaging I will put out a very strong warning and this one is about straw mulch.
Straw mulch is a very commonly suggested mulching option. I agree that it is incredibly effective and does a really great job of creating an insulation barrier, keeping moisture in the ground and breaking down quickly. This almost sounds too good to be true, right?
This is where the issue comes in with using straw as a mulch and I get into it in below detail below and show you examples in my video.
Why should you NOT use straw as a mulch?
To get straight to the point as to why you should not use straw mulch, the biggest reason is that you do not know where that straw has come from and what the farmer of that land was spraying on their straw. Because you do not know these things you can very easily end up with a bale of straw that is covered in herbicide residues.
Yes, I agree that there are pro’s and con’s to every situation and every option has elements that make it great and others where it has shortcomings, however, when using something has a significant chance of killing your plants then the con’s outway any reason to use it.
I have used straw mulch on many occations and every time my plants have either stopped growing and wilted up and died. Maybe it’s the plants, but the only common denominator between those plants and plants platned in other beds without straw mulch is the straw.
Why are herbicides used and why are they so bad?
Herbicides that are used by farmers are aimed at removing weeds that grow in the fields. This is done to prevent contaminated hay for livestock feed and has a very logical reasoning behind it. Some weeds are toxic to livestock and by not controlling the weeds the farmers cannot guarantee a certain quality of product they need to in order to seel their product and turn a profit.
The issue, however, comes in when those residues are present and reasonably fresh straw is used in the garden. Those herbicides, which contain growth inhibitors, stunt growth and for other plants kill them altogther. Getting organic straw is incredibly difficult and expensive, but is a really great way to mulch your plants.
I really wish I could rely on straw mulch as I find it to be so effective, but I have just lots so many plants using it. I do use it for my urban chickens, but by the time the chickens are finished with it and its been exposed to the elements, the herbicides have worked out. It then also goes to compost and further continues to the breakdown process.
This write-up is not doom and gloom. If you can find a reliable supplier of uncontaminated straw then I would suggest using it. It is just that in my personal experience I have not yet found suppliers that can guarantee straw that is herbicide and pesticide free.