making hay

bales in the truck

Well, technically, not hay. Straw. I’ve been putting truckloads of the stuff on my garden beds in preparation for winter. Last year I used it to winterize my pots (at that point, all my plants were still pot-bound). It worked so well — and for so little money — I’m blanketing the entire garden with straw!

Straw is perfect to protect my new plants, keep weeds down and keep my 92 yards of new topsoil from meandering any further. It stops the water from rushing downhill. I need that.

Here’s a big seller: a bale costs just $5…

a single bale

Once you trim the cords that bind it…

cut the cord

… it separates easily into sections like so. Each section is about 4″ to 5″ thick (that compresses over the winter)…

separate the sections

Then you can lay it out in rectangles or break it up, whichever you prefer. So now my beds look something like this…

bales as mulch

Not exactly pretty but who cares? It’s organic! It’s for winter! The elements will darken it and break it down some before spring. If there are any errant weed seeds in the bales, the freezing temps kill them. And from what I’ve seen so far, straw is the ideal worm farm — the worms are mad for the stuff. Did I mention straw is considerably cheaper than the buckwheat hull mulch I get from Seven Arrows Farm? Love me some buckwheat hulls but I need to cut costs.

Laugh at me now but come next spring it will all be food for the soil and help keep the ground moist as temps rise again. My plants will be thrilled.

P.S. I may not be crazy. I’m not the only one pro-straw as mulch: read this or this or this article on Ruth Stout, the queen of straw bale vegetable gardening.

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