Rotten Straw

straw 1straw 2I was so excited when a friend gave me four bales of half rotted straw! This was exactly what I needed to mulch my vegetable garden. Three bales filled a 16’x20’ area to a depth of approximately 4 inches. The other bale is on standby. If I don’t need it during the rest of the garden season, I will spread it over the garden this fall and let it break down with the rest of the straw.

The not-so-exiting part was that the straw was soggy, slimy and filled with ants. A good pair of leather gloves protected my hands from the mush and slime, but not the ants.

Why is rotting straw good for a garden?
  • Unlike fresh, yellow, new straw, the weed seeds in rotting straw have had time to sprout and die.
  • Straw will keep weed seeds in the soil from sprouting.
  • It will help the soil retain moisture.
  • The straw will break down over time and leave behind excellent organic material.
  •  Less watering and weeding! Need I say more?
Tips when using straw mulch…
  • Don’t smother the base of the plant with the straw. It could cause the plants to rot.
  • Make sure the straw is well seasoned. If not, the grains in it could start to sprout.
  • Loosen it up as you scatter it around your garden. Tightly packed clumps will mat. Matted straw will not allow water into the soil as readily as loose straw. Also, it will not break down as quickly.

The next time you see a bale of rotting straw, you will no longer see it as something that needs to be discarded. Rather, you will see it as baskets laden with fresh, delicious produce!


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4 thoughts on “Rotten Straw

  1. The title of this post immediately caught my attention. I am trying hay bale gardening this year, planting directly into a hay bale after preparing it to rot. If interested, check out

    • I wrote a post about straw bale gardening, but never got around to trying it. Hey! I DO have an extra bale of straw. Might be worth a shot! Thanks for the link.

  2. Great blog. Good tips!
    Just wanted to point out that straw is the waste by product of threshing grain and therefore usually has no seeds. Straw doesn’t “spoil” per se, it rots.
    Hay usually has grain seeds and would cause sprouting.
    Spoiled hay is actually a good way to build up soil structure and restore pasture. We put several round bales of spoiled hay on a bad patch of our pasture a few years ago and it is now lush and productive.
    Have you ever read anything about permaculture? Good book called “The Resiliant Farm and Homestead” by Ben Falk.

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